Capped Contracts Explained: Stop Spiralling Mobile Bills with a Capped Contract

by Brandon Ackroyd - , Last Updated on April 24, 2019, How To Guides

Having a smartphone is awesome, getting that bill at the end of the month though, that’s not quite so awesome. Fortunately, in the UK mobile operators are required to implement a spending cap if you want one. What’s a spending cap? How does it work? That’s what we’re here to tell you. And we’ve even got some great recommendations for capped contracts too!

Why Do I Want a Capped Contract?

A capped contract can potentially save you money. The idea is that you sign up for a phone plan that costs, say, £10 a month. For that £10 you get a certain number of minutes, texts, and a certain amount of data. If you break those limits though and use more than your allotment, then the phone company will start charging you more than £10, potentially resulting in an end of the month bill that’s a lot higher than you were expecting.

However, operators offer spending caps. This means that you can tell the operator how much extra you want to spend a month. Set your cap to zero and your bill will stop at £10 for that £10 contract, though some or all of your phone service will be cut off until the next billing cycle begins. Set the cap to £5 and the maximum bill you can get is £15. See how it works? It’s super easy to do.

How Do Capped Contracts Work?

How a capped contract works will depend on which operator you choose since all networks are different. You’ll probably need to set up the spending cap yourself (a cap isn’t usually set by default). You’ll do this through your online account, by talking to customer service, or by going into a store, depending on your operator. If you don’t know where to start, then call up customer service and they’ll tell you how to do it. Remember though: the responsibility is on YOU to set up the limit that you want, not on the phone company.

You should also keep in mind that this could result in you having no phone service. If you reach your spending cap before the end of your billing cycle then some or all of your phone service will be cut off until the next cycle begins. Since many contracts these days include unlimited texts and even calls, it’s generally mobile data that’s affected more than anything else. Still, though, you’ll need to plan ahead to avoid being stranded without the phone service you need!

What Are My Options?

It’s difficult to divide capped contract options into different groups since they vary so much. Essentially, you’re just shopping for a mobile contract, with the same pros and cons that go into choosing any contract. In the end, the best way to break the options down is probably by price:

Cheap (£10 and under)

If you’re on a budget, there are capped contract options that cost £10 and under. As a general rule though, these will have lower data limits than more expensive contracts. You’ll need to watch out for that if you’re a big data user, and watch out for sneaky contracts that limit the number of minutes or texts you can send. Some cheaper contracts may not include 4G data, and they may be with smaller networks that some customers might not trust as much as big name high street brands. There are plenty of decent, affordable options, however.

Pros: Affordable, gets you the phone service you need at a cheap price, and since you can set a cap you don’t need to worry about spending too much.

Cons: Some cheap contracts have lower than normal data limits, something to watch for if you’re a big data user.

Best For: Those on a budget, those that don’t use a lot of monthly data or who are consistently on WiFi.

Average (over £10)

Alternatively, if you can spend a little more, then you can get a bigger contract. There’s less chance of sneaky limits on texts or calls here, and you’re likely to get a bigger data limit as well (though that’s not always true). More expensive contracts tend to come with 4G data and to come from big-name major operators, who you might prefer to do business with. You will be paying the price though, but since you can cap the contract, this might not be such a big deal.

Pros: More likely to give you a large data limit, more likely to include 4G data, usually involves a major operator with a well-known name.

Cons: More expensive, and you might just be paying for the big brand operator, rather than for more or better services…

Best For: Those that use lots of data, or who don’t often use WiFi. Those willing to spend a little more for the reputation of a big name brand.

Spending Cap By Operator

Different operators offer different spending caps. Remember again that you’ll need to set up these spending caps yourself through your operator! These caps apply to any contract that you get from the operator concerned (though they don’t apply to PAYG). Spending caps for the main operators are as follows:

  • EE caps can be set from £0 to £50
  • Sky Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile, and Three all allow you to cap between £0 and £100
  • O2 caps can be set from £0 to £200
  • BT and Vodafone caps can be set to anything you like
  • iD Mobile caps can be set from £0 to £25

Be aware that spending caps cover all spending (including calls abroad and to international or premium numbers) but do NOT cover any extra bundles or add-ons you might purchase from an operator.

What Am I Looking For?

When you’re shopping for a capped contract, you’re looking for the same as you’d be looking for in any mobile contract. Here are the main concerns that you’ll need to keep in mind:


Price is usually most people’s first concern. Take a look at your budget and decide how much you can spend per month, and stick to that limit! Remember you’re making a commitment, and breaking a contract because you can’t pay can end up being very expensive.

Plan Limits

Every mobile plan is going to offer you a limit for the number of minutes, texts, and data you can use in a month. Take a look at past bills, or track your usage using your phone for a month or so, to get an idea of what your real needs are. If you estimate too high, then you’ll end up paying for services that you’re not using. If you estimate too low then that spending cap may kick in and cut off your service altogether. So it’s important that you’re realistic when looking at what you actually need.

Service and Reception

Most operators get solid coverage across the UK for both 3G and 2G. There are some black spots still, however, particularly in Scotland. And 4G coverage definitely varies a lot by the operator. Before deciding to go with a contract, it’s important that you check that the operator concerned will give you decent reception in your home area. You can check OFCOM’s coverage map, check the coverage map on the website of the operator, or simply borrow a SIM card from a friend that uses that operator to check things out.

Contract Length

You’ll also need to think about the length of time you’re willing to commit for. Phone contract lengths vary from just 30 days (called rolling contracts) all the way up to 24 months. Longer contracts tend to be cheaper in the long run, but be realistic about how long you’re willing to sign up for. Breaking a mobile contract is a time-consuming and costly business.

Other Concerns

There are a couple of other things that you’ll want to think about when shopping as well:

  • Do I Want a Phone? Most operators offer phones on contract. If you want to include a new phone with your service contract remember that you will end up paying more each month. Phones are generally only available with longer contracts.
  • Do I Want 4G? 4G data speeds are faster, but not all operators offer 4G and data prices tend to be a little higher with 4G plans.
  • Do I Want to Bundle? Bundling means getting more than one service from a company. You might opt for a personal and a business phone contract, for example. Or perhaps you want home broadband or cable TV as well as a mobile contract. Bundling services can result in savings, so it’s worth considering.

Are There Extras? Operators are constantly trying to lure new customers through their doors, which means there are usually some deals going on. Perhaps you get free access to a streaming service, or maybe you get a free piece of hardware. If you’re stuck deciding between two contract options, extras can be a good way of deciding.

How We Selected Our Recommendations

Before we get to specific contract options, we first should tell you how we chose our picks. We looked at the obvious things: cost, plan limits, general availability and reception across the UK. We also looked at customer reviews for networks. Plus, we spend most of our time surrounded by mobile users, techs, and professionals, so we got plenty of feedback there as well!

That being said, which capped contracts are the best options for 2019?

The Best Capped Contracts for 2019

You should have a clearer idea now of what exactly you’re looking for, and you might be wondering which plans are going to be best for you. We do have some recommendations!

iD Mobile Capped Contracts

iD Mobile

Price: £12 a month, 30-day rolling contract

Minutes: 1200

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 10 GB

For just £12 a month, this iD Mobile SIM only contract is one of the biggest and best around if you’re looking for a 30-day rolling contract with no big commitment. You get unlimited texts, 1200 calling minutes, and a massive 10 GB of data, which should be more than enough for most people. And you do get 4G data as well.

ID Mobile doesn’t offer a lot of extras with their contracts, however. But they do have data rollover. This means that any unused data from month A can be used in month B (though not in month C). This is a great way of saving cash.

On the downside, there is that lack of extras. And there are cheaper contracts around if you can commit for longer than 30 days.


  • Short term 30 day contract
  • High data limit
  • Data rollover


  • Cheaper contracts are available if you can commit for longer than 30 days
  • Not many extras to speak of

Virgin Mobile Capped Contracts


Price: £10 a month, 12-month contract

Minutes: 5000

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 10 GB

With a longer 12 month contract, Virgin Mobile can offer cheap prices on what’s a pretty hefty contract. Unlimited texting, 5000 calling minutes, and you still get that large 10 GB data limit. You get 4G data too. And if you’re willing to branch out and get cable TV or home broadband from Virgin you can get even cheaper contract prices.

With Virgin, you get access to millions of free WiFi hotspots across the UK. You also get free data for messaging services like Messenger, WhatsApp and the like, so you won’t need to worry about using your data up on those (use a messaging app and the data won’t be subtracted from your limit).

On the downside, there is a limited number of minutes, and there are several competing contracts that will give you unlimited minutes, so this might not be for you if you’re a big caller. Other than that though, this is a great choice.


  • Big data limit
  • Unlimited data for messaging services
  • Lots of free WiFi hotspots


  • Minutes are limited, so not for big callers
  • Twelve months may be longer than you’re willing to commit for



Price: £14 a month, 12-month contract

Minutes: Unlimited

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 12 GB

If you’re a big user, then this Three sim only contract could be the one for you. You get unlimited minutes and texting, as well as a huge 12 GB of data, all for just £14 a month. That’s a pretty good deal, especially considering you get 4G data too. This is a twelve-month contract though, so you’ll have to commit.

With this contract, you also get access to Go Binge, which means that you have unlimited data to use on  Netflix, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Deezer, and TVPlayer, which is pretty sweet (especially if you’re a big streamer).

The downside here is that this is a twelve-month contract, and it may be a little pricey for some. Plus those big plan limits aren’t going to be useful if you’re not a big phone user, so they won’t be worth paying for.


  • Big 4G data limit
  • Unlimited minutes and texts
  • Go Binge means free streaming


  • A little pricey
  • Plan limits might be higher than most people really need

Sky Mobile Capped Contracts


Price: £10 a month, 12-month contract

Minutes: Unlimited

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 8 GB

Sky Mobile have a whole selection of new mobile plans, and this is the best of them. You get unlimited minutes and texts, as well as a solid 8 GB data limit, and 4G mobile data. This is a twelve-month contract though, so you’ll need to commit. And if you’re a Sky TV customer, you get free streaming thrown into the deal too (so data used to stream won’t be deducted from your data limit).

There are tons of extras with Sky as well. You get data rollover, so unused data from this month can be used next month, as well as data sharing (you can share your data limit with another SIM card attached to your account, such as a child’s). And if you opt for a phone, you get upgrades every twelve months on big-name models like iPhones and Samsung Galaxy.

The disadvantage here is that this is a far better deal if you’re a Sky TV customer, and not everyone is willing to switch TV providers. And Sky doesn’t have the best reputation for customer service either…


  • Unlimited minutes and texts
  • Decent data limit
  • Plenty of extras


  • Better deal if you’re a Sky TV customer
  • Customer service doesn’t have a great reputation

Tesco Mobile Capped Contracts


Price: £10 a month, 12-month contract

Minutes: 1000

Texts: 5000

Data: 4 GB

Okay, this doesn’t look like the best plan on the surface but bear with us. With Tesco Mobile you get 1000 calling minutes, 5000 texts, and a 4GB data limit (4G included). This is a twelve-month contract, so you’ll need to commit to it. For a small to the average phone user, these plan limits should be just fine.

There are bigger and cheaper contract options out there. But Tesco Mobile gives you tons of extras. If you’re looking for family plans, Tesco has the best around. And you get Tesco Clubcard points, discounts on shopping, and the ability to trade your old phone in for cash or credit. It’s worth looking at Tesco if you’re looking to add more than one phone to your contract, because each additional phone contract gets cheaper, meaning more savings.

The downside is that if you’re only looking for one phone contract and one SIM card, there are better plans available. And that data limit will be too low for big phone users or streamers.


  • Great family plans
  • Lots of extras
  • Good for multiple SIMs on the same account


  • Cheaper contracts are available if you don’t want multiple SIMs
  • Data limit may be too low for many

Vodafone Capped Contracts


Price: £17 a month, 12-month contract

Minutes: Unlimited

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 10 GB

Vodafone’s plans tend to be a little pricier than some, but this is a big name operator, so you get the security of dealing with a known brand. Their best option is £17 a month on a 12-month contract, which gives you unlimited calling and texting, and a 10 GB data limit, including 4G data.

You don’t get many extras with this plan though (pricier plans get free streaming options). You do get mobile roaming inclusive, and flexible phone plans though since you can change your phone plan every three months if you choose to.

The big downside here has to be pricing. Although, you’ll get cheaper prices if you bundle your services and get more than one phone or home broadband or TV as well. And the lack of extras is disappointing.


  • The flexible 12-month contract can be changed every 3 months
  • Unlimited calling and texting
  • Good data limit


  • Pretty pricey
  • Not many extras to speak of

BT Mobile Capped Contracts

BT Mobile Deals

Price: £15 a month, 12-month contract (£7.50 per month for BT customers)

Minutes: Unlimited

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 3 GB (6 GB for BT customers)

BT are another strange company to do mobile business with. Their best contract offer for non-BT landline or broadband users costs £15 a month on a twelve-month contract, with unlimited calling and texting, and a low, 3 GB data limit (including 4G). That’s pricey, and that data limit is pretty low.

However, if you’re currently a BT customer, you can get a contract for as low as £7.50 a month (unlimited texts and calls and a 6 GB data limit). So if you’re a BT customer or willing to switch, then this could be an awesome offer (and one of the cheapest possible). All customers get access to BT’s five million free WiFi hotspots, however. BT’s family plans are also worth looking into if you are going to be taking out more than one SIM.

The downside here is that if you’re not a BT customer, contract prices are very high for a very low data limit. And you don’t get many extras. BT customers, however, could find this the cheapest contract around.


  • Fantastically cheap deal if you’re a BT customer
  • Lots of WiFi hotspots


  • Very expensive if you’re not already a BT customer
  • Not many extras to speak of

EE Capped Contracts


Price: £21 a month, 12-month contract

Minutes: Unlimited

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 20 GB

If you’re looking for big data, then look no further. EE does offer larger data plans, but this one is the best deal. Unlimited calling and texting and a whopping 20 GB data limit, all for £21 a month. Okay, that’s steep, but with that huge data limit, you really can’t complain. And you get 4G too, thanks to EE’s widespread 4G network.

EE does practice data rollover, so unused data can be used next month. They also have data gifting, so you can give some of your data to another EE user. Plus, every three months you get an extra 500 MB of data added to your account to thank you for your loyalty. And EE is the only UK network that currently offers WiFi calling.

Alright, it’s pricey. And those huge limits aren’t going to be for everyone. But big data users will probably find that this EE plan is their best bet.


  • Huge data limit
  • Unlimited minutes and texts
  • Data rollover, gifting, and extra loyalty data


  • It’s pretty pricey
  • Not everyone will need those big plan limits

O2 Capped Contracts


Price: £19 a month, 12-month contract

Minutes: Unlimited

Texts: Unlimited

Data: 9 GB

This is another contract that doesn’t seem that great from the numbers but stick around for a second. O2’s best deal is this £19 a month, twelve-month contract, which gives you unlimited minutes and texts and 9 GB of data. That’s not a huge data limit, especially when compared to EE’s big data plan for just £2 more.

However, O2 frequently discount their contracts (currently you can get a 20 GB contract for just £20), but we can’t list discounted contracts since they change so often. Regardless, it’s a good plan to check O2’s site before dismissing them as an option. O2 do also offer free WiFi hotspots, and a range of family plans if you’re looking to add extra SIM cards.

The downside is that if you don’t happen to catch a special discount, O2 plans are pretty pricey. And you don’t get big data limits. Get a deal though, and you could find that you get the cheapest available contract.


  • Unlimited calling and texting
  • Great family plan options
  • Cheap prices when special offers are running


  • Pricey if there are no special offers