We need to cover the basics first, so let's take a look at how these plans work. First up, you choose a mobile network operator; then you decide the kind of phone you want, then you choose the kind of pay monthly plan that you want and finally, you sign a contract. You'll be paying a set monthly price, so you'll get a bill each month. Included in that monthly price will be a limit to the amount of calling minutes, text messages and mobile data that you can use. And that's pretty much it. Easy, right? But hold up there, you need to know the whole story.
There are lots of benefits to signing up for a mobile contract. It's pretty convenient, for a start. You don't need to worry about running out of credit as you would with pay as you go, and you get yourself a shiny new mobile phone which in most cases comes with no upfront cost.
Depending on the handset you choose, there's also a chance that you'll get that phone cheaper than if you just bought it yourself outright. This varies and depends on how much the retailer is willing to subsidise the price of the phone. Our sim only vs contract calculator will run the numbers for you if you are unsure which is cheaper in terms of buying outright or taking out a contract.
For some people, contract phone plans are going to be cheaper. Because you're buying minutes, texts and data in bulk, you're paying lower prices. You'll find that a 1GB data plan is a lot cheaper than paying individually for each megabyte on pay as you go, for example. As well as all of this, you'll probably be offered some sweet freebies. Free services when you sign a contract are pretty standard, you'll have plenty of choice of different handsets and calling plans, and you'll be able to upgrade your phone every couple of years if you sign up for a contract extension. Not everything is perfect, though…
Probably the biggest downside of contract phone is that you need to choose your monthly plan carefully or risk wasting cash. If your plan limits are too high, you'll be paying for stuff that you're not using – which is why contracts are not a good idea for light phone users. If your limits are too low though you're going to end up paying extra fees for additional services and that gets pretty pricey.
You'll need to commit too, with contracts being for a minimum of 12 months (although most tend to be for 24 months), meaning that you can't switch operators to get a better deal. Plus, you'll need to be over 18 and have a good credit score to be able to sign the contract in the first place. Want to finish that contract a little early? Then you'll be stuck with hefty penalty charges. Contracts are only for those that can commit.
Contract phone shopping isn't quite as complicated as some people make it out to be, though. There are only three basic steps. Firstly, you'll need to decide what kind of phone you want (though if this doesn't matter too much for you can skip this step). Have a look around, read some reviews and see what you fancy, that simple.
Secondly, you're going to need to look at your usage requirements. As long as you've had a phone contract before, this isn't a big deal. You can just look at your old phone bills and estimate the number of minutes, texts and data you'll need. If you haven't had a contract before, then you can track your usage on pay as you go for a month or so to get a decent estimate.
Thirdly, you need to decide on a network operator. Look at which operators offer the best prices on the size of contracts you're looking for with the handset that you want, and that's it, you're done.
You will need to think about a couple of other things, though. First, most operators are offering 4G data on their contract phone plans these days but not all. 4G will give you faster mobile internet, but not everywhere has 4G coverage. 4G data plans are also more expensive. If in doubt, use a coverage checker to find if you're going to get good 4G coverage!
You may also be offered a choice of contract lengths. Usually, longer contracts are a bit cheaper each month, but you will be committed for a longer period. Finally, it's always worth being a little flexible about the handset that you want, since prices can vary quite a bit between models and network providers. Having a couple of options will mean that you have more choice and are more likely to get a cheaper monthly bill.
In a nutshell, a pay monthly contract phone gives you flexibility, manageable payments and larger monthly allowances. It also means you can get the latest phone without having to pay for it outright.
By getting a deal with inclusive minutes, texts and data bundled you can save money over your contract length. This is due to not having to keep topping up your device or paying for bolt on's when you go over. Because you’re paying per month, the latest phones are free; you pay the monthly costs to cover your usage and the cost of the phone. As a bonus at the end of your contract, you can upgrade to a better handset for free. Or keep your handset and negotiate a bigger data/text/minute bundle. You can also reduce your monthly payment due to your loyalty over 12, 18 or 24 months.
Our most popular deals are the standard pay monthly deals that combine a set amount of minutes, text messages and data. With contracts starting from as little as £5.99 on some devices and the majority of phones completely free; you can be sure to find a contract phone to meet your needs.
You'll find a number of deals in our comparison engine that come with free gifts from smaller accessories bundled in like Bluetooth speakers to larger items like games consoles or laptops. These deals can look appealing on the face of it, but remember, in most cases, you will be paying for the gift as part of the monthly contract payments. You can read more about free gift deals in our explainer post and how to figure out if they represent good value for money.
TigerMobiles.com compare deals that have two choices to claim money back. If you want it instantly, we compare auto-cashback deals that get paid into your account instantly. If you’re after a cheaper monthly deal, you can also choose cashback by redemption where over the course of your contract you send in a bill and claim back your money at regular intervals. This opens the possibility of making some bigger savings.
Read more: Cashback Mobile Phone Deals Explained
We've got smartphones to suit every preference, but that doesn’t mean customers always know exactly what they want.
Luckily the customer service team here at TigerMobiles.com live and breathe mobile phones. We review phones in depth and pass that advice onto you.
So whether you have smaller hands and want a smaller “mini” phone. Or maybe you love the new larger bezel-less screen design and want to know which best suits your needs and budget – just consult our knowledge-base and ask a question or contact us via the contact form.