What is the Easiest Network to Get a Contract Phone On?
All mobile networks in the UK require customers to pass a credit check to take out a contract phone. Whilst you might have heard some are easier to pass than others, the reality is all the networks have very similar credit check processes and it's difficult to separate them.
Whilst there are slight variances between each networks criteria it’s impossible to say which one is ‘easier’ as it depends on your own credit rating which is specific to your circumstances. All of this means that which network is going to be easiest for you to get your phone on is a difficult question to answer.
About Network Credit Checks
When you’re getting a contract phone you’re actually “leasing to buy.” This means that you’re getting the phone in hand and then you’re paying a monthly fee each month until the cost of the phone is paid off. The network obviously wants to know that they’re going to get their money back. And for this reason, they check your credit history to see whether or not you’re a good risk.
Your credit history will list things like outstanding loans, bills you’ve paid late or haven’t paid at all, all kinds of information that will help a network decide whether it’s a good idea to let you have that phone or not. The worse your credit history is, the less likely you are to get a phone from a network on contract.
If you’re worried about whether you’re going to pass a credit check or not, you can check your own credit history beforehand to see what networks are likely to see when they’re making their decision. You can check your credit history with any of the top three UK credit rating agencies:
If you have a poor credit history you can improve your credit score (and therefore your chance to get that contract phone) over the course of a few months. You’ll find some tips on how to improve your credit score in this post.
The “Easiest” Network
The straight up truth is that there is no easiest network. Since all major networks will be running a credit check before giving you a phone, it makes little difference which network you apply to. There is a small caveat though. Different networks use different credit agencies to run their credit checks. If you have done your research and know that you have a “better” credit history with one of the main agencies (perhaps due to mistakes with other agencies, or a late payment or unpaid bill that just slipped through the net) you will, therefore, stand a better chance of getting a phone through a network that uses the agency that gave you a better rating.
The major UK networks use the following credit agencies to run their credit checks (do be aware that this information could change at any given time):
- EE: TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
- O2: Equifax
- Three: TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
- Vodafone: TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
- Sky Mobile: Equifax
- Tesco Mobile: Experian
- Virgin Mobile: Equifax
- BT Mobile: Equifax
- iD Mobile: Experian, Equifax
What’s the Magic Credit Check Score?
One misunderstanding about how a credit check works is that you get an exact number that reflects your credit. If that number is high then you’re likely to get accepted for your phone contract, if it’s low then you’ll likely be declined. However, this isn’t actually how the process usually works in practice.
Some credit agencies do give you a credit score, an exact number. But that number isn’t particularly important when running a credit check. What networks are actually looking at is your credit history. That means that they’re looking at whether you’ve paid back past loans in full, whether you’ve defaulted on payments, whether you’ve missed payments, paid late, or declared bankruptcy. In this sense it’s what you’ve done in the past that’s important, rather than reaching some kind of magic credit number.
As we mentioned above, if your credit history is poor, you can work to improve your history. This may take several months, but is the best way of ensuring that you get accepted for the exact phone that you want with the network that you want. Though there are other options…
What Should I Do With Poor Credit?
If you have a poor credit rating rather than looking for the easiest check to pass, it's more important you maximise your chances of passing regardless of which network you choose; our advice is to put money down up front and don't choose a high-value handset like an iPhone. It will dramatically increase your chances of passing the check. In some circumstances, you may have more success by calling the network directly or by dealing with a network you might have had a contract with before (assuming you didn’t have outstanding payments).
Fortunately for customers in this position, we have a range of deals specifically for bad credit customers. Many of these deals require an upfront payment for the phone which in turns reduces the risk of bringing you on board as a customer. Our other recommended course of action is to take out a SIM only deal , with no handset involved, the approval rate is much higher.
There are also a couple of UK operators that do NOT run credit checks on SIM only customers, meaning you should get a SIM only plan with no problems at all. If this is something that you’re interested in, then check out SIM only deals from Smarty or GiffGaff.
What About No Credit Check Companies?
If you take a look around online you’ll find that there are quite a few places that offer you phones with no credit checks. Be very, very wary of these places. Many of them are scams (if you think about it, there aren’t many reputable companies that would be willing to give you a £1000 iPhone when you haven’t proven that you’re sensible with money). Many others are simply not what they seem, luring customers in with big name phones but then only offering low budget models when you’re accepted but for far higher than normal prices.
The companies that are legitimate tend to be upfront from the start. They clearly state that there will be upfront payments (usually quite large), and state that the selection of phones available to you is limited.
The only real no credit check offering is in the form of a no credit check sim only deal which doesn't come with a handset, just a SIM only deal that you are paying for in advance. No credit check SIM only plans are essentially a pay as you go sim with a bundled amount of data, minutes and texts.
Top Tips for Getting a Contract Phone
If you’re worried about your credit and looking at getting a contract phone then here are a few tips to help you along your way:
- Consider going for a cheaper phone, the lower the price of the phone the more likely a company is to give you a contract
- Consider contracts that have larger upfront payments, meaning that you’re technically “borrowing” less
- Consider buying a phone elsewhere (refurbished, second hand, through resellers) and getting a SIM only contract or a PAYG service
- Don’t keep applying again and again, too many searches on your credit history will put red flags on your account. If you’re refused a couple of times then stop applying until you’ve worked to improve your credit history
- Pay off as many of your other debts as possible to improve your credit history and increase your chances
- Consider going with a company that offers bad credit deals, they will be more likely to help you
The Bottom Line
There really isn’t one network that’s easier than any other to get a contract phone if you don’t have a great credit history. A lot depends on your personal circumstances, though there are workarounds if you’re willing to make some compromises. By far your best bet though is going to be improving that credit history, since then you’ll be in a better position financially and able to apply with any network you like!