If you’ve ever walked into a phone shop and felt overwhelmed with the options, then you aren’t alone. For those of us accustomed to our own devices (or glued, depending on who you ask), choosing a phone is as simple as choosing the latest iPhone or Samsung.
But what if you’ve never been in a position to choose a phone contract before? Whether it’s your first time due to poor credit, turning 18 or you’ve been on a prepaid plan, more of us are shopping online than ever for our mobile phones.
For many, choosing a cheap mobile phone contract can be a daunting experience. So let’s take a look at how to choose a cheap mobile phone contract without sacrificing on quality of service.
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There are two main types of phone contract. These are sim-only deals and pay monthly handsets. Here are the main differences between the two:
A sim-only deal is a contract that comes without a handset. You pay the carrier for minutes, texts and data at the monthly price. Nowadays, most have unlimited plans. This means that, for a monthly price, they come with unlimited calls and unlimited texts. There are even a few unlimited data plans, though watch out for these as some come with a fair usage policy.
Unlimited calls, texts and data are great for anyone with kids or vulnerable family members, since you don’t need to worry about heavy usage maxing out the allowances. For some considering a phone contract, that’s worth the extra cost.
Pay monthly deals come as a handset bundled with a sim deal. In these deals, you pay via credit for both the handset and the sim usage together.
Most contracts come with an upfront cost. The upfront cost acts like a deposit, where you put down money to reduce your monthly payments. By doing so, you’re considered less risk when taking out a contract and are more likely to get the contract and that brand new iPhone or Samsung you want.
Note this is a little different to bundled deals, which may be a handset-only deal and a sim-only contract on two separate finance contracts. Major carriers tend to bundle these together, whereas independent stores can offer more flexibility by offering bundled deals as they sell unlocked phones, meaning they’re available to use on any network.
Depending on where you live, there are different major carriers. In most countries, there’s always 3 or 4 that operate the masts. These tend to be the most costly, but you do get better service for your money, including priority connection when the masts are overloaded at peak times such as New Year’s Day.
Getting your phone contract can be a daunting task for anyone. So we’ve compiled a list of top tips to help you gain a better understanding of what you should look out for when choosing your monthly contract.
Irrelevant of the price, you should check coverage in the area first for the person using the phone. This is the biggest mistake people make, because everyone looks at the price first.
Check not only your home, but also where the phone will get most of its usage. Is it for truck drivers on the highways via a business contract? Or is it someone in a city centre office where even despite great high-speed data available, they may work in that one building with a huge black spot where their desk is?
Most phones and contracts do come with an exchange policy for this reason. But when credit checks are involved it can complicate your credit file, so it’s always better to get it right first time. After all, a phone is useless if you can’t use it to call and text people!
As mentioned above, take note of any fair usage policies that may apply within your monthly plan. The major networks tend to offer truly unlimited data plans, whereas others operate their unlimited plans based on how much a user can realistically use (like an all-you-can-eat buffet, for example).
If you have a SIM card from another provider, check that it matches up with the size of the slot on your device. If you have a small SIM card, you’ll struggle to fit it into a larger sized slot. You may want to consider getting a new SIM card if this is the case.
Don’t forget about extra charges. Some providers charge for incoming calls. Others charge for outgoing calls. Some charge for SMS messages. And some charge for roaming. Make sure you know what you’re paying for before signing anything, especially if your contract doesn’t have unlimited calls, text or data.
Make sure that you understand exactly what your contract period is. Many mobile contracts last 12 months, 24 months or 36 months. It’s important to choose a length of contract that suits you. For instance, if you’re going travelling, then a shorter length will be better.
Longer contracts have a cheaper monthly cost in their plan prices, but they do accrue extra costs over time as you may find yourself needing a new unlocked phone sooner than the 36 months of service are over.
Some retailers will allow you to trade-in your old phone, which means you don’t need to find funds to buy a brand new phone straight away. However, the cost of doing this varies depending on who you deal with. Check around and see what kind of deal you can get as you might find you’ll get more for it privately. Just remember to backup your data beforehand!
To take out mobile plans of any kind, you’ll need a credit check. That’s why you can only have one if you’re over 18. Phone contracts do work slightly differently to other forms of credit, however. Especially in the case of sim-only contracts, they’re considered low-risk which means you’re more likely to pass even with poor credit.
But, like any form of credit, being accepted for mobile plans depends entirely on your individual circumstances. So always make sure to check your credit file before applying, since it can knock your score in the short-term – even if you pass for the contract.
If you do pass and take out a contract, make sure you set up a direct debit payment. That way, you won’t miss your monthly payments. Again, failure to pay these can result not only in your phone getting cut off, but also a mark on your credit file, which can affect your ability to get credit in the future.
No matter what the cost, it’s always better to choose the right mobile plan for your needs than the cheapest. And that’s none more so important than when it comes to getting a signal. After all, you might as well be carrying a brick around if you can’t use it anywhere!
Keep reading for more advice that helps all of us through everyday life, one day at a time!
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