Signing a mobile contract locks you into ongoing payments for 12 months or more, so it’s important to find the best deal before you commit. Here are 5 questions you should ask before signing a new mobile phone contract.
1. What is network coverage like in my local area?
Save time by checking coverage before talking to providers. Ofcom’s postcode-based checker reveals which of the four main networks have good coverage – indoors and out – in your area. For more detailed results, including 5G coverage, which supports mobile data at twice the speed of average home broadband connections, check with the networks themselves by clicking here: EE, O2, Three and Vodaphone.
If your preferred provider isn’t one of those four, it will be a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which buys and resells airtime on one of the listed networks. Coverage will be identical to the host network, even if it doesn’t offer the same full range of services. To gauge their coverage, look up the appropriate host on the list of MVNOs at Uswitch.com.
2. Will I be charged for roaming?
Post-Brexit, some UK operators are introducing charges for calls and data in Europe. Vodafone, EE and Three charge £2 a day for using your bundled allowance outside the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and even those that don’t yet charge in the EU routinely apply a supplement when travelling further afield.
You can often avoid roaming charges by opting for a more expensive contract. Vodafone’s Unlimited data Xtra plan with 4 Xtra benefits costs £37, but doesn’t charge for roaming in far-flung locations like Canada, New Zealand and Australia. By avoiding the £6 per day you’d otherwise pay in those states, you’ll offset a month’s bill in about five days.
Don’t forget to ask if your network applies ‘fair-use’ limits when roaming, and whether these have been reduced since Brexit. Exceeding them will land you with excess fees.
3. Can I save money by buying the handset outright?
Spread the cost of your phone over the term of your contract and you’ll often pay a slightly higher price for the convenience. Calculating the difference between these cumulative payments and the up-front cost you would otherwise pay can help you work out the best way to finance your next device.
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A 128GB iPhone 13 Pro with 24-months of unlimited airtime (this includes data, minutes and texts) costs £1804 at EE. The same airtime bought SIM-only costs £35 a month, so EE is selling the phone at a competitive £964. The same handset is only £15 cheaper from Apple, so by spreading the cost you’re effectively charged interest at just 0.42% APR.
At Three, a 128GB Google Pixel 6 with 100GB of data costs £1109 over two years. Google sells the same phone for £599 and, when you add £16 a month for 100GB of data and calls, you’d be £5.25 per month better off if you pay up front, avoiding the equivalent of 5.68% APR interest.
4. How much data do I need?
Make sure you know what you already use, as upgrading your phone shouldn’t greatly impact how much data you need. On Android, open Settings and tap ‘Network and Internet’, then your network provider’s name, followed by ‘Mobile data usage’. On iPhone, open Settings, tap ‘Mobile data’, and check the figure beside Current Period.
5. Can I switch providers when my contract ends?
Since December 2021, operators have been banned from selling phones locked to their own network, or airtime contracts of more than two years. So, check that your payments will be reduced to SIM-only rates once you’ve paid for your handset.
If you’re signing up to a 12-month airtime contract but paying for the handset over two years, make sure you’re not committed to another year of voice and data charges when the initial airtime contract expires.
By: Nik Rawlinson
Source: 5 questions to ask before signing a new mobile phone contract
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