Minutes, megabytes, texts and tier levels are but a drop in the ocean of considerations when choosing from the hundreds of family mobile phone deals. Choosing the right option between Pay As You Go, sim only and a contract with phone can save you a fortune. I save over £300 a year by swapping options.
Are you in a contract, has it run out? If in doubt, check with your supplier, because if you are there is a likelihood you can get a better deal.
What’s the right tariff?
It sounds really obvious, but choose a mobile phone package based upon your usage. Too many people get sucked into expensive deals because it sounds great to have the luxury of 600 free minutes when realistically they only use around 200.
What about texts? Do you need to use the Internet, or can you do without? If you have a phone already, look at your previous three months’ bills to work out your usage. With five networks (3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone) and many outlets pitching for your pound, prices are competitive.
Pay As You Go
This can be the best option for infrequent users, especially teenagers who need a phone for calling home or friends when out. You can purchase a cheap handset, for example this one from T-Mobile for around £20 plus a £10 top up. Each supplier is different, however you often get additional freebies for 30 days every time you top up. The freebies could be texts, minutes, email access or Internet browsing.
Sim only deals are cheaper than ‘phone-inclusive’ contracts as you are using a handset you already own. They tend to offer a combination of minutes, texts and internet browsing within the package. As family mobile phone deals go, they could be a great option for around £10 or more, dependent upon how many texts and minutes you require; be aware that bills are not usually capped. Most are either monthly or annual deals, with the latter offering more incentives for the extra commitment from you.
It’s worth noting that if you are out of contract with your current supplier and are happy with your phone, you can swap to a sim only deal thereby saving you cash. This simple switch saved me £300. If you wish to change networks it’s likely your phone will have to be unlocked and your current supplier may charge you a small one-off fee.
As a new user, you may want to buy an unlocked phone and start a sim only deal. Many retailers sell these, including this one from Amazon for under £20.
Contract with phone
You can buy a combined contract and phone deal, though with this option your monthly bill will be higher than sim-only packages as you’ll be paying for the new handset. It’s worth visiting Rightmobilephone inputting your usage and it will show you some of the best deals available.
If you can afford to do so, it is often cheaper to buy the phone outright (unlocked) and purchase a sim only deal. For example, the new 32GB iPhone 5 via Vodafone is £1061 for two years (£33 per month plus an initial fee of £269 for the handset) including 600 minutes talk-time, unlimited texts and 500MB data, whereas buying the iPhone directly from Apple and signing up to Vodafone’s ‘sim only’ deal gives you a similar package for £971.
Family friendly deals
As children get older, family mobile phone deals become more important as it’s easy for bills to escalate, especially with several of you in the household.
Tesco offer a capped tariff allowing you to set a monthly limit, so you have no surprises with your children’s bills at the end of the month. If the allowance is used up, the phone can always be topped up like ‘pay as you go’.
T-Mobile offer ‘You Fix’ which lets you fix how much you pay each month and then top up if you need to. Choose between an annual, 24-month or sim-only plan.
Combining deals for several members of the family with the same network can save money. Tesco offer ‘Family Perks’. This allows you to choose between a number of extras for each person; 150 minutes; 250MB of Internet access or 500 minutes calling Tesco Mobile phones. To qualify there has to be more than one family member with a Pay Monthly subscription.
With Orange you can set up two or more mobiles on contract in ‘Your Group’, making calls between the selected phones free. Added to this, each contracted customer begins with one magic number, allowing you free calls to an Orange mobile number of your choice. You gain an additional magic number every six months, so two adults can be on ‘Your Group’ and you can add your children’s ‘pay as you go’ phones as magic numbers.
Prices are subject to change. Before you sign any deal, it’s always important to read the terms and conditions.
Marc Lockley is a coach and money saving writer. He is the author of How To Pay Less For More, a book showing people how to negotiate in shops, showrooms and even with the boss over working part-time. As a dad of two, Marc values his work/life balance and is a dab hand at using money saving techniques to keep the bills down.