7 ways to get the best mobile phone deal
In the first of what will no doubt blossom into a series of guest posts like a giant fact begonia, Ben Pusey at mobilesplease.co.uk provides some common sense tips and insider knowledge to buying your next mobile phone:
1. Look at your bills and do the maths
You probably know how much your monthly mobile bill is, but do you know what you're spending your money on? Spend a while reviewing your old phone bills. If you're not using your whole allowance then you're paying for services you don't need; if you're regularly going over your allowance it may pay to move up to a bigger package.
Don't be too hasty - if you only go over by a few minutes once in a while then a larger tariff will be waste of money. Your network will try and tell you that you'd be better off on a more expensive tariff, usually under the guise of saving you money - they may be right but don't take their word for it.
2. Bide your time
The deal you get offered will vary depending on the time of the month, particularly if you buy through a third party retailer. They have sales targets, and if they are short near the end of the month they will be more likely to make you a better offer.
Credit scoring changes throughout the month at third party retailers too, but this time it's better to go for the beginning of the month. It costs the networks more to sell through third parties than directly so if they have met their new connection quotas they sometimes tighten up on credit checking to keep their cost of sales down.
3. Decide if you really need a new handset or not
Free handsets obviously aren't free - the cost of the handset is spread out over the term of the contract and can make a big difference to the monthly cost. If you don't need a new handset then don't be swayed by the hype. Most handsets can be unlocked after your current contract ends so you could move to a SIM-only deal from any network you like.
If you do want a new phone, compare the total cost of a “free” handset on a contract to SIM-only deal, and buying an unlocked handset outright. Find the best deal for the handset you want, then ask how much the same tariff is without an upgrade, search online retailers for a SIM-free handset then compare the cost over the term of the contract. In most cases you'll find that the “free” phone is cheaper; the networks have huge buying power and in most cases they don't make much of a mark up on the handsets, they use top end handsets as a cost neutral item to entice you in to signing up.
4. Use a more than one comparison site
Comparison sites can narrow the field, but some don't give you the whole picture - make sure the comparison sites you choose offer deals from all the networks and retailers. Comparison sites make their money by taking a commission on sales that they refer to retailers; there's nothing wrong with that, after all they do provide a service, but be careful. Some retailers pay better commission than others so less scrupulous comparison sites will promote the deals that pay them more, that may not be suitable for you.
5. Know the facts about cashback deals
Many retailers offer cashback when you sign a new contract. The cashback offer is basically just a loan, you get the cash, but a portion of your monthly cost goes to the cashback provider. Often the retailer will subcontract the cashback to third parties and if they go bust halfway through the term of the contract then you may not get your money.
Cashback companies work on the principle that many people won't remember to fill out the forms and send off the paperwork every month to get their money. Think hard and be realistic about whether or not you will remember to do it.
There are also plenty of cashback deals from third party websites such as Quidco, which kick back their commission back to the customer. These can be worth up to £150 on particular handsets or tariffs, but again check the deal is one that's right for you - you don't want to commit monthly allowances you'll never use, or a higher tariff than you were otherwise prepared to pay.
6. Beat up your current network
The chances are your network will call you around three months before your contract ends to offer you a new one. Don't say yes on the spot, make a note of their offer and compare it to what else is out there. If you find a better deal, see if your network will match or improve upon it; if they won't, leave.
You will then probably be made a better offer by the customer retention staff as they have far more clout than the front line staff - remember, it's cheaper for a network to keep existing customers than attract new ones. The best time to do this is within the last month of your contract as this is when you are most likely to actually leave.
7. Don't jump into insurance you don't need
Most mobile phone deals will include insurance, but you may be better off not taking it. What's covered and what's not vary from provider to provider so check; also check whether or not your home insurance covers your phone for theft or damage. Some bank accounts include free mobile phone insurance too.
A new phone will be covered by manufacturers warranty for at least 12 months so if you're only on a 12 month contract you don't need to worry about it breaking down. If you don't have a high end phone, it can even work out cheaper to buy a new one than insure it for the term of the contract. It can be quicker too - if you lose or break your phone you can buy a new handset in a few minutes, whereas insurance claims and getting a replacement from your insurer can take much longer.