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30+ Cheap Mobile Tips

Cheapest way to get a new handset plus other cost-cutting tips

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Nick | Edited by Steve N

Updated May 2017

cutting down mobile costs

Whether your phone's superglued to your ear or you only use it for the odd call, the chances are you're massively overpaying for the minutes, texts and data that you use.

Getting a new phone can be a big financial decision, particularly if you're committing to a contract. This guide talks you through the different options – plus offers handy tips to drive down the cost of your existing mobile deal.

If you're paying more than £9/mth, STOP

cutting down mobile costsHow much is your mobile bill each month? If you're paying more than about £9/mth, then you need to ask yourself why.

Our benchmark is this Three Sim for £9/mth, which gets you unlimited minutes and texts and 4GB of 4G data on a 12-month contract, which should be plenty for most.

If you don't need that big an allowance, it's possible to get even cheaper deals – see our full list of top picks in the new Cheap Sim-only Deals guide.

In our November 2014 poll almost 25,000 of you told us how much you pay for your mobile. The results were eye-opening – a whopping 78% of those on contracts which factor in the cost of a handset (and 46% overall) shell out more than £15 a month, with an average cost of £27/mth, or £330 a year.

Of course, there are valid reasons why you may be paying more. These include:

  • You're paying off the cost of a handset.
  • Your credit score means you can't get a contract (though there are cheap PAYG deals too).
  • You roam abroad.
  • You're paying more for a really hefty data allowance.

If one of the above applies, then at least there's a reason for your bill being higher – though you still may be able to save.

But if you just settle for the same deal, provider and price each year, then STOP. Mobile tariffs are deflating in price, so if anything you should be paying less each year, not more.

Before looking for a new deal, ask yourself whether you REALLY need a new high-end handset

hand setThe latest top-end smartphones typically go for £500+, but there are plenty of cheaper handsets out there with the same core functions as the flagship handsets from the likes of Apple and Samsung.

We're MoneySavingExpert not MobilePhoneExpert, so we won't attempt to give a rundown of which models you should be looking for – see this comprehensive article on the top budget phones by TechRadar, and CNET has a good guide to picking a new handset (including low-end options).

While buying a new handset outright is usually cheapest with top-end smartphones, with older phones it can more often be the case that traditional contracts win. Compare handset prices on MobilePhoneChecker*, or see our Mobile Contracts guide for more info.

Buying a new handset? Do it the cheapest way

If you definitely do need a new mobile phone, then there are essentially three ways to get one. Each has benefits and drawbacks – here's a quick rundown:

1. Buy it outright

buy it outright

Straightforward – buy the handset at the cheapest price you can find it, and pair it with a Sim-only deal of your choice.

Typically much cheaper over two years than getting a contract with a network, plus you can choose whichever network and Sim-only plan suits you best. You also won't be credit-checked, as you are with the options below.

For many the initial outlay's simply unaffordable (£500+ for the top handsets).

How to do it: Get the handset at the best price possible. Giffgaff* is competitive, and also compare on MobilePhoneChecker*. If you can't afford the full amount upfront, one option is to spread the cost by buying on a 0% credit card (or buy it on finance). If you're going for an iPhone 7, see if you can spread the cost interest-free.

2. Buy it on finance

buy on finance

Relatively new in the UK, mobile financing allows you to get the cost of the handset loaned to you under an agreement over a fixed period. You can then choose a Sim-only either from the finance provider or independently.

Freedom to pair your handset with a Sim-only deal, and a much lower upfront cost thanks to a loan which has a clear APR, transparent pricing and ends once fully repaid.

It costs more than buying the phone upfront yourself – except with Apple's 0% financing on the iPhone 7.

How to do it: There are a few providers to choose from, and they work a little differently. See Mobile financing below for full info.

3. Get it on contract

buy on contract

For many, the only way they've ever got a new phone is via a two-year contract with a network that bundles the cost of the handset in with monthly service – usually at a hefty markup. This can often be the most expensive way to buy a phone, though in a few cases it can actually be the cheapest.

In a few rare cases it's possible to find contracts via resellers such as* (owned by Carphone Warehouse) that cost LESS than buying the handset yourself and pairing with a cheap Sim.

In many cases the phone will cost £100s more – in some cases you'll pay an APR of up to 30%. Plus you'll be locked in, usually for two years.

How to do it: There's a huge range of tariffs out there, many of which are utterly poor value. For a full tips on finding the right one, see the Mobile Contracts guide. Also see our iPhone and Samsung top-pick contracts.

How the different options compare on price

Choose the right type of plan: contract, Sim-only or pay-as-you-go

The number of different mobile plans on the market can be baffling – there are thousands of different combinations and it can be tricky to compare them on a like-for-like basis.

There are three different types of plans to choose from. Here's how they work:

Contract with handset – low upfront cost but typically higher cost overall

Pay monthly

With a traditional mobile phone contract you pay a monthly fee and get a handset plus an inclusive bundle with a certain allowance of minutes, texts and data.

  • Handset price is spread out – but it costs you more in the long term, and there are cheaper ways to spread the cost.

  • You'll be locked in for 24 months in the majority of cases.

  • You'll be credit checked.

See the Mobile Contracts guide for full details on how to find the right contract and everything else you need to consider before tying into that lengthy commitment. Find a few top-pick tariffs and other tips in Cheap iPhones and Cheap Samsungs.

Sim-only contract – if you've got a handset you like and want flexibility

Sim only

There are two types of Sim-only deals – 30-day rolling contracts which you are free to leave with a months' notice, or fixed term contracts, usually locking you in for 12 months (often, though not always, better value).

  • Great value if you already have a handset or can afford to buy yourself.
  • Rolling 30-day contracts offer maximum flexibility.
  • Often good for heavy data users.

For tips on finding the best deal our own top picks, see the Sim-only guide.

PAYG – no ties and never go over your allowance

Pay as you go

If you pay for your mobile via pay-as-you-go, you won't be tied into any contract – simply pay in advance for what you use via top-ups, online or on the phone.

  • PAYG doesn't require any credit check.

  • Easier to budget.

  • Generally more expensive for medium or heavy users.

For all things pay-as-you-go, including our top-pick Sims, see the Pay-as-you-go guide.

Spread the cost of an iPhone 7 INTEREST-FREE

iPhone Payments is a financing scheme exclusively for the new handsets that lets you pay just £49 upfront, then spread the cost over 20 monthly instalments, without paying a penny in interest. You can only get it in store; you'll need to take ID with you and you'll be credit-checked.

iPhone Payments is not the same as the more publicised (and more expensive) iPhone Upgrade Programme, which aims to get customers to upgrade to the latest model every year and bundles in Apple's iPhone insurance, AppleCare+. Here's how the costs stack up:

iPhone payment plans
Storage Upfront cost iPhone 7 iPhone 7 Plus
Monthly cost Total (over 20mths) (1) Monthly cost Total (over 20mths) (1)
32GB £49 £27.50/mth £599 £33.50/mth £719
128GB £49 £32.50/mth £699 £38.50/mth £819
256GB £49 £37.50/mth £799 £43.50/mth £919
Table correct as of May 2017. (1) Same as standard RRP charged by Apple.

And here's how to get the deal:

  • You can ONLY get iPhone Payments in store. The only financing option available through Apple's website is a much more expensive deal via PayPal Credit.
  • When you collect the phone, say you want to pay via iPhone Payments. You'll need to bring bank details, a valid photo ID and your current mobile plus other personal info – see Apple's website for a full list. You'll need to be a UK resident and have lived here for 3+ years, be aged 18+ and have a UK bank account.
  • If accepted (you should be told within five minutes), you'll pay £49 upfront and the rest in 20 monthly instalments. Your loan will be with Barclays, the finance provider behind the scheme, at 0% APR. Monthly repayments are made by direct debit. If you don't keep up with them, Barclays would take the same action as any other loan provider – it could result in a mark on your credit file, for example.

The savings can be £100s compared with a two-year contract. See the Interest-free iPhone 7 MSE News story for a comparison with the networks' tariffs at launch.

Get a LOW interest rate with mobile financing

Mobile contracts from networks are typically vastly overpriced – equivalent to getting a loan with an APR of up to 30% in some cases. If you can't get approved for 0% finance, as an alternative, specialist mobile finance providers will loan you the money for a handset at a cost. Then just pair it with a cheap Sim-only deal and off you go.

phone financing

There are two main providers to try:

  • Get a potential cheap-ish loan on many types of phone with Unshackled. With* (finance provided by Zopa, Vanquis and Amigo), you're loaned the cost of a handset at an APR based on your credit history.

    It's a two-stage process. Firstly, you apply (and there's a soft search on your credit file, which won't impact your credit score). Then you'll be told the rate you'll be offered, and can decide whether or not to accept (in which case there'll be a hard search on your file).

    The representative APR is 9.7%, but can go as high as 49.9%, so watch out. Look at the rate you're offered before deciding to accept. There are lots of factors to weigh up, including the actual cost of the phone, but:

    • If it's 9.7% to 18.8%, it may be a good deal (especially as you can't get standard loans for less than a grand).
    • If it's more than 18.8%, you may be better trying Giffgaff – see below. (That assumes the price of the phone's similar – if Giffgaff's cheaper, start checking it even if you have a lower APR.)
    • If it's closer to 49.9%, you're almost certainly better off going elsewhere.
  • Or try Giffgaff at 18.8% APR. The Giffgaff* PAYG network also offers financing on many types of phone, at a fixed 18.8% APR (it's partnered with Ratesetter). It's not as competitive as for many, but as it also sells some iPhones at a lower price, it's worth checking on both anyway.

Many providers allow early upgrades

If you're happy to stick with your current provider, then it's often possible to upgrade your handset before your current contract comes to an end.

Don't forget the cheapest deals usually come from switching provider – so don't fall for the upgrade trap – but if you're willing to haggle this info might be useful. The following table sets out the major providers' early upgrade policies.

How early can you upgrade?
Provider Early upgrade policy
EE (incl T-Mobile and Orange) Switch to a new phone and plan up to 45 days before your contract ends.
O2 O2 Refresh splits your monthly statement into a cost for the handset and cost for your allowance. You can pay off the handset part of your contract whenever you want and upgrade without also having to pay off the 'allowance' segment – you'll just continue paying it alongside the 'new device segment of the bill.
Vodafone Upgrade up to 60 days before your contract ends if you're on a Red or Red Value Bundle, or up to 30 days if on a standard plan.
Three Upgrade up to 30 days before your contract ends.
Tesco Mobile If you're on an Anytime Upgrade plan – the same system as O2 Refresh above; for other pay monthly customers there's no special early upgrade policy.
Virgin Mobile No official policy on early upgrades. Its 'Freestyle' Contracts allow you to pay off the handset and buy a new phone to use with your existing airtime contract.

Happy with your handset? Haggle down the contract costs

If you don't want to switch, and are near or past your contract's end, you're wielding a powerful weapon... your loyalty. When approaching the end of your contract, make sure you demand the very best deal possible – not just of your network, but of any out there.

The mobile world's a mature market. Everyone has a handset, so networks fight hard to win custom from elsewhere AND keep their own. If your provider won't give you a good enough deal, let it know. The aim's to get through to 'customer disconnections', which internally is often called 'retentions' as its job is to keep you. Watch Martin show Mrs MSE how to do it, with real chutzpah!

We know this method works, as you regularly tell us it does. Forumite elfy1807 says: "My contract with Orange was up and I asked them what they could do for me. I turned down two offers until I got £16/mth, 1.5GB data, unltd texts and 2,000 mins – a saving of £36/mth, that's £432/yr."

Full help on how to do this in our Haggle Down Your Mobile Bill guide.

4G gives you superfast internet – but beware of it sucking up your allowance

cutting down mobile costsNetworks claim that 4G is up to 5x faster than 3G, though Ofcom-estimates suggest that in practice downloads are only twice as fast, compared to uploads which were more than 8x quicker. The regulator also says 4G and 3G performance differs between networks, with some outperforming others.

Some operators charge more for 4G tariffs, and even if they don't, you're likely to use more data if you're on one.

So think about where you use your phone. If you're out and about a lot and will benefit from a faster connection, it may be worth it. If you mainly use it at home and work and you're able to connect to Wi-Fi there, then that often beats 4G anyway.

To get 4G you'll need a handset that's capable of getting it (many launched in the last two years can).

In some cases it can actually be cheaper to get a 30% APR loan than a handset on contract

If you don't have the readies to pay upfront for a handset, think long and hard before tying yourself into a lengthy contract instead – even if it offers you the phone 'free' or at a much-reduced upfront cost.

Although the cost of the handset be wrapped up in the monthly tariff, you'll nearly always be paying a significant amount extra in the long-run – which is why you should always calculate and compare the total cost over the lifetime of the contract.

When we crunched the numbers in May 2016 we calculated that in some cases it'd actually be cheaper to buy a handset direct with a 30% APR two-year loan (typical contract length) than take a contract. (Of course, we're not suggesting you do that.)

We worked out how much extra users would pay with six of the UK's biggest mobile providers if they were to get a 16GB iPhone 6s or a Samsung Galaxy S7 on a two-year contract, as opposed to buying the handset directly and taking out the same network's equivalent Sim-only deal.

The table below displays the 'effective APR', which is the interest rate you could afford to pay on a loan to buy the handset upfront plus get the equivalent Sim-only plan on the same network and it STILL be cheaper than taking out a similar contract deal from each network.

'Effective APR' of popular phones
Network iPhone 6s (16GB) Samsung Galaxy S7
Vodafone 15.6% Cheaper on contract
EE (incl T-Mobile & Orange) 34% 13%
O2 21% 8.5%
Virgin Mobile (1) 26% 13%
Three 19% 1.5%
Tesco Mobile 7.7% 4.7%
Table correct as of 25 May 2016. (1) New Virgin Media customers. Figures rounded to the nearest %.

Mobile providers say that a contract isn't a loan (so they don't usually display an APR) but effectively it is one as you're credit-checked. Even if a network offers you a deal where you can pay the cost of the handset and your tariff off separately you're likely to be paying a premium.

Buying your phone on a 0% card is a free way to spread the cost (and stash it in the freezer)


If you want a snazzy phone but can't afford to buy the handset upfront, you're best off saving up.

But if you really can't wait, then instead of paying mobile providers' inflated prices, you might want to consider taking out a credit card with a lengthy 0% credit card spending offer, buying the phone upfront, then stashing the card in a bowl of water in the freezer (so you won't be tempted to use it again) and getting a cheap Sim-only deal.

The longest 0% cards currently are The AA up to 30mths' 0% and Halifax up to 30mths' 0%, closely followed by Sainsbury's 29mths' 0%. Remember you must always ensure you meet the minimum repayments and clear it before the 0% term ends or the cards above jump to 18.9% rep APR.

See a full range of alternatives in our 0% Credit Card spending guide. Use our eligibility calc or the new free Credit Club (a brand new way to keep track of your credit record) to see which cards you'll most likely be accepted for.

Get a 'granny in a glovebox' – grab a cheap emergency phone

emergancy phoneA 'granny in a glovebox phone is great to stash in your car as an emergency second mobile, to give to your kids or if you only need to use a phone very occasionally.

One of the cheapest we've found is the Alcatel 10.16 from EE for a dirt-cheap £10.79 – including £10 phone credit. Bear in mind this will be locked to EE, so you won't be able to use another network's Sim with it unless you get it unlocked (and even then Three Sim cards won't work with it as it's an older 2G handset).

If you're after a phone with web access and you're planning on going with EE, one example of a cheap smartphone is the Alcatel Pixi 3 (3.5) also via EE – it's £0.79 when you also buy an additional £10 EE or O2 top-up credit.

Mapping tool shows mobile signal strength – check before you commit to a contract

The major providers all have maps indicating what coverage they offer. But telecoms regulator Ofcom has its own Telecoms Coverage Checker (and smartphone app) which goes beyond what the networks' own tools do.

Before committing to a contract, check signal strength in the places you use your phone most, eg, at home and at work. Having no coverage isn't sufficient grounds to return your phone (though normal consumer rights do apply), so it's your responsibility to check.

How good is the tool?

How do I use it?

What are my rights if I'm unhappy with my mobile coverage?

It very much depends. Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, if you ordered online or over the phone you can cancel your mobile contract up to 14 days after you sign up (30 days if with Vodafone), for any reason. But if you buy in store or a problem arises after that, it can be tricky – see more on what you can do.

Networks can increase costs by inflation if they warn you first

If there's a warning in your T&Cs about mid-contract price hikes in line with inflation, then firms are permitted to do this under the regulator's rules. Of the major networks, EE, O2, Three, Virgin Mobile and now Vodafone do this.

For those firms that do, adjustments are made in line with figures published in February each year (March for Vodafone) based on the Retail Prices Index – a measure of inflation.

It was announced in February 2017 that most Vodafone, EE and O2 pay-monthly customers would see a 2.5%-3.2% increase in their bills from March and April 2017 – see the Vodafone, EE and O2 price rises MSE News story for full details. In April, Three announced a 2.6% increase due in May 2017.

You're protected against other types of mid-contract price increases though – see below for more.

Lock your Sim AND your handset – or risk losing £1,000s if it's nicked

Most instinctively lock their smartphones these days. Yet even if your handset is locked, if someone steals it there's nothing to stop them removing your Sim and using it in another phone. Some have had £1,000s racked up on their bills after their (locked) phones were stolen.

To prevent this, you can lock your Sim with a four-digit PIN, so whenever it's put into a new handset (or in some cases, such as with iPhones, when the phone it's in is restarted) service won't be available until it's unlocked.

Lock your Sim

You can find instructions online for locking your Sim on an iPhone, Android phone (may vary by handset) or Windows Phone. Your Sim may already have a default PIN (even if it's not activated) which you'll need to enter to change it – contact your network for this.

Note: if you incorrectly enter your PIN three times you may need a Personal Unblocking Key (PUK) code to enable your Sim again. You should be able to get this from your network.

Lock your handset

As we said, most do this already. If not though it's vital you do – you don't want those with light fingers getting access to your personal data and other sensitive info.

See screen-locking instructions for iOS, Android (again, this may vary by handset) and Windows Phone.

If your phone's stolen... report it to the police and let your network know as soon as possible. This is important to prevent unauthorised use of your service, and may also be critical for insurance claims.

Make sure you've the right size Sim

Sim cards come in three sizes – standard, micro and nano – and which one you'll need depends on your handset. All iPhone models from the iPhone 5 onwards use a nano Sim, as do some of the latest Android phones such as the Samsung S7.

Many other Android phones, including the Samsung S5, Note 4 and Windows phones, take micro Sims, which are slightly larger than nano Sims. The iPhone 4 and 4S also take micro Sims.

Standard-size Sims haven't been used in smartphones for the past few years and not many take them anymore. If you're upgrading to a newer handset, most networks can very easily swap your Sim card for the right one if you ask.

Consider the contract length – don't end up in a two-year 'relationship' you can't afford

If you sign up for a contract you're essentially committing to a phone company (and often a handset too) for the length of the contract.

This means you must think carefully about your budget and if you can afford the ongoing monthly payments. The amount of time varies between deals – a few last 12 months, but most high-end smartphone contracts now span 24 months.

Before you sign up to a contract make sure you're happy to be locked in for the minimum term. If you want to leave early then it's likely you'll have to pay termination fees which cover the cost of the contract.

Some providers have started to offer tariffs which make it easier for customers to upgrade early. (See above for full details.)

Don't ditch your digits! Get a PAC to keep your number when you switch

Transferring – or 'porting' – your old mobile number is easy when you switch phone provider. All you need to do is get your PAC (porting authorisation code) from your existing provider, then give it to your new one.

Most networks will ask you to request a switch of number before you start using your new phone, but some will still do it after the new contract is set up. It usually only takes a couple of days.

Trick for existing EE and Vodafone customers to keep their number

If you take out a deal on your existing network that's intended for new customers and isn't specifically an upgrade (EE and Vodafone tend to run deals like this) you won't be able to keep your old number as you can't technically port it within the same network. When you terminate the old contract you'll lose it.

The only way to get a new customer deal and keep your number would be to get yourself a free pay-as-you-go Sim from a different network, port your existing number across to it, then port the number again to the new contract once it's been set up. It sounds complicated but in reality wouldn't take more than week to get it moved back and forth.

Alternatively, if you're out of contract you could always just call up your network and say you want to move to the new customer deal – if they say no, just threaten to leave (and do the trick above if they still won't budge).

Recycle your old handset and earn £100s

If you're getting a new handset, recycle the old one and you could earn £100s, depending on the make, model and condition of the phone.

There are a raft of companies willing to recycle your phone for cash, yet be warned – the differences in what they'll offer are huge. To help, use our unique MobileValuer tool – it instantly tells you what each of the main mobile recycling sites will pay.

You can get up to £400 for some handsets – of course others are virtually worthless, but it's worth a quick try. At the time of writing, for example, a 16GB iPhone 6 could fetch anything from £155 to £190.

Once you agree to sell, most companies send you a freepost bag for your phone. You post it, then they give you the cash.

These sites are all about instant prices though. If you're prepared to put in a little more effort and flog your handset on eBay, you can often beat their prices. See our full 30+ eBay Selling Tricks guide for more info.

'Piggybacking' means you do have a choice of mobile provider – even if you can only get signal with one network

If you live somewhere with rubbish phone signal and you can only get coverage on one or two networks, fear not. You may assume your choice of provider is limited – but switching to a 'piggyback' deal can allow you to cut bills without your signal dropping.

There are only four UK networks – EE, Vodafone, Three and O2. All the others piggyback on and buy space from one of these four. For example, Tesco and Giffgaff are on O2, Asda is on EE and TalkMobile is on Vodafone.

You're still using the same network as the larger company so the reliability's the same, but it's normally cheaper or you get more for your money. There are lots of piggybackers to choose from – see our full mobile piggybacking guide & list to see which you can move to, paying less with the same signal.

Know how to unlock your phone so you have maximum choice of provider

Unlocking your phone means you can use any network's Sim, which gives you the freedom to switch providers and hopefully cut your mobile phone bill.

Some handsets are unlocked when you buy them – usually if you purchase them directly from the manufacturer (as with iPhones, for example). But if you got your handset from a network it will often be 'locked' to that specific provider.

You may be able to unlock your phone for free, depending on your network and the type of handset you have. If you can't then the networks may charge you to do it – prices vary but it typically costs between £9 and £20. See our Mobile Phone Unlocking guide for full details.

Decide whether you need mobile phone insurance – and if you do, get it from as little as £70/year

The best mobile phones no longer just make calls. They're our diaries, contact books, cameras, games consoles and more – so lose it, break it or have it nicked and there can be tears.

Insurers play on this fear with hefty prices and unnecessary cover. Yet you can get cheap smartphone and iPhone insurance from £70/year.

But do you really need insurance? Deciding whether to get a policy comes down to the fact that you know yourself better than insurers will.

  • How likely are you to lose or damage your phone? If your mobile's been permanently attached to your hand and you haven't broken or lost it in the last 10 years, the chances you'll lose or break it in the future are slim. If you have smashed or misplaced a phone in the past, however, it might be worth considering. It's important to know yourself, then you can play the odds.

  • Are you worried about mobile phone theft? Theft of mobile phones is falling, according to a Home Office report – but these numbers are often questioned because it's believed a high proportion of mobile theft is never reported. If you live in a crime hotspot then insuring your phone for theft might be a good idea.

If you decide that insurance is for you, don't just get what is offered by your network provider, think about a specialist insurer, self-insuring and/or covering your phone on your home insurance or a package bank account. Full info and best buys in Cheap Mobile Phone Insurance.

Beware of exceeding your data allowance – it could add £60/yr to your bill

If you use up your data allowance before the end of each month it could end up costing you. The majority of networks will ask you to pay an extra chunk of cash if you want to extend your allowance. This could add £60 (or more) to your annual mobile bill.

There are a number of ways to avoid this:

  • Use Wi-Fi whenever possible – see below for how to do this.
  • If you really need more then speak to your network about upping your allowance – this may cost but it'll be cheaper than exceeding your limit and you can try to haggle.
  • Make sure any apps you use aren't eating up your allowance.

Be sure you understand what 'unlimited' includes

Many mobile contract and Sim-only deals offer 'unlimited' minutes, texts or data, but it's important to understand what that actually covers.

Unlimited minutes are to UK landlines and mobiles, and unlimited texts to UK mobiles – other calls/texts and roaming outside the UK may cost more. Always make sure you know exactly what's covered and what you'll have to pay extra for.

Similarly some networks place 'fair usage' caps on their 'unlimited' tariffs, (confusingly) limiting the allowance you actually get. Where a provider does this on a plan we write about we'll say so, but it's worth checking yourself before signing up.

Use free Wi-Fi spots to save on data costs

If you've a smartphone, you may find you can keep costs down by taking a smaller data plan and using free Wi-Fi while you're out and about.

mobile wifi

There are Wi-Fi hotspots dotted all over the UK (and abroad), many of which are free. McDonald's, Starbucks and Wetherspoons and Walkabout pubs all offer free wireless internet. It's also worth checking My Hotspots (UK-only, quite limited).

Find out more about free Wi-Fi hotspots and how to save on mobile data costs in the Free Wi-Fi and Mobile Broadband guides.

Avoid roaming charges – don't get hit with a huge holiday bill

mobile holiday billHead abroad and your mobile provider may hike prices massively, and even charge for receiving calls as well. Yet you can substantially cut the cost by using networks' hidden deals or by getting a specialist Sim card to use overseas.

Get more info on the cost of using your phone abroad and the various specialist Sims available in the Mobile Roaming guide.

Cut the cost of calling abroad – or do it for free

free holiday callsCalling someone overseas from your mobile often costs big bucks, yet it doesn't have to be that way. Making free internet phone calls (VoIP) sounds complicated, but it's very easy, especially if you have a smartphone.

Our guide to Free Web Calls has details on apps that let you call for nowt, how to make free calls from your computer and the best way to call friends who don't use VoIP.

Alternatively, if you want to call a foreign mobile or landline number, it's possible to do this for next to nothing – see the Cheap International Calls guide.

If your phone is faulty, then it's the responsibility of the retailer to fix it

All the usual consumer rights apply when you buy a mobile phone. The phone must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. (See the Consumer Rights guide for more.)

Remember here, the responsibility lies with the retailer, not the manufacturer. So if you discover a problem after buying a new phone, it's the retailer who must sort the problem for you.

If the fault is minor, it's reasonable to accept a repair. If not, you're entitled to a refund, although the retailer can deduct an amount for the use you've already had.

If you think you've been mis-sold your mobile contract then you have rights

mobile wifi

If you think you've been mis-sold, either by the mobile phone company or by a company selling on its behalf, you need to know your rights. Your first action should be to inform the provider and follow its complaints procedure. Or, use free complaints-handling company Resolver, which will help you with your claim.

After that, if you are still unhappy and feel the issue has not been resolved, Resolver will appeal on your behalf to one of two Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes – Ombudsman Services: Communications and CISAS – which act as middlemen between mobile phone providers and users.

You have rights if your mobile phone provider hikes prices mid-contract

If you're locked into a phone contract and your provider decides to hike prices, then you may be able to get out of the deal without paying a penalty.

Over the past few years mobile phone firms have started introducing annual price hikes, usually in line with inflation (see above), which affect customers who are mid-contract. This used to mean the price of your contract would rise and there was nothing you could do about it.

However, in January 2014 Ofcom changed the rules around mid-contract price rises. It confirmed that anyone with a landline, broadband or mobile contract should be allowed to leave if their provider introduces unilateral mid-contract price rises.

Ofcom said price increases to a recurring monthly subscription are "materially detrimental" to users. Providers now need to give at least 30 days' notice of any such rises and allow users to leave the contract without penalty (see the O2 to hike its prices MSE News story).

These rules apply to any NEW contract taken out after 23 January 2014. Unfortunately they don't apply retrospectively though, so companies can still hike prices for contracts taken out before this date.

If you've switched providers recently, check whether you're owed cash

If you've switched mobile provider within the last six years and still had money remaining in your account when you left then it's possible to claim it back.

Many providers don't automatically refund credit when you leave, so it's worth checking. See our Reclaim Phone Credit guide for full details.

How to complain about your network

The mobile industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include limited network coverage, slow data speeds, unexpected charges and more. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Ombudsman Services (or CISAS if you're complaining about EE or Virgin Mobile).

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then just let us know by emailing [email protected] as that's usually quicker.

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