The mobile phone has become the modern day must have. But typically in a market saturated with buyers, sellers, manufacturers and network providers, it’s tough to make sure you’re getting the best value.
A recent report showed that Britons wasted an eye-watering £6billion in 2012 by being on the wrong mobile contracts. That equates to 26million people on tariffs too big for their phone use and eight million on tariffs too small.
But there are ways to save money, cut costs and get the best bargain whether you’re about to start a new tariff or are already stuck in one.
[Related: Choose the right mobile contract for you]
Nine top money-saving tips
1. Check you’re on the right tariff
Yes, it’s obvious. But an estimated nine out of ten people are on the wrong tariff, with only 30 per cent using all of their allocated monthly minutes and texts.
Take a look over your last bills and work out an average of how long you’re making calls for, how many texts you send and how much data you consume. Most bills have summaries of this information, so you won’t have to add up itemised call times and the like, and once armed it will be much easier to bag yourself the best deal.
2. Consider a SIM-only contract
SIM-only plans are a great alternative to typical pay monthly deals as they offer flexibility in contract length and commitment alongside fixed costs, although they don’t tend to include a phone in the deal.
One of the most competitive SIM-only providers is GiffGaff, with monthly deals from £5 to £25 on a free SIM card. Different tariffs offer different features, so if you never chat but love to text and surf the web, there’s a deal for you. And the month-by-month commitment makes it easy to change tariff as you change use or opt out altogether.
3. Pay more for your phone
That may not sound like a saving, but on most pay monthly deals, the less you pay for your phone up front the more your minimum monthly tariff will be. This means you may take up a tariff that’s excessive for your phone use, and that will cost you more over the term of your contract.
[Related: Which contract works for you?]
4. Sign up to a short contract
The majority of mobile contracts now tie you in to 24 months: some companies now offer 12-month deals with similar monthly tariffs. This means you have more scope to change provider sooner, haggle for a better deal and upgrade your handset more regularly.
5. Sell your old phone
A recent survey found we have more than 49 million old or unused mobile phones hidden away, worth one billion oounds. The average price of a recycled mobile phone recently broke the £100 barrier, and that’s money that could be put towards a new handset, which could in turn help reduce your monthly tariff.
Companies like mopay and sellmymobile offer good deals on working phones – you can currently get around £200 for an iPhone 4S 16GB, while something relatively old like the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 will earn you around £70.
6. Shop around and haggle
If your contract is coming to an end, don’t automatically renew it. Shop around rival providers to match your use to the best tariff – it’s now quick and easy to change provider and keep your number. If you do stick with your existing provider, tell them you’re thinking of leaving anyway and they may match other offers or cut your tariff to keep you on board.
It’s not just new tariffs that can be haggled too. If you're more than three months into a contract, many providers will let you change to one more suitable to your use. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
7. Cap your tariff
Some operators like Three and Tesco now let you cap your monthly bill so you can’t incur those nasty extra charges. Set your cap limit and when you reach it you won’t be able to make any calls, send texts or surf the web.
Your network provider will usually let you know when you’re about to reach your cap, and it’s worth remembering that it may not apply to premium rate numbers or calling when overseas, so check the small print before you start.
8. Sign up for cashback
Look out for cashback deals on sites like Recombu almost always offer deals on new mobile phone contracts, as network providers pay them click-through commissions that can be lucrative for everyone concerned.
There’s often a small charge to sign up to these cashback sites, but with recent deals like £150 cash back from Vodafone when you sign up to a two-year iPhone 4S contract, it’s well worth it. Just make sure you sign up via the cashback website so your order is tracked and you earn your money back.
9. Get money-saving apps
Apps like Onavo can help reduce your costs by compressing your data use by up to 500 per cent. This means you get more data use for your allowance and you’re less likely to go over your limit and incur additional costs. And best of all, it’s free.