If you’re buying a new phone, it often makes sense to get it on contract. This splits the total cost of the handset into smaller monthly payments, and provides you with calls, texts and data to use.
But this can get very expensive, especially if you opt for a flagship smartphone. If it all possible, it makes more financial sense to buy the device outright and get a SIM-only plan.
Not only does it mean you own the phone straight away, you end up saving a lot of money in the long run. While high-end phones are expensive, you can get a great budget or mid-range handset for much less.
And you don’t have to worry about losing your current phone number, either. All networks let you transfer your current number to a new network, and the process is even more straightforward if you use the text-to-switch service.
Here are the best SIM-only deals in the US and UK right now.
Best SIM-only deals in the US
These are the top 10 SIM-only plans in the US with at least 3GB of data:
Best SIM-only deals in the UK
Below are the top SIM-only plans available in the UK right now. Use the sliders to adjust how much data and how many minutes you’re looking for:
How to choose the right SIM-only deal for you
You might think that choosing which phone to buy was the hard part. But deciding which SIM-only plan to go for can be just as difficult.
As you’re probably aware, there are three main elements: calls, texts and mobile data. Data is by far the most important, as most contracts will include plenty of calls and texts or impose no limits at all.
We set 3GB as the minimum in the US widget above, and that’s a good baseline to aim for. If you’re on Wi-Fi most of the time, and only use mobile data occasionally while out and about, this should be enough. Some contracts offer less than this, but we wouldn’t recommend them for most people.
But networks and operators offer a range of contracts with more data, from just 4GB all the way to unlimited data. The latter is great if you want to use mobile data for lots of video streaming or to replace your home Wi-Fi, but it can also be very expensive.
To get an idea of how much data you need, use the data calculator tools via AT&T in the US and Uswitch in the UK.
It’s also important to consider what type of mobile data this is. Almost everyone uses at least 4G connections these days, but 5G continues to grow. If you’re considering 5G, just make sure your phone supports it – some budget handsets are still limited to 4G.
And do you actually need a physical SIM card? eSIMs are becoming more popular, as they make it easier to change networks or add a second number. But make sure your phone supports eSIM and read our article on the advantages and disadvantages before you take the plunge.
It’s also worth noting that combining mobile, phone and broadband contracts can help you save money. See if your existing providers also offer these other services.
But if you’re looking for a SIM for your tablet, you can’t simply take the SIM out of your phone and put it in another device. You need to get a SIM that uses a data-only plan (and don’t forget that not all tablets offer SIM-card slots, in which case you’ll only be able to connect to Wi-Fi).
For more inspiration, here are some great plans we recommend in the US:
In the UK, check out the following:
Three’s unlimited SIM-only deal means you pay just £20 per month for the first year of a two-year contract, before it then goes up to a still-reasonable£25 per month
Smarty’s £10 per month plan offers 40GB of data and includes free roaming in the EU (up to 12GB per month). A one-month rolling contract means you can cancel at any tim
O2 is currently offering six months of Apple Music plus six months of another service of your choice (Disney+, Amazon Prime, Amazon Music Unlimited, Audible, McAfee or Cafeyn) for free when you sign up for a 24 month SIM plan
Lebara offers some great light plans, such as the 5GB rolling plan for £5 per month. With this, you also get 100 minutes to 41 international countries, including the EU and India)
You may also be interested in the best SIM deals for kids and best SIM deals for students.