Capped Contracts: Pay Monthly Deals With Better Control Over Your Spending

March 28th, 2016

Getting a “capped” Pay Monthly contract for your mobile phone gives you better control over how much you’re spending.

iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6 EdgeIn the UK, one disadvantage of choosing a Pay Monthly contract is you’re liable for any additional charges outside of your inclusive monthly allowances. For instance, you could accidentally go over your monthly allowance or you could call non-inclusive numbers on your mobile phone (e.g. a special-rate phone number, for instance when voting in reality TV shows). This can make “bill shock” a potential problem, especially if you aren’t watching your usage very closely. It’s also a risk when taking out a contract for your kids or teenagers (they could accidentally run-up a bill without your knowledge).

Traditionally, for better control over spending, people have turned towards using a Pay As You bundle. On these pre-paid tariffs, it’s impossible to run-up a huge bill by mistake (as you’re only able to use up the credit on your account). The disadvantage of doing this is that pre-paid tariffs can sometimes be relatively expensive. They also come with a higher upfront cost when you’re getting a new handset.

Thankfully, a third option also exists in the form of “capped Pay Monthly contracts”. On a capped contract, you’ll get all the normal benefits of being on a Pay Monthly contract. In addition, your extra charges will be capped every month so you won’t find yourself getting a huge bill by surprise. In this article, we’ll review capped mobile contracts and their availability in the UK.

Overview of Capped Contracts

  • BT Mobile
  • iD Mobile
  • LIFE Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile

Capped contracts are currently available from BT, iD, LIFE and Tesco Mobile.

In the UK, there are currently four mobile networks offering a capped Pay Monthly contract: BT Mobile, iD Mobile, LIFE Mobile and Tesco Mobile. The following table gives a quick summary of the capping options available on each network:

Mobile Network Capped Pay Monthly Contracts
BT Mobile Yes, between £5 and £200.
EE No.
iD Mobile Yes, £5 on ShockProof tariffs.
LIFE Mobile Yes, £5.
O2 No.
Talkmobile No, but there is a £50 out-of-allowance limit.
TalkTalk Mobile No.
Tesco Mobile Yes, between £2.50 and £40.
Three No, but there are ways to block out-of-allowance use.
TPO Mobile No.
Virgin Mobile No.
Vodafone No.

On other mobile networks such as EE, O2, Virgin and Vodafone, there is no option of a monthly spend cap on your contract.

Recommended Capped Contracts

If you’re looking for a capped Pay Monthly contract, our recommended tariff depends on how much data you need:

With 1GB of Internet

If you’re need at least 1GB of data per month, our current recommendations for a capped contract are as follows:

iD Mobile2505,0001.5GB£5.00
LIFE Mobile1,0005,0001GB£7.45
BT Mobile500Unlimited2GB£8.00
inc. £5 discount
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0001GB£10.00

The price shown for BT Mobile includes a £5/month discount which is only available if you’re living in a BT Broadband household. If you aren’t living in a BT Broadband household, you’ll need to pay the full price without a £5/month discount.

With 2GB of Internet

For a capped Pay Monthly contract with at least 2GB of data per month, the best value tariffs are currently as follows:

iD Mobile2505,0002GB£7.50
BT Mobile500Unlimited2GB£8.00
inc. £5 discount
LIFE Mobile2,0005,0002GB£9.95
Tesco Mobile5005,0002GB£11.00

With 4GB of Internet

The following Pay Monthly contracts have at least 4GB of data per month and can be capped for better control over your spending:

iD Mobile5005,0004GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile7505,0006GB£12.50
LIFE Mobile4,0005,0004GB£13.95
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited15GB£16.00
inc. £5 discount

With 8GB of Internet

Finally, if you’re looking for a capped contract with at least 8GB of data per month, you can currently get a tariff from the following mobile networks:

BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited15GB£16.00
inc. £5 discount
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00012GB£17.50

In-Depth: Capped Contracts By Network

BT Mobile

BTOn BT Mobile, you’ll automatically be given a monthly spend cap as a feature of the service. Initially, this will be set to between £5 and £45 (your initial monthly spend cap will depend on your credit check status). On the My BT website, you’ll be able to adjust your monthly spend cap as required to any amount between £5 and £200 (again, this is subject to credit status).

For using your smartphone abroad in other countries, BT Mobile has a default data roaming spend cap of £35/month. Again, this can be changed to any amount between £5 and £200 as required. For more information, see the BT Mobile help article.

The following SIM cards from BT Mobile have the monthly spend cap feature:

BT Mobile200Unlimited500MB£5.00
inc. £5 discount
BT Mobile500Unlimited2GB£8.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited15GB£16.00
inc. £5 discount

On BT Mobile, there is a £5/month discount for BT Broadband customers. For customers not living in a BT Broadband household, the tariffs are still available but without the £5/month discount.

Source: BT Mobile Help Article
Tariff Information: BT Mobile Website

iD Mobile

iD Mobile LogoiD Mobile is the own-brand mobile network from the Carphone Warehouse. On their ShockProof price plans, you’ll get a £5 monthly cap on all additional spending. Unfortunately, however, you’ll need to forego the benefits of choosing either a GoTo or TakeAway price plan (GoTo comes with Data Rollover and TakeAway comes with international roaming in 29 countries).

The following SIM cards from iD Mobile come on their ShockProof tariff:

iD Mobile2505,000250MB£4.00
iD Mobile2505,0001.5GB£5.00
iD Mobile2505,0001GB£5.00
iD Mobile2505,0002GB£7.50
iD Mobile5005,0004GB£10.00
iD Mobile2,0005,0006GB£15.00

You can also get a 24-month ShockProof contract with a new handset included in the price. For more information, please see our full review of iD Mobile.

Source: iD Mobile Tariff FAQs
Tariff Information: iD Mobile Website

LIFE Mobile

LIFE MobileLIFE Mobile is a low-cost sub-brand of EE (see our full review for more information). ‘Smart Caps’ are a key feature of their service, giving you peace of mind and full control over your monthly bill.

By default, the monthly spend cap on LIFE Mobile is set to £5 but you can call up and change this to as little as £1:

What is Smart Cap?
The LIFE Mobile Smart Cap provides you with complete peace of mind and control over your monthly bill. We’ll guarantee that you will NEVER pay more than you expect to – no more nasty bill shocks.
The Smart Cap buffer is the amount that you are happy to spend above your monthly line rental on chargeable services (i.e. calls to premium numbers or when you’re abroad), this is initially set to £5.00 for all new customers from 12th August 2015.
You can set your buffer as low as £1.00 by calling Customer Services on 500 or 0800 0791133 from another phone.
Once you reach the Smart Cap limit, all chargeable services will be suspended until your next bill is produced, you’ll still be able to use your remaining inclusive minutes, text messages and data allowance.

The following SIM cards from LIFE Mobile have their Smart Cap feature:

LIFE Mobile6005,000500MB£4.95
LIFE Mobile1,0005,0001GB£7.45
LIFE Mobile2,0005,0002GB£9.95
LIFE Mobile4,0005,0004GB£13.95

Source: LIFE Mobile FAQs
Tariff Information: LIFE Mobile Website


TalkmobileOn Talkmobile, a low-cost sub-brand of the Vodafone network, there’s a £50 out-of-allowance limit on your bill by default. This can provide a little bit of protection against out-of-allowance charges, but Talkmobile warns that it shouldn’t be used as a ‘cap’ on your monthly charges. This is due to possible delays in your usage appearing on their system:

Your ‘out of allowance’ limit: We set your out of allowance limit to £50 by default. This helps prevent anyone running up big bills on your account if your phone’s lost or stolen. The £50 limit resets every month, just like your allowance.
Once you’ve gone over £50 we’ll send you a text to let you know. You’ll probably also notice that some services aren’t working.
Even though we put a limit on your spend, we recommend you don’t use this as a way to cap your bill. This is because it can take a while for what you use to appear on our systems. You could think you were under the £50 limit but, in fact, be over.

Source: Talkmobile – Help understanding your bill
Tariff Information: Talkmobile Website

Tesco Mobile

Tesco MobileTesco Mobile offers the option to cap your monthly bill on all of their Pay Monthly contracts at no extra charge. You can choose a safety buffer of between £2.50 and £40 per month when ordering your tariff through their Tesco Mobile website:

Tesco Mobile Spend Cap Option

Tesco Mobile gives you the option to cap your bill at no extra charge.

The following SIM cards from Tesco Mobile can be used with their spend cap option:

Tesco Mobile5005,000500MB£7.50
Tesco Mobile5005,0002GB£11.00
Tesco Mobile7505,0006GB£12.50
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00012GB£17.50

You can also choose from their range of 24-month contracts with a choice of many different handsets.

Source: Tesco Mobile – Capped Contracts
Tariff Information: Tesco Mobile Website


ThreeOn Three, you won’t find a conventional spend cap option. However, you will have the ability to block out-of-allowance phone calls (this will stop a key source of additional charges). From the Three help article on controlling your spend:

On our current Pay Monthly and SIM plans, there are two ways to control how much you spend on top of your normal monthly cost.

1. Blocking calls that go over your monthly allowance.
Say you have an allowance of 100 minutes a month. You can block your phone from making calls once you’ve used the 100 minutes. This way you won’t be charged for any extra minutes outside your allowance. See below for setting up the block.

2. Blocking numbers that aren’t included in your allowance.
Certain numbers – such as 084 numbers, national directory services and premium-rate text competition numbers – aren’t included in your monthly allowance. You can block your phone from being able to call or text these numbers – please see below for how to do this.

You can add the spend control to your account by logging in to the My3 website and choosing Allowances > Control your spend.

Source: Three Help and Support – Control your spend
Tariff Information: Three Website

Other Mobile Networks

Top Up Logo

A Pay As You Go bundle can also give you better control over your spending.

Unfortunately, other Pay Monthly mobile networks in the UK currently lack the option to add a cap to your contract. If you’d still like to use another network whilst keeping full control over how much you spend, it might also be worth considering a Pay As You Go bundle. With a Pay As You Go bundle, it isn’t possible to run up a huge bill by mistake (this is because you can only use up the credit on your account).

For £10/month, you can currently get the following bundles on Pay As You Go:

ASDA Mobile600Unlimited1.5GB£10.00

For more information, please see our full comparison of Pay As You Go bundles. You can also order a free Pay As You Go SIM card.

More Information

For more information about capped contracts, it’s also worth visiting the BT Mobile, iD Mobile, LIFE Mobile and Tesco Mobile websites.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

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  1. Amy said:

    This is very useful information thanks.

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