Changing, Upgrading or Downgrading your Tariff whilst Mid-Contract
August 12th, 2011
If your tariff is no longer suitable for you, you may still be able to change it mid-contract to add extra features or to cut your phone bill.
24 months can be a long time to hold a mobile phone contract: you never know what’ll happen and how your phone usage might change over that time. If you’re currently stuck in an unsuitable mobile phone contract, you may still be able to change it mid-contract. Of particular note O2, Orange and Three will allow you to downgrade your mobile phone contract to a cheaper deal: something which should instantly shave about £60/year from your phone bill. In this article, we look at your options for changing your mobile tariff whilst still being mid-contract.
What options do I have to change my tariff mid-contract?
The options available to you depend on the type of tariff you’re on and what changes you’d like to make.
- If you’re on Pay As You Go, you’re able to leave at any time and join another network or tariff by requesting a new Pay As You Go SIM card. This means if you’re unhappy with your mobile network for any reason, you don’t need to stick with them. You can keep your existing phone number but you may need to unlock your phone first.
- If you’re on a SIM Only contract, the same rules generally apply as on Pay Monthly. However, the shorter contracts generally mean you have a lot more flexibility. If you’re on a one-month contract, you’re able to switch network or tariff at any time with 30 days notice.
- If you’re on a Pay Monthly contract, you have the minimal flexibility to change tariff as you’ll be tied in for 18 months or 24 months. You certainly won’t be able to change network mid-contract but there are options available to change your tariff by adding/changing features and the monthly price. If you’ve come to the end of your Pay Monthly contract, you should move to a SIM-only tariff instead of changing your existing tariff – this will save you about £180/year.
In the rest of this article, we discuss the options for Pay Monthly customers to change their tariff mid-contract. There are 3 main reasons for wanting to change your phone tariff mid-contract:
- You want a new phone.
- You’d like to add new features to your tariff.
- You’ve got too much/little airtime.
We’ll take these in turn.
Can I change my phone mid-contract?
Yes, there is nothing to stop you from changing your phone in the middle of your contract, for example if you’ve taken over someone’s old device or you want to replace your phone early. If you’d like a new phone in the middle of your contract, you’ll need to buy it “SIM-free” from a retailer such as Amazon.co.uk or the Carphone Warehouse. Expect to pay between £20 and £100 for a feature phone and at least £200 for a smartphone.
Because SIM-free phones are sold unlocked and without a SIM card, you can slot your current SIM card inside and continue using your existing contract with it the. There are no charges associated with changing your mobile phone mid-contract: indeed your mobile operator may not even know you’ve changed phone.
Note that if you’re moving to a smartphone, you’ll need to add an internet add-on to your current contract. If you’re moving to a BlackBerry, you’ll need to move to a BlackBerry tariff (this isn’t always possible mid-contract).
Can I add extra features to my tariff mid-contract?
If you’re changing to a smartphone or would like to add additional services (e.g. internet access, travel or international calling bundles), you can usually add these as extra packages onto your tariff. These packages are called “bolt ons” on O2, “Flexible Boosters” on T-Mobile and “add-ons” on most other networks. Log in on your mobile operator’s website for a list of packages you can add:
I’ve got too much or too little airtime. Can I change the amount of airtime I’ve got?
If you regularly find yourself with loads of extra minutes left at the end of the month or you consistently incur charges for exceeding your airtime allowance, you’re probably on the wrong contract. Thankfully some networks give you the option to change your price plan mid-contract.
If you need more airtime, you should move up a price plan (“upgrade”). Although the monthly price of your contract will increase, you should no longer running up punitive charges for calls and texts made outside of your allowance. This means you could actually save money by moving up a price plan.
If you have too much airtime, you should move down a price plan (“downgrade”). This will typically cut £5/month (or £60/year) from your phone bill. You’ll have fewer inclusive minutes after a downgrade.
The options available to you depend on your network:
* Three allow you to downgrade your contract once you’re half way through your contract (i.e. 12 months if you’re on a 24 month contract). There may be an “admin fee” involved.
** O2 and Orange allow you to downgrade your contract once you’re half way through your contract, but only once.
Three allow upgrade to a higher-priced or same-price plan at any time. You can also downgrade to a cheaper tariff once you’re half way through your contract although this may involve an “admin fee”. We’ve not had any feedback on the size of the “admin fee”: if you’ve downgraded please do drop us a comment and let us know!
You can move to one of our selected price plans of equal or higher value at any time during your contract, provided you’ve kept up to date with all the payments on your existing price plan. We could also move you to a lower monthly charge if you’re finding the cost too expensive. But you’ll have to complete half of the minimum term of your contract and pay an admin fee.
O2 allows customers to downgrade to a lower priced tariff once half-way through the contract. You can downgrade no more than once in the term of your contract.
When you sign up for, or upgrade to, a new a minimum term contract you will then only be able to move to the next available lower priced tariff (with a lower rate monthly subscription than the tariff you’ve joined on) once during your minimum term. You can only do this after you are more than halfway through your minimum term.
Source: O2 Pay Monthly Tariff Terms (March 2011) – Point 3
Orange allows you to upgrade to a higher priced tariff at any time. Like on O2, you can also downgrade to a lower priced tariff but only once half-way through the contract. You can downgrade only once during the term of your contract.
You may switch to a higher Service Plan at any time. You may switch once only to the next lowest Service Plan after one half of your Minimum Term has expired, unless otherwise stated. You may switch to an equivalent Service Plan at any time after one half of your Minimum Term has expired, unless otherwise stated.
Source: Orange Network Services Terms and Conditions – Point 15.1
T-Mobile’s terms and conditions make no provision for you to be able to upgrade or downgrade your contract. However, we would expect T-Mobile to be sympathetic to the case of upgrading a contract as it brings in additional revenue for the company.
We don’t have to allow You to change Price Plan.
Source: T-Mobile Terms and Conditions (November 2010) – Point 2.7
Vodafone do not allow downgrades mid-contract. However, you can upgrade your tariff mid-contract.
I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.
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