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?

A data plan needs to be added if you upgrade to a smartphone.

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:

Network Upgrade Downgrade
Three *
O2 **
Orange **
T-Mobile
Vodafone

* 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

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.

Source: Three: “How can I change my current contract”

O2

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

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

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

Vodafone do not allow downgrades mid-contract. However, you can upgrade your tariff mid-contract.

    

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About Ken

Ken Lo

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.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 24 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Alex said:

    Excellent article! Thanks so much Ken. I’d be interested to know if the info in the upgrade/downgrade table is still valid. I guess policies might have changed in the last 3 years. It would be really useful to know when choosing which network to switch to. Cheers Ken.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Alex,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, things have changed a great deal in the past 3 years – most networks no longer allow you to downgrade the tariff mid-contract. I’m not totally sure about the policies for upgrading – the article here is definitely due an update! (It’s on my to-do list!)
      Ken

      1. Alex replied:

        Thanks Ken. Really glad it’s on your to do list! It will be very interesting to see. For the sake of transparency, I should let you know I work for a mobile network called The Utility Warehouse. We allow customers to upgrade and downgrade tariffs at any point during contracts. I’d be happy to contribute information when you get round to updating this article. You can also check out theclubyoulove.com if you’re interested.

        Thanks again Ken.

        Alex

  2. Collin said:

    Please be aware that 02 customers who took out contracts after March 2012 can no longer downgrade tariffs at any point. A fact not widely publicised by the bandits at 02

  3. John said:

    3 charged 10 admin fee for downgrade

    1. rob replied:

      hey john, how much did you manage to downgrade? did you do it over the phone or at a store? thanks.

  4. @FullCircle_360 said:

    O2 no longer allow you to downgrade tariff, they updated their terms and conditions early 2012 and now say you cannot change to a lower tariff while in the minimum term.

  5. 3 user said:

    I just called them, they say they can but from £35 to £33.42/month with additional £10 admin fee

  6. ma.an said:

    I am with 3 and completed 15 months of my 24 months contract and I just learnt from them a couple of days back that they no longer allow you to downgrade your tariffs mid term.Is it true?

    1. Martin L replied:

      Yes, Thats true unfortunately. I'm with Three as well. Signed up for a 24month contracts in May 2011. Called them a couple of days ago and they told me i'm not allowed to downgrade due to new policy.

      Thats stupid in my honest opinion. I've paid for my phone £480 (£40 per month * 12 month) and now they asking me to pay an extra £480 a year for using their network.

      I've also been told before I signed up that I would be able to downgrade mid-contract after a year to whatever tariff I wished.

      Three signal is extremely bad hence why I want to downgrade to a cheaper tariff because their service is appalling where I live.

  7. Roy said:

    Im on a 24 months contract with T-mobile, which end August 2012. Can i downgrade my tariff within t-mobile to a cheaper monthly contract before it ends ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Roy,

      Unfortunately T-Mobile don't allow you to downgrade your tariffs. Sorry!

      Ken

  8. Aden said:

    Hi,

    I was on here yesterday looking for advice on downgrading my 3 Mobile Broadband contract. I called them and managed to downgrade from a 15 gig data allowance to their lowest which was 0.5 gig. I did get charged an admin fee but it was only £10.

    Considering changing my allowance saves me 15 quid a month it wasn't too big a hit!

    btw, if anyone wants a local number to call 3 on it's 01442 456195.

  9. dan said:

    tmobile are a joke i cant upgrade my priceplan dam them i want to give them more money but no there a poxy company and can go f themselves

  10. Yan said:

    Just to add – T-Mobile *do* allow downgrades, and upgrades. From their website:

    Can I change my price plan? (personal customers only)

    You can move between plans as often as you like. Just call 146 from your mobile and follow the instructions.

    Pay monthly customers

    You can change to a lower price plan one month before your contract end date.

    After these times, you can move free of charge once a month, with effect from your next bill. You can do this by registering online at My T-Mobile or by calling Customer Services on 150 (charges may apply).

    Also, if you joined T-Mobile or changed onto a new plan on or after 1 February 2010, you can change the Flexible Booster part of your package every 30 days. Find out how Flexible Boosters can help you build the plan to suit you.

  11. Ricky said:

    I have just been told by Vodafone that I can not downgrade my contract!!!!! is this correct? it is not an Iphone plan.

  12. hads said:

    hi, im wanting to get a new phone whilst half way through my orange contract. would i be able to buy a new phone and put the sim card from my current contract phone in it???? thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi hads,

      Yep you should be able to do this with no problems at all providing that the new phone is either purchased on Orange or is unlocked.

      Ken

  13. simon cunning said:

    like every 1 on this page im looking to " get shot" of 02… Constant signal problems ….new sims …etc…….all tried but no joy…02 not budging an inch……..have to Aug 11 till i can upgrade ( no chance) …Any suggestions….. was thinking about downgrading until i reach reasonable level that i can pay off 02………..DONT WANT TO…. but needs must

  14. Richard said:

    Hi. I'm looking to downgrade my O2 monthly tariff as sson as I can. I took out a 24 month contract in August 2010. Can anyone tell me what Ts and Cs will aply to my contract? Will it be the current (October 2010) ones that Sharon mentions, or will it be the ones that were current at the time I started my contract (i.e. the January 2009 ones). I'm hoping it's the older ones as then I'd be able to downgrade earlier, and then more than once.

  15. Sharon said:

    Hi, just thought I'd let you know that O2's T&C's changed in October 2010. It appears that you can only downgrade, once, whilst halfway through your contract

    The small print – Consumer & Business Customer Pay Monthly terms & conditions ([October] 2010)

    5.16 If you are a Consumer Customer who has selected a tariff with a Minimum Period, you
    may only move to the next available lower priced tariff which offers a lower rate monthly
    subscription:
    (a) once during your Minimum Period; and
    (b) after you are more than halfway through your Minimum Period. Subject to paragraphs 5.16
    (a) and (b), you may only move down one tariff, to the next lower priced tariff unless you pay
    us the difference between the monthly subscription on your original tariff and the lower rate
    tariff we agree that you may move to. Where you have notified us you wish to move to the
    next lower tariff, unless we advise otherwise, your new tariff will commence at the start of your
    next billing cycle.

  16. David said:

    I have an O2 contract – so after 9 months, you can downgrade to the next lowest right? So each month after that you can go down another tariff, is that correct? Cheers

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Thats right David!

      Ken

  17. Ken Lo
    Ken said:

    Full disclosure: Article updated on 6/3/10 with information that you can downgrade on Vodafone

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