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

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.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 29 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Daniel Holmes said:

    Hi im on ee can i downgrade my package as i been with them 2 years and 4 months renewed contract?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Daniel,
      If you’re no longer within the minimum term of your contract with EE, it shouldn’t be a problem downgrading to a lower tariff. I’d recommend calling EE Customer Services on 150 to discuss the options that might be available to you.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Daniel Holmes replied:

        Hi Ken i tried that and the operator tried her best to downgrade me but ee computers wouldnt let her. But you can upgrade she told me. I dont blame the girl as she suggested i pay off my contract and do it that way but was too expensive, so much for loyalty

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi Daniel,
          Funny how they’re able to upgrade you but they aren’t able to downgrade you! The easiest way to downgrade to a cheaper tariff is probably to call up and to ask EE for a PAC Code. Tell them you want to change to another network and give details of another tariff you’ve found on this page. The “customer retentions” department will probably offer you a cheaper deal on your contract (e.g. they might match a tariff from another network). There’s no real risk in asking for a PAC Code as you don’t actually need to use it (your existing contract will continue as before if you don’t actually use the PAC Code).
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  2. Morgan! said:

    Thank you !

    i am with “3” and paid £55 pm and had unlimited everything,
    i was using less than 500 minutes and my internet usage varied.

    now i have 600 mins a month, unlimited data for £52.00

    i’ve saved £33 for the remaining 11 months of my contract
    the admin fee of £20.21 i had wavered too because i ended up speaking to the manager of the call centre after i ended up being put though to 5 different departments and all of them said “3” do not offer a down grades.

  3. 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 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

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