A capped contract for your mobile phone gives you greater control over spending and out-of-allowance charges.

Typically, one disadvantage of choosing a Pay Monthly contract over a Pay As You Go deal is you’re automatically liable for all additional charges incurred on your contract. For instance, additional charges might be incurred when you use go over your allowances or when you call special-rate or international numbers. Additional charges may also be incurred when you travel abroad outside the EU.

For customers wanting greater certainty over their phone bill or for customers taking out a contract for their children, it’s often a good idea to choose a “capped mobile contract”. This limits the possibility of you incurring unexpected charges. It also bring an end to the possibility of “bill shock” by making it impossible for you to run up a huge bill by surprise.

In this article, we’ll review mobile phone contracts in the UK that have a built-in spend cap capability for you to limit out-of-allowance charges.

Overview of Capped Contracts

  • BT Mobile
  • iD Mobile
  • Plusnet Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile

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

In the UK, many people prefer Pay Monthly contracts to Pay As You Go deals due to the added convenience, value and ability to get a Pay Monthly handset.

The disadvantage of this is customers with a Pay Monthly contract are automatically liable to pay for any additional charges incurred on their contract. This includes out-of-allowance usage like premium-rate calls, international calling and international roaming.

Capped Pay Monthly contracts offer the best of both worlds. They offer the convenience and value of Pay Monthly contracts, whilst also providing certainty over your phone bill and less chance of unexpected charges (a benefit that is traditionally more associated with Pay As You Go deals).

There are currently four mobile networks offering capped Pay Monthly contracts in the UK: BT Mobile, iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile and Tesco Mobile.

The following table shows an overview of the capping options available on each network:

Mobile Network Capped Pay Monthly Contracts
BT Mobile Yes, between £5 and £200 (Family SIM available).
EE No.
iD Mobile Yes, £5 on ShockProof tariffs.
O2 No.
Plusnet Mobile Yes, between £2 and £30.
Sky Mobile No.
TalkTalk Mobile No.
Tesco Mobile Yes, between £2.50 and £40.
Three No, but there are ways to block out-of-allowance use.
Virgin Mobile No.
Vodafone No.

Most Pay Monthly mobile networks including EE, O2, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone do not offer the ability for you to add a monthly spend cap to your contract.

As an alternative to capped contracts, you can also choose a Pay As You Go network like ASDA Mobile or giffgaff. Using their Pay As You Go bundles in conjunction with automatic top-up and renewal, you can get convenience and value along with the spend control of a Pay As You Go deal.

Recommended Capped Contract Deals

For customers who are looking for a capped contract deal, BT Mobile is our recommended network at present.

BT Mobile

BT’s Family SIM gives you a centralised location for managing your family’s spending.

BT Mobile is our recommended network for customers wanting a Pay Monthly contract with built-in spend caps. When you sign up, you’ll automatically get a spend cap applied to your account of between £5 and £45. You can then easily change your spend cap at any time through BT’s website or app.

We believe the strongest benefits of BT Mobile’s capping capabilities can be obtained when you take advantage of the Family SIM offer.

Family SIM allows you to have up to five SIM cards on one combined bill. There are discounts available when multiple family members join BT Mobile, and the discounts increase as more family members join. You’ll get an online dashboard for controlling your family’s spending, with the ability to delegate control on a SIM-by-SIM basis.

BT Mobile offers 99% population coverage, using 3G & 4G coverage from EE. For more information, please read our review of BT Mobile and the Family SIM offer.

Order BT Mobile SIM Card →

Looking beyond BT Mobile, it’s also possible to get a capped mobile contract from iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile and Tesco Mobile

In the following section, we’ll show a side-by-side comparison of the cheapest capped contracts with different amounts of data.

With 2GB of Internet

For users needing at least 2GB of data per month, the best value capped contracts available are currently as follows:

iD Mobile500Unlimited4GB£8.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
inc. £5 discount
Plusnet Mobile1,500Unlimited2GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0005GB£11.00

The price shown for BT Mobile includes a £5/month discount which is available for customers living in a BT Broadband household. If you’re not living in a BT Broadband household, you’ll need to pay the full price without a £5/month discount. For customers taking advantage of BT Family SIM, the monthly price for additional SIM cards will be substantially lower.

With 4GB of Internet

The following Pay Monthly contracts have at least 4GB of data per month and spend cap capability:

iD Mobile500Unlimited4GB£8.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
inc. £5 discount
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0005GB£11.00
Plusnet MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£15.00

On BT Mobile, a further discount is available with the Family SIM offer.

With 8GB of Internet

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

Tesco Mobile5,0005,00015GB£15.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£15.00
inc. £5 discount
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00

Once again, a further discount is available on BT Mobile if you take advantage of the Family SIM offer.

In-Depth: Capped Contracts By Network

In the following section, we’ll discuss the spend caps available on each mobile network in more detail.

BT Mobile

BTOn BT Mobile, all customers are given a monthly spend cap as a feature of the service. Initially, this will be set to between £5 and £45 depending on your credit check status. You can then adjust your monthly spend cap at any time through the My BT website or app. Your monthly spend cap can be set to any amount between £5 and £200 (higher amounts may be subject to credit status).

If you’re using your smartphone abroad in other countries, BT Mobile also has a default data roaming spend cap of £35/month. This can be changed to any amount, as low as £0. For more information, see the BT Mobile help article.

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

BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited500MB£8.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£10.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£12.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£13.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£15.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£18.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£18.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited40GB£35.00
inc. £5 discount

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

For households with more than one person using BT Mobile, it can be worthwhile signing up for BT’s Family SIM offer. With Family SIM, you can have up to five SIM cards on one combined bill. Through an online dashboard, you can manage the spend cap for each of your family member’s SIM card. You can also delegate control as necessary (e.g. allowing adults to set their own spend cap, whilst stopping your kids from being able to do this). With Family SIM, you’ll also receive a discount on additional SIM cards taken from BT Mobile.

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

iD Mobile

iD Mobile is the low-cost network from the Carphone Warehouse. Making use of 3G & 4G coverage from Three, iD Mobile provides a £5 monthly spend cap as a basic feature of their tariffs. Alongside this, a data rollover feature is available which can also help you to manage spending on your account.

The following SIM cards from iD Mobile are available with a £5 monthly spend cap:

iD Mobile150Unlimited500MB£3.99
iD Mobile500Unlimited1GB£5.00
iD Mobile500Unlimited4GB£8.00
iD Mobile500Unlimited7GB£10.00
iD Mobile1,000Unlimited6GB£12.50
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£20.00

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

Source: iD Mobile Help: Capping
Tariff Information: iD Mobile Website

Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet Logo ProudOn Plusnet Mobile, you’ll get Smart Cap included as a key feature of the service. This is designed to give you greater peace of mind and full control over your monthly phone bill.

By default, the monthly spend cap on Plusnet Mobile is set to £10 but you can call up and change this to as little as £2:

  • The Smart Cap is the amount that you’re happy to spend above your monthly SIM only plan on chargeable services (i.e. calls to premium numbers or when you’re abroad). We’ll set this as £10.00 for all new Plusnet Mobile customers.
  • It’s real easy to change your Smart Cap. You can set it as low as £2.00 by calling Customer Services on 500 or 0800 079 1133 from another phone.
  • We’ll try and drop you an email and a text when you’ve used 80% and 100% of your bundle allowances and when you reach your Smart Cap, but we might not be able to do this if one call takes you from under 80% to 100% of your Smart Cap. You’ll always be in control.
  • When you hit your Smart Cap, all chargeable services will be suspended until your next bill, you’ll still be able to use your remaining inclusive minutes, text messages and data allowance.
  • If you want to carry on using chargeable services, you can make a payment to reduce your outstanding balance or increase the Smart Cap. Easy peasy!

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

Plusnet Mobile250500500MB£6.00
Plusnet Mobile1,000Unlimited1GB£8.00
Plusnet Mobile1,500Unlimited2GB£10.00
Plusnet Mobile2,000Unlimited3GB£12.50
Plusnet MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£15.00

Source: Plusnet Mobile Smart Cap FAQs
Tariff Information: Plusnet Mobile Website

Tesco Mobile

Tesco MobileTesco Mobile offers the option for you to cap your monthly bill on all of their Pay Monthly contracts. You can choose a safety buffer of between £2.50 and £40 per month when ordering your tariff through the Tesco Mobile website. Your bill is guaranteed to never be more than your basic tariff plus the safety buffer.

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 Mobile5005,0001GB£7.50
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0005GB£11.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00015GB£15.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00025GB£20.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00050GB£35.00

You can also choose from Tesco’s range of 24-month contracts with a new handset.

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


ThreeOn Three, you won’t find a conventional spend cap option. However, it is possible to control your phone bill in other ways by taking advantage of Three’s ability to block out-of-allowance phone calls (therefore stopping one possible source of out-of-allowance charges). From the Three help article about 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.

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.

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 ability for you to add a spend cap to your contract.

If you’d still like to use a different mobile network whilst retaining 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 unexpected out-of-allowance charges (you can only use the credit that’s been topped-up to your account).

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

ASDA Mobile600Unlimited3GB£10.00

Some mobile networks like ASDA Mobile, giffgaff, Lebara Mobile and Lycamobile only offer services on a Pay As You Go basis.

For more information, please see our full comparison of Pay As You Go bundles. You can also order one of our recommended Pay As You Go SIM cards.

More Information

For more information about capped mobile contracts, please see the relevant pages on the BT Mobile, iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile and Tesco Mobile websites.

Your Comments 10 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 10 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Just for anyone interested all data on EE is capped and you can also take away the feature to buy extra data and add the cost tothe bill … EE are currebtly the only network provider to pro-actively help customers avoid third party charges as they have a 3 click rule where you are excepti g the charge 3 times before it applies to your bill this feature can also be removed from your plan the only feature not capped and not restrictable is calling outside of your allowance however monitering your usage is easy on EE through the app and sending sms for allowance left …😃😃

  • Low hanging fruit said:

    I am on an O2 contract and ran out data the data stopped straight away, it was capped without me asking for it to be

  • I find myself asking: what is the rationale behind these pseudo-caps? Why do the companies have them? Who do they benefit?

    I recently had a DATA-only monthly contract with EE. If I used all the data on my contract, EE would inform me and prevent me from incurring any out-of-contract charges. If I wanted to continue to use the tablet, I was able to buy extra data which would run for a month. Although the extra data was significantly more expensive than the pre-paid allowance in the contract, it was never prohibitively expensive.

    By contrast, I purchased a PAYG monthly rollover contract with Virgin Media (500 minuted, unlimited texts, 2Gb data). Virgin Media did not make it clear that there was a £50 cap in operation for out-of-contract expenditure. So, when I exhausted the 2Gb data, I took no action.

    Smartphones are designed to be ideally always online. This allows little updates to apps. These updates never take up much data, but they happen pretty well on a daily basis.

    Virgin Media have a policy of charging £1 for internet access per day, regardless of how much data you use.

    So, in my ignorance, my phone kept sipping away at updates; Virgin Media’s long fingers reached into my bank account…… and at the end of the first month, I discovered that VM had charged me £39 for 1Gb of data.

    Needless to say, I cancelled the contract.

    Why oh why are the customers so supine that they allow companies to provide pseudo-caps (from £2 upwards), such caps enabling the companies to make scandalous, out-of-allowance charges? Why oh why does no-one challenge this mealy-mouthed hypocrisy by which companies pretend that they are doing the customer a favour by enabling these pseudo-caps? And why oh why does no regulatory body take a hard look at how almost all the companies take part in this jamboree…..? Because, I tell you, the widespread existence of this nonsense looks to me, an outsider, like an illegal cartel!

Load more comments (7)

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will never be published. By default, I'll use it to send you an update when there are replies to your comment. However, if you don't want to receive this, you can disable it using the dropdown menu below: