You’ll sometimes need to undergo a credit check when taking out a mobile phone contract in the UK. Find out what this involves and discover “no credit check” deals.
If you’re taking out a Pay Monthly mobile contract or SIM-only deal in the UK, you’ll sometimes need to undergo and pass a credit check. The most stringent checks are on 24-month contracts with a new smartphone, with slightly lighter checks in place for a SIM-only deal.
Because of the credit check requirement, it isn’t always possible for everyone to get a mobile phone contract. At a minimum, you’ll need to be over 18 and you’ll need a UK credit history to be approved for a mobile phone contract. Beyond that, different mobile networks have their own internal credit criteria against which your application for a mobile phone contract will be judged.
In this article, we’ll explain the credit check process for when you take out a mobile phone contract in the UK. We’ll look at the policy on each UK mobile network and what a credit check will involve if you need to undergo one. We’ll also discuss how you can check your credit record for errors and “no credit check” alternatives such as buying your handset SIM-free and getting a Pay As You Go bundle.
Mobile Phone Credit Checks
In the UK, you’ll often be credit-checked when applying for a mobile phone contract. This applies to both 24-month contracts and to shorter SIM-only deals.
If you need to undergo a credit check, this will take place during the order process. Your mobile network will contact a ‘credit reference agency’ to verify your identity and to determine your financial history. A decision will then be made on whether to offer you a contract based on their internal credit criteria.
Typically, in order to pass a credit check, you’ll need all of the following things:
- You’ll need to be over 18 to get a Pay Monthly contract.
- You’ll need some form of UK credit history or financial history.
- You’ll ideally need to be on the electoral roll at your address.
- You’ll need a good credit score. There isn’t a precisely defined ‘minimum credit score’: it depends on the mobile network, the handset you choose, the cost of your price plan, etc.
If you aren’t able to pass all of the above requirements, it’s possible to use a mobile phone without the need for a credit check. Whilst you’ll have a little less choice, ‘no credit check’ deals will often work out to be cheaper and more flexible than mobile phone contracts that require a credit check. For this reason, many people decide to bypass the hassle of a credit check entirely by choosing an alternative deal without the need for a credit check.
No Credit Check Deals
There are many good reasons to choose a mobile phone deal that doesn’t require credit checks.
For some people, it might be that you’re currently unable to pass a credit check (e.g. due to a bad credit score, recently moving to the UK, being under 18 or not being listed on the electoral roll).
For others, it’s simply about avoiding the time and hassle of having to undergo a credit check (or keeping a cleaner credit record for something like an upcoming mortgage application).
Compare No Credit Check Deals
In the following table, we’ve listed SIM-only deals that you’re currently able to get without the need for a credit check. You can filter the results by the amount of data you require and by the mobile networks you’re able to get in your area:
Showing 90 of 90 price plans that match your criteria
Some mobile networks offer all of their plans without a credit check, whereas others only offer a subset of their price plans without a credit check (read on to find out more about the credit checking policy on each UK network).
You can use any one of the above deals in your existing unlocked smartphone. Alternatively, if you’d like a new mobile phone, you can buy one without the need for a credit check from retailers like Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis.
Credit Checks: By Mobile Network
Not all UK mobile networks require you to undergo a credit check, and some mobile networks only require a credit check on some plans. The following table shows a summary of the credit checks on each UK mobile network:
|Mobile Network||Is A Credit Check Required?|
|ASDA Mobile||No||No credit check is required to join ASDA Mobile.
Order a free ASDA Mobile SIM card to get started with no credit check.
|BT Mobile||Yes||Yes, a credit check is always required to join BT Mobile.|
|EE||Yes*||Yes, a credit check is normally required to join EE.
However, they offer some no credit check plans like EE Flex and EE Pay As You Go.
|giffgaff||No||No credit check is normally required to join giffgaff.
Order a giffgaff SIM card to get started. A soft credit check is required if you buy a handset from the giffgaff phone store and pay monthly.
|iD Mobile||Yes||Yes, a credit check is always required to join iD Mobile.|
|Lebara Mobile||No||No credit check is required to join Lebara Mobile.
You can get a Lebara Mobile SIM Only deal without the need for a credit check.
|O2||Yes*||Yes, a credit check is normally required to join O2.
However, you can use O2 Big Bundles and O2 Classic Pay As You Go without a credit check.
|Plusnet Mobile||Yes||Yes, a credit check is always required to join Plusnet Mobile.|
|Sky Mobile||Yes||Yes, a credit check is always required to join Sky Mobile.|
|SMARTY||No||No credit check is required to join SMARTY Mobile.
Order a SMARTY SIM card to get started with no credit check.
|Tesco Mobile||Yes*||Yes, a credit check is normally required to join Tesco Mobile.
However, you can use Tesco Mobile Rocket Packs without the need for a credit check.
|Three||Yes*||Yes, a credit check is normally required to join Three.
However, you can use Three Pay As You Go without the need for a credit check.
|Virgin Mobile||Yes||Yes, a credit check is always required to join Virgin Mobile.|
|Vodafone||Yes*||Yes, a credit check is normally required to join Vodafone.
However, they offer Big Value Bundles or VOXI without the need for a credit check.
|VOXI||No||No credit check is required to join VOXI.
You can join VOXI without the need for a credit check.
If you need to undergo a credit check for your network, the difficulty of passing it will depend on the product you apply for. Typically, Pay Monthly contracts where you get a new handset will have the toughest credit check criteria. Meanwhile, SIM-only deals will usually have slightly easier credit check requirements.
To illustrate this, imagine you’re buying the latest iPhone on a 24-month contract. The full retail price for this is around £999 if you were to buy it upfront without credit. On a 24-month contract, the same handset is made available to you but with a much smaller upfront payment of £99 or less. In this scenario, your mobile network is providing you with finance to cover the cost of your handset. The cost of your handset is re-paid through higher monthly bills over the length of your contract.
On SIM-only deals where there is no handset included, credit is still being offered as you’ll usually pay your phone bill only at the end of each month. In this case, however, the amount of credit being offered is much lower as there aren’t expensive handsets involved the process. This makes for a much easier credit check (or even no credit check in the case of some mobile networks).
What You’ll Need To Provide
If you’re applying for a mobile phone contract that requires you to undergo a credit check, you should make sure you’re listed on the electoral register at your address. You should also check your credit record if you have any possible concerns.
When signing up for a new contract, you’ll normally be asked to provide:
- Your personal information (name, date of birth, marital status, etc)
- Your address (including previous addresses from the last 3 years)
- Your credit card or debit card details will sometimes be required (must be registered at the same address)
- Your bank account information might also be required (sometimes you’ll also be asked to provide additional information such as when you opened your account)
Depending on the results of this initial check, further questions may then be asked about your financial history (this is to help prevent ID theft). Alternatively, if you’re buying in-store, you may be asked to provide some physical proof of ID or address.
Checking Your Credit Record
If you’ve failed a credit check or if you’re simply just curious about your score, it can be worthwhile checking your credit report.
The UK has three credit reference agencies (CRAs for short): Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (previously known as CallCredit). The three credit reference agencies collate information about your previous dealings with financial service products (including bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, loans and utilities). They also collate information from the electoral register, county court judgements (CCJs) and bankruptcy records.
The following table shows a list of major mobile networks and the credit reference agency used by each one (note, this is only indicative as it can change at any time).
|Mobile Network||Credit Reference Agencies Used||Source|
|BT Mobile||Equifax||BT Help Centre|
|EE||Experian, Equifax and TransUnion||EE Community Forums|
|iD Mobile||Experian and Equifax||iD Mobile Help|
|Sky Mobile||Equifax||Sky Mobile Help Pages|
|Tesco Mobile||Experian and Equifax||Tesco Mobile Terms & Conditions|
|Three||Experian, Equifax and TransUnion||Three Help Article|
|Virgin Mobile||Equifax||Equifax Website|
Each of the three credit reference agencies provides an online service for you to check your credit record with them. If you have time, you can check your credit record with all three providers. However, if you’re short of time, you can use the table above to prioritise which ones to check.
- Experian: Credit Record
Experian is the UK’s largest credit reference agency. You can get a free statutory report with all of your credit record information, or you can pay for their CreditExpert service (£14.99/month, with a 30-day free trial for new users). If you decide to sign up for the CreditExpert service, you should cancel the service within the first 30 days if you don’t want to pay the ongoing monthly fee (call them on 0800 561 0083 to cancel).
- Equifax: ClearScore
Equifax is the second largest credit reference agency. Their Clearscore service gives you free access to your Equifax credit record, but is only updated once per month. The company aims to make money by promoting financial service products (e.g. credit cards) that are matched to your credit score.
- TransUnion (previously CallCredit): Credit Karma
Finally, TransUnion (previously CallCredit) is the UK’s newest credit reference agency (it isn’t used by as many companies as Experian and Equifax). They provide free online access to your credit score through the Credit Karma service. The company aims to make money by promoting financial service products matched to your credit score.
For more information, see the MoneySavingExpert guide to checking your credit report.
Mobile Phone With No Credit Check
Over the past few years, it has become increasingly easy to get a mobile phone deal with no credit check. This is perfect for people who don’t want to undergo a credit check, or for people who aren’t able to pass one (e.g. due to a poor credit score or being new to the UK).
In fact, many people now prefer these ‘no credit check’ deals as they can give you even better value and more flexibility than a 24-month contract.
There are two steps to having a ‘no credit check’ mobile phone experience. Firstly, you’ll need to buy a SIM-free or unlocked handset and secondly, you’ll need to get a ‘no credit check’ SIM card.
The first step is buying your new mobile phone without taking a new contract. Alternatively, you can skip this step if you already have an unlocked smartphone that you’re happy to use.
To get a new mobile phone without taking a contract, you should buy your new handset on a SIM-free basis. A SIM-free handset is unlocked for use on any mobile network, and doesn’t require you to undergo a credit check. You’ll pay more for the handset upfront, but you’ll usually save money in the long-run as well as having lots of extra flexibility.
You can buy a SIM-free handset from retailers like Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis. The upfront price of a SIM-free handset can vary, from around £100 for an entry-level smartphone all the way up to £1,000 for the latest iPhone.
SIM Cards For Your Phone
Once you have a SIM-free handset, you can take advantage of a low cost SIM-only deal. Many of these are now available without the need for a credit check: you simply need to order a SIM card, top it up to get going and then place the SIM card in your smartphone.
The following table shows a selection of “no credit check” SIM cards that are currently available for £10/month:
At present, we’d recommend the £10 deal from VOXI which gives you unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 6GB of data and endless social data. VOXI makes use of coverage from the Vodafone network (read our full review of VOXI for more information).
Order VOXI SIM Card (Free) →
VOXI’s £10 bundle comes with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 6GB data and endless social data (coverage from Vodafone)
When a SIM-free handset is combined with a SIM-only deal, you can use your mobile phone with no credit check required. In the long run, the “total cost of ownership” is often comparable or even cheaper than a 24-month contract. For instance, using a £150 handset on a £10/month price plan would cost you a total of £390 over 24 months (equivalent to paying £16.25/month over 24 months).
For more information about credit scores, we recommend having a look at this guide from MoneySavingExpert. If you’d like to use a mobile phone without undergoing a credit check, we recommend buying your handset SIM-free and getting a Pay As You Go deal.
Your Comments 19 so far
We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 19 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.
Thanks for a great article, Ken. I am moving to the UK from South Africa and cannot get a contract due to my lack of a credit record in the UK. What other ways are there to get a credit record in the UK and how long will it take before I can take out a contract from Vodafone?
Thanks for your comment. I’d recommend getting a SIM card from giffgaff if you’re moving to the UK. There are a number of good reasons for this (described in more detail on this page). Once you’ve been in the UK for a while, you could then move to a Pay Monthly deal if desired, and credit check permitting.
MR LEE BRACEY said:
02 sim free after 3 months paying each month will get u a upgrade to phone without credit check as ive got bad credit and after 3 months of 3 payments i got galaxy Note 10+ without credit check
Sean Mc Crudden said:
Does a sim only (Lebara 4.95 p/m) deal improve credit rating. Just moved back to UK and trying to improve my credit rating. Thanks in advance and great website.
Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the deal from Lebara wouldn’t help you with your credit rating. It’s technically a pre-paid product, not requiring a credit check. For that reason, they won’t report your payments to the credit reference agencies. Saying that, I don’t think it should stop you from choosing this deal as there are plenty of other ways to improve your credit rating!
Hope this helps,
Load more comments (14)