How to switch mobile network

It’s never been easier to switch mobile providers - you can switch with a single text. This means you no longer have to phone up your network and negotiate a new deal. But if you are looking for a new provider, there are some things you need to consider. This is everything you need to know...

People holding mobile phones

Why change mobile providers?

There are a number of reasons to switch mobile phone provider, including:

  • Better price

  • Better perks

  • Better international roaming 

  • Better coverage e.g. 5G

However, there may be certain restrictions that stop you from switching. If, say, you are on a 24-month phone contract, or something similar. But once your contract is close to ending, you should start searching for the best deal. Considering a lot of providers will adjust your prices for inflation, you might end up paying more than the original price you agreed to. And there are always new handsets and tariffs, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a better deal elsewhere.

When can I change providers?

If you’re under contract, you’ll have to wait until you’ve reached the end of your contract or you might have to pay early exit fees - it is worth checking the small print of your contract to see what these are. Pay as you go customers, however, can change networks whenever they like. And if you have no unused credit on your account and don’t mind changing numbers, you can forgo this process altogether. Simply stop using your current SIM and pop a new one into your phone. If you do have remaining credit or want to keep your number, follow the steps below.

Key tip: make sure you do a mobile comparison

We would recommend that you should always run a price comparison before going ahead with any new deal. This makes it quick and easy to see which provider can best meet your needs while giving you the best value for money. 

Remember that it's not just price that counts when you’re shopping around, as mentioned above, a cheap deal with no extra perks and no roaming may not be as cost-effective as a plan that includes all this for an only slightly higher price. There are plenty of plans out there that include things like Prime Video for free. If you are using these services already then you can factor the discount you will be getting into your budget.

What mobile phone networks can I change to?

If you’re out of contract or on pay as you go, you can change to any network. Consider if you want to go in for a new pay monthly phone deal or a SIM-only deal. 

If you’re happy with your handset then a SIM-only deal is a great way to update your data plan without having to fork out for a new phone. There are endless options for new phone contracts and SIM deals in the UK, but some names you can look into include:

  • Vodafone

  • EE

  • Three

  • O2

  • Sky Mobile

  • Virgin Mobile

  • Tesco Mobile

  • giffgaff

  • VOXI

  • Lebara 

  • iD Mobile

  • Smarty

Consider the pros and cons of all these providers before you sign up to anything – our mobile provider guides (see below) can help there. 

One of the biggest things you should be aware of before looking for a new mobile contract is your current data use. Having this number to hand (you can get this from your bill or mobile network app) means you can pick a plan with the right data allowance for you. A lot of customers tend to overestimate the amount of data they need each month, which can mean they spend money on expensive data plans that they don’t use.

Fees for changing supplier

Any fees you face for changing mobile provider will be for early exit from a phone contract. If you’re still paying for a handset, you’ll need to pay around 90% of the remaining cost in order to leave your contract. 

Depending on your model, that can be a huge outlay. If you have only just bought your phone and decided it's not for you, make sure you take it back within 14 days. This is the cooling-off period for most suppliers and you will not be charged. As always, though, be sure to check all this before you go ahead with the purchase. 

Leaving your contract without paying

You are never advised to cut off payment and leave your contract without informing your supplier. Not only will this have a negative impact on your credit rating, you may find debt collection agencies come chasing you. If you find you can no longer afford your plan, try discussing this with your provider. There may be alternative payment methods you can use. 

How to change mobile provider

There are several ways you can change mobile provider including:

  • By text

  • By phone

  • Online

Text is the newest option and one of the easiest, as you won’t be confronted with a barrage of new deals and questions about your decision. There are two ways to do so by text:

Text ‘PAC’ to 65075 if you want to keep your mobile number

This text will alert your current provider, who should respond within seconds with your PAC. This code is valid for 30 days and allows your number to be ported to a new provider. The response you get from your provider should also let you know if you are due to face any termination charges or if you have any remaining credit if you are a pay as you go customer.

The process should not be complicated or delayed. If you’ve already got a new provider and plan in mind, then you should be able to complete the process in no time.

Text ‘STAC’ to 75075 if you want a new mobile number

A STAC code (Service Termination Authorisation Code) will be sent to you within a minute. This will be accompanied by any information about early exit fees and remaining credit. 

Can I swap my SIM instead?

Most providers don’t offer SIM swaps as a means of changing tariff, but as a solution to a lost or broken SIM card. It’s worth knowing how to perform a SIM swap in case of the following:

  • Your current SIM is broken

  • Your SIM is lost

  • Your SIM does not fit your new device

  • You need a 5G enabled SIM to continue your plan on a new device

  • You upgraded your plan and were presented with a new SIM

So, don’t assume you always have to start a new plan from scratch. 

O2 SIM swap

An O2 SIM swap can be done online and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. You should text SWAP to 20220 from your O2 phone and step by step instructions will be sent back. You can also head in-store to complete this step but you will need to bring ID. 

Three SIM swap

A Three SIM swap is easy to do online using the dedicated form. Following a mobile upgrade you can still use your old SIM until the new one is activated, when it is, the old one will no longer work.

Vodafone SIM swap

Swapping your SIM with Vodafone can be done online but you must let Vodafone know your new SIM is being bought for a swap. You cannot swap to a pay as you go SIM with Vodafone. There’s a different process if you’ve recently switched to Vodafone and want to keep your old number, but you will still need a PAC code.

EE SIM swap

If you’re upgrading with EE, you won’t need a new SIM or to perform a SIM swap, your old SIM will simply be updated. EE will swap you SIM in the case of loss, damage or resizing.