What is Text to Switch?

Ever wanted to change mobile networks but were put off by the process? Text to Switch means you don’t have to go through that process if you don’t want to.

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What is Text to Switch?

Text to Switch is Ofcom’s solution to the stresses of changing providers. Rather than having to run the gauntlet of sales people via phone or in-store, you can just text a number and get your switch underway in a minute. That’s it. No calls, no pressure, not an awkward conversation in sight. 

Why should you change mobile networks?

Variety is the spice of life, and there are dozens of UK mobile networks for you to choose from. Switching it up every now and again can help you save money. If you’re perfectly happy with your mobile deal and your provider, then, by all means, stay put. But with things like price jumps, data allowances and roaming all ready to lure you to a new plan, there’s no harm in looking around.

The main reasons you may want to switch provider include:

  • You’re unhappy with your service

  • You’ve been tempted by other offers such as roaming, perks or data limits

  • You’ve realised you’re paying more than you need to

  • You want to get on 5G and your current network doesn’t offer coverage 

If you’re unhappy with your service for whatever reason, approach your provider first. If they don’t resolve the issue, consider contacting the ombudsman. This may help you get a discount or money back before you need to think about a switch. 

When can I change my mobile network?

This will depend on your current plan:

Pay as you go

You can change at any time if you’re a pay as you go customer, though you might want to wait until you’ve used up all your current credit. After that, you can just dispose of your current SIM and order a new one from your choice of provider. Even plans from VOXI and SMARTY which set you up with a month’s worth of data use don’t tie you down to any long-term obligations, so pay as you go is by far the easiest way to switch. 

Pay monthly contract

This is where things get more complicated. You can’t switch without paying a penalty if you’re still in contract. Cancelling your mobile contract early is possible, certainly, but it won’t be cheap. Depending on your contract term it might end up costing you the same as your brand-new deal, so in many cases, it’s not the option that’ll give you the best value for money. 

If you know you’re the type of person who likes to switch things up, then you might want to opt for shorter contracts so you don’t end up trapped when something newer, shinier and ever-so-tempting is released. Tesco mobile, for example, gives you good flexibility on your contracts, as does O2, as well as offering Refresh plans that let you pay off your handset whenever you like so you can upgrade at any time. 

When can I upgrade?

This varies from network to network and plan to plan. As mentioned, O2 offers a specific plan for those who want to be free to upgrade at any time. This lets you pay off your device separately to your data so you can change phones without abandoning your plan altogether. Most networks, however, do have an early upgrade fee. You may find this is much cheaper than cancelling your contract altogether. 

When can I switch my mobile contract?

So long as you are still within contract, you likely can’t switch for free, and it’s not really recommended that you do so. Penalty fees are high and priced almost identically to simply seeing your contract to completion. Once your contract is up, though, you’re free to do as you like. If you’ve had a hard time getting through your contract, then keep in mind all the things that made you unhappy with your service and run a comparison so you know precisely what you’re getting into this time around. 

How do I switch mobile providers?

There are a couple of ways you can do this:

  • By phone

  • In-store

The issue with these? You’re likely to be bombarded with efforts to keep you as a customer. Cue the sales lingo, uncomfortable conversations and whittling down your resolve until you agree to stay. Even if you think you can withstand this sales pitch, Ofcom has acknowledged that it’s a massive obstacle when it comes to changing providers. That’s where Text to Switch comes in.

How to use Text to Switch

To switch network and keep your mobile number:

  • Text ‘PAC’ to 65075

  • Receive your PAC code within a minute

  • Give your PAC code to your new provider

  • Your PAC is valid for 30 days

Your PAC code will usually be requested if you apply for a new SIM, so it’s best to have it to hand before you head anywhere to get a new mobile deal. 

To get a new mobile number:

  • Text ‘STAC’ to 75075

  • Receive your ‘service termination authorisation code’

  • Give this code to your new provider

Do I need a PAC code?

Yes, absolutely. You’ll need to make sure you use either of the above codes, as neglecting to do so may end up with your old network continuing to charge you. And without a PAC code, you can’t keep your mobile number. 

What if I don’t want to keep my number?

You will still need to text STAC to let your current network know you are leaving. 

My network has asked for a PAC code but I don’t want to leave – why?

A PAC code can be used as part of a SIM switch too. This means when you move your plan from one SIM card to another. There are several reasons for this, including needing a new SIM card size, or having purchased a pre-loaded SIM and wanting your old number on it. A PAC code doesn’t automatically remove you from your network, it can be used to move your number between SIMs on the same network too. 

Does text to switch mean I don’t have to pay cancellation fees?

No, you are still required to pay off any outstanding costs on your contract. All Text to Switch does is help avoid those pesky ‘please stay’ conversations, it doesn’t mean you can do a midnight run and skip any penalties. 

How long does a mobile network switch take?

This can vary, but usually, it doesn’t take longer than a few working days. Your network will often give you a precise date for when you can expect the switch to be complete, so, quick though it is, it isn’t instant. 

What’s the best mobile network to switch to?

That depends on you and what you consider most important when it comes to defining the best mobile deal.  Consider all of the following:

  • Flexibility – are you happy on a two-year contract or would you prefer 12 months?

  • Cost – what’s your budget?

  • Price jumps – does your new network raise prices for inflation?

  • Data limits – is this the best deal for the data allowance on offer?

  • Free data – can you stream or use social media data-free?

  • Minutes and texts – are these unlimited? (many plans offer this as standard)

  • Roaming – do roaming destinations suit your travel needs?

  • Freebies – are the customer perks able to benefit you?

  • Entertainment – do you get free access to services like Netflix or Prime Video?

Pay as you go customers should consider things like top-up extras as offered by EE, which provides you with free data if you opt for the same top-up boost three times in a row. Vodafone also gives you free data and unlimited calls and texts until midnight for every day you spend more than £1 of your pay as you go credit. 

With so much to consider and the possibility of big fees if you cancel your mobile deal early, make sure you think it over carefully before you lock into another long-term contract.