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Data rollover plans: ranking UK networks that let you keep unused data

Data rollover plans

We compare data rollover on all the mobile networks that offer it, explain how each scheme works and give our verdict on which is best overall. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: September 6th 2018

Data rollover plans explained

Here's how data rollover works in a nutshell...

Data rollover explanation

Keep unused data (the red bit) for future use

Regular mobile plans give you an allowance of monthly minutes, texts and data to use up over the course of 30 days. At the beginning of each new month, these are re-set back to whatever's normally included in your plan.

Sometimes you might find you've not got through all of your data allowance by the end of the month. So when it's reset, you're effectively losing data that you've paid for.

Some mobile networks have decided this is unfair. So they've introduced data rollover plans:

Instead of losing unused data each month, with a data rollover plan it either gets added to your next month or you can save it whenever you like in a kind of data bank account.

More mobile networks have started to offer data rollover in 2018

Best network for data rollover

There are only a few choices for best data rollover

You might think data rollover is a great idea that every mobile provider would want to offer. But if you think about it, networks make more money when you pay for data you don't actually use.

Fortunately there are now multiple providers who offer it on pay monthly (iD Mobile, Sky Mobile and Virgin Mobile) plus three major networks offering it on pay as you go (EE, O2 and Vodafone).

Each scheme works slightly differently and has its own terms and conditions, which we'll help explain.

Below, we rank the providers to find the one with the overall best data rollover plans.

We're now including money-back-for-unused-data schemes

Logo of SMARTY mobile network

Data rollover is all about letting you keep data you've paid for. But a new network called SMARTY (from Three) is paying you back for data you haven't use.

We think this is in the same spirit as data rollover, so we've included them in our guide below.

Useful link: Read about money back for unused data at SMARTY.co.uk

Where to next within this article?

How it worksMobile networksSIM only plansFAQs

Rating each network's data rollover plans

Here are the networks that let you keep unused data

Click a logo to learn more about their scheme (skips to the relevant article section):

1st place: SMARTY discount your next bill for unused data

Deal notification:

Get your plan completely free in your second month on SMARTY.
Use this link to get to their hidden offer at SMARTY.co.uk

SMARTY logoDiscount on unused data

Money off next bill if you don't use your data upHow it works

at SMARTY.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Straightforward money off next month
Green plus sign Paid back at the same cost to buy
Green plus sign You'll never overpay for data

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Not a huge range of plans to choose

It might seem strange that the winner of our best data rollover plan is one that doesn't actually let you keep unused data but SMARTY's scheme takes the principle of fairness even further, so deserves top spot.

Instead of rolling over data, SMARTY just pay you back what that data cost you to buy in the first place, in pounds and pence. They do this by discounting your next month's bill.

If you think about it, the reason you're probably interested in data rollover is you're worrying about paying for data you won't use. With SMARTY's scheme, that worry goes away.

If you've not heard of SMARTY, read our full network review. They're a reasonably new SIM only provider that uses Three's network for signal (check SMARTY coverage here).

Useful link: SMARTY's guide to their data payback scheme

Our ranking:
1st

Keep unused data for:
0 months, discount off next month's bill instead

Available on phone contracts?
No

Available on SIM only?
Yes (from £7.50 a month)

2nd place: Sky Mobile let you keep data for the longest

Sky Mobile Roll

Keep unused data for up to 3 years with SkySee Sky's plans

at Sky.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Keep data for longer than every other network
Green plus sign Share saved data with others on your account
Green plus sign Swap unused data for discounts on other things

What we don't like:
Red minus sign You can't just get your money back

It's Sky Mobile we rate in second place, with their scheme 'Roll', which comes as standard on all their pay monthly SIM only plans and phone contracts. But what makes it stand out among the other networks?

Well, you'll see in the following sections that you still lose your unused data after the next month on other networks. But Sky Mobile is different: they let you keep it for up to 3 years in what Sky call your 'Piggybank'.

It's basically like a mini savings account for data. You can make withdrawals from it if you ever run out of your normal data allowance before the end of a month.

Now Sky have added Piggybank Rewards, which let you cash in unused data for savings against new phones, tablets and accessories. You will need to spend more money to "get your money back" though.

Useful link: Learn how Sky's piggybank works at Sky.com

Our ranking:
2nd

Keep unused data for:
3 years (read full terms)
or swap it for other discounts

Available on phone contracts?
Yes (from £11.50 a month)

Available on SIM only?
Yes (from £5 a month)

Joint 3rd: Virgin Mobile let you keep data for one month only

Virgin Media data rollover

Keep unused data for next month with VirginSee Virgin's plans

at virginmedia.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Another chance to use unused data
Green plus sign Works on SIM only and phone contracts

What we don't like:
Red minus sign You only have a month to use it
Red minus sign No money back or rewards options

Virgin Mobile's data rollover scheme was one of the first of its type in the UK. Data you don't manage to use rolls forward into the next month but after that it's gone (so not as generous as Sky's 3 years but still useful).

All Virgin's pay monthly SIMs and phone contracts come with data rollover, regardless of which plan you choose. It doesn't work on pay as you go though (see further down page for PAYG deals with data rollover).

In our review of Virgin Mobile, we point out that what's good about them is that they combine data rollover with quite a few other extra benefits on pay monthly too, including:

Messaging on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook Messenger won't use up your monthly data allowance and the freedom to change your plan every month (even if you're on a 12/24 month contract).

 
Useful link: Get full details on Virgin Media's data rollover scheme on their official site.

Our ranking:
Joint 3rd

Keep unused data for:
1 month (read terms)

Available on phone contracts?
Yes (typically from £12.50 a month)

Available on SIM only?
Yes (typically from £7 a month)

Joint 3rd: iD Mobile also let you keep it for a single month

id Mobile data rollover plans

Rollover unused data on SIMs and phonesSee iD's plans

at idmobile.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Another chance to use unused data
Green plus sign Works on SIM only and phone contracts

What we don't like:
Red minus sign You only have a month to use it
Red minus sign No money back or rewards options

While Sky's plans second top place in our rankings because they let you keep your data for the longest time, iD Mobile follow very closely in third place because of the overall value in their data rollover plans.

You'll now get data rollover with iD Mobile on any pay monthly plan that you choose (it only used to be on a third of their plans). This includes contract phones or SIM only.

At the end of each month, any data you haven't used will be added on to next month's. And rolled-over data gets used up first before your regular allowance.

Coupled with the added iD Mobile benefits of spending caps, free EU roaming and cheap plans, iD more than earn third place in our best data rollover rankings.

 
Useful link: Read full details on data rollover with iD Mobile in their own comprehensive guide.

Our ranking:
Joint 3rd

Keep unused data for:
1 month (read full terms)

Available on phone contracts?
Yes
(typically from £6.99 a month)

Available on SIM only?
Yes
(typically from £3.99 a month)

5th place: Vodafone only roll data over on Pay As You Go

Vodafone data rollover

Keep unused data on Pay As You Go onlySee PAYG SIMs

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Another chance to use unused data
Green plus sign You'll also keep minutes and texts

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Doesn't work with pay monthly SIMs or phones

Where the networks listed above give you data rollover on Pay Monthly plans, Vodafone is the only to offer on Pay As You Go (but importantly not Pay Monthly).

Their scheme works the same as iD's and Virgin's (you'll keep unused data for the next month only). Rolled-over data doesn't apply to any inclusive data roaming allowance you get with your bundle.

And they actually go a step further by letting you keep unused texts and minutes for the next month too. They call this Total Rollover.

It's not clear if Vodafone intend to roll out data rollover to their Pay Monthly bundles too on phones and SIM only. So for the time being, we rank them as 5th best in the UK only.

Useful link: See Vodafone's article on data rollover.

Our ranking:
Joint 5th

Keep unused data for:
1 month (read terms)

Available on phone contracts?
No

Available on SIM only?
Yes (PAYG only)

Joint 5th place: EE offer data rollover on most PAYG plans

EE logoEE data rollover on PAYG

Get it on PAYG and Flex plansSee Flex SIMs

at EE.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Another chance to use unused data
Green plus sign You'll also keep minutes and texts

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Doesn't work with pay monthly SIMs or phones

EE are another network that have restricted their data rollover scheme to pay as you go plans only. And it's not available on all of them either.

You'll need to take a PAYG pack with 100MB of data or more to be able to keep anything you don't use in your next month. You'll need to make sure you do renew your bundle too. As if you don't, the data will be lost.

EE's new Flex plans also include the benefit. These plans are essentially pre-paid 30-day bundles of minutes, texts and data that you can chop and change once a month (see them here).

Because you don't get data rollover on EE's pay monthly SIMs or phone contracts, we can only put their scheme in joint 5th place with Vodafone and O2.

Useful link: EE's guide to their data rollover scheme.

Our ranking:
Joint 5th

Keep unused data for:
1 month (read terms)

Available on phone contracts?
No

Available on SIM only?
Yes (PAYG only)

5th place: O2 have also introduced it for pay as you go

O2 logoO2 data rollover

Only O2's Big Bundles have itSee O2 PAYG SIMs

at O2.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Another chance to use unused data
Green plus sign You'll also keep minutes and texts

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Doesn't work with pay monthly SIMs or phones

None of the main four networks seem to want to give away data rollover with their main pay monthly deals. And O2 are exactly the same.

They let you keep unused data with their Pay As You Go Big Bundles. But intead of a fixed period, like a month, O2 set a limit on the quantity of data you can roll over.

That cap is normally set at the amount your bundle is contained (1GB plan = 1GB cap). You can roll over bits of unused data for multiple months but you can never keep more in total than your cap.

You'll need to be careful too to make sure your bundle renews on the same day it expires, else you lose all that rolled over data too.

Useful link: O2 help article about data rollover.

Our ranking:
Joint 5th

Keep unused data for:
Multiple months but only a capped amount (read terms)

Available on phone contracts?
No

Available on SIM only?
Yes (PAYG only)

Joint last for data rollover: all other UK mobile networks!

Three no data rolloverTesco no data rollovergiffgaff no data rollover
 
Plusnet Mobile logoBT Mobile logoThe People's Operator logo

No data rollover on Three, giffgaff, Tesco and more

Yes it might seem negative but we thought it was worth pointing out that every other mobile provider in the UK (including large ones like Three, BT and giffgaff) do not offer any data rollover facilities whatsoever.

That's fair enough: we don't expect every provider to offer exactly the same services, else we'd have no actual choice. And other mobile companies offer benefits that will be more useful to other people.

It just means that in our reviews of every UK mobile network, they won't score any points for having it.

Where to next within this article?

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Where to next within this article?

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Data rollover plan FAQs

What's the meaning of data rollover?

Data rollover means that if you have unused data leftover at the end of the month, your network will add it to your next month's so you don't lose what you've paid for.

Does rolled-over data expire after one month?

It depends on which network you join. On iD Mobile, Virgin, EE and Vodafone the answer is yes: rolled-over data can only be carried over to the next month.

On Sky Mobile, the answer is no it doesn't expire after one month: your rolled-over data is yours to keep in your 'Piggybank' for up to 3 years.

Does rolled over data get used up first before my regular allowance?

Yes, on the networks where you only get to roll data over a month at a time. On iD Mobile, Virgin Mobile, EE and Vodafone, last month's remaining data will get used up first before this month's new data.

On Sky Mobile it's the other way round: all unused data goes into your Piggybank (like a savings account for data). Each month, your regular monthly data allowance gets used first. Then, if you run out, you can take data out of your Piggybank to use for the rest of the month. You take it out in 1GB chunks.

How do I keep track of my rollover data balance?

Each network will let you check your rolled over data status using their apps or by signing in to your account online. They'll break it down into your regular data allowance balance and your rolled over data one.

Are there any disadvantages to data rollover?

You could argue that instead of rolling over unused data each month, you would be better off changing down to a plan that gives you less data each month instead. After all, why keep buying data you're not using and rolling it forward?

This isn't a bad point, and it's why SIM Sherpa tends to recommend flexible 1-month contracts if you're not sure about your regular monthly usage.

The opposite argument to this though is that people's usage changes in an unpredictable way each month. Sometimes I might use barely any data because I'm constantly on WiFi. Other months I might find a new favourite programme to stream on the train and get through loads: data rollover allows you to stay flexible.

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