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Failed an O2 credit check: your options to still get a phone or SIM

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We look at why you might have failed an O2 credit / affordability check and propose some approaches to getting a contract still. Last updated: 20th July 2021.

O2’s credit check policy

Credit checks on O2: how they work

Logos of experian, Equifax, Cifas and TransUnion

O2 share info with credit agenciesRead privacy policy

at O2.co.uk
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In a nutshell, a credit check looks at your credit history and whether or not you’ve made repayments on time. With O2, you'll need to pass a credit check to get any of their pay monthly products.

O2 will pass on your details to their credit reference agency partners (Cifas, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) who will conduct the search (read O2’s page on credit checks here).

They’ll look at your credit history and obtain details relating to your address and identity. All of the information is scored against a set criteria. And anything below the minimum threshold results in a fail.

This applies whether you're buying a SIM only contract or a phone contract. For phones, there's an additional affordability check too (see below).

In this guide, we’ll try to help you find out why you failed with O2 and we’ll go through some alternative options that will put you on the right track to find a deal that works for you.

I wanted a: Phone Phone contract | SIM card SIM only contract

An affordability test for a phone contract is even tougher

Screenshot of a representative example

O2 Refresh is based on credit agreementsRead more

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In addition to a regular credit check, all of O2’s pay monthly phone contracts bought directly from O2 automatically come on Refresh. This splits your overall deal into two parts: one for the cost of your device, the other for your tariff.

The bill for the device is based on finance, so you’re essentially taking out a loan, for which you’ll need to sign a Consumer Credit Agreement (CCA), which has its own terms and conditions.

For this reason, O2’s credit requirements on phone contracts are very tight, as they have to show the FCA (government regulator) that they’re a responsible lender (like a bank).

They’ll run an “affordability check” as well as the regular credit check to ensure you’ll be able to afford the monthly repayments (your earnings vs what you're spending).

I wanted a: Phone Phone contract | SIM card SIM only contract

Phone contracts

Declined for a phone contract with O2

No need to worry - in this guide, we'll help you plan your approach to getting accepted for an alternative O2 product.


Have you entered your information correctly?

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Making an error causes issuesGo back now

to o2.co.uk
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Misspellings and mismatched details are a surprisingly high cause of credit check failures. So ask yourself whether you’re 100% sure you’ve entered all of your details correctly.

O2 will need your precise details in order to run a credit check properly with their credit agency partners. The smallest mistake like a wrong digit in your postcode or your date of birth can cause a response of decline.

You can contact O2 Customer Service to query the failed credit check. But you might want to check your credit report with the likes of Experian first to get a clearer picture and to avoid any surprises.

If you decide to re-place the order, make sure to get everything right as multiple tries may leave a footprint on your credit report and could reduce your chance of getting accepted further.

Or O2 might have found something in their search that didn’t give them the confidence to provide you with a mobile phone contract this time. Keep reading to get an overview of what you can do next.

Useful link: Return to O2’s phone contracts

Could someone else take out the phone contract for you?

Friends holding shoulders and a contract icon

A friend or family member could helpReturn to phones

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It is perfectly legal for someone to take out a phone contract for you. So if you have a bad credit history, it might be worth checking with someone in your family or household. But trust is also a factor.

Of course, there’s no guarantee they’ll pass the credit check. Remember: trying and failing could affect their credit file, so it is important to have that discussion before they submit the application.

It is also worth noting, O2 link the applicant’s data to their spouse, joint applicants or other financial associates, which is something else to bear in mind if you have previously failed the check.

If all goes through, remember you won’t be the one building up your credit as the contract will be on their name - with no option to switch accounts later. In other words, this method won’t help your credit.

Any missed or late payments could affect their credit file as well as your relationship. For this reason, we recommend you have an arrangement in place to ensure the repayments are made on time.

Never make an order yourself using someone else’s details. This is fraud and illegal. They need to make the order themselves or they need to be present when you do it on their behalf.

Useful link: Back to O2’s phone range

Consider going for a cheaper phone or pay more up front

Screenshot of O2's cheapest phone

Example pricing onlyFind cheapest phones

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If you apply for an expensive high-end phone, the better your credit file needs to be. That’s because mobile phone networks tend to categorise their phones into different tiers based on value.

We think this is understandable as you’re essentially asking them to give you an expensive handset. They need the guarantee that you can pay them back. They’re effectively lending you more money.

If you’ve recently failed a credit check or know you have a bad credit score, you could try applying for a lower priced phone. Although it might not be your ideal-world model, it could get your foot in the door.

The main thing is to be in with the network, so making your repayments on time will show them that you’re a reliable customer. You could always try for a better model at the end of the contract too.

You can also use the flexibility of O2's Custom Plans to voluntarily pay more for your phone up front. The more you pay in advance, the less money O2 are lending you, so the risk is lower for them.

Useful link: Take a look at O2’s cheapest phones

You could use a reseller that sells O2 phone contracts

BuyMobiles.net logoMobile Phones Direct logo

Third parties that sell O2Compare all retailers

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If you’ve been rejected for a mobile phone contract after applying with O2 directly, you might be able to try again with a separate reseller. These sell their own phone contracts but on O2’s network.

They are independent companies that are not linked to O2, which means they will work with different credit checking agencies and may have different requirements to O2.

So even if you were rejected by O2, there’s still a chance the reseller might accept you. But remember, each failed attempt to apply goes on your record and could affect your credit score.

A reseller worth considering is buymobiles.net as they stock a decent range of O2 phone contracts. These come on traditional style 24-month contracts, which are not finance based like O2 Refresh.

This should in theory result in an easier credit check compared to O2 Refresh. But it goes without saying, there is no guarantee that you’ll be accepted.

Another reseller offering contracts not based on finance is Mobile Phones Direct. They are part of the AO family and offer a large selection of traditional style 24-month phone contracts on the O2 network.

Useful link: Compare all retailers of O2 phone contracts

Go for a phone contract that is not finance based on another network

BT logoEE logoiD Mobile logoThree logo

All offer deals not based on financeCompare all networks

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If you’ve been rejected by O2 directly, it might be worth exploring other network providers that offer phone contracts not based on finance - as these won’t come with the more stringent affordability checks.

There are lots of providers out there that offer traditional style phone contracts. And although there’s no guarantee you’ll pass, their credit checks should be less harsh than those carried out by O2.

To get in with a mobile provider, try looking at phone contracts offered by BT Mobile, EE, iD Mobile or Three. None of them use the O2 network, but their deals are not based on finance.

To avoid ending up with the same result as O2, we’d stay clear of giffgaff, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, VOXI and Virgin Mobile as they also base their phone contracts on finance.

Useful link: Compare all mobile phone contracts

O2’s SIM only plans could be your route to a phone later

O2 SIM only deals
SIM only

a month

Easier credit checks and upgrades mid-contractSee latest deals

at O2.co.uk
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If going with another network is out of the question, then you could try going down the O2 SIM only route (without a phone). These credit checks tend to be easier as the handset is not included.

There’s no guarantee you’ll be accepted, but if you do, you can gradually build your credit profile with O2. They might take this into consideration when you re-apply for a phone contract in the future.

Not having a phone included in the deal might not be your ideal situation but being in with the network of your choice is a step in the right direction.

And if you’re eligible, you might be able to upgrade your SIM only plan to O2 Refresh after 3 months. But remember, you’ll still need to pass O2's affordability credit check to be accepted for the phone upgrade.

If there’s a specific phone that you want now, you could pay for it up front in full - either with O2, from the manufacturer directly or SIM-free from someone like Carphone Warehouse.

Useful link: O2’s SIM Only Upgrade to Refresh terms and conditions

SIM only plans

Declined for a SIM only contract with O2

Even if this was your attempt to apply for a lower risk option as outlined above, there are still other steps you can take.

SIM card

Have you entered your information correctly?

Spelling mistakes in checkout

Incorrect details cause failuresReturn to SIMs

at o2.co.uk
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You’ll be surprised how often simple spelling mistakes and mismatched details cause credit check failures. Accidentally swapping letters around or auto-spell taking over could cost you dearly.

O2 will need your precise details in order to run a credit check with their credit agency partners. So we recommend going through your application to ensure the details have been entered correctly.

It might be worth checking your credit report with a credit reference agency like Experian. But if you’re confident that something went wrong, you could contact O2 Customer Service to query the results.

And if you end up re-applying, make sure you get everything right. That’s because you leave a footprint for each failed application, which could reduce your chance of getting accepted in the future.

O2 might just have found something in their search that didn’t give them the confidence to provide you with a SIM only contract this time.

Useful link: Contact O2 Customer Service

Someone else can take out the SIM only contract for you

Two friends and a contract

Know anyone with better credit?Join for you

at o2.co.uk
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It’s worth checking if someone in your family or household with a good credit history is willing to take out a SIM only contract for you. It is perfectly legal and makes sense if you have a bad credit profile.

There’s no guarantee they’ll be accepted and any failed attempts can harm their credit. But if all goes through, the account will be in their name and they’ll be responsible for making the payments.

It is important you have an arrangement in place as any missed or late payments could affect their credit rating. And you won’t be able to transfer the account to your name later.

This option is great if you’re after a phone contract and have tried other ways to get one. But remember, the only credit being built is that of the person whose name is on the account.

And it goes without saying, it is illegal to use someone else’s details to apply for a mobile contract. They need to do it themselves or be present when you do it on their behalf.

Useful link: O2 mobile phone contracts

Go SIM only with giffgaff or Tesco Mobile on the O2 network

giffgaff logoTesco Mobile logo

Both providers use O2's network

Before we go into options to join on O2's network, it's worth knowing about Boshhh (on EE). Their 12-month SIMs actively help re-build your credit score, to help you on your way to getting accepted in future.

Their plans are a little more expensive but could help you get accepted elsewhere in future:

giffgaff are a good choice for anyone wanting to join the O2 network without having to go through a credit check. That’s because you pay up front for their SIM only plans, rather than get bills.

O2 launched giffgaff as a means to create a low-cost, no-frills mobile provider. When you first join them, you’ll need to register a payment card and choose to buy a “Goodybag” plan each month.

You’ll also get the flexibility to chop and change your plan each month, but make sure to turn off auto-renew. If you need to take a break or cancel, you can do so easily with very little notice.

Another provider with no credit checks for certain SIM only plans is Tesco Mobile. Join on their no contract SIM only deals and you’ll prepay for a monthly bundle of minutes, texts and data.

Bundles last one month, after which you’ll need to top up (unless you’ve set up recurring payment). You are free to cancel by not topping up next time or to take a break.

It’s worth knowing that neither of these options will build your credit profile, as pay as you go doesn’t. But if you just want to a get a SIM now, they’ll both be fine.

Useful link: giffgaff About Us | Tesco Mobile SIM only deals

Go for a Pay As You Go Bundle with O2

O2 pay as you go SIM deal banner

Pay up front and there's no credit checkSee O2 PAYG SIMs

at O2.co.uk
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O2 have stepped away from traditional style Pay As You Go tariffs, where you’d pay for whatever you’ve used. Instead, they now offer pre-paid bundles of data, minutes and texts.

This option is great if you still want to get in with O2 after having failed their credit check (or you know you are likely to fail). There is no contract to sign and no credit check to pass.

Once you’ve picked your bundle, you’ll need to order your free SIM, which should arrive after 1-2 working days. Top-up your account via My O2 and you’ll then be ready to start using your allowance.

Keeping up with your payments will show the network that you are a reliable paying customer. You are also able to build a payment history and let O2 get to know you.

They might take this into consideration, so try speaking with Customer Service about moving to Pay Monthly after a few months of repaying your SIM only deal.

Useful link: O2 Pay As You Go bundles

Compare all no credit check SIMs

Here are more options with no credit check to pass

SIM with magnifying glass



1p Mobile logo
Three logo
ASDA logo
Boshhh Mobile logo
Coop Mobile logo
EE logo
Genius logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
Lycamobile logo
O2 logo
Sky logo
spusu logo
Talkhome logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo


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