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Sky Mobile Swap 24/36 explained: early upgrade phone contract

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We talk you through how Sky Mobile's Swap phone contracts work, their pros and cons and compare prices on Sky's entire pay monthly range. Last updated: 14th November 2023.

In this guide

In a nutshell

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What's good

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What's bad

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Find a phone contract

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Here’s how they work

Sky’s finance-based phone contracts let you upgrade early

Break down of phone plus plan

They calculate your total monthly billCredit agreement info

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Traditionally, mobile networks have offered phone contracts that last 24 months where you pay for your phone and usage plan (mins, texts, data) as one bill. But most networks now offer more flexible options.

Sky Mobile are one of them. They offer what are called split contracts. This is where you get one agreement for the cost of your device which essentially works like a loan and then another agreement for your usage.

What you’re paying every month is the sum total of both agreements. Split contracts have advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll cover further down the article.

It’s a 0% interest credit agreement. But Sky do price the phone up higher than if you bought directly from a manufacturer. That can feel like interest, even though it isn’t strictly.

Useful link: Sky's help guide about credit agreements

Your monthly payment is reduced in your last 12 months

Screenshot of costs in last 12 months

Higher monthly cost to start off with

If you look at our pay monthly phone deal comparison tool here or at Sky’s phone deals on their website, you may notice that your monthly bill is reduced in the last 12 months of your contract (on 24 or 36 months).

Remember that you’re essentially paying off a loan for the cost of your device. But with Sky you’ll be paying off the larger part of your contract at the beginning. Here’s why they do this:

Sky weight their phone contracts so that your remaining loan after your first 12 months is equal to the value of trading your phone in (but only if you trade it in with them).

So when you roll into your final 12 months you’ll get options for upgrading early. You can accept this and trade in your phone, or you can ignore it and let your contract go by as normal.

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Benefits of Sky’s Swap contracts

This lets Sky make their phone contracts cheaper

Screenshot of our phone comparison tool

Compare contract prices with our toolCompare phone deals

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These sorts of contracts make financial sense for mobile networks for accounting purposes to do with assets and liabilities. This in turn means that they don’t have to charge as much to turn a profit.

This means Sky can offer lower costs on their phone deals than if they offered traditional contracts. Other networks with finance-based phone deals like giffgaff and Tesco tend to top our phone price comparisons.

It also lets Sky offer most of their phone contracts without upfront costs, so you can get a contract without having to shell anything out right away.

But remember, these are basically loans. As such, you should be careful when choosing a phone contract so that it suits your budget and income, just like you would if you took a loan from the bank.

Useful link: See current Sky Mobile offers

Upgrading early is also allowed on these contracts

Upgrade choices screenshot

Pay your loan to upgrade after 31 daysHow upgrading works

at Sky.com
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As you’re effectively paying a loan, you can pay off what’s left at any time, to upgrade early while keeping your device. Or you can take out a new device loan while still paying off your old one (there are some limits to this).

Alternatively, you can trade in (hence the name “Swap”) your current phone to Sky to pay off your remaining loan and upgrade that way. We go into that in more detail below.

You can only upgrade after 31 days. We’d steer clear of trading in, at least until the last 12 months of your contract as handing in your phone early could leave you with no phone and a loan to pay still.

We put their trade-in scheme in the disadvantages section for this page. You can get better value from selling your phone elsewhere and there are other issues with the scheme. But the others options are good choices.

Useful link: How to actually do your upgrade

Choose a contract length that best suits your budget

Contract length examples

Contract length changes monthly costs

You get two choices of contract length on Sky’s phone contracts: 24 months and 36 months. The overall cost of your phone will usually be higher on a 24-month contract and you’ll have to pay an upfront cost.

If you want a lower monthly bill, you’ll likely prefer a 36-month contract as they spread the phone’s cost over a longer time. If you want your contract to be over sooner and don’t mind a higher bill, take a 24-month one.

All their usage plans are on 12-month contracts. After that you’ll stay on your plan on a monthly rolling basis which you can leave at any point to move to a cheaper network since their contracts are split.

Typically, their 36-month contracts are the cheaper option. But make sure your contract suits your budget so you can pay your bills on time. If you miss a payment it could be harder to get a finance agreement later.

Useful link: Our full Sky Mobile review

You won’t be overpaying once your phone is paid off

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They work similar to O2’s custom plansRead our guide

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On networks with traditional contracts, if you don’t cancel or upgrade once 24 months is up, then you’ll continue paying a high monthly cost as if you’ve still paying for a phone, without getting a new one.

This won’t happen to you on Sky because you’re paying separate finance agreements for the cost of the phone and your usage (which is basically a SIM only plan).

When you’ve paid off your loan, the payment for your phone stops. You’ll still have to pay for your usage contract, but these are typically the same cost per GB of data as their regular SIM only contracts.

You can rest easy once your contract is up. You don’t have to rush to research new plans, nor do you end up wasting money on a phone you’ve already paid off.

Useful link: See Sky’s full range of SIM plans

You get all of Sky’s brilliant benefits on top of this

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Widespread signal on O2’s networkCheck yours now

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We’ve seen what’s good about Sky’s phone contracts, but there’s also much to love about the network in general. You can read our full review of Sky Mobile here.

Sky get full access to O2’s network, meaning you get a brilliant mix of mobile signal (check coverage near you). That includes access to 5G in their host's impressive list of 2000+ UK towns and cities.

One of Sky’s best benefits is their piggybank system. The data you don’t use after each month goes into a “piggybank” that you can withdraw data from later, or trade in for discounts off phones or tablets.

If you’ve got a Sky TV package at home, you can stream any of Sky’s apps on the go without using up your data. You’re essentially getting unlimited data to use with their apps on any of their plans.

Useful link: Read our full Sky Mobile review

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The Swap names and contract lengths can be confusing

Swap12 and Swap24 advertisements

Add 12 to get the full contract lengthRead Swap FAQs

at Sky.com
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A word of caution: when choosing your phone contract you have to pay extra attention to what you’re actually getting. Why is that?

It’s because the contract names are a bit confusing. Their Swap24 contracts last for 36 months, while their Swap12 contracts last for 24 months. You can take out a tablet on a Swap36 contract which lasts 48 months.

It’s an odd way to present it. The number shown is the month after which you can upgrade without having to keep paying your contract (if you return the device in good condition that is).

Think about it like this. You can either upgrade to a new phone “after 24 months” or “after 12 months”. The full contract length is that number with 12 added on top. It’s a needlessly confusing way to word it.

Useful link: Read Sky's FAQs on their Swap contracts

It can be harder to pass a credit check for Sky’s contracts

Screenshot of Sky's credit check

They check your history of paymentsWhat gets checked

at Sky.com
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When you take out a phone deal, the network have to buy and ship out your phone with the expectation of you paying them back over time. So they’re putting a lot of trust in their customers.

This is why credit checks are necessary. Mobile networks will want to make sure you can pay them, so they’ll check your credit history to see if you’re good at keeping up with payments.

Sky are essentially giving you a loan. It works the same as a bank, with regulators making sure that they are lending responsibly.

This all means they have to be strict on who they let join on a phone contract. And Sky’s requirements are a lot stricter than other networks (but we don’t have inside information on their exact policy).

If you don’t pass the check, Sky have a Credit Builder scheme as an option. This is where you start on a SIM only deal to help build up your record with them. If you keep paying on time you might be accepted later.

Useful link: Sky's full guide to credit checking

We’re wary of Sky’s Swap trade-in upgrade scheme

You can end your contract in your last 12 months

Trading in explained

How to trade in

at Sky.com
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A part of Sky’s marketing for their phone deals is that they let you upgrade early by trading in your phone. After being with them for two or three years you’d likely want to upgrade, but we’re not massive fans of this scheme.

They have weighted these deals so that the amount you’ll pay for the last 12 months of your contract is what Sky will “pay you” for trading in your current device.

You’ll theoretically just send in your phone and have the rest of your loan paid off, as they’re buying your phone back from you. This would leave you free to upgrade to a new device.

Simple, no? It’s appealing as it takes out the hassle of selling your phone, or you can upgrade even if you don’t have the money to pay off the rest of your loan by ending your contract early.

Useful link: How to process your trade in

We don’t think Swapping is worth it

Questions about phone condition

We’ve taken an example of buying an iPhone 13 from Sky in 2021 and Swapping it in 2023. In your final year on Swap24, we calculate you’d have £226 left to pay on your credit agreement.

If you trade your phone in with Swap to get a new one, Sky are effectively paying you that £226 in exchange for your phone. But eBay and other phone buying services value an iPhone 13 at £300-£400.

You could sell the phone via those methods, pay off the remaining £226 and still have £75 spare change to put towards another phone. Other than convenience, it’s hard to see why you’d bother with Swap.

Our advice if you want to upgrade near the end of your contract then is to check all the options and don’t just take Sky’s trade-in offer, just because you want your next contract to be with them.

Useful link: Compare deals with us

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