Bad credit history: our pragmatic guide to getting a mobile phone contract or SIM only deal

Don't despair if you have bad credit history or have been declined a mobile phone or SIM only contract recently, read our step by step guide on your next options.

First checks to make

Important things to consider before you plan what to do next

Checklist of things to consider

1) Do not give your details to companies claiming to 100% guarantee you a mobile phone contract

There are lots of bogus companies who will claim to be able to guarantee you a mobile phone contract.

If it seems to be good to be true. It probably is.

SIM Sherpa cannot advise giving your confidential financial information to any company other than a trusted mobile network.

2) Check if you fall into one of these categories

There are some basic conditions everyone who wants a mobile contract has to meet. Check you if you fall under any of these categories:

  • You’re under 18
  • You don’t have a fixed UK address
  • You don’t have a UK bank account

If you do fall into these categories: It’s still possible to get a mobile deal. Use pre-paid (pay as you go) 30-day SIM only bundles. These don’t need you to be over 18 or have a fixed UK address.

You can see SIM only deals with no credit check here.

3) Identify which type of mobile contract you’ve been declined for

Your strategy will need to change depending on whether you want to get a phone contract or SIM only contract.

To skip to the right section of the guide, choose which product you want:

SIM only contractMobile phone contract
SIM only contractSIM only contract

Phone contracts step by step guide

Declined for a mobile phone contract? Here are some practical options towards getting back on track.

Navigating your way to a phone contract

SIM Sherpa stresses that you should not make multiple attempts to get credit with mobile networks.

This could leave a mark on your credit file that could make it even harder to get a mobile contract or other financial product in future.

In general there are 3 approaches to getting a phone contract if you’ve already been declined. Be sure to read the detail on each of these before you decide which is right for you:

    1) Consider networks offering contracts with looser credit checks
    2) Consider a lower value phone than your first choice
    3) Take a SIM only contract to build your profile with a mobile network

Again, SIM Sherpa does not recommend that you ‘try your luck’ with multiple networks and products. This can damage your credit profile and make it even harder to get a contract with any network or other financial products.

1) Some types of mobile phone contracts have tougher credit checks. Avoid the toughest.

Tougher checks on handset financing

Did you try for a pay monthly phone contract with any of these networks?

If no skip to option 2. Otherwise read on:

SIM Sherpa’s industry insight suggests the types of contracts these networks offer could make it harder to be accepted for a mobile phone.

Important: SIM Sherpa does not hold specific information on the credit policies of UK mobile providers.

Explanation: these mobile phone contracts work effectively like loans. This is known as ‘handset financing’. There are tighter government regulations on financial products than regular mobile contracts so SIM Sherpa expects that it may be tougher to get accepted for these deals.

Your options:
Green tick Consider networks that offer conventional mobile phone contracts instead of handset financing.

All these networks offer phone contracts on standard mobile contract terms:

2) The more expensive the phone, the harder to be accepted. Consider a cheaper phone.

Cheaper phones may have easier credit checks to pass

Did you originally try for an expensive phone model? Particularly one that you may not have been able to buy outright yourself. Examples might include:

  • Apple iPhone
  • Samsung Galaxy
  • High end Sony, HTC, LG or Microsoft

SIM Sherpa’s industry insight suggests that mobile phone providers are likely to have varying credit requirements based on the value of the phone you want. It may be easier to get accepted for phones with a lower value.

Important: SIM Sherpa does not hold specific information on the credit policies of UK mobile providers.

Explanation: the higher the cost of a phone, the higher the risk for a mobile network if a customer does not continue to pay their bills. Lower-cost phones offer lower risk. So mobile providers may be more lenient about who they give contracts to on cheaper phones.

Your options:
Green tick Consider a mobile contract for a lower value phone than your original choice

Approximate starting prices (per month) for cheaper phones with these networks:

3) Consider a SIM only contract. Even if you actually want to get a phone.

It may be easier to get SIM only than a phone

Have you already tried either of these approaches to get a contract that gives you a mobile phone without success?

  • Avoided handset financing deals
  • Considered a cheaper phone model

SIM Sherpa’s industry insight suggests mobile networks may still be willing to take customers on SIM only contracts, even if they have been declined for phone contracts before.

You may be able to prove your value as a reliable customer by first taking a SIM only contract and trying for a phone contract at a later date.

Important: SIM Sherpa does not hold specific information on the credit policies of UK mobile providers. We cannot guarantee that taking a SIM only contract with any network will allow you to be accepted for future mobile phone contracts.

Explanation: With SIM only contracts, you don’t receive a new mobile phone from your mobile network. No phone means lower risk for providers if people don’t pay. As a result, they may allow customers to take a SIM only contract that they would not allow to take a phone.

Your options:
Green tick Consider a SIM only contract for now and prove yourself to be a reliable, paying customer.

Approximate starting prices for SIM only contracts with these networks:

Other short term tactics to get a mobile phone contract quickly if all else fails (not recommended)

It may be easier to get SIM only than a phone

Friends and family

If you have tried other options to get a phone contract in your own name with no success, there is another option:

You can ask a trusted family member or friend with good credit standing to take out a contract themselves and then give you the phone. Many parents do this for their children.

Very important: Never place an order yourself using someone else's details to sign up for a mobile contract. Legally, this is fraud, even if they are a close friend or family member! They must place the order themselves.

Downsides: Your friend or family member will not be able to transfer the contract over to you once they have signed up. Nor can a Direct Debit be set up to come from your bank account to the mobile company. You'll always have to manage your account via your friend or family member.

When a contract is in someone else's name, you won't be building your credit rating with mobile phone companies, so you may end up still being declined later down the line, when you come to apply for a phone contract again for yourself.

Risks: By taking out a mobile phone contract themselves, your friend or family will need to undergo a credit check. They will also be liable to pay all bills for the phone and will remain the legal owner of the phone. You will need to trust each other to avoid potential issues that non-payment by either of you could bring.

SIM only contracts step by step guide

Declined for a SIM only contract? There are still alternatives to get a good value mobile deal.

Checklist of things to consider

SIM Sherpa stresses that you should not make multiple attempts to get credit with mobile networks.

This could leave a mark on your credit file that could make it even harder to get a SIM only contract or other financial product in future.

In general, if you've been declined for a SIM only contract, it's worth considering a network or deal, where you pre-pay for your monthly minutes, texts and data.

This can work out as equally good value as a SIM only contract if you find the right deal.

Explanation: when you pay up front, there is no risk for a mobile network that you can run up a large bill and not pay. For this reason, they do not need to credit check customers on these types of deals.

See SIM Sherpa's guide to no credit check SIM only deals or follow links below to see deals with no credit checks directly on mobile providers' websites.

All SIM only deals at these networks never have a credit check:


Only the pre-paid (Pay As You Go) deals with these networks have no credit check:

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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