What is a SIM-only plan?
It’s a mobile phone contract that includes minutes, texts and data, but with a SIM-only deal, you don’t get a new phone.
SIM-only plans are usually cheaper than bill pay deals because you’re not paying for the cost of a new handset.
Are SIM-only plans prepay or bill pay?
It’s a hybrid of both because plans are usually offered as a 30-day rolling contract, with no contract tie in but you have to provide your contact and bank details. The monthly price is fixed but you can choose between bill pay or prepay type deals.
Which networks offer SIM-only plans in Ireland?
There are 9 mobile networks that offer SIM-only deals in Ireland.
Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile, 48.ie, Clear Mobile, GoMo and Lycamobile are Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) which means they’re powered by either Vodafone, eir or Three’s network.
How much do SIM-only plans cost?
This depends on the network and offer you choose. Unlimited SIM-only plans range between €12.99 and €35 per month while capped plans usually cost around €15 per month.
Some mobile networks offer a discount for 12 months, after which the monthly cost increases, but because it’s a 30-day rolling contract you will be free to leave and take your number with you.
What are the pros and cons of a SIM-only plan?
If you’re not ready to part with your beloved phone and your phone contract has finished, then there are many advantages to switching to a SIM-only deal.
- Cheaper deals
- Short contracts
- No tie-ins or penalties
- No topping up
- Keep your phone & number
- You don’t get a new phone
- Discount price can double after 12 months
- You may need to unlock your phone
- You’ll need to give contact & bank details
Should you switch to a SIM-only deal?
If you’re happy with your mobile phone and don’t want to upgrade for at least 12 months, switching to a SIM-only deal will save you money.
This type of plan is also cheaper if you buy a discounted or refurbished mobile phone.
Here’s a couple of things to consider before making the change.
- Check that you are out of any contract tie-in. If you are still in your phone contract you’ll be charged for leaving early so it’s better to wait.
- Confirm you can keep your number. Most mobile providers allow you to keep your number, but check with your new provider before you make the move.
- Check your new provider’s network coverage. If the provider is an MVNO, find out who powers the network - the coverage will be the same.
- Is your phone unlocked? If it’s locked to a network, you may need to unlock your phone, but don’t worry, it’s a simple process.
- SIM-only deals require you to give contact and bank details, if you don’t want to do this, buying a prepay SIM maybe a better option.
How to find the best SIM-only deal
The best SIM-only deal for you will depend on how much you use your phone, what you use it for and where you live. When you’re comparing networks and plans, think about:
- Price: For most, this is the most important thing when picking a plan. If the deal has an initial discount, make sure you also consider the ongoing monthly cost when the offer period ends.
- Coverage: A good signal and reception are vital for your mobile phone. If you’re not sure which networks have the best coverage, our dedicated guide can help.
- Unlimited or capped: Unlimited deals allow you to call, text and download as much as you like. Capped deals are cheaper but you’ll get a set number of minutes, texts and data and be charged if you go over.
- Contract length: Most SIM-only deals now have 30-day rolling contracts, so you’re free to leave whenever you like. Longer contracts with tie-ins are normally cheaper.
Switching to SIM-only FAQs
Can I keep my mobile number?
Yes, this is called ‘porting’ your number and makes changing network a much smoother process.
Keeping your number means you won’t have to tell all your friends and family your new number or risk losing contact with anyone.
Your new network will guide you through the steps you need to take to port your mobile number
Can I use my current SIM card if I switch network?
No, if you move to a new network, you will need to get a new SIM card. Your new mobile phone operator will provide this when you sign up with them.
However, if you switch to a SIM-only deal with your existing provider, you can keep your current SIM.
How do I know if I'm free to switch?
If you got a phone as part of your current mobile phone contract it’s likely that your contract was for 24 months. If you’re not sure when you signed up, check your online account, app or contact customer services.
Early exit fees for mobile phone contracts can be high, requiring you to pay for the months remaining on your plan, so wait for your contract to end before switching.
How do I unlock my phone?
You can find out how to unlock your phone in our guide. You may have to pay a fee if you are still in contract.
What happens when I change my network?
All that will happen when you change network, is you’ll see a new mobile provider name on your phone and on your bills. You may also experience minor differences in mobile phone coverage.
Switching your mobile phone network is straightforward and your new provider will guide you through any changes you need to make.
Where can I buy a refurbished phone?
You can find out more about buying a recycled phone in our helpful guide Should you buy a refurbished phone? which tells you all you need to know about refurbished phones and where to buy one.
Which network should I choose?
In Ireland, the three main networks are eir, Three and Vodafone. All of the other operators, including Lycamobile, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile, 48 and Clear Mobile use one of these main networks to provide their customers with phone service.
So, if you have decent coverage with Three, for example, you will get very similar coverage from Virgin Mobile, which is powered by the same network.
You can read more about this in our dedicated guide to mobile phone coverage in Ireland.
Will I lose signal when I switch?
You may experience some downtime between changing networks - you’ll notice your coverage will disappear on your old SIM, at which point you should start to use your new SIM.
At most, it will be about an hour but is usually less.
Get a SIM only deal with the calls, texts and data you need for less.
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