Most mobile deals perform credit checks before they let you sign up to a plan... which can be a problem if you have a poor credit history. But don't fret - all isn't lost. Here's how to get a mobile plan if you have bad credit.
How to get a contract phone with bad credit
Although we'd recommend that you try and improve your credit score before purchasing a contract phone, there's a few things you can do that might make the process easier:
- Consider a cheaper phone.
- If you’ve been refused once, don’t apply again
- Take out a SIM-only plan.
- Double check you're on the electoral role.
- Check your bank account.
- Consider a cheaper phone. Naturally, the pricier the phone, the higher the risk of refusal. To that end, we don’t recommend you choose a high-value phone like a brand-new Samsung Galaxy.
- If you’ve been refused once, don’t apply again. This is because it will show up on your credit rating., and make it difficult for you to take out a contract in future.
- Take out a SIM-only plan. They generally have a higher approval rating than phone contracts. However, this would mean using an old phone or buying a cheaper model – until your credit score improves, at least.
- Double check you're on the electoral role. If you aren’t already registered, sign up and apply for a contract under that same address.
- Check your bank account. Lastly, when thinking about buying a mobile phone, ensure you have a proper bank account with a credit or debit card.
Read our full article on this topic here.
Bad credit mobile contract deals
Unfortunately, most networks perform credit checks on anyone signing up for a mobile contract that includes a handset. The more expensive the phone is, the tougher it will be to pass a check - you'll have more luck with a contract on a cheaper mobile.
You may also have more luck buying a deal from a reseller, rather than direct from a network. (Which can also give you a lower price - win-win!)
If you try and fail to sign up to a contract because of your credit history, however, the best thing to do is save up and buy a phone outright, and get a SIM to put in it.
How can I get a new iPhone with bad credit?
New iPhones are at the pricier end of the smartphone scale. So you're less likely to be approved for one on a contract than if you opted for a cheaper, older model.
Your best chance of getting one if you've got bad credit is saving so you're able to afford to buy it SIM-free and off-contract. Or investigating retailers that specialise in contracts for customers with bad credit, who may be able to help you.
Bad credit SIM-only deals
Your best bet for getting a mobile deal when you have a bad credit history is a SIM-only deal. You're more likely to be able to sign up - and even more likely if it's a 30-day plan - and there are some networks who don't perform credit checks on their SIM plans at all. See below for more on those.
The vast majority of pay-as-you-go SIM plans are blissfully credit-check-free as well.
Which networks offer bad credit SIM-only deals?
Here are a few networks that let you sign up to pay-monthly SIM deals without going through a credit check:
Smarty prides itself on hassle-free and straightforward SIM-only plans - none of which require a credit check. As a SIM-only mobile network, Smarty’s plans are all one-month contracts which focus on data and rewarding customers for any unused data each month. You won’t be able to get a handset with Smarty, but the plans they do offer are very competitive and they all come with unlimited minutes and unlimited texts.
Again, giffgaff's SIM plans also work on a pay-as-you-go basis, so there are no credit checks. When you sign up, you can pick a 'goodybag' - a 30-day bundle of allowances to use - and choose a new one when it runs out, or set it to renew automatically. As a bonus, giffgaff's services are also very low in price.
Nearly all networks let you get a pay-as-you-go SIM without a credit check. Many of them have a handy system where you can buy those 30-day bundles too, so it's better value and not too much different from a standard SIM-only deal. Vodafone offers this, for instance.
Why did I fail a network credit check?
Reasons you might have failed a credit include missed payments, too many credit applications, you don't have enough credit history or you might not be on the electoral role. To find out exactly why you might have failed and what you to do next, check out our comprehensive guide.
What's the easiest network to get a contract with?
Each network uses a different credit agency to run its checks. For this reason, once you've picked a contract you like the sound of, its better to be honest with the provider about your credit history.
If you are still rejected, we recommend trying to improve your credit score before trying with another network, as applying for several different contracts at once can negatively impact your future chances of being accepted.
There are a number of useful resources available online offering tips on how to improve your credit score, including the money advice service and moneysavingexpert.com.
What networks do not require a credit check?
All of the big four networks, plus most of the smaller virtual network operators, require you to pass pass a credit check before they'll agree to give you a phone contract.
However, there some exceptions to this rule. For a network-by-network credit check breakdown, check out our comprehensive guide.
How can I improve my credit score?
Folks with good credit history do have more choice over a mobile plan. But if yours isn't so great, don't worry - you aren't doomed to have bad credit forever.
Use a credit agency like Callcredit, Equifax, or Experian to see your current score. Most will let you see your rating for free, though you may have to sign up to a trial - remember to cancel it at the end of the month, in that case.
You'll be able to see what your rating is, as well as what's affecting it, so you can see the areas you need to improve.
As we say, some things you can do to help in the meantime include…
- Registering on the electoral roll
- Making sure you have a proper bank account
- Paying your mobile plan consistently and on time, if you do manage to sign up
- Paying all your other bills on time too, preferably via direct debit
- Avoiding linking your finances to people with worse credit than you - such as via joint accounts, utility bills, and so on.
What phone can I get with bad credit?
Sadly, a poor credit history means you may have difficulty getting a mobile plan - but don't worry! There are still deals you can sign up to.
While the majority of mobile networks do perform credit checks, some are less strict than others. The first thing we'd recommend you do is to find a deal you like and try signing up anyway. If the network accepts you, great; if not, keep reading, and we'll give you some tips on getting a plan that works.
Can I get a SIM-only deal with no credit check?
Although it is possible to get a SIM-only deal with no credit check, your options will be limited. Networks that offer SIM only deals with no credit check include Asda Mobile, giffgaff, Lebara, Smarty and Voxi.
What do I need to provide to the network for a credit check?
Usually, you’ll be asked for your name, date of birth, marital status, current address and addresses for the last three years, plus your employment status.
You may also be asked for bank account and credit card information, as well as when you opened them.