Most networks carry out credit checks, which can be a problem if you have a poor credit history. But don't fret – not all is lost. Here's what you need to know to get a phone contract if you have a bad credit rating.
Bad credit mobile contract deals
Unfortunately, most networks perform credit checks on anyone signing up for a mobile contract that includes a handset.
Your credit score is based on your financial history – for example, whether you repay your credit on time and borrow within your limits. So, if you have a good score, you’re more likely to be approved for a mobile contract.
Additionally, the more expensive the phone is, the tougher it will be to pass a check. If you have a bad credit rating, you'll have more luck with a contract on a cheaper mobile.
You may also have more luck buying a deal from a reseller, such as Affordable Mobiles or Mobile Phones Direct, rather than directly from a network.
If you’re turned down for 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?
The latest iPhones are at the pricier end of the smartphone market. So you're less likely to be approved for one on a contract than if you opted for a cheaper, older model.
If you’ve got bad credit, your best chance of getting a top-end iPhone is to save up, so you can afford to buy it SIM-free and off-contract. You could also try looking into 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-only plans at all. See below for more on those.
Not to mention, 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 flexible, one-month contracts. You can even choose a data discount plan, where you get money back for any unused data at the end of the month.
You won’t be able to get a handset with Smarty, but its SIM-only plans are very competitive and they all come with unlimited minutes and texts.
Similarly, 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', which is a 30-day bundle of allowances to use. You can choose a new one when it runs out, or set it to renew automatically.
It's also worth noting that giffgaff's services are also very affordable. So they're well worth a look if you're on a tight budget.
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, rolling-contract SIM-only deal.
Tips to get a contract phone with bad credit
- Consider a cheaper phone. Naturally, the pricier the phone, the higher the risk of being turned down. To that end, we don’t recommend you choose a high-value phone like a brand-new Samsung Galaxy S model or the latest iPhone.
- If you’ve been refused once, don’t apply again straight away. This is because it will may show up on your credit rating and make it difficult for you to take out a contract in the 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 roll. 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, make sure you have a proper bank account with a credit or debit card.
For more information about your options, read our full article on this topic.
Why did I fail a network credit check?
Reasons you might have failed a credit check include:
- missed payments
- too many credit applications
- you don’t have enough credit history
- you’re not on the electoral roll
To find out exactly why you might have failed and what you can 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, it's best to be honest with the provider about your credit history.
If you're still rejected, we recommend trying to improve your credit score before attempting to get a phone contract with another network.
This is because applying for several different contracts at once can negatively impact your future chances of being accepted.
What networks do not require a credit check?
However, there some exceptions to this rule. For a network-by-network credit check breakdown, check out our one-stop guide.
If you do come across a network that’ll give you a mobile phone contract without a credit check, be aware that there may be some caveats. For example, prices might be inflated, and deals will end up being more expensive in the long run.
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 right now, 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, although you may have to sign up to a trial – just 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 where you need to improve.
In the meantime, some things you can do to bring your score up include:
- Checking your credit report and making sure all your details are up to date
- 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 so you don’t miss repayments
- Trying to consolidate any debts you may have
- Avoiding linking your finances to people with worse credit than you - such as via joint accounts, utility bills, and so on
- Avoiding making too many applications for credit – as well as mobile phone contracts, this could be credit cards or loans
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, see above for some tips on getting a plan that works.
Can I get a SIM-only deal with no credit check?
Although it's 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.