If your child is starting school soon, you may be thinking about getting their first mobile phone. But to avoid high monthly bills it’s important to get the right tariff – especially if you are paying the bill.
With so many tariffs available from on the networks, it can be confusing knowing what tariff to choose, we’ve selected our best tariffs, but before you start research consider these questions:
What will the phone be used for?
Operators have a range of tariffs, some geared to texting and some to talking. Will your child primarily be sending SMS messages or will they need to make phone calls? If your child is older and has a Facebook account a small amount of data may be necessary.
How do you want to pay the bill?
If your child will be topping up using their own money, then pay as you go (PAYG) is the best option, they’ll be able to buy credit from as little as £5. However if you are paying the bill consider a SIM-only plan which lets you pay a set amount every month using direct debit and renews automatically each month. Find out more about SIM-only here.
Of course you can sign up to a Pay Monthly contract, where you also pay a set amount every month and get a free phone, but this requires a longer (and bigger) financial commitment.
How much do you want to spend a month?
From our research £10 a month provides an ample amount of calls and texts, it may be less with less use. Pay a regular amount on a SIM-only contract and you’ll get an allocation of calls, texts and data, the same applies to PAYG, so check with your provider.
Do you want to cap the bill?
However sensible your child is, all it takes is some texts to premium rate numbers and a few long conversations to friends and the bill can swiflly rise. Tesco and T-Mobile offer capped tariffs on Pay Monthly contracts where once the monthly allocation of calls and texts is gone, top up is via PAYG. Details are below.
Do you want itemised billing?
If you want to see who keep track of who child has been calling make sure the tariff has an itemised bill – something you don’t get on PAYG. Online itemised billing is fairly standard on SIM-only contracts, although not with giffgaff.
Best tariffs for children
We’ve selected packages without a phone, so you’ll need to pick up a cheap handset or pass on an old one of your own.
Here’s a break down of the text and call cost per minute if you get a standard SIM from the major network operators. giffgaff is the cheapest overall. Orange Racoon is good value for calls, the other network operators offer very similar prices.
|Network||Call cost||Text cost||Website|
|Tesco Mobile||25p||10p||Tesco Mobile|
|Virgin Media||26p||10p||Virgin Media|
The following are the best value SIM-only tariffs priced around £10 a month and lasting 30-days. Set up a direct debit and it renews automatically, each month there’s a monthly allocation of minutes, texts and (sometimes) data.
At £7.50 a month Tesco Mobile offers the best value for calls and texts, followed by Virgin Media. For either texts or calls giffgaff is the best value at just £5 a month. For data use Three’s SIM 100 plan offers 1GB data for £10 or giffgaff’s £10 goodybag offers unlimited data, texts and 250 minutes.
|giffgaff||£5 Hokey Cokey||60 minutes/free giffgaff calls||300||n/a||giffgaff|
|giffgaff||£5 goodybag||Free giffgaff calls||unlimited||n/a||giffgaff|
|giffgaff||£10 goodybag||250 minutes /free giffgaff calls||unlimited||unlimited||giffgaff|
|Tesco Mobile||£7.50||150 minutes||5000||n/a||Tesco Mobile|
|Tesco Mobile||£10||250 minutes||5000||n/a||Tesco Mobile|
|T-Mobile||£10.50||100 minutes /250 T-Mobile calls||5000||n/a||T-Mobile|
|Three||£10 SIM 100||100 minutes||3000||1GB||Three|
|Virgin Media (customers)||£7||125 minutes /free Virgin Media calls||unlimited||500MB data||Virgin Media|
|Virgin Media||£7||125 minutes||2500||250MB data||Virgin Media|
Tesco Mobile Pay Monthly Capped SIM-only
Tesco Mobile also offers Capped SIM-only contracts. Capping the SIM means when the credit runs out, the only way you can top up is by using PAYG, avoiding high monthly bills. Families with two Tesco Mobile Pay Monthly or SIM-only subscriptions can get 250MB data, 500 extra minutes to Tesco Mobile phones and 150 extra minutes
T-Mobile U Fix
T-Mobile’s U Fix tariff is a good solution if you want to control the monthly cost and get a free phone. Contracts last 12-months, with inclusive minutes and texts, but each month once credit has been used top-up using PAYG, so there are no surprises at bill time.
Customers under 24 get an extra 1GB of data, unlimited calls and texts to Orange and T-Mobile numbers. They need to either, top up £15 a month, or be on a Pay Monthly Plan worth £15 or higher.
Bemilo is billed as the UK’s safest mobile network. For £2.95 a month you can control calls and messages, the time of day the phone can be used, web browseing and the block bullies. Calls cost 10p a minute and messages 10p and are purchased via PAYG
Do you want to find out more about the safety issues check out our feature: ‘How to choose a mobile phone for your child.’