Mobile Social Tariffs Explained

How to save money on your phone plan

SIM cards.

Did you know, if you're on benefits, you might be able to access a cheaper data SIM plan not available to the general public?

In this guide, we've explained everything you need to know about mobile phone social tariffs. We've discussed how these social tariffs work, which providers offer them, and who is eligible for these cheaper plans.

Although there are only three UK mobile networks that offer social tariffs, these plans can be a great way to get an unlimited data phone plan for a very reasonable price.

What are mobile social tariffs?

Due to the cost of living crisis, certain mobile phone companies now offer special social tariffs for those on benefits.

If you qualify for a social tariff, you’ll be able to get a discounted data SIM deal, potentially allowing you to save a decent bit of money on your mobile phone bill each month.

These social tariffs generally give you unlimited calls and texts in the UK, as well as a decent data limit – some social tariffs come with unlimited data.

Therefore, you don’t have to worry about not being able to communicate with family or friends if you use a social tariff.

Unfortunately, there aren’t currently any mobile social tariffs available on pay monthly phone deals. You can only get a SIM card social tariff, meaning you need to own your phone outright to use these cheaper deals.

Which mobile networks offer social tariffs?

Currently, the following UK mobile networks offer data SIM deals at a discount for those on benefits.

  • VOXI, a subsidiary of Vodafone, offers a £10 social tariff SIM with unlimited data, calls, and texts, as well as 5G download speeds.
  • Smarty, a subsidiary of Three, offers a £12 social tariff SIM with unlimited data, calls, and texts, and 5G download speeds.
  • EE offers something called EE Basics, which included unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and a 5GB data allowance, for £12 per month. With EE Basics, your download speeds are limited to 25 megabits per second.

Each of these social tariffs is available on a flexible pay as you go plan, meaning you don’t need to lock into a long-term contract. However, you will need to own a phone to use these social tariffs – they don’t include a device.

Overall, VOXI and Smarty offer the best social tariffs at the moment, since EE Basics’ data limit is so restrictive. We’d definitely recommend seeing if you’re eligible for VOXI or Smarty’s deals before checking out EE’s social tariffs.

Who is eligible for a mobile social tariff?

It varies slightly from network to network, but in general, you should be able to get a mobile social tariff if you’re on at least one of the following benefits:

  • Universal credit
  • Pension credit
  • Income-based employment support
  • Income support
  • A job seeker’s allowance

If you’re on one of these benefits, the next step is to apply for a social tariff on a mobile network’s website. You will need to prove your eligibility before signing up, and once you have a social tariff, the network will likely check in every 12 months or so to ensure that you’re still eligible for a discounted rate.

How to save money if you’re not eligible for a social tariff

If you’re not eligible for a social tariff, there are other ways you can save money on your mobile phone bills.

  • Check out the National Databank. This is an initiative run by the Good Things Foundation that provides free mobile data to those in need across the UK.
  • Look for a cheap SIM-only deal with a 15GB or lower monthly data limit, allowing you to buy a cheap plan, while still giving you a decent data allowance. Even if you’re not on a social tariff, providers like Smarty and iD Mobile offer very competitive prices, even if you want a pay as you go contract.
  • Buy a refurbished phone, rather than a new one, to save money on a handset.

To learn more ways to save money on your mobile bill, read our complete guide on the subject.

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