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Have you bartered for a better mobile deal?

Toy workmen working on smartphone

When your mobile phone starts to slow down and it generally begins to look a bit tired, you may be looking to upgrade to a new handset. But how do you make sure you’re getting the best out of your upgrade?

My phone’s beginning to look a little scruffy around the edges. There’s a gouge in the glass where my keys have bitten into it, the silver trim is tatty, and the memory is stuffed to the brim with apps and games.

Fortunately, I’m on a contract and it’s nearly upgrade time. A pristine and glamorous new handset is just around the corner.

Mobile providers want to keep you

Like Christmas, upgrade time only comes around once a year. Or once every two years if, like me, you’re on a long 24 month contract.

It’s an opportunity for your mobile provider to tie you in for another stint, guaranteeing them your hard-earned cash for at least another 12 months. And because binding you into a renewed contract is so important to them, they’re willing to dangle a nice upgrade in front of your nose to keep you sweet.

Nothing new here, I hear you cry – but what about taking advantage of their eagerness to keep you? What about trying to upgrade your upgrade?

Upgrading your upgrade

What do I mean by upgrading your upgrade? Well, your mobile provider will be giving you a better phone, but will you be getting a better deal?

The last time I upgraded, my provider offered me unlimited texts, 600 minutes, but only a minuscule amount of data. As data is the most important bit to me, I bartered with them and secured double the amount of data for the same amount of money. It wasn’t easy – I had to threaten to sever our relationship, citing deals with other providers to frighten them into action.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to upgrade your upgrade and report back your top tips for getting the best deal going. Or if you’ve previously had success haggling, let us know what bargains you managed to bag and whether you scooped any monthly savings as well. The best response will be featured in Which? magazine!


I do not use my phone alot to be honest. I work from home & always have the wi-fi on so no need for much mobile internet data. I never send more than maybe 5 txt’s a month as my friends use a app called Whatsapp ( http://www.whatsapp.com ) that lets me send messages & photos for free.

As for minutes I don’t use many too. I normally tweet companies and ask the to call my “home phone” and as for friends, we use skype.

Due to all this there is no need to try and haggle for anything extra. So when my contract is up I will pop onto Quidco & change networks and get cashback for this for around the £100 mark.

Every now and again there will be no “good” cashback rates and i will pop over to Tesco Pay as you go (for clubcard points) till I see a “good” cashback deal and will go for that one.

I know this is not the normal way to-do it. But lets be honest Which? I aint normal, you know that by now lol

Ollie says:
4 October 2013

To beet the retention agent of your mobile phone company, you must know and be aware of how you use your phone and what your actual usage patterns are. A great tool to gain all the insights you need for science based haggling is http://www.billmonitor.com (free to use, secure and Ofcom accredited)

Peter Morgan says:
4 October 2013

I saw what I considered to be a good deal (unlimited data, 500 minutes and 5000 texts) from three-clearance.co.uk back in January. I didn’t want the refurbished phone particularly (a Nokia E5) but that was just a bonus, when it was only going to cost me 11 pounds a month.

Unfortunately, since they were out of stock of the Nokia, so I could not get the deal. On another web site, I saw T-Mobile ‘top of the range’ “Full Monty” (unlimited everything) was 16 pounds a month (the same as I had been paying Three, for 600 minutes etc). I signed up and received 101 pounds cashback from another website.

Six months on, with about 2 months of poor service (calls disconnectin, internet hardly ever working) I complained and found they had removed a number of masts (or switched them to EE 4G). Eventually they allowed me to cancel the contract (and with the 101 cashback it had pretty much cost me nothing for the calls, internet and texts for those 6 months… they even sent me a “signal booster” box (made my phone work on 3G using my home broadband to transfer voice calls etc)

Since Three reduced the cost of the “One Plan” SIM deal (2000 minutes, 5000 texts, unlimited data with tethering allowed) to 15 pounds a month on 12 month contract, I already know what I will do when I next change contract… unless the other networks are willing to severely drop their prices. I would never have considered it at 25 pounds but at 15, it makes sense (for me). Obviously it does depend on whether you have a reasonable signal from Three but I have used them for data since 2008 and while customer service needs some improvements, the service I’ve had has been good overall.

Neil B says:
4 October 2013

I always look around first, I then tell my provider what I want and how much I want to pay.
If their plan works out more then suggest the reduce it with a loyalty bonus, they have done this every time for me. I have had to threaten to leave once just to enforce my possition.

I would advise against “upgrades” and in general against acquiring mobile phones from the mobile networks. Buy your mobile phone SIM-free and buy a SIM-only service. If you get your phone from a mobile network, then:

– The low or zero upfront price of the phone will be funded by a disguised loan from the mobile network, and you will usually pay more overall, effectively paying a high rate of interest through an inflated monthly charge.
– You will be tied into a long service contract, often for 24 months, rather than a 1-month or 12-month SIM-only contract. You will then be unable to switch networks when the market changes, for example if you move home to somewhere without coverage or your network removes coverage in your area (EE does this a lot) or simply if prices come down over time, as is likely for 4G.
– You will continue paying the inflated monthly charge even after you have paid off the cost of the phone, unless you remember to take action at the end of the minimum contract period.
– The phone will be SIM-locked, making it more difficult to switch networks and impeding you from using local SIM cards abroad, allowing your UK network to impose unreasonably high roaming charges by excluding foreign competition.
– You won’t be able to change your phone whenever you want and will instead have to wait until you are due an “upgrade”.

If you cannot currently afford the upfront cost of a SIM-free phone, then you should either save up in advance or it is often cheaper to get a proper loan than a disguised loan from a mobile network. For example Apple provides 14.9% APR loans for iPhones.

I recently found out that my broadband deal was costing me £24pm instead of the £22.50 contract I had signed in for! Apparently they(VIRGIN MEDIA0 had sent me a letter in November 2013 which I had not recieved or had no knowledge of! Any way I was on to their CS team immediately to ask how come a contract in England with Broadband supplier doesn’t mean a thing anymore! But I had other good reasons to cal , namely my streaming quality of image was abysmal, cut out and buffered rather more then I expected it to under their supposed 30mbs.. The kind CS gentleman in question very quickly dropped my monthly bill to £19 so I was rather relieved and pleased. SO DON”T HOLD BACK IF THINGS AREN’T UP TO SCRATCH AND ASK FOR A REDUCTION IMMEDIATLEY !

Anthony Jordan says:
19 November 2014

I am a long term customer of T-Mobile and I can not fault them. I am on the original Full Monty package, 2000 mins,unlimited data, unlimited tethering,unlimited 08 numbers and £10 loyalty a month. When I exceeded my 2000 mins, I paid the bill.But for the following months and there after. T-Mobile gave me another 800 mins free, on top of my 2000 mins for the duration of my contact.
And when my contract is up for renewal, T-Mobile will let me have what ever phone I like- free, But I have only ever had contracts with mercury one2one and then T-Mobile when their company name changed.

Anthony Howe says:
1 October 2015

O2’s upgrade offers were not competitive with others – the phone I wanted would be £16.50 a month for 24 months for 300 mins, 300MB and unlimited texts. When I asked about leaving O2 the woman I got put through to held off valiantly for a couple of minutes, but when I described better deals elsewhere and asked for a PAC code she offered me the phone for £139.99 and a SIM-only 12-month deal for £7.50 a month for 500 mins, 500MB and 5000 texts. Over 2 years that amounts to a total saving of £76 plus greater freedom and more minutes and data.

Ive been with EE since T mobile/Orange days, 2 years ago on my last upgrade I was offered a I phone 6, Im now due my next upgrade but im not being offered a newer phone, how come? infact im not being offered much other than go to sim only for a few pound less a month than paying now. Its a bit disappointing specially when my wife is with O2 and gets better phone signal and more data etc Makes me think about leaving.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

eric says:
1 August 2017

yes thats true but look at the prices ,they arent deals???