How do I get a mobile phone deal with a poor credit score?

Having a poor credit score can make it difficult to get a mobile phone, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. So, if you’ve struggled to find what you need, here’s what you can do to get a phone package even if you have poor credit.

To find the best mobile phone contract and SIM deals for you, we've partnered with Uswitch.

Do all phone networks carry out credit checks?

Most but not all phone providers carry out credit checks. Whether they do or not will depend on the type of phone package you’re looking for.

There are two different types of credit check that can be carried out:

Soft search

These searches simply verify details such as your name or address. This allows the lender to confirm you are who you say you are. Crucially, soft searches aren’t visible to anyone so no-one will know the search has happened.

Hard search

These searches look at your credit history in more detail. Lenders will look at the credit you’ve applied for and what agreements you have in place. They’ll pay particular attention to whether or not you’ve made repayments on time or defaulted on loans altogether.

Any official records of money struggles, including County Court Judgements (CCJs), Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) or declarations of bankruptcy will also be visible.

More importantly, when a hard search is carried out, it leaves a trace or ‘footprint’ which can be seen by other potential lenders carrying out a credit check. Several applications for credit within a short space of time, can be a red flag that suggests you’re having money problems. As a result, some lenders (including phone providers) could be wary about approving your application for credit or loans.

Can I get a phone contract with bad credit?

If you have a poor credit score, it can be harder to get a mobile phone contract, particularly if you’re after the latest smartphone and lots of data. But while your choice of deals might be limited, there are still options open to you, for example:

Consider a cheaper pay-monthly contract

If you’re specifically looking for a new handset along with data, minutes and texts (your airtime plan), it could be worth looking for a cheaper deal with an older handset. These packages are likely to cost less compared to those with the very newest smartphones so providers may be more lenient with their credit approvals.

It’s worth knowing that even if you are approved for a cheaper pay-monthly deal, you may be expected to put down a larger deposit compared to someone with a better credit rating.

SIM-only airtime plan

SIM-only means you just get the airtime plan – this covers your data, minutes and texts. Because these deals don’t come with a handset, you’ll need to either have one you’re still happy to use or consider buying a handset outright. If you can’t afford to buy a brand-new mobile, it’s worth taking a look at a refurbished model instead.

You can buy SIM-only packages without a contract, as a rolling 30-day contract or with a longer agreement, typically up to 12-months.

Broadly speaking, the shorter the term, the less likely it is you’ll need a credit check. However, as SIM plans tend to be cheaper, providers may be more willing to approve an application for a longer-term contract even if you have a lower credit score. Otherwise, if you don’t need a lot of data, you can find SIM-only plans for as little as £3.95.

Pay-as-you-go mobile phone

Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) is just as it sounds – you only buy the data, minutes and texts you need. Because of this, you won’t need a credit check.

You can buy plans with or without a handset so this can be a good option if you actually need a new phone as well as airtime.

The main difference between PAYG and a SIM-only deal is that with a PAYG, you have to remember to buy extra airtime when you need it. SIM plans come as airtime ‘bundles’ usually for a month at a time (with or without a contract).

Why do I need a credit check for a mobile phone deal?

Pay-monthly mobile phone deals are a type of credit agreement. The phone provider is agreeing to supply you with a handset and airtime on the promise that you’ll pay them back over a fixed period of time. Based on that, providers need to understand what the chances are of you paying back what you owe in full (which usually means carrying out a credit check).

Are there any phone providers who don’t carry out credit checks?

There are a handful of phone providers that don’t carry out credit checks. These will usually be for contract-free SIM-only deals or PAYG plans:

  • Lebara
  • Smarty
  • giffgaff
  • Voxi

Where can I find mobile phone deals without a credit check?

You can compare a range of airtime plans that don’t need a credit check at Uswitch, where you can also compare pay-monthly and SIM-only deals.

To find the best mobile phone contract and SIM deals for you, we've partnered with Uswitch.

If you’re not sure what’s right for you, you can also take a look at our guide on how to pick the best mobile phone plan, which can help you find what you need.


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