Purchasing a mobile phone or SIM Only contract in the UK requires a credit check to be made by the mobile phone company you are buying from. This is essentially where the retailer will make contact with a third-party credit reference agency like Equifax or Experian in addition to their own credit criteria. This process happens both in-store and online so there is no escaping it, particularly if you want a mobile phone contract that comes with a handset.

Why do I need to have a credit check for SIM Only contract?

The purpose is to find out your credit worthiness and product suitability, check your identity, manage your account, trace and recover debts and prevent criminal activity such as identity fraud.

What do I need for the SIM Only credit check process?

• You’ll need to be over 18
• You’ll need some form of UK credit or financial history.
• You should have a UK address and on the electoral roll for that address
• You’ll need a good credit score

In preparation, it’s a good idea to check the last two before you purchase your SIM Only contract. Mobile phone credit checks tend to be more stringent because of the higher monthly cost, the length of the contract (normally 24 months) and the cost of the phone as well. It’s for this reason you are more likely to be turned down when it comes to purchase your contract and the credit check is done. However, it is not just people with bad credit that fail the checks, it can happen for a variety of minor reasons like moving home or having other recent credit checks performed. These things can inadvertently lead to a failed check and cause a lot of hassle for you. In these situations, you may want to seek out what the issue is and try again at a later date or seek an alternative. Trying again too soon however, can make the situation worse as each credit search leaves a footprint on your file and multiple failed checks make it even less likely that you will be accepted.

I’ve failed a credit check, what can I do?

If you’ve been turned down for having a poor or bad credit history or worried that you might be, then there are alternatives out there.

There are a variety of reasons why you might have failed a credit check but here are a couple of options:

1. Choose a lower value SIM Only contract. There is ultimately a lower risk for SIM only deals with a lower monthly cost and this could have an impact on whether you pass or fail the credit check
2. Consider a network that has less stringent checks or none at all
3. Don’t get a contract at all and opt for to purchase a phone SIM Free and add a Pay As You Go SIM.


Are there SIM only deals with no credit check?

With SIM Only contracts, all mobile phone networks including Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three perform credit checks at the time of purchase. This is the process for both 30-day contracts and longer term, 12-month contracts.

The exception to this rule is TPO who offer 30-day contracts with no credit checks. Both giffgaff and VOXI operate like a PAYG SIM and don’t require a check either.

The most popular networks do offer PAYG alternatives that don’t require a credit check and you can set up a recurring pre-paid payment if you want to.

Credit checks are carried out on SIM Only contracts from these networks:

  • Vodafone
  • O2
  • EE
  • BT
  • Virgin
  • Tesco
  • SKY

No Credit Check Required

  • Giffgaff
  • TPO
  • VOXI
  • Other PAYG SIMs

Do SIM Only contracts improve credit score?

Yes, signing up for a SIM Only contract can help improve your credit score however, this is on the assumption that you pay your bills every month on time. Failing to do this could have a negative effect on your credit score.

Can I upgrade my SIM Only to a mobile phone contract without a credit check?

This will depend on the mobile phone network but if you have been paying your bills and have a positive payment history then it is likely that the network will not need to carry out a credit check before upgrading to a mobile phone contract.

I’ve just moved to the UK. Can I get a SIM Only contract?

This might be one of the reasons that you aren’t able to get a mobile phone contract or a SIM Only contract. As mentioned above, you’ll need to have a UK bank account with some credit history and it’s likely that you won’t have this if you have just moved to the UK from another country. Your best option here is to go with a PAYG SIM deal in the short term until you build up some positive credit history and register on the electoral roll. For more insightful information on building your credit history if you have just moved to the UK, see this article.