How to haggle with your mobile provider

Woman haggling with laptop and credit card on hand.

Are you paying too much for your mobile contract? Here’s how to haggle to get a better deal, saving money in the process.

It’s too easy to get in the habit of setting up a debit, then getting used to it being taken from your account each month without really questioning it. In fact, companies rely on this type of behaviour.

But by languishing in an old contract – such as your mobile phone – you could be losing out on much better deals. And if you don’t want to switch company, here’s how to save some money and get the best deal by haggling with your mobile provider.

Do you already own your own handset? Check out the best SIM only deals.

Are you paying too much for your mobile?

Some 98% of UK adults have a mobile. But we waste a whopping £530 million a year shelling out on out-of-date contracts and paying for phones we already own.

However, 93% of us are unaware we’re doing this, with the average person wasting £200 according to Virgin Media O2.

If this sounds like you, then it’s time to brush up on your haggling skills.

Step #1: Start by checking your contract

There’s no point wasting your haggling skills on a fruitless call. So it’s worth knowing the best time to get in touch with your provider.

The ideal time to haggle is before your contract ends, usually at least 30 days in advance. This is when your provider will worry that you’ll leave for a competitor.  

Providers must remind you when your contract is due to end, but it’s worth making a note yourself. If you rely on your provider, it may be anything from 10 – 40 days beforehand.  

Haggling mid-contract is likely to be a complete waste of time, even if you spot a much cheaper rival deal. This is because once you’re signed up to a contract, providers know you’ll have to pay hefty penalties to get out of it. 

Step #2: Do you want to pay less or get more for your money?

Before you put your haggling skills to the test and try to barter with your provider, it’s worth thinking about what you want.

Do you want more for your money? So for example more data each month, without paying more? Or stick with your existing deal but just pay less?

If you’ve been on a contract that covers the cost of your phone and airtime, you should definitely expect a cheaper deal when your contract is up. Otherwise, over time, you can end up paying for your phone several times over.

Step #3: Shop around and compare prices

It’s worth shopping around by comparing mobile deals or checking out the small print on any other deals you spot. Then you’ll know what you want before getting in touch with your provider.

If you rush in and make the call unprepared, you may still get a discount. But without doing your homework, it may not end up being super competitive compared with rival offers.

Step #4: Pick up the phone and make the call

Depending on your provider, you may be able to negotiate online. But it’s better to call your provider’s customer service team if you can.

When you phone up, and ask for ‘disconnections’ or ‘customer retentions’ – or even press the ‘thinking of leaving us’ option. 

If you’re asked why you want to speak to these people, explain that your contract’s coming up for renewal (or ended), and you’re thinking of leaving to get a better deal.

This then usually fast-tracks you through to that final step, where the people you speak to here (in disconnections or retentions) have the authority to give the biggest discounts. It’s really the last port of call before you give notice to leave, so their priority is to keep you as a customer.

How to negotiate

Explain the type of contract or deal you’re currently on, when it ends and if you want a cheaper price, more data or both.

This is where doing your homework can pay off. So if, for example, you travel abroad a lot and don’t want to pay data roaming charges, you could try to negotiate a package where you don’t pay more for this.

You may be surprised how quickly an offer is made, but remember you don’t have to instantly accept it. It’s still worth trying to negotiate further, especially if you’ve had issues or problems in the past.

You could also look at the best SIM only deals if you’re happy with your existing handset or considering buying one outright from another outlet. Companies you may not think of like Superdrug are now offering SIM only mobile deals.

If you’re on a low income or claiming certain benefits, you may be eligible for a social mobile tariff with prices from £10 per month.

Didn't get what you wanted?

If you don’t get what you want, or your existing provider can’t match a competitor’s deal, you may decide it’s time to leave.

In this case, check the notice period. If you’re within 30 days of your contract ending, or it’s already ended, you may need to give 30 days’ notice to go.

However, if you’ve got time, it’s still worth one final call a few days later, just to see if there’s any final wriggle room for them to budge when it comes to price or packages.

The best mobile companies to haggle with

When it comes to haggling, you may have more luck with some companies than others.

According to a poll by MoneySavingExpert, this is how much success you’re likely to have with the biggest mobile providers:

Provider (with total votes) No success 'Small' success 'Big' success Total success
Talk Talk (208) 15% 27% 58% 85%
Three (166) 27% 31% 43% 74%
Sky Mobile 27% 37% 37% 73%
O2 (216) 28% 42% 30% 72%
Virgin Mobile (128) 29% 47% 24% 71%
EE (281) 32% 37% 31% 68%
Plusnet (65) 32% 49% 18% 68%
Vodafone (165) 38% 41% 21% 62%
Tesco Mobile (95) 48% 39% 13% 52%
iD Mobile (40) 53% 25% 23% 47%
BT Mobile (114) 55% 33% 11% 45%
Lebara (42) 62% 17% 21% 38%
GiffGaff (31) 87% 13% 0% 13%
Lycamobile (18) 89% 6% 6% 11%