What are social mobile tariffs and who is eligible?

Woman looking at mobile phone to find out if she is eligible for social mobile tariffs in the UK

If you’re on universal credit, pension credit or similar benefits, you can save on your mobile phone bill by switching to a social mobile tariff. Find out which providers offer social mobile tariffs and how to check if you are eligible.

This January, the energy price cap rose by 5%, making it a tough winter for people to heat their homes. And without any government intervention, it’s become challenging for low-income households to make ends meet and stay connected to their loved ones. 

If you are struggling to keep up with rising phone bills, you may qualify for a social mobile tariff. 

Social mobile tariffs were introduced for those on universal credit, pension credit or similar benefits. In this guide, we’ll take you through what social mobile tariffs are, if you are eligible and how to find the cheapest social mobile tariffs. 

Not on benefits but looking to switch? Have a look at our cheap SIM only deals. Or check if you could save around £200 a year with social broadband tariffs

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What are social tariffs for mobile?

Social mobile tariffs are a way of getting cheaper mobile contracts at a lower price. You can be eligible if you’re on government benefits like universal credit, pension credit or equivalent benefits. 

Regulator Ofcom says they are available to an estimated 4.3 million households. They can work out to be way cheaper than regular mobile phone deals and save you around £200 a year. 

This helps many households afford to stay connected, look up information online and have access to essential services. These include communication, healthcare, education, and entertainment.

Keep in mind that social mobile tariffs are not to be confused with short-lived promo deals. These deals may have introductory offers that look cheaper and are more inviting.

However, after it expires, the prices can go really up. So you should be careful of such offers as they end up being costly in the long run. 

In contrast, social mobile tariffs offer long-term cheap mobile phone contracts with low/no setup costs or exit fees. 

They are also long-term deals, so you won’t have to worry about switching to a cheaper social mobile tariff next year. 

Am I eligible?

Pension credit social mobile tariffs

Mobile phone providers have different eligibility criteria for social mobile tariffs. However, a majority of them require you to receive at least one of the following benefits: 

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

Some providers might also include additional benefits like Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance. 

However, the person receiving the benefit must be the main person on the contract.

What social tariffs for mobile are there?

These are the social mobile tariffs available if you are receiving government benefits. Check if you qualify for any of these:

Provider Cost and plan Eligibility Credit check How to contact
EE EE Basics. £12 per month.Includes: 5GB data, unlimited calls and texts, speeds of up to 25 Mbps and 30-day rolling contract for 12 months. No early exit fees apply. One of the following benefits: Universal credit (All claimants) Pension credit (Guarantee Credit) Employment and Support Allowance - eligibility rules apply (see full Basics plan T&Cs) Jobseeker’s allowance - eligibility rules apply (see full Basics plan T&Cs) Income support. Yes Call on 08009566000 or 150 if you’re an existing customer
SMARTY SMARTY Social Tariff. £12 per month on a monthly rolling plan & cancel anytime. Includes unlimited UK calls & texts, fast 5G, 4G & 3G data, 5G available with enabled devices, unrestricted tethering in the UK, no speed caps and EU Roaming. Anybody who is in receipt of income-based employment support, income-based job seekers, income support, pension credit or universal credit. No Contact using its web chat or alternatively email at [email protected]
VOXI Unlimited data, calls and texts for £10 a month. Change or cancel your plan at anytime. Six-months contract. You need to be receiving a government benefit, such as:​ Jobseeker’s allowance, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability allowance, Personal independence payment. No Speak to an advisor online or call on 08080057463

In addition, Virgin Media O2 will be launching a new mobile social tariff in 2024. 

Not sure which one to opt for? Discover which UK mobile network offers the best mobile phone coverage

Should I get a social tariff for mobile?

Social mobile tariffs are designed to be affordable and cheaper than a regular package, at around £10 to £20. There are many advantages that come with opting for a social mobile tariff:

  • The price won’t go up mid-contract.
  • You can switch to a social tariff free of charge at any time.
  • You don’t have to pay an early exit fee.
  • You can get unlimited texts and minutes.

Ultimately, try to get a social mobile tariff deal that works best for you. Think about how many calls you make, how much mobile data you need and how good the download speed is. 

The same goes for your home internet connection. Check how much broadband speed your household needs and if you should consider switching your broadband provider to find the best broadband deals

How do I apply for a social tariff?

How do I apply for EE social mobile tariff?

EE mobile phone shop

EE does not have the option to sign up for its social mobile tariff on its website. You have to call EE on 08009566000. 

As long as you receive at least one of the benefits, you will be eligible for the social mobile tariff. 

EE will carry out an eligibility check to see if you are receiving benefits. It will carry out a standard credit check and ask you for your National Insurance Number when you apply.

Alternatively, if you’re not eligible, check out our best EE SIM only deals

How do I apply for SMARTY social mobile tariff?

SMARTY

To sign up, you have to fill up SMARTY’s social tariff form and provide details of the benefits you are receiving. 

SMARTY will then send this to the Department for Work and Pensions to check if you are receiving the benefits. Once they send this form and you are successfully verified, you will be eligible for the SMARTY social tariff plan. 

Not eligible for this mobile tariff but still want to go with SMARTY? Check out our best SMARTY SIM only deals

How do I apply for VOXI social mobile tariff?

VOXI logo

You can instantly get verified for eligibility with VOXI. They use a company called Moneyhub to check if you receive benefits. 

You can access the VOXI social mobile tariff in these steps: 

  1. Confirm that your benefits are paid into a UK bank account
  2. Select your bank from a pre-populated list.
  3. Consent by agreeing that Moneyhub will check eligibility through Open Banking, to verify they receive a government benefit payment.

Interested in opting for VOXI but are ineligible for a social mobile tariff? Have a look at our best VOXI SIM only deals

What happens if I stop receiving benefits?

There will be regular validation checks at the end of each contract term to make sure you still qualify for a social mobile tariff. 

If you are no longer in receipt of the eligible benefits, your provider will move you onto one of its standard SIM only or Phone + SIM deals

However, this may not always be the cheapest option. Be sure to contact your provider so you don’t end up paying more than what you can afford. 

Woman paying mobile phone bill by phone

What if I can't get a social tariff?

Even though having access to a phone and network is essential, people who need it the most are sometimes not able to afford it.

If you can’t get social mobile tariffs but want to pay less, the best solution is to switch your mobile provider. Have a look at our cheap SIM only deals to find what suits you best. 

If you are thinking of getting a mobile phone, a refurbished phone could be a good choice, saving you £100s. You can also learn how to lower your mobile phone bill with our step-by-step guide. 

What to do if you're struggling to pay your mobile bill

Sometimes you can end up going over your monthly phone bill allowance and are unable to afford it. In some cases, your mobile provider could disconnect you or charge cancellation fees. 

Always speak to your mobile phone provider if you think you won’t be able to pay your phone bill. Many mobile phone providers have schemes put in place to help customers with financial struggles. 

Some of these may include changing your bill date, being moved to a lower tariff, or capping your monthly allowance so you don’t go over your usage limit. 

Your payments could also be delayed for a certain time period depending on your circumstances. 

If your current contract is ending soon, consider switching your mobile phone provider for free to a cheap SIM only deal