A pay monthly contract typically lasts about two years. But with new phones and better deals coming out all the time, that can feel like a while to wait if you're a big fan of using the latest handsets.
So, when you start getting serious phone envy, upgrading early is tempting rather than putting up with a phone that no longer feels value for money.
Also, with mobile contract prices increasing by as much as 17% in 2023, you may be tempted to cancel your current contract and find a cheaper deal.
Unfortunately, if you cancel your contract, you’ll probably have to pay an early termination fee.
This applies to price rises, too, as most networks include them in their T&Cs, meaning you won't be able to cancel early for free due to the increase.
Typically, this early exit fee will mean paying off the remainder of your contract in one lump sum, which is a lot to cough up in one go, particularly if you then want to splash on a newer handset.
Here are some of your options if you cannot cancel your mobile contract early for free.
You don't need to cancel your contract if you want to upgrade to a newer model. Most of the latest handsets are available to buy, unlocked and SIM-free.
SIM-free smartphones can cost a bit more upfront, but buying a new handset is a hassle-free way to upgrade your phone and can be much cheaper than paying the early exit fee.
You won’t need to sign a new contract; you can even recycle your old handset to recoup some of the cost.
Most phones will be under a standard warranty for pay monthly customers. So, if your phone starts to malfunction, check to see if it’s covered.
If it’s not, most networks offer repair services, but these can be expensive.
If it’s a fault with the handset, try contacting the manufacturers directly. Apple is famous for its excellent customer service, and you can make an appointment at your local Apple Store.
Alternatively, if your phone is water-damaged, check out our guide on how to fix it yourself.
If you’re starting to experience issues with your network coverage, contact your network provider. They will check for any maintenance works or upgrades that could be causing you temporary problems.
They may also be able to suggest a solution or offer you a discount on your bill.
If you’re still getting poor coverage, check to see if you can use Wi-Fi calling.
Unfortunately, if you cancel your contract because you’re moving abroad, you’ll almost certainly have to pay the termination fee.
It might work out cheaper to leave your account open, particularly if you have plans to return to the UK.
As international roaming costs are becoming more affordable, you may be able to continue using your phone after you’ve moved.
If you’re struggling to pay your contract - especially after the latest round of mobile price rises - get in touch with your mobile network to discuss alternative payment options.
If you cancel your contract without paying, the network will probably pass your contact details on to a debt collection agency, which could also affect your credit rating.
If you cancel your contract, some networks discount termination fees.
Here’s what each network offers:
EE’s early exit fee is calculated at 96% of your remaining monthly payments.
EE also offers an annual upgrade scheme to customers on higher data plans.
The beauty of giffgaff is that you don’t get tied into a contract, so you won’t have to pay an early termination fee. Simply change your goody bag or cancel it at any time. It’s as simple as that.
If you’ve bought a handset from the giffgaff phone store, you can continue paying for this on a separate agreement. You don’t have to use giffgaff to have this handset repayment plan.
O2 Refresh is an upgrade program that lets you pay for your usage and your handset on 2 separate contracts. This basically means that you can upgrade your phone anytime you want.
It will probably cost you a bit more than a single package, but O2’s recycle plan could earn you as much as £260 off your next phone. So, if you’re the kind of person who regularly updates their handset, it could be a smart move.
If you're on Three, you’ll have to pay an early termination fee equivalent to 97% of your remaining monthly payments.
However, if you have previously upgraded or renewed a contract on Three, your fee is discounted to 90% of your remaining monthly payments.
Vodafone offers a 30-day network guarantee, so if you want to cancel your contract within the first month, you shouldn’t have to pay a termination fee.
If you cancel after the first 30 days, you will have to pay a termination fee.
Remember that your handset remains the property of Vodafone until you’ve paid the first six bills.