According to the latest mobile phone statistics from Ofcom, there were just over 85 million mobile phone subscriptions at the end of 2021. 75% of these were a monthly contract. A pay monthly contract typically last for two years. But with new phones and better deals coming out all the time, it doesn't take long for a smartphone to seem outdated.
So, when you start getting serious phone envy, it's tempting to upgrade early, rather than put up with a phone that no longer feels value for money.
Unfortunately, if you decide to cancel your contract, you’ll probably end up having to pay an early termination fee.
Typically, this early exit fee will mean having to pay off the remainder of your contract in one lump sum. Which is a lot to find in one go, particularly if you then want to splurge on a newer handset.
Alternatives to cancelling your contract early
Thankfully, there are things you can do to solve your smartphone issues without having to fork out for a hefty bill.
We'll walk you through the alternatives to cancelling your contract:
1. If you want to upgrade your phone
If you just want to upgrade to a newer model, you don’t need to cancel your contract. Most of the latest handsets are available to buy SIM-free and unlocked.
SIM-free smartphones often cost a bit more upfront. But buying a new handset is a hassle-free way of upgrading your phone, and can be a lot cheaper than paying the early exit fee.
You won’t need to sign a new contract, and you can even recycle your old handset to recoup some of the cost.
2. If your phone breaks
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 repairs services, but these can be expensive.
If it’s a fault with the handset, try contacting the manufacturers directly. Apple is famous for offering 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.
3. If you’re struggling from poor coverage
If you’re starting to experience issues with your network coverage, contact your network provider. They will check to see if there are 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 having getting poor coverage, check to see if you can use Wi-Fi calling.
4. If you’re leaving the UK
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 the cost of international roaming is becoming more affordable, you may be able to continue using your phone after you’ve moved.
5. If you can’t afford your contract anymore
If you’re struggling to pay your contract, get in touch with your mobile network to discuss alternative payment options.
If you just 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.
How to cancel your contract
If you decide to cancel your contract, some networks offer a discount on 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 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 goodybag 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 in order to have this handset repayment plan.
O2 Refresh is an upgrade programme 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’re looking to cancel your contact 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.
Bear in mind that your handset remains the property of Vodafone until you’ve paid the first six bills.