Mobile phones

There are many mobile phone network service providers and calling plans to choose from in the UK. You should read contracts closely and take the time to investigate your options. Check the rates for both UK and international calls when purchasing a plan as these can vary substantially.

Pay as you go

'Pay as you go' means that you add credit to the phone and use it until it runs out. You can 'top up' your credit whenever you like. There is no monthly commitment and you only pay for the calls and texts that you use. You can buy credit in many shops and at cash points.

If using pay as you go, you usually need to buy a phone. If you already have a phone, you may be able to buy a pay as you go SIM card to use with it, as long as the card is compatible. Check this before buying the SIM card.

Pay monthly

With pay monthly contracts, you will have a minimum monthly payment and will be required to keep the contract for a set period of time. It is not possible to avoid the monthly fee, even if you do not use the phone. Providers usually offer a free or heavily discounted mobile phone as part of the package.

It is almost impossible to break a mobile phone contract once you enter it, so you must review the contract very carefully before you commit. Some providers require a credit check in order to open an account.

Students may find it difficult to sign up for a pay monthly plan. This can affect international students in particular since some providers will refuse to set up a contract with someone who is in the country on a temporary basis, or someone who does not have an established credit history in the UK. Contact providers directly for more information.

In order to sign up for a monthly contract, you may need:

  • Your exact UK address, room/flat number and post code
  • A UK bank account and the relevant details (sort code, account number, and/or credit card details.)

Mobile phone providers

This list is not exhaustive and does not constitute a recommendation. LSE is not permitted to advise on mobile phone selection. Visit the websites below to learn more about mobile phone plans or to find a shop close to you.

Register your phone

After getting your new phone, make a note of its 15 digit IMEI number and keep the information somewhere safe. The number can be found on the battery, the box it came it, or will be displayed on the phone after dialling *#06#.  This number is useful if ever you need to report the phone lost or stolen, both to the police and your mobile phone provider.

The Metropolitan Police recommend that you register your mobile at for free, which will help them return your phone to you if it is ever found. For more advice on mobile phone security, visit the Metropolitan Police website.