Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu
A mobile phone has to be regarded as an essential piece of everyday tech, whether you’re a student, working full time or are a stay-at-home parent. However, if you’re using a mobile phone that you bought abroad, you could be paying much more than you need to if you want to make calls from the UK. You can, of course, simply change the SIM card if your phone is unlocked, but you can also buy a mobile phone in the UK for a very reasonable price.
Mobile phones can be very cheap in the UK, and you can pick up an entry-level ‘Pay As You Go’ (PAYG) phone for under £20 from a supermarket. However, they can be expensive to use, particularly if you want to make international calls.
So before you decide what model of mobile phone you want to buy, it pays to do a bit of homework on which service you’ll need if you want to make cheap international calls from your mobile. Here is our guide to buying mobile phones in the UK, and what type of phone to choose that will suit a limited student budget.
We’ll also give you advice on what paperwork you’ll need to take out a contract, as well as a list of some of the best places to buy mobile phones in Cardiff.
You have two main options in the UK – Contract or Pay As You Go (PAYG). We’re going to look at both types, giving you the pros and cons of each and going into a little bit of depth about what is involved.
The first option is to take out a contract with a provider such as O2, Vodafone, EE or Three. It’s worth comparing the available options, as deals will vary greatly on what you want to get out of your contract, whether you use text or SMS messaging extensively and if you want to be able to take advantage of other options such as inclusive internet connectivity.
Most contracts are for a period of 12 months, so if you are staying in the UK for at least a year then a 12-month contract will be a viable option for you. With contracts there is usually a set monthly cost, so you will pay a minimum amount for a designated amount of call-time and text messages (for example 500 minutes of call time and 500 texts). If you are looking to include international calls in your package then talk to a representative first to find out what international call deals they have on offer.
To sign up to a monthly mobile phone contract deal, you will need a ‘proof of enrolment’ letter stating that you are a student at Cardiff University. This will need to include your address during term-time. You can get a ‘proof of enrolment’ letter from the bank letter venue in the Student’s Union during induction week.
As well as being considerably cheaper to call international numbers, often you get a choice of a free handset with contracts, and can upgrade your handset to a newer model during your contract. Check the details for more information.
One other advantage is the ability to get access to mobile broadband built into the contract – which can be very convenient. You can do this with a separate deal which gives you a mobile ‘dongle’ (which simply plugs into your laptop), or a SIM card for your existing smartphone. Again, remember to compare prices – to see an Ofcom accredited comparison of mobile broadband deals click here. That way you’ll know you’re getting the cheapest mobile broadband and can choose the most appropriate package.
If you don’t want to tie yourself into a contract then the alternative is to get a PAYG phone. There’s no credit check, no monthly bills to worry about and you’re not committed to a fixed term contract. And with a PAYG phone there’s no need for a ‘proof of enrolment’ letter either.
PAYG phones are commonly available from all mobile phone shops, and you can even pick them up with your groceries from your local supermarket.
The biggest plus point with PAYG phones is that there’s no risk of building up a large bill at the end of the month. You can only make calls once you’ve purchased credit. You can ‘top-up’ a PAYG phone at any time, and top-ups start from as little as £5.
However, if you want to make international calls then using a PAYG phone will cost considerably than a phone on a fixed contract. There’s also the risk of running out of credit half-way through a call back home.
There are plenty of locations to buy mobile phones and they all offer both Contract and PAYG options. All of the UK’s seven major mobile phone companies have stores here. The largest independent dealers are Phones4U and The CarphoneWarehouse, but you can even buy a PAYG phone from a supermarket such as Tesco or Asda. It’s a good idea to shop around for the best deal. The main stores are:
19 Cathedral Walk, St. Davids Centre, Cardiff CF10 2DS99 Queen Street, Cardiff CF10 2BG
4 The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1AH70 Queen Street, Cardiff CF10 2GQ
12-14 Cathedral Walk, St. David Centre, Cardiff CF10 2DS50 St Davids 2 Shopping Centre, Cardiff CF10 2DP
7 St. Davids Way, St. Davids Centre, Cardiff CF10 2DS60 Queen Street, Cardiff CF10 2GQ
1, 2 & 7 Queens West, Queen Street, Cardiff CF10 2AQ36 St Davids Way, Cardiff CF10 2DP
93 Queen Street Cardiff, CF10 2BG
There are plenty of other smaller, independent dealers and providers such as Virgin Media, GiffGaff, Lebara and Lycamoble who you might also want to consider.
« Return to living in Cardiff homepage
This is an externally hosted beta service offered by Google.
Guide for International Students 2014
Cardiff University is a member of the Russell Group of Universities
Cardiff University is a registered charity No. 1136855
Copyright © Cardiff University