How to change mobile providers and keep your phone number

Want to save up to £176 a year? Here’s everything you need to know about switching to a better mobile phone contract…

Whether you’re with GiffGaff or Vodafone, changing mobile providers is easier than you might imagine – giving you the freedom to take advantage of the latest deals or bit of tech. A quarter of Brits, 5.9million of us, have never switched mobile phone companies. Follow these easy steps to freedom.

1. Check the cancellation period

Read your contract. It’s legally binding, telling you how much notice you must give to leave your current network.

Without finishing your current contract, you could be hit with an early termination fee – usually based on how long you’ve been with the company. But worry not, because another mobile provider could cover the cost. Swap to T-Mobile, for example, and you’ll get a pre-paid MasterCard covering your fees two months after you switch – when you give them your old phone and buy a new one.

There are exceptional circumstances that will let you out of your current contract without paying the fee. Such as if your mobile phone provider increases the price of your contract mid-way through, even if it’s due to inflation.

Even if you’ve finished your contract, you may still have to give 30 days’ notice to cancel it forever. So read the small print and read this:

2. Pin down what you want


More texts, more minutes? Decide what you need from a new contract, before comparing handsets, tariffs and services on websites like Put yourself in the best position to haggle and negotiate for cheaper deals, by arming yourself with specific prices from rival mobile phone networks.

3. Say you want to switch

Apply for your new contract before your current contract expires if you want to keep the same number – you can’t transfer a deactivated number.

Call T-Mobile or O2, EE, Three or GiffGaff today and tell them you’re leaving.

Be prepared for your current network to drive a hard bargain when you try to leave. They’ll likely offer a better deal when they think you’ll leave them for dust. Squeeze the best deal out of them by saying phrases like, ‘I just don’t think I’m getting enough out of my contract, it’s really annoying me’ or ‘my friend pays the same as me but get so much more’.

4. Ask for your Porting Authorisation Code


That’s the nine digit code you need to keep the same mobile number when you switch providers. And by law, you should be given it within two hours of asking. Some providers will give you your PAC over the phone, but most networks will drop you a text. You have 30 days to use it.

Keep your old mobile phone account active until you’ve transferred your number to your new SIM. After a credit check and settling your outstanding bills, you’ll get a date to do this – it can take up to three days to transfer your number, but normally takes 24 hours. You’ll be out of service for an hour or so.

5. Unlock your phone

Bought your phone outright? You can use it on a new network. Your current provider is legally obliged to ‘unlock’ it, to make it possible. T-Mobile lets you download a Device Unlock app, but ask your current mobile provider to do it when you tell them you’re leaving.

6. Back up your contacts & use all remaining credit

Don’t be the person who has to ask your mates to send their numbers, because you forgot to ask your old mobile phone network to copy your contacts, SMS messages and images. Back up everything on your old SIM and scribble down your contact numbers before you lose everything.