The best student SIM only deals for going back to school: cheap and contract free

These SIM only deals are perfect for students, delivering strong and affordable allowances completely contract free

SIM only deals back to school
(Image credit: Future)

As T3 details in its back to school guide for 2021, there are plenty of products that we think are pretty much essential for a student going back to school, college or university. And among the most important is quality SIM plan.

Bagging one of the best SIM only deals is so important as a student's phone is the number one most used device, by a long way, that any learner uses while studying. It  is, literally, a device that a student will use every single day and, as such, making sure it is powered by a SIM plan that delivers is crucial.

Grabbing a great SIM plan as a student gets even more important when you consider that today's smartphones are portable computers in their own right. From taking notes and attending video classes and seminars, to speaking with tutors and professors, through to communicating with friends as to just where you're all going to blow off some steam and party on Friday night, a student's phone sits at the centre of their student lifestyle.

But most students don't have buckets of cash to flash while studying, which is why T3 has created this best student SIM only deals guide for 2021. Here we've focussed on affordability and flexibility (as no student wants to be tied to a long-term contract) as the two most important factors when picking these SIM plans, as well as naturally ensuring they deliver strong allowances across the board.

In terms of allowances we've specifically raised data right to the top of the pile, too, as with large or unlimited amounts of data a student will never find themselves stuck and unable to study while on the go. Seriously, the ability to hotspot a phone's data connection to a laptop or tablet when there's no Wi-Fi is a seriously underrated tool, but to do it anxiety-free you need a SIM only deal you can trust.

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Star Deal

Smart SIM only | Unlimited data, calls and texts | No contract | 30-day rolling plan | £16 p/m (opens in new tab)
The star SIM only deal for students this year is this absolute cracker from Smarty. It delivers unlimited data, as well as unlimited calls and unlimited texts for £16 per month, and what's more it does so completely contract free. The plan just rolls over each month and can be cancelled online at any time with a few button presses. You don't get 5G data, but there are no speed limits and EU roaming is included free as well.

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Voxi SIM only | 45GB data (5G) | Unlimited calls and texts | No contract | 30-day rolling plan | £20 p/m (opens in new tab)
If you like the sound of the SIM plan above but really do feel you need 5G data speeds, then this SIMO deal from Voxi is definitely worth scoping out. That's because it delivers 45GB of 5G data each month, along with unlimited calls and texts, for £20 per month. As with the deal above this plan is completely contract free, meaning you can cancel anytime. Not unlimited data, but over four times the average monthly mobile data use in the UK, so plenty for all but the heaviest data users.

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Three SIM only | Unlimited data (5G), calls and texts | 12-month contract | £16 p/m (opens in new tab)
This SIM only deal does come with a contract, albeit a short 12-month one, but if you're happy to sign up for that then you get a really good package in return. This plan bags you unlimited 5G data, as well as calls and texts, for only £16 per month, which matches the star Smarty deal above in terms of value if not for contract freedom. If you have a 5G phone or are going back to school in a 5G area then this could be a great shout.

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iD Mobile SIM only | 12GB of data (5G) | Unlimited calls and texts | No contract | 30-day rolling plan | £10 p/m (opens in new tab)
iD Mobile has loads of quality 30-day rolling SIM plans, including this great all-rounder. You get 12GB of data (that's over the UK monthly average) along with unlimited calls and texts for just £10 per month. That data, too, is 5G data, so if you've got a 5G phone and are studying in an area with 5G then you're covered.

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Vodafone SIM only | Unlimited data (5G), calls and texts | 24-month contract length | £30 p/m (opens in new tab)
Vodafone has one of the strongest 5G networks in the UK, as well as some of the fastest speeds, too. It is pricey, though, and only makes sense in terms of value if you plump for a 24-month plan, which reduces monthly costs. This plan delivers unlimited 5G data, calls and texts for £30 per month. Roaming without extra cost is included in 51 destinations world wide.

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EE SIM only | 160GB data (5G) | Unlimited calls and texts | 24-month contract length | £20 p/m (opens in new tab)
And, while we're on 24-month contracts, we've got one more that we think students should at least consider. That's because it comes from EE who has the fastest 5G data network in the UK. You get 160GB of 5G data each month as well as unlimited calls and texts for £20. It's the best deal EE has on offer in terms of value for money for unlimited everything, so if you're comfortable with the contract length then its a good choice.

How to choose the right student SIM only deal for you

There's a few things to consider when shopping for one of the best student SIM only deals.

First up, contract length. How long are you going to be at college or university? If it's for three years then consider a longer term contract as it will likely get you a better deal. However, before you pull the trigger be sure you...

...consider where you're going to study, which is the next thing to consider. Different networks have different coverage areas, and they can vary dramatically in terms of strength. As such, be sure to scope out each network's coverage map (simple online search) before pulling the trigger on an upgrade. After all, the last thing you want to do is get stuck for years with a network who has poor coverage in your educational establishment's area.

Finally, consider just what your actual needs are in terms of allowance, and ask yourself key questions. If you know your home or dorm and university or college has great Wi-Fi then maybe you don't need to cough up for large amounts of data? Or, equally, maybe you actually don't need 5G data speeds? Do you even have a 5G phone? Or are you about to get one? Would you actually be better going for a cheaper 4G only plan? All these things could be relevant to your choice.

Student SIM only deals comparison chart

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Robert Jones
Robert Jones

Deputy Editor for, Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. You can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket two favourites. Feel free to contact him with any related products, events, and announcements.