How do mobile phone cashback deals work? Our full guide

So you’re eying a new iPhone 12 and have spotted an excellent deal with a nice, low monthly rate and no upfront cost: Win! But hold on: it’s a cashback deal. What exactly does that mean?

If you’re new to the world of cashback deals and plans, you might feel unsure of how it all works.

Here, we’re answering all your questions around just what a cashback phone offer is, types of cashback offers, and whether it’s worth it. We’re not looking at cashback sites like Quidco, however. For that, see our separate guide on how cashback sites work.

What is cashback and how does it work?

Cashback phone plans allow you to claim back a part of the total cost back, whether that’s on a new phone contract or SIM-only. This money is either returned to you automatically or via redemption (which we’ll go through in detail below).

Keep in mind, whether you choose automatic or by-redemption, your money will only be returned at a later date – so you’re still paying in full upfront.

It’s also worth noting that the cashback value typically returns to you in intervals through the duration of your contract, and not in one big lump sum.

Mobiles.co.uk cashback SIM deal

Mobiles.co.uk cashback SIM deal

What is automatic cashback?

Automatic cashback allows you to get your discount after four to six months, though the return period might might vary from retailer to retailer. Be sure to read the terms of the offer before signing up.

As opposed to cashback by redemption, automatic cashback offers returns your money without requiring a separate claim. The cashback value may go directly to your bank account, or may arrive by cheque.

Mobiles’ automatic cashback offers require you to wait up to 38 days for the cheque to arrive, while Carphone Warehouse sends its cashback cheque back to customers within 30 days of signing up to the plan.

What does cashback by redemption mean?

You’re likely to see more cashback by redemption offers than automatic ones. These cashback offers require a bit more peristance as you’ll need to manually claim to get your money back.

In the past, customers would need to post a physical copy of their phone bill to the retailer, with key details such as name, address, mobile number (registered to the phone you’re claiming on), monthly rate and bill date.

Now, however, most cashback phone retailers will allow you to send your bill electronically via an online account.

In most cases, you should be able to download a PDF of your phone bill directly from your provider (instead of having to scan a physical copy), so it’s just a matter of downloading your bill from your network, and then uploading it to your retailer-side account.

Once you receive your cheque, you should be able to deposit it via your mobile banking app just by taking a picture of it (if you don’t fancy queuing at your bank to make a deposit).

Deposit cheque by mobile app

Deposit cheque by mobile app

When can I claim cashback mobile phones?

Most cashback by redemption sites send your money back in intervals. This means you don’t need to upload your phone bill every month, but on select months. You should be able to find out which these months should be by logging into the retailer account.

Mobile Phones Direct, E2save and Mobiles require five cashback claims. Both Mobiles and Mobile Phones Direct expects customers to claim on the 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th months of a one-year plan.

Fonehouse requires five cashback claims too, but on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th months of a one-year contract.

Are cashback deals worth it?

Cashback deals offer great value if you don’t mind delayed gratification and a bit of preparation – especially if you’re on a cashback by redemption plan.

Remember to set yourself reminders to make your claims on time, or you might lose out on getting your money back altogether. In some cases, the retailer will allow you to claim within 60 days of receiving your bill, but it’s best to avoid late claims.

Another major consideration is whether the pre-cashback rate fits your budget. Remember, you will still need to pay the full rate upfront.

Where to get cashback deals

Below are the list of phone and SIM retailers we recommend.

Mobiles is a retailer we’ve used and have had success with. Other retailers we recommend include:

We’re separately gathering the best SIM deals of the month, as well as the best phone deals on contract and SIM-free.

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