Searching for a new mobile phone deal can be one of the most daunting and frustrating consumer experiences, with many bewildered by the range of options available.

In recent years it’s become popular for retailers to package high value gifts with new phone deals to entice shoppers to buy from them instead of a competitor. These deals offer consumers the chance to enjoy gifts many otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, but as with most things that sound too good to be true – they aren’t without their pitfalls.

Mobile phone expert Ethan Tan, from mobile deal comparison site, explains how consumers can make sure they make the most of free gift deals.

“The reason free gift deals are so appealing is that you really can get a high value item such as an iPad, PlayStation or HD TV, simply by signing up to a new contract. The deals allow people to own gadgets they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, which immediately helps them to stand out from other non-gift deals.

These types of deals have been around for a number of years and the big retailers are being pushed harder than ever before to ensure they offer something that really stands out, which means there’s never been a better time to take advantage of a free gift deal.

There are thousands of different options out there and it’s essential that you know what you want before committing to a contract. People often see the gift they want and rush to sign up to a deal which leaves them dissatisfied and out of pocket in the long-run.

The majority of deals are based on an 18 or 24 month contract, which is a long time to have to live with the wrong phone or tariff. Research and shortlist a few handsets that you like with the features you want, and look for a contract that works for you in terms of cost, inclusive minutes, texts, and data allowance. View the free gift as an added bonus.

You’ll often have to switch networks to get the best free gift deals, so it is also worth checking that the new network has good coverage in your area – they’ll usually have a coverage checker on their website. Always keep in mind what you want and don’t be swayed by pushy salespeople.

You may also be forced to settle for a less expensive phone or for a higher monthly tariff than if you didn’t receive a gift. It’s important to understand that you’re paying for the gift, just spread out over the duration of the contract and with the benefit of a considerable discount.

Another thing to bear in mind is that free gift delivery times vary among retailers. Some will send your gift immediately whereas others will request a bill after your first month before dispatching your gift. Always check the delivery terms along with the other small print. If you’re planning on using your gift as a present or you just don’t want to wait, be sure to order from a retailer who promises prompt delivery.

Consumers often forget about their tariff and continue with their regular monthly payments, even after their minimum contract period has elapsed. Remember to note when your contract is coming to an end and investigate switching to lower tariffs to save money. Some contracts even allow you to reduce your tariff after a certain number of months, so make sure you do your research.

Finally, as there are so many different options available it may well be worth using a comparison website to quickly analyse the deals on offer and find the one which best suits your needs. This can save time and takes the hassle out of trawling around your local shopping centre. At a high street store you get the chance to hold and experience the handset, but you are most likely to get a better deal by ordering online simply because online retailers have lower expenses.”

To summarise, follow these steps to make the most of mobile phone free gift deals:
1. Tariff – Know what you want from your tariff in terms of minutes, texts, and data
2. Cost – Know how much you can afford to spend monthly and in total
3. Phone – Research and choose a few potential phones, then try them out in the store
4. Comparison – Use a comparison site to compare free gift deals from the whole market and find one that fits your needs
5. Gift – Choose a few potential gifts that you really want
6. Network – If switching networks, check that the new network has coverage in your area
7. Terms – Check the free gift terms and delivery times – some retailers ask you to claim your gift via a redemption process
8. Be Firm – Do not be swayed by pushy salespeople
9. Downgrade – Switch to a cheaper tariff once the minimum contract period is up