Christmas 2013: Best Pay As You Go Mobile Phone Offers

November 20th, 2013

Thinking of buying a smartphone for Christmas? We round up the best Pay As You Go offers for Christmas 2013.

presentChristmas is a time of giving and what better gift could there be than a brand new smartphone? In recent years, smartphones have evolved to incorporate new and advanced technology. They were once for just calling and texting: now they’ve become the ultimate gadget incorporating many of the functions provided by other devices.

The camera on a new smartphone will be perfectly placed to capture festive moments. And the fun will continue throughout 2014 with games, web browsing, e-books, video, TV and applications all on the phone. And of course, smartphones are still a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family.

When choosing a smartphone for your loved ones, it’s important to consider how you’ll buy the device. There are three ways of buying a smartphone: each with implications on how the phone can be used. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each of these options. We’ll also showcase the best Pay As You Go deals available this Christmas. By choosing the right deals, you can benefit from free calls, free cinema tickets or free high street vouchers.

The Three Ways of Buying a Phone for Christmas

There are three ways you can buy a phone for Christmas:

Option 1: Pay Monthly (not recommended!)


With Pay Monthly, you’re responsible for all airtime charges.

The first method of buying a new smartphone is to pay for it on a 24-month contract. The cost of the 24-month contract will cover both the handset and airtime. You’ll get a new smartphone with little or no upfront cost but there’ll be a monthly charge to pay for the next two years.

In general, if you’re buying a smartphone as a gift for someone else, we highly recommend against a Pay Monthly contract. When you take out the contract, it’ll be registered in your name and you’ll be committed to paying for the contract for another 24 months. There’s the basic monthly charge: on top of that you’ll also be billed for any usage not included on the contract (e.g. for calls made to a special rate number or for roaming fees when travelling abroad). Unless you’re planning to pay for all airtime charges, it’s better to avoid gifting a Pay Monthly phone.

Option 2: Pay As You Go (with handset)

Top Up

You’re not responsible for airtime payments: the user tops up their own phone.

The second way of buying a smartphone this Christmas is to do it on a Pay As You Go plan. Compared to Pay Monthly, you’ll pay more upfront for the handset. Pay As You Go phones normally cost around £100 or more. In contrast, Pay Monthly phones are under £100. The benefit of choosing Pay As You Go is you’re not responsible for paying airtime charges incurred on the phone. You might need to pay for the initial top-up but after that, the person who uses the phone can top up their own account.

A Pay As You Go handset can be purchased from any of the UK’s major mobile networks. The downside of choosing Pay As You Go is that handsets are normally locked to one mobile network. Unless you pay extra to first unlock the handset, the person who receives the phone won’t be able to use a different mobile network. Because of this, they could be trapped on a poor value mobile network. The UK’s major mobile networks approximately charge 35p/minute and 12p per text message.

Option 3: SIM Free (with Pay As You Go SIM card)

SIM card

SIM free gives you greater flexibility: you can grab a free SIM card which offers much lower rates.

The third way of buying a smartphone this Christmas is SIM free and unlocked for use on any mobile network. You’ll pay the full price of the phone upfront: this is normally around £20 or £30 more expensive than on Pay As You Go. Once the phone arrives, you can insert any SIM card available from this page. Compared to standard Pay As You Go packages, free SIM card packages normally offer much lower calling rates. For instance, giffgaff charges 10p/minute and 6p per text message.

Choosing a SIM free handset allows the recipient to access cheaper deals. For greater flexibility and long-term savings, it’s always worth considering a SIM free handset over a Pay As You Go handset.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you either want to buy a Pay As You Go handset (option 2) or a SIM Free handset (option 3).

giffgaff: Double Minutes For Life

Giffgaff £10 GoodybagOur top pick for Christmas 2013 is the Pay As You Go deal currently being offered by giffgaff. Customers joining giffgaff will receive double minutes for life on the £10/month goodybag. Rather than getting 250 minutes which is normally offered on the tariff, you’ll instead get 500 minutes to use every month. You’ll also get unlimited texts and a whole gigabyte of internet.

The unique aspect of giffgaff’s offer is that it’s a gift that keeps giving in years to come. Unlike other offers which end after a year, you’ll continue receiving additional minutes for as long as you’re on giffgaff. You’ll also benefit from giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls and giffgaff-to-giffgaff text messages: they’re free and they’re not charged from your inclusive monthly allowance. This makes giffgaff a great way to stay in touch with family: all you need is a giffgaff SIM card for each person in your family.

To benefit from the offer, you’ll need to order a giffgaff SIM card. The SIM card needs to be activated before the 31st March 2014. giffgaff uses the O2 network so you’ll get the same coverage as customers on O2. For details of coverage where you live, please refer to the O2 online coverage checker.

  • £10/month top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts & 1GB internet.
  • Promotion: Double minutes on the £10 goodybag (continues for life).
  • Offer Ends: SIM card must be activated before the 31st March 2014.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

To use the giffgaff SIM card, you’ll need to have a compatible handset. Your handset should either be unlocked or should be locked to O2. We recommend buying a SIM-free smartphone from Amazon. There are lots of good deals including the Galaxy S3 Mini for just £185. For more, refer to the list of smartphones available for under £200.

EE, Orange & T-Mobile: 2014 free minutes during 2014

EE Christmas 2013 OfferEE are offering 168 extra minutes to customers who top up by £10/month or more. To qualify for the offer, you’ll need to buy a new handset this Christmas and you’ll need to top-up every month throughout 2014. Assuming you top-up by £10 every month, you’ll receive a total of 2,014 extra minutes throughout 2014. Unlike the giffgaff offer, the extra minutes stop at the end of 2014.

The free minutes offer is available through the 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile brands. Depending on the network you join, you’ll get slightly different value from your plan.

Customers joining EE’s 4G Pay As You Go service will get 1GB of internet for £10/month. Combined with the free allowance of 168 minutes, you’ll get a total allowance of 168 minutes and 1GB of internet per month. Customers receive a free allowance of 10GB when buying their phone: please see the EE website for more information.

For customers joining Orange, you’ll get 400 free text messages and 1GB of data with every £10 top-up. This is the Dolphin “shed loads of data” tariff which is regularly advertised on TV. Combined with the free minutes, you’ll get 168 minutes, 400 text messages and 1GB of data to use every month. See the Orange website for full details on their tariff.

Finally, customers joining T-Mobile will get 100 minutes, 400 text messages and 1GB of data for £10/month. With the addition of the free minutes, this is bumped up to 268 minutes, 400 text messages and 1GB of data. See the T-Mobile website for more information.

  • £10/month top-up buys (EE): 168 minutes, no texts & 1GB internet
  • £10/month top-up buys (Orange): 168 minutes, 400 texts & 1GB internet
  • £10/month top-up buys (T-Mobile): 268 minutes, 400 texts & 1GB internet
  • Promotion: 168 free minutes per month during 2014 (requires top-up of £10/month)
  • Offer Ends: Handset must be purchased before 31st January 2014.
EE View EE Pay As You Go Handsets (From £150) »
Orange View Orange Pay As You Go Handsets (From 99p) »
T-Mobile View T-Mobile Pay As You Go Handsets (From Free) »

Vodafone: Free £10/month Cinema Pass during 2014

Vodafone are giving Pay As You Go customers a Freebee Rewardz Cinema Pass which lasts for 12 months. The cinema pass is worth £10/month and comes in the form of a prepaid Visa card which works at cinemas in the UK. You’ll need to spend the £10/month at a UK cinema but there are no restrictions on what you can buy: you can use the card for cinema tickets, snacks, drinks or other items.

Vodafone Cinema Pass

Vodafone customers can get £10/month to spend at a UK cinema.

To qualify for the Cinema Pass, you’ll need to buy a Vodafone Pay As You Go smartphone which costs £50 or more. The smartphone must be purchased with a £20 Freedom Freebee. The Freebee lasts for one month and gives you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data. After the initial top-up, there’s no need to top-up every month. However, you’ll still need to sign in on the Cinema Pass website to claim your monthly £10 reward.

For full details on the promotion, please see the Vodafone website.

  • £10/month top-up buys: 150 minutes, unlimited texts & 250MB internet
  • Promotion: A free £10 to spend at the cinema every month throughout 2014.
  • Offer Ends: You’ll need to register on the Cinema Pass website before the 14th January 2014.

View Vodafone Pay As You Go Handsets (From £50) »

O2: Free £20 Rewards Gift

O2 Christmas Gift 2013Customers buying selected O2 Pay As You Go handsets will receive an O2 Rewards gift worth £20. The £20 can be exchanged for high street vouchers, smartphone accessories or to add extra credit to your phone. You’ll need to buy your handset before the 24th December: once it’s arrived text CHRISTMAS to 50202 to claim your free gift.

By joining O2, you’ll normally be placed on the Pay & Go Go Go tariff. For £10/month, you’ll get 75 minutes, 500 texts and 250MB of data. Allowances will double after three months: from the third month onwards you’ll get 150 minutes, 1000 texts and 500MB of data. Savvy users can get much better value on giffgaff’s £10 goodybag: for £10/month you’ll get 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data. giffgaff is owned by O2 and uses the O2 network.

  • £10/month top-up buys: 75 minutes, 500 texts & 250MB internet (allowances double after the first 3 months)
  • Promotion: £20 to spend on O2 Rewards.
  • Offer Ends: Available from 7th November 2013 to 24th December 2013. Register for promotion before 24th January 2014.

View Participating O2 Pay As You Go Handsets (From £90) »

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

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