Compare Pay As You Go Networks: Prices & Coverage

January 20th, 2016

Looking for the best Pay As You Go mobile network in the UK? Our interactive comparison table allows you to compare multiple networks by price and coverage.

Top UpIf you’re looking for a Pay As You Go network, you’re spoilt for choice with almost 20 different networks to choose from in the UK. Indeed, the UK has one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world for mobile communications. There are lots of great deals to be had on the market: just order a free SIM card and start taking advantage of lower rates for calling, texting and browsing.

When choosing a Pay As You Go mobile network, there are two primary considerations you need to think about. Firstly, there’s the price: you’ll want to get the best value deal without paying more than you need to. Secondly, there’s the coverage: you’ll want a mobile network that gives you a good reliable signal.

Before choosing a network, it’s worth being aware there are actually two different types of Pay As You Go tariff:

Traditional Pay As You Go Pay As You Go Bundles
Best for light users who don’t have a smartphone. Best for regular users and smartphone users.
Pay on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis. Rates are typically higher compared to a bundle. Get a 30-day bundle with calls, texts & data included. Pay a fixed amount which is known in advance.
Your credit doesn’t expire providing you keep the SIM card active. Unused allowances expire after 30 days, after which you’ll need to buy another bundle.
No credit check & no contracts to sign. No credit check & no contracts to sign.

In this article, we’ll be comparing the prices on a traditional Pay As You Go tariff (these are tariffs where you pay for your usage on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis). If you’re a regular user or if you have a smartphone, you might be better off buying a bundle. For more information, see our guide to the UK’s best value Pay As You Go bundles.

Pay As You Go Prices and Coverage: Comparison Table

The table below is intended to help you with navigating the UK’s Pay As You Go market. For each mobile network, we’ve listed the charges for accessing the internet, making a phone call and sending a text message. We’ve also listed the coverage provider for each network and provided a link to where you’re able to check their coverage. You can use the table below in conjunction with our other guides when choosing a new Pay As You Go network.

To sort the table, please click on the relevant column heading.

NetworkInternet (per day)Calls (per min)Texts (per SMS)Picture Message (MMS)VoicemailSpecial Rate (per min)Coverage Provider
ASDA Mobile~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
8p4p25p8p
per minute
8p
+ service charge
EE Review
EE-
(fixed, 500MB per month)
30p12p40p30p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE Review
giffgaff20p
(fixed, 20MB per day)
10p6p16p8p
per call
25p
+ service charge
O2 Review
O2 Big Bundles£1
(fixed, 50MB per day)
35p14p35p30p
per call
45p
+ service charge
O2 Review
O2 Big Talker£1
(fixed, 50MB per day)
30p14p35p20p
per call
45p
+ service charge
O2
Three~10p
(estimated from 1p/MB)
3p2p17p3p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Three Review
Vodafone Big Value Bundles£2
(fixed, 50MB per day)
35p14p45p35p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Vodafone Review
Vodafone Freebie Tariffs£2
(fixed, 50MB per day)
30p14p45p30p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Vodafone
Co-operative Mobile~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
8p4p25p4p
per minute
21p
+ service charge
EE
Lebara Mobile~£1.90
(estimated from 19p/MB)
15p
(9p to landline)
19p45p15p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Vodafone Review
Lycamobile~90p
(estimated from 9p/MB)
19p
(12p to landline)
19p-0p
per call
23p
+ service charge
O2 Review
Orange Dolphin~£6.50
(estimated from 65p/MB)
30p12p40p30p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE Review
Orange Racoon~£6.50
(estimated from 65p/MB)
14p14p40p14p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE Review
Post Office Mobile~£1
(estimated from 10p/MB)
8p10p40p8p
per minute
30p
+ service charge
EE
T-Mobile£1
(fixed, 500MB per month)
35p14p30p35p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE Review
Talkmobile Happy Hour~20p
(estimated from 2p/MB)
10p
per call (60 mins max)
4p30p8p
per minute
15p
+ service charge
Vodafone Review
Talkmobile Rewards25p
(fixed, 25MB per day)
25p12p30p25p
per minute
15p
+ service charge
Vodafone Review
Tesco Mobile ~£1
(estimated from 10p/MB)
25p10p25p15p
per minute
25p
+ service charge
O2 Review
Tesco Mobile Lite~£1
(estimated from 10p/MB)
8p4p25p8p
per minute
25p
+ service charge
O2 Review
The People's Operator~20p
(estimated from 2p/MB)
4p3p30p4p
per minute
5p
+ service charge
EE Review
Vectone Mobile~90p
(estimated from 9p/MB)
19p
(12p to landline)
19p25p10p
per minute
25p
+ service charge
EE
Virgin Mobile£1
(fixed, 100MB per day)
35p12p30p26p
per call
36p
+ service charge
EE

Sources: mobile.asda.com, ee.co.uk, giffgaff.com, o2.co.uk, o2.co.uk, three.co.uk, freesim.vodafone.co.uk, freesim.vodafone.co.uk, payg.thephone.coop, lebara.co.uk, lycamobile.co.uk, ee.co.uk, mobile.postoffice.co.uk, ee.co.uk, talkmobile.co.uk, tescomobile.com, tescomobile.com, thepeoplesoperator.com, vectonemobile.co.uk, store.virginmedia.com. Last updated on 13th January 2016.

For pricing on other types of usage (e.g. voicemail, picture messages and special rate phone numbers), you can hover your mouse over the “…” column.

Please remember: if you choose to buy a Pay As You Go bundle, you won’t actually pay the rates listed above (your bundle will already come with an allowance for your usage). The rates listed above are only for traditional Pay As You Go.

We endeavour to keep the information in the table above as up-to-date as possible. If you know of any changes to the pricing listed above, please contact us either by leaving a comment below or by sending us an e-mail.

Below, we’ve provided some background information on the meaning of each column in the comparison table above.

Mobile Internet

data-binaryIn the UK, most smartphone users on Pay As You Go choose to buy a 30-day bundle. This is the best value way of accessing the internet on your smartphone as you’ll get loads of data for £10 per month (the equivalent of 33p per day). There’ll also be some minutes and texts included in your bundle. The following table shows the top £10 monthly bundles:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ASDA Mobile1,000Unlimited2GB£10.00
giffgaff500Unlimited1GB£10.00
EE50501GB£10.00
O22501,000500MB£10.00
Three1003,000500MB£10.00
Vodafone150Unlimited500MB£10.00

For light users who don’t want to use the internet every day, it’s still possible to access mobile internet on traditional Pay As You Go without buying a bundle. Here, you can either pay for data on a “per megabyte” or “per day” basis.

In the comparison table earlier in this page, we simplified the comparison by estimating a daily cost of using data on your smartphone for each network. By default, our assumption is you’ll use 10MB of data each day. This is equivalent to approximately 20 web pages, 3000 instant messages, 2 music tracks or a minute of online video. Any data transferred using a wi-fi network will not be counted towards your mobile data usage.

For a more accurate comparison, you may want to enter your own estimates of how much data you’ll use each day (e.g. if you’re a light or heavy user). In order to customise the comparison, please enter your estimated data usage here.

For someone using 10MB of data per day, the cheapest mobile networks without a bundle are currently as follows:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Mobile Internet
Three 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
giffgaff 20p/day for up to 20MB/day
Talkmobile Happy Hour2p/MB (20p/day for 10MB)
Talkmobile Rewards25p/day for up to 25MB/day
The People's Operator 2p/MB (20p/day for 10MB)

Phone Calls

Phone CallWhen you make an outgoing phone call, you’ll be charged for this on a per-minute basis. The per-minute rate will apply when you’re calling mobiles and landlines (these are phone numbers beginning with 01, 02, 03 or 07). Different rates will apply when you’re calling a special-rate phone number (more information below on the charges). Calls to voicemail and international phone calls can also be charged at a different rate.

You’ll never be charged to receive a phone call in the UK.

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Making A Phone Call
Three 3p per minute
The People's Operator 4p per minute
ASDA Mobile 8p per minute
Co-operative Mobile 8p per minute
Post Office Mobile 8p per minute
Talkmobile Happy Hour8p per minute
Tesco Mobile Lite8p per minute

Please note: most mobile networks have a minimum charge for every outgoing phone call. This is normally equivalent to the cost of a one minute call. For instance, if your mobile network charges 10p/minute then the minimum call charge will normally be 10p per call. Some mobile networks will also round up the length of your phone calls to a full minute when calculating the charges (so a 61-second phone call may be charged as 2 minutes).

Text Messages (SMS)

iMessage VS SMSA SMS text message is able to contain up to 160 characters. If you exceed 160 characters, your message is split up and sent as multiple SMS messages. In this case, you’ll be billed additionally for every additional message sent (e.g. you’ll be charged double if your text message is split into 2 SMS messages).

In recent years, the cost of sending a text message has become much less important as many people have been moving over to smartphone messaging apps (e.g. iMessage, WhatsApp, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger). With an instant messaging app for your smartphone, you can send messages for free using a wi-fi connection. When you’re out and about, you’ll just pay the normal charges for using mobile internet.

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Texting
Three 2p per message
The People's Operator 3p per message
ASDA Mobile 4p per message
Co-operative Mobile 4p per message
Talkmobile Happy Hour4p per message
Tesco Mobile Lite4p per message

Other Charges

There are three other types of charge also listed in the table above (MMS picture messages, voicemail and special rate phone calls). You can see these charges by placing your mouse over the … column in the table above.

Picture Messages

Galaxy S6 CameraOn most 3G and 4G handsets, you can send a picture message over the mobile network using MMS functionality (Multimedia Messaging Service). The cost of sending a picture message can range from 16p to 45p per MMS message. Each MMS message can be up to 300KB in size.

If you’d like to avoid paying for MMS, you can use a smartphone messaging app such as iMessage or WhatsApp. You won’t be charged for sending a picture message when using these applications – you’ll just pay the normal mobile data charges associated with your usage.

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Sending A Picture Message
giffgaff 16p per picture minute
Three 17p per picture minute
ASDA Mobile 25p per picture minute
Co-operative Mobile 25p per picture minute
Tesco Mobile 25p per picture minute
Tesco Mobile Lite25p per picture minute
Vectone Mobile 25p per picture minute

Voicemail

Most mobile networks offer a voicemail service for when you aren’t able to receive an incoming phone call (e.g. for when your phone is switched off or for when you aren’t able to answer an incoming phone call). With voicemail, you’ll normally be charged twice for the service: once when an incoming caller leaves a message, and again when you later listen back to the voicemail.

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Accessing Your Voicemail
Three 3p per minute
giffgaff 8p per call
Co-operative Mobile 4p per minute
The People's Operator 4p per minute

Voicemail will normally be included when you buy a Pay As You Go bundle.

Special Rate Phone Calls (to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers)

UK Calling Logo

As of July 2015, the cost of calling special rate numbers is split into two parts: an access charge and a service charge.

If you’re calling a special rate phone number (phone numbers beginning with 084, 087, 09 or 118), you’ll be charged differently to when you’re making a normal phone call.

With special rate numbers, the charge is divided into two separate parts. Firstly, there’s a per-minute access charge from your mobile phone network (you can save money by choosing the network with the lowest access charge). Secondly, there’s a service charge that is set by the company you’re calling (this will always be the same regardless of which network you’re calling from).

The following Pay As You Go networks currently have the lowest per-minute access charge:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Making A Special Rate Call
The People's Operator 5p/minute access charge + service charge
ASDA Mobile 8p/minute access charge + service charge
Talkmobile Happy Hour15p/minute access charge + service charge
Talkmobile Rewards15p/minute access charge + service charge

Coverage Provider

UK

All UK mobile networks provide at least 98% coverage. Many mobile networks are piggybacking on a coverage provider.

In the UK, only four companies currently hold a license to build their own mobile network: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. The four companies have each licensed some spectrum from the government and they maintain their own network of mobile phone masts.

All other companies offering a mobile phone service are known as virtual network operators: they piggyback on one of the four coverage providers. You’ll therefore get identical coverage when using one of these networks. To give an example, customers using ASDA Mobile get 2G and 3G coverage from the EE network (this has 99% population coverage).

The level of coverage offered by a Pay As You Go network depends solely upon which coverage provider they’re using. You can click through to the relevant coverage map for each of the four coverage providers – they’ll inform you whether a signal is available in your area:

Based on the results of this comparison, you should eliminate any networks using a coverage provider that gives poor signal in your area. For more information, please see our in-depth guide on how to check and compare mobile network coverage.

Handset Compatibility

giffgaff smartphones include the Xperia Z1, Galaxy S4 and Note 3.Providing your handset is unlocked, it should work on any mobile network in the table above. The only exception is for 2G-only handsets: a 2G-only handset will not work on the Three network (this is because Three doesn’t have any 2G coverage).

If you already have a smartphone that’s unlocked, you can order a free SIM card from most of the networks above. The SIM card will slot inside your existing unlocked smartphone: you’ll get lower calling rates and you can even keep your existing number. When ordering your SIM card, just be sure to choose a SIM card of the right size.

If your smartphone is currently locked to a network, see our guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy. It’ll sometimes be free to unlock your handset though some mobile networks can charge you up to £19.99. If you’re looking a buy a new handset that’s already unlocked, look out for SIM-free smartphones at a retailer like Amazon.co.uk.

Bundles & Credit Expiry

On a traditional Pay As You Go service, your credit doesn’t expire providing your SIM card remains active. This makes it perfect for people who rarely use their handset (e.g. in case your mobile phone is mainly used for emergencies). Typically, you’ll need to use your SIM card at least once every 6 months to keep it active.

For customers who regularly use their handset or for customers who own a smartphone, it’s normally better value to convert your credit into a 30-day Pay As You Go bundle. When buying a bundle, you’ll get a given amount of airtime for a fixed price every month. For instance, ASDA Mobile currently gives you 1000 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of internet for £10 per month. Other bundles at £10 per month include:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ASDA Mobile1,000Unlimited2GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited1GB£10.00
giffgaff500Unlimited1GB£10.00
EE50501GB£10.00
EE150Unlimited500MB£10.00
O22501,000500MB£10.00
Three1003,000500MB£10.00
Vodafone150Unlimited500MB£10.00
giffgaff500Unlimited2GB£12.00

For more information, please see our in-depth guide to Pay As You Go bundles. You can also read our review of Pay As You Go bundles from ASDA Mobile, EE, giffgaff, O2, Three and Vodafone.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM Card (Free) »
ASDA Mobile’s £10 bundle comes with 1000 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet (coverage from EE)

Keeping Your Phone Number

If you’re changing mobile networks, it’s super easy to keep your existing phone number. Simply ask your old mobile network to provide you with a PAC Code and then give this code to your new network. The process should only take about one working day. For more information, see our guide on moving your phone number between networks.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 68 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Meri said:

    Hi Ken,
    for a couple of months I have used a basic mobile, no internet, the provider is O2. I pay a £10 top up each month of the bundle type deal. I didn’t realise that I had a choice to not have a bundle deal until I read your informative website.
    How can I change from the bundle type deal to an ordinary pay as you go deal ?
    Thank you in advance.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Meri,
      Thanks for your comment. You can change to the ‘Big Talker’ tariff on O2: here there’ll be no need to buy a bundle every month. You can switch to Big Talker by texting BIGTALK to 21300. Alternatively, you can dial 2202 free from your handset. For more information, please see the article here.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Meri replied:

        Hi Ken,
        marvelous thank you. I have text BIGTALK & already had a reply that I will be on the PAYG tariff.
        Thank you so much you have set up such a splendid website, really great !
        Meri

  2. Sushi said:

    Hi
    Please advise on the most economical network I can use when in uk for a few weeks twice a year, where the credit will not expire.

    Thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Sushi,
      Thanks for your comment. The table above should give you per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte prices (so you can find the cheapest network based on how much you use your phone). In terms of credit expiry, the guide here should hopefully help you – it outlines the credit expiry policy on each network.
      Ken

  3. Sue Miller said:

    I am another fan of your website, Ken – it’s responsive and doesn’t talk down.
    My problem is, I have left it till almost the last minute to find a new provider after Sainsburys close down on Jan 15th – am I alone?. I was most tempted by Three, as a light PAYG user who also uses my mobile in France. They don’t work on my old 2G Nokia so I was ready to bite the bullet and buy a smartphone BUT my husband has just switched and found that he gets a weak signal here in London, despite what it says on their coverage map. So everything goes straight to voicemail except from our son, on Three.
    The Three store manager in Lewisham was very helpful, updated settings, installed the app for linking it to wifi and checked coverage. I don’t want a mobile that doesn’t even work at home except connected to wifi.
    So I’m wondering whether to just go to giffgaff or Asda or if there are temporary glitches in Three’s coverage so close to their own shop. Three’s loss and mine. Any ideas?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for your comment. You make a really good point about Three’s 321 tariff: it doesn’t work on 2G-only handsets and the coverage can sometimes be limited in some areas (particularly when indoors). I’d probably recommend ordering yourself a free SIM card from ASDA Mobile and giffgaff (ASDA uses the EE network whereas giffgaff uses the O2 network). The good news is they’ll both offer you 2G coverage (so it will work in an old 2G-only Nokia). The rates are slightly higher (e.g. 8p/minute and 4p/text on ASDA Mobile) but for light users, it might not make a huge difference in your overall spend (especially if you only call & text fairly infrequently). You can always test the coverage using their free SIM cards before moving your number over, but be sure to make the January 15th deadline (otherwise you may lose your phone number indefinitely).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Sue Miller replied:

        Yes, thanks for this Ken. To further complicate things, my husband now on Three with no signal has been offered a signal booster which will probably arrive after I need to switch, so I won’t know how effective it is. I don’t think now is the time to change to Three for me so I’ll go for one of the two you suggest.

        My son has informed me that Three is taking over 02 so would that mean any provider linked to 02, e.g. Giffgaff, would still have the 02 coverage?

        Sue.

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Sue,
          Glad to hear – hope you manage to find to find a suitable alternative before the closure on Friday. In case it’s still of interest, I posted an article in November about the Mobile by Sainsbury’s closure.
          Regarding O2 and Three: Yes, a merger was agreed between the two companies in March of last year but it’s still subject to regulatory approval (so it’s still not confirmed whether the merger will happen). If it does eventually go ahead, the combined company might decide to merge the two networks. This is what Orange and T-Mobile did after their merger (though it took another two years for this to actually happen). Realistically, therefore, you’re probably unlikely to see any changes until 2018 at the earliest. Therefore, yes, nothing to worry about in the short-term: you’ll continue to get the same coverage on giffgaff as before.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  4. Colin said:

    Ken, Your site says Talkmobile UK call rate (landline) would be 8p per min.
    Unless I have misunderstood Talkmobile’s site says it 25p.

    Pay As You Go Rewards price plan charges
    All standard UK call charges including voicemail are charged by the second.
    Like other UK businesses, we sometimes have to put up our charges or change our services during your contract. If this happens, we will tell you beforehand.
    Standard UK call charges Cost per minute (1 minute minimum call charge)
    Calls to any standard UK landline (starting 01, 02, 03), excluding Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man 25p
    Calls to any Talkmobile mobile 10p
    Calls to any other UK mobile networks 25p

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Colin,
      Thanks for your comment. Talkmobile actually offers a choice of two different Pay As You Go tariffs: there’s Happy Hour and Pay As You Go Rewards. By default, new customers are placed on the ‘Happy Hour’ tariff where you’re charged 10p for the first 60 minutes, then 8p/minute after the first hour. The 25p rate mentioned in your comment only applies to ‘Pay As You Go Rewards’ (I haven’t listed this in the table above as you would need to specifically call up Talkmobile and ask to switch to this more expensive tariff).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  5. Wady said:

    For the attention of Ken and Dave and all readers.

    I was looking on google for the cheapest tariff and top ups as until now I am a landline user. As the landline charges have become so expensive, I was looking for another alternative which is the mobile. I found a company called Tello, their tariff is 3-3-1 which is one p more than Three mobile per text but the top up is a minimum of £2 and doesn’t expire only if it is unused for more than 6 months in which case you can keep it active by using it once every 6 months. I am a low user so this is important for me. The company uses the Three network and has got coverage for 3G and 4G.
    It will be useful to add this company to your list because of the low top up and low rates.
    Anyone who wants to enquire, they can find them online by searching the name on google or they can phone them on 0203 514 7110.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Wady,
      Thanks and sorry for the delay in replying (I’m currently away on holiday!). I haven’t looked into Tello so far but will keep this in mind for future reviews.
      Thanks again for the heads up and for the contribution to the website!
      Ken

  6. Meryl said:

    Ken this is an extremely helpful website. I’ve just connected with O2 pay as go. I wish I’d seen this website with all the comparisons of providers as there is such a difference in call charges. I have a basic UK mobile as I am abroad a lot.
    Checking the international tariffs I was surprised to see they are cheaper than making calls within the UK. Can this be right ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Meryl,
      Thank you for the kind words! With regards to your question: yes, bizarrely, it’s often cheaper to use your phone in the EU than it is to use your phone in the UK. This is because the roaming fees in Europe are capped by the EU, as such there’s a maximum amount the mobile networks are able to charge. There’s no limit on how much the mobile networks can charge you to use your phone in the UK, hence why it will often cost you even more. Saying that, the cheapest PAYG deal for using your phone in the UK (Three’s 321 tariff) should charge you less than what you’d normally pay in the EU.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  7. Paul said:

    Mobile by Sainsbury is stopping using Vodafone from 16(?) January 2016 and the last day you can top-up is 14 Nov 2015

  8. ChrisK said:

    I’m quid’s in with Sainsbury mobile with all the extra Nectar points I’ve been collecting with 500 point for inconveniences and double point until July 2016.

    The past two weeks I’ve made nearly £20 from the closure of Sainsbury Mobile and I only had a sim from July this year while on holiday and Vodafone was the only network with coverage so spent £10 and got £20 and another 2 or 3 months to use the £4-50 credit I still have.

    Not as good as Ovivo as I made about £350 the near on 2 years I had that sim before closer of that network.

    My main sim now is a 3, 3-2-1 that’s hard to beat but I’ve moved a couple of family friends onto the Post Office network with their £5 bundle with 250 minutes, 3000 text and 512 Mb data.

  9. Dave said:

    Thanks Ken for a REALLY informative web page!!

    The reason I was looking for info like this is because I’m really disgruntled as I’ve just learnt that the Mobile by Sainsburys PAYG service will be discontinued in Jan 2016 – especially as I’ve only had this SIM card for about 8 months.

    Happily, changing to another network (probably going to go for either Asda or Tesco – would be interested to hear what other MBS customers will opt for) is not such a big problem. Just get the PAC code (as you say, they have to provide this within 2 hours of the request), get a new SIM card, either in store or via online request forms (all links are on your site), and tell the new provider the PAC and then changeover should take no longer than 1 business day.

    However, what concerns me is that Sainsburys seems to making no provision for refunding unused credit. If they do not do so, this is plain and simple FRAUD – sorry, there’s no other way to say it. They are cheating us!!!

    If your figures on your site are correct and there are about 150,000 current subscribers, and they each have an average of (say) approx £5 remaining credit, this is a LOT OF MONEY they are keeping from us.

    I mean, how difficult can it be for them to set up a webpage in which you input your name, address, telephone number, SIM card number and bank details, and when the SIM card is deactivated, it automatically refunds the credit to your bank account? I would even concede to allow them to deduct a nominal fee (eg £1) to cover their administration costs if it makes them happy – although let’s face it, Sainsburys are not exactly struggling for cash right now!!!

    Can you confirm if the withholding of unused credit is legal and if there is anything in their T&C’s to allow this? How could we the consumer raise this issue with OFCOM??

    You see, something similar happened to me about a year ago when I got my fingers burnt after I lost about £9 on a Lebara PAYG card that expired because I didn’t know about the “phone not used for 90 days, SIM deactivated” rule. I tried making a complaint to OFCOM but I never received any reply.

    Now I’m determined not to lose my credit again.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your comment. In this instance, I believe Mobile by Sainsbury’s are making some provision to return unused credit. If you’d like to apply for a refund, you can call them on 0333 313 1150. They should offer either to give you a voucher or to add the money to your Nectar account balance.
      With regards to your experience with Lebara, this is a case of credit expiry on Pay As You Go. Typically, most mobile networks will keep your SIM card active providing you use it at least once every 6 months. On Lebara, this is only 84 days which is much shorter than the industry average.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Dave replied:

        Well, perhaps I was a bit hasty with my original post, but at the time of writing I thought that ‘no refund’ was indeed the case.

        As it transpires, I was wrong about this and I apologise to Sainsburys; in my defence, there is no clear and overt information about it anywhere on their MBS website and I believe they are doing this deliberately so that many subscribers just give up and write off their credit (thus lining Sainsbury’s pockets!!!).

        So for others who are in the same boat, just call (on your still active MBS phone) the call centre on 40775, first ask your operator for your PAC code, then ask to be put through to the refund department. S/he will take your details and you can ask for the refund to be sent by cheque via post, as well as the options that Ken mentioned above. As soon as the old SIM has been deactivated and your number transferred to your new provider’s SIM, they will process your claim (can take up to 28 days they said).

        And just for the record and after due consideration of all Ken’s tables, I think I’m going to transfer to Three: 3p/min phone, 2p/message SMS, 1p/MB or 10p/day for internet. Initial top-up costs £10, and AFAIK this will last indefinitely, with no time expiry, until it runs out. Topping up again can be done manually at any time, or you can also set up an automatic top-up with your debit/credit card (My3 account required for this I think). All perfect for the low volume user like myself!

        1. Dave replied:

          Well, I got my PAC code from MBS at the end of October and the transfer to my new provider (Three) took place a few days later.

          As mentioned above in my previous post, I was promised a refund cheque within 28 days, but six weeks later I AM STILL WAITING FOR IT!! Despite repeated Emails to support@mobilebysainsburys.co.uk, there has been no answer from them. And of course, since I can no longer call the free 40775 number, my only option is to call their chargeable landline number, which I am reluctant to do.

          SAINSBURY’S, WHY ARE YOU WITHHOLDING OUR MONEY FROM US?

          By my reckoning, they have approximately half a million pounds of leftover credit from all their subscribers and of course they are earning a hefty whack of interest on this every day. This is immoral, unethical and probably illegal.

          Anyone else in the same boat as me here? Any suggestions??

          1. Dave replied:

            Update: 30th Jan 2015

            Well, after 3 months from when they promised it (4 months from when I made the original claim for a refund for my unused PAYG credit), I FINALLY got my money back in the form of a cheque from Sainsbury’s – plus a bit of compensation and some Nectar points (the latter being slightly useless as I will be boycotting all their shops, products and services for ever and a day). I also reported them to the GCA (Groceries Code Adjudicator: http://www.gov.uk/gca).

            If you’re having problems getting satisfaction, I suggest you contact Keith Sergeant at the Executive Office: customer.service@sainsburys.co.uk

    2. Paul replied:

      You are getting any credit back from Sainsbury and you can choose either points on a Nectar card or a refund to your credit/debit card, as told to me only last Thursday 29 October when I asked for my PAC code

  10. Shelley said:

    Hi, I have just bought a smartphone mainly to use when away from home for email access. I have a pay as you go sim on 3 for this phone. I also have a small old phone which I use a lot as it is light and easy to carry about, I am on Payg with EE on this one and it is too expensive. I can’t get a 3 package on this phone as is is not 3g.
    I really want one telephone number to use for both phones, so I can pick and choose which one to use depending on what I am doing that day. Is that possible? If so which company would cover this?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Shelley,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have the same phone number on two phones at the same time. You can, however, move a SIM card between the two handsets (only one of the two phones will work at a given time). One complication is you’ll need to make sure your two phones use the same size of SIM card.
      In terms of network recommendations, I recommend having a look at giffgaff. They have 2G coverage on the O2 network (so no need to always have a 3G handset). In terms of pricing, it’s 10p/minute, 6p/text and 20p/day for up to 20MB of internet. This is a bit more expensive than Three’s 321 tariff but should be a lot cheaper than using EE Pay As You Go.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Shelley replied:

        Thank you for that information. Unfortunately the 2 phones have different sized sim cards, so will have to go with another network, or learn to use the smartphone properly and get used to extra weight to carry around!

        Thank you again Shelley

  11. Jason said:

    Hi
    Is there a pay as you go network similar to 3 where your credit never expires?
    My daughter needs a second phone for work as her primary network (3) has awful coverage there. The second phone needs a tarrif where the credit on her phone never expires as it will only be used for the odd call, message and slight data usage, 3 offers this but i cant find any information on other networks which offer it. Many thanks and any help would be much appreciated.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jason,
      All of the networks listed above allow you to Pay As You Go without any regular monthly payments (you’d pay on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis). You’ll just need to be careful to avoid buying a bundle and you’ll need to use your SIM card occasionally to keep it active. My personal recommendation would probably be a SIM card from giffgaff if you’re able to get coverage on their network (O2).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    2. Kristy replied:

      I also think giff gaff is the way to go, I’m with them too I used to be with orange, but I get A LOT MORE for my money with giff gaff (gg) if you can get coverage then that’s great they use O2, feel free to ask me anything regarding gg I’m happy to help good luck x

  12. John said:

    I’d like to note that, according to the EE website, for international calling with EE you may add the call abroad addon for free, which offers good rates, even lower than calling within the UK. Just a note of that.

  13. Angus Day said:

    Although Three and The People’s Operator have the same 1p charge for data, only TPO will connect to the 2G network for a simple Feature Phone. Conversely, only Three provides 4G for a Smartphone. Horses for courses!

  14. Mike R said:

    I was with “Family Mobile” (IKEA) PAYG with whom I was quite happy, but they are now closing down.
    One of their key features, for me, was the Automatic Top-Up, taking £10 from my credit card when my credit expired.
    Are there any other providers that provide a similar auto top-up PAYG service? All those I have looked at seem to require a “manual” top-up. I don’t want a “package”, as I am a very low user.
    Grateful for any advice.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. Certain other networks do indeed also have an auto top-up feature. My recommendation is probably to go with giffgaff (info here on how to set up their auto top-up feature). There’s no need to buy a goodybag when using this service as it also works with their normal Pay As You Go rates (10p/minute, 6p/text & 20p/day for up to 20MB of internet). Other networks might also have this service but you’ll sometimes need to buy a bundle to use it (unfortunately, I don’t have a full list of networks to hand).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Mike R replied:

        Ken,
        Many thanks for your helpful advice.
        I wanted to avoid a bundle, and you have also confirmed the good reports I have read of giffgaff (more than I can say of Family Mobile…).
        Regards,
        Mike

  15. Simon said:

    I’d like to get an old style Credit SIM only for my 9 year old as an emergency phone now he’s moving to middle school.

    I don’t want data as its a basic phone that he will use to either phone or text, no internet or games.

    What I want is to put credit on but it lasts for a least 6 months if he doesn’t use it.

    They all seem to last only a month now.

    The phone is unlocked and 2G, yes I know we cant use the 3 network. I have a number of these old phones he could use.

    any help is gratefully received.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Simon,
      Thanks for your comment. With the SIM cards listed on this page, your credit doesn’t expire after one month. In fact, your credit should last indefinitely providing you keep the SIM card active by using it occasionally (make sure you avoid buying a Pay As You Go bundle).
      As you aren’t able to get a SIM card from Three (Three requires you to have a 3G-compatible handset), I would recommend the SIM cards from either ASDA Mobile or Mobile by Sainsbury’s (they charge 8p/minute and 4p/text). You can also consider a SIM card from giffgaff (slightly more expensive at 10p/minute and 6p/text). All three SIM cards will happily work in a 2G-only handset.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  16. J. Swindlehurst said:

    I have an old Nokia phone on pay as you go and I’ve had no network coverage from Orange forvtge last few days even though there is £11 still on the phone. I have purchased a new nokia phone with Virgin network which is linked to Orange and is now ee. Is there any way I can retrieve my £11 or get my old phone to work. I’m presuming it’s because the network doesn’t support old mobiles anymore.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      There shouldn’t have been any changes on the Orange side which would have caused your old handset to stop working on Orange (they still support 2G networks, just as before). Could it be possible they’ve disabled your account due to 6 months of inactivity on it?
      Ken

  17. G Davies said:

    I have a Samsung E1500 phone with a t-mobile payg sim. I only want it for occasional use to make a call or text. What is the cheapest plan to be on?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. Is your Samsung E1500 currently locked to T-Mobile? Or is it unlocked for use on any mobile network? As the E1500 is a 2G-only handset, you won’t be able to use Three’s 321 tariff (this requires you to have a 3G-ready handset). Hence, you’re probably looking for one of the other low-cost networks (e.g. the ones that charge 8p/minute and 4p/text). As a good all-round option, you should also consider giffgaff. They charge 10p/minute and 6p/text (but you get free calls & texts to other members on giffgaff). You also get coverage from O2.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  18. George said:

    Hello Ken

    Thanks very much for all the info on your site, it’s very helpful especially for a complete novice as i am.

    i rarely use a mobile phone but carry one in case of emergency but yesterday unfortunately lost the Samsung i had on a Tesco PAYG tariff.

    i can see basic handsets sold by Tesco/Argos/Asda etc for around £5 but would like to know if:

    a) i can get the unused credit on my old phone transferred to a new handset/provider

    b) choose a provider with a low cost tariff rate which doesn’t expire quickly (less than 6 months, though a year would be good!)

    c) get basic email access on any of these cheap (2G?) handsets

    Any simple recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks
    George

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi George,
      Thank you for the kind words regarding my website! To answer your questions in order:
      a) Which mobile network were you previously using? The credit is actually linked to your mobile phone SIM card rather than to the handset itself. Hence, you can contact your old network and report your SIM card as lost/stolen – they’ll be able to re-issue a new SIM card with your credit on it (EE and T-Mobile charge £10.21 for a replacement SIM card, most other networks will send you a replacement for free). Please be aware: if you have an unregistered Pay As You Go SIM card, it can sometimes be difficult to get the SIM card re-issued (you’ll need to pass a security check from the network).
      b) The table above shows rates for each mobile network. On most mobile networks, credit shouldn’t expire providing you use the phone at least once every six months (be sure not to buy a bundle which will require you top-up your phone every month).
      c) The vast majority of low-cost handsets won’t allow you to access your e-mail. If you want access to your e-mail, it might be worth having a look at some low-cost smartphones (e.g. the Lumia 435 is £65 unlocked). A low-cost smartphone will allow you to access your e-mail free of charge when connected to wi-fi.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  19. Bob Cook said:

    Family Mobile say on their website that their coverage is provided by T mobile… http://www.yourfamilymobile.co.uk/search?search=coverage

    1. Bob Cook replied:

      Ok. I’ve found that T mobile is EE. All very confusing!

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi Bob,
        Good find – it looks like their website needs a little bit of updating! Family Mobile did originally use signal from T-Mobile. However, T-Mobile completed a merger of their network with Orange sometime around 2012 (hence, customers now get access to the 2G & 3G networks originally provided by both Orange and T-Mobile). For simplicity, we consider this as just the EE network. The information on their official website is around 2 years out-of-date and needs updating! 😉
        Ken

  20. Gill said:

    We manly use our landline for both calls and internet Both my husband and I have mobiles. He is retired, in his 80s and uses his rarely (mainly to track me down) and has been with O2 forever. A £10 topup lasts him for 2 or 3 months. He has, however, now got an android smartphone and would like to be able to check his emails while out and about. I would imagine his data usage will be minimal and therefore a monthly inclusive package would be wasted.

    what would you suggest?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gill,
      Thanks for your comment! As your husband now uses a smartphone, you’d be looking for a tariff with affordable mobile internet.
      On O2 Pay As You Go, it would normally cost £1/day to access mobile internet or you can buy one of the £10/month Big Bundle packages. Clearly, this is very expensive given a £10 top-up will normally last you 2 to 3 months. It’s also probably overkill as he won’t require a huge amount of data to check e-mail on the go (as you pointed out in your comment).
      My two suggested tariffs would probably be as follows:
      1. EE now have a Pay As You Go deal where it’s £1/week for 100MB of internet. This should be more than sufficient for e-mail on the go. You also get 10 minutes & 10 texts per week (perfect for finding each other when you’re out and about). You can order a free SIM card from EE via this link – you can also keep the existing phone number from O2.
      2. Three’s 321 tariff will only charge you 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB for accessing mobile internet. This is substantially cheaper than using O2 Pay As You Go (you’d probably spend less than 10p/day for accessing the mobile internet).
      Best wishes and hope this helps to answer your question!
      Ken

  21. Amir said:

    Hi I want a cheap pay as you go sim for my mum she doesn’t want top up on the internet so that rules giffgaff out even though you can use their vouchers.

    Doesn’t use a 3g phone or uses the internet on phone or at home.

    Looking at Asda Mobile as it has a shop and phone call presence.

    Uses the phone very rarely maybe 30 mins a month. Any ideas before i go with ASDA Mobile.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Amir,
      Thanks for your comment. It is possible to top-up your giffgaff SIM card without using the internet: you buy a voucher like you said in your comment then call 43430 and follow the voice-guided instructions. Alternatively, you could configure auto top-up using a debit or credit card (extra credit will automatically be added to your account every time your balance goes below £3).
      Aside from that, the option you mentioned (using ASDA Mobile), would also be a very good choice!
      Ken

      1. Amir replied:

        Sure i replied to this how come my message was deleted out.

        So are you going to update the 0845 and 0800 number what it costs to call from pay as you go. The one you have is hopelessly out of date written in 2009.

        No mention of what ASDA charge. Otherwise great site Ken keep up the good work

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Amir,
          Thanks for the comment. I actually replied to your last message over on this thread – sorry for the confusion! The reply has the latest 0800, 0845 & 0870 rates for ASDA Mobile.
          With regards to our article on 08 number rates, it is on my list of things I want to do (sorry, things have been crazy over the last few months!). I do hope to re-visit the article in the future – in the mean time I hope you’ll find it helpful having the rates for ASDA Mobile.
          Ken

  22. Mark said:

    Hi Ken,

    I am looking for a PAYG 2G standard size SIM card to fit into a GPS/SMS/GPRS Tracker. I need to be able to top-up online too.

    What would you recommend?

    Thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. As you’re looking for a data-only SIM card, this rules out a number of tariffs which can only be used within a handset (more specifically, you’re looking for a mobile broadband SIM card). Also, as your device is 2G, it puts Three out of the running (Three only has 3G and 4G coverage). Based on the criteria you’ve given, the best value deal would probably be giffgaff. You’d pay a flat rate of 20p per day when using data on the tracker device. You can order a free SIM card here.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  23. Karim said:

    Hello Ken/ everyone,

    I am new to the UK, and I got a new company phone ( unfortunately it’s a blackberry ).

    In parallel I own a iPhone 5, with no SIM card in it.

    So my question is: How can I get 3g or 4g on my Iphone without having to get a phone number on it ( as I will not use it).

    If this is not possible, what options do I have. I read somewhere about the PAYG system here in the UK.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Best Regards

    Karim

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Karim,
      Welcome to the UK! Unfortunately, it’s not possible to get 3G or 4G without having a SIM card in the phone. As part of getting a SIM card, you’ll be assigned with a phone number (of course, you don’t actually need to use the phone). As someone mainly using data, look out for the best data packages (e.g. giffgaff’s £12 goodybag gives you unlimited data on 3G).
      As an alternative, you can also tether from your BlackBerry. This allows you to browse on-the-go without having a separate SIM card/contract.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Karim replied:

        thank you Ken.

        This helped a lot.

  24. alan said:

    i cant find the voicemail charges i need a network p as you g that has free voice mail to listen to i have no calls but about 30 a week voice mails and it cost me to listen to them help

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment! Place your mouse over the “…” for each network to see their voicemail charges. Unfortunately, no network offers free calls to voicemail (it is a service that costs them money to provide). However, Three charges just 3p/minute so is a fairly low-cost offering. If you buy a Pay As You Go bundle, you’ll normally get voicemail included in your minutes.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. alan replied:

        yes ken thanks i just need to hear my voice mail then i will phone back on a house phone if its there house phone i get free calls house to house

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Alan,
          On second thoughts, try making use of Ovivo Mobile’s Freedom 0 deal. It’s £0/month and you’ll get 250 minutes per month – the minutes can also be used for calling the voicemail service. There’s an upfront cost of £20 for the SIM, of which £15 is returned in the form of free credit. To keep your account active, be sure to use the service at least once every 60 days.
          Hope this helps!
          Ken

  25. Andru said:

    Hi Ken,
    thank you for great job.
    May be you know
    I use now sim from Three but my mobile displays Orange as my Network.
    That phone was never locked and allocated to any network.
    This is dual sim Nokia and the second sim is from Delight.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Andru,
      Thanks for your comment! The most likely explanation is that your dual-SIM handset only supports 2G on your Three SIM card (voice/text coverage). In certain areas, Three has a 2G service provided by Orange (though they began turning it off as early as 2011). As Orange is being displayed as your network, you’ll be using the 2G roaming service.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  26. Dawn Kay said:

    These are worth considering too:

    Simplecall Mobile (Orange)
    UK Landline 3p per min
    UK Mobile 4p per min
    UK Text 5p per msg
    UK Picture & Video Messages 30p per msg
    UK Internet 10p per Mb

    The new 3 payg 321
    3p calls 2p texts 1p mb data

    Victory Mobile (EE)
    UK mobiles 4p
    UK SMS 4p
    Landlines 4p
    Voicemail 4p
    0800 prefix 10p
    0845, 0870/1 etc 25p
    Data 4p/MB
    Victory to Victory calls FREE FREE
    Victory to Victory SMS FREE FREE

    White Mobile (EE/orange)
    White Mobile to White Mobile UK Calls FREE International Text Messages from 10p
    White Mobile to White Mobile UK Text FREE Voicemail FREE
    Calls to UK Landline 3p ’0800′ prefix numbers 10p
    Other UK Mobile 6p ’0845/0870′ prefix numbers 25p
    UK Text Messages 5p Data 2.5p/MB

  27. Michael Wilkinson said:

    For a one off payment of £20 you can get a Freedom sim from Ovivo which will give you

    150 mins + 250 texts + 500MB data per month.

    If you do not exceed that limit you will never pay another penny.
    I got mine 4 months ago and as a light user have no problem staying within the limit.
    Best deal Ive ever had.

    1. Bob replied:

      The table unfortunately does not appear in your email which is a shame (probably would not fit well anyway). Also can’t help feeling sorry for Ovivo as their free calls/texts/data (150mins/250texts/500mb) package although quite limited do not show in your comparison (not easy to fit everything in I realise).

    2. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Michael and Bob,

      Thank you both for your comments! You make a really good point about Ovivo’s Freedom Plan – I’ll have a look into how to display this information more clearly in the table. Also thanks for the heads up about the e-mail formatting… I’ll take a look into this.

      Ken

  28. Stew said:

    Is there such a thing as PAYG 4G?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Stew,

      Thanks for the comment! Funnily enough, EE launched the UK’s first 4G Pay As You Go tariff only this morning. Refer to the EE website for full details or see the review I posted earlier this month. EE charges 30p/minute and 12p/text. For mobile data, you’ll need to buy a bundle (e.g. £6/month for 500MB of data).

      Ken

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