Free Pay As You Go SIM Cards: Listed, Reviewed & Networks Compared

January 2nd, 2017

Get a free SIM card for your mobile phone: Pay As You Go offerings compared from 17 UK networks.

Pay As You Go SIM CardWhether you’re a smartphone fanatic or someone who only uses their phone on an occasional basis, there are some great deals to be had when you order a free Pay As You Go SIM card in the UK.

The best Pay As You Go SIM cards offer super-low rates that can even rival Pay Monthly SIM cards in terms of value for money. To take advantage of the best offers currently available, simply order a free SIM card below and slot it inside your mobile phone. There are no credit checks or upfront fees. There’s also no need to set up a direct debit: simply top-up your SIM card when you need credit to pay for your airtime.

In the table below, we’ve reviewed free SIM card offers from 17 of the UK’s most popular Pay As You Go networks. We’ve included mainstream providers as well as low-cost alternatives and specialist Pay As You Go mobile networks for calling another country. We’ve also compared the cost of each network to help you with getting the best value for money.

  1. Changing mobile network? If you’re keeping the same phone but changing to another network, it might be necessary to first unlock your handset. We’ve got a step-by-step guide on unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy handset.
  2. Coverage is identical on many mobile networks. Many networks share the same coverage provider: you’ll get identical levels of coverage when using any of these networks. To give an example, ASDA Mobile uses coverage from EE and giffgaff uses coverage from O2.
  3. Keeping your mobile number. If you’re changing mobile networks, it’s super easy to keep your current phone number. Once you’ve ordered your new SIM card, contact your old network and ask them for a PAC Code. You can then pass this on to your new mobile network and your phone number will be moved over on the next working day. For more information, see our guide to transferring your mobile phone number.

Free Pay As You Go SIM Card Offers

At present, ASDA Mobile is our top pick amongst the UK’s Pay As You Go offerings. They offer super-low rates and 99% coverage from the EE network.

ASDA Mobile
Most Popular: 59% of our readers choose to join ASDA Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 3.5GB internet†.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB internet (avg. 50p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

ASDA is offering an extra 2GB per month on bundles until the 27th June.

ASDA Mobile is currently our recommended network for anyone who is looking for a free Pay As You Go SIM card. ASDA has 99% population coverage on EE’s 2G, 3G and 4G network.

For light users, ASDA Mobile charges 8p/minute and 4p/text. There are no regular monthly charges and your Pay As You Go credit won’t expire (you just need to use your phone at least once every 180 days).

For regular users, ASDA Mobile also has a competitive range of great value bundles. For instance, £10/month will buy you 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 3.5GB of 4G internet (this includes an extra 2GB/month which is available for bundles purchased before the 27th June 2017). This is four times as many minutes as you’ll get on EE and seven times more data to use every month. To take advantage of the offer, you should order a free SIM card from the ASDA Mobile website.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) »

† Until the 27th June 2017, it’s possible to get 2GB of extra data on ASDA Mobile bundles. Outside of the extra data offer, the £10 bundle normally includes 1.5GB of internet per month.

Amongst readers of our website, giffgaff and Tello are also highly popular choices. They both offer 4G internet and low Pay As You Go rates.

giffgaff
10% of our readers choose to join giffgaff*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 50p/day).
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Giffgaff Goodybagsgiffgaff is another highly-popular Pay As You Go offering amongst readers of our website. A fully-owned subsidiary of O2, giffgaff gives its members the exact same coverage as customers on O2.

Most giffgaff members choose to buy a goodybag bundle. For instance, on the £10/month goodybag, you’ll get 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of 4G internet. This is twice as many minutes and four as much data as you’d get on the £10 Big Bundle from O2.

For lighter users, the £7.50 goodybag can give you even bigger savings (you’ll get 250 minutes, unlimited texts and 750MB of 4G internet). Alternatively, there’s a selection of goodybags with even more data (e.g. 5GB of data for £15/month or Always-On data for £20/month).

Members of giffgaff can call and text each other totally free of charge (all you need to do is to top-up your phone at least once every 3 months). giffgaff also has discounted rates for international calling.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

Tello
4% of our readers choose to join Tello*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 3p/text and 1p/MB internet (avg. 10p/day).
  • Uses the Three network. 98% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Tello SIM CardTello is a low-cost mobile network using coverage from Three. They have Pay As You Go rates of 3p/minute, 3p/text and 1p/MB. They also offer low-cost international phone calls from 1p/minute.

On Tello, you can build your own custom bundle from £3/month. For instance, £10/month will buy you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. You can use the W2T15 voucher code for 15% off your first monthly bundle.

You can order a free SIM card from Tello with a minimum initial top-up of only £2.

Order Tello SIM card (Free with £2 top-up) »

Other major Pay As You Go providers include:

EE
5% of our readers choose to join EE*

  • £10 top-up buys: 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB internet (Everything Pack)
    or 100 minutes, 1000 texts and 1GB internet (Data Pack).
  • Rates: 30p/minute and 12p/text. A bundle is required to access the internet.
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

EE Pay As You Go SIM CardEE currently offers 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of 4G data on their £10 Everything Pack (the allowances on your pack will last for up to 30 days).

For light users not buying a pack, calls will cost 30p/minute and texts will cost 12p each. Internet access is only available when you buy a Pay As You Go pack. The cheapest available pack is the £1/week Data Pack which gives you 100MB of internet to use on your phone (100MB = 0.1GB). For more information, please see our full review of EE Pay As You Go.

Order EE SIM card (Free with top-up) »

Tip: For £10/month, ASDA Mobile gives you 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 1.5GB of data. This is 4x as many minutes and 3x as much data as going directly to EE. The coverage on ASDA Mobile is provided by EE. Find out more about ASDA Mobile.

O2
6% of our readers choose to join O2*

  • £10 top-up buys: 250 minutes, 1000 texts and 500MB internet (Big Bundles).
  • Rates: 5p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 50p/day, Classic).
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

O2 currently offers a choice of three tariffs on Pay As You Go.

O2 Cat - SIM CardThe most popular option is their Big Bundles tariff. For £10/month, you’ll get 250 minutes, 1000 text messages and 500MB of 4G data.

Alternatively, light users can choose the Classic Pay As You Go or International SIM cards. On Classic Pay As You Go, you’ll pay 5p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB. Meanwhile, the International SIM card allows you to call abroad from 1p/minute.

Customers joining O2 Pay As You Go will also get access to discounts and offers through O2 Priority (e.g. a £1 lunch every Monday and a free hot drink from Caffè Nero most Tuesdays). For more information, you can read our review of the Big Bundles and Classic Pay As You Go SIM cards.

Order O2 SIM card (Free) »

Tip: For £10/month, giffgaff offers twice as many minutes, unlimited texts and twice as much data. giffgaff is owned by O2 and uses the O2 network for coverage. Find out more about giffgaff.

Three
6% of our readers choose to join Three*

  • £10 top-up buys: 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB internet (avg. 10p/day, first 150MB is free).
  • Coverage: 98% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Three 321 Pay As You GoThree is the UK’s cheapest Pay As You Go mobile network for light mobile users. They charge super-low rates of 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. You’ll also get 150MB of free data lasting for up to 30 days whenever you top-up your SIM card.

Regular users can save money by buying an ‘All In One’ bundle. Their bundles can also be used abroad at no extra charge in 42 countries.

Importantly, it isn’t possible to use a 2G-only handset on Three. This is because Three doesn’t provide any 2G coverage. Rather, your handset will need to support at least 3G coverage.

Order Three SIM card (Free with £10 top-up) »

Vodafone
3% of our readers choose to join Vodafone*

  • £10 top-up buys: 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB internet (Big Value Bundle)
    or £10 credit (equiv. 33 minutes) and 500MB internet (Freebie Data).
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 14p/text and £2/day for mobile internet (up to 50MB).
  • Coverage: 98% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Vodafone SIM CardVodafone offers a choice of Big Value Bundles on Pay As You Go. For instance, a £10/month top-up will give you 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of 4G internet. You’ll also get 10% of your top-up back through Vodafone Rewards (this can be exchanged for gifts like a free selfie stick).

Light users can save a bit of money by switching to a different tariff after receiving their Vodafone SIM card. Vodafone also offers the Freebie Minutes, Freebie Texts, Freebie Data and Freebie International Minutes tariffs. These four alternative tariffs will allow you to keep the credit you’ve topped up by. With each £10 top-up, you’ll get a free allowance of either 150 UK minutes, 1000 UK texts, 500MB of UK data or 60 international minutes.

Order Vodafone SIM card (Free) »

The following virtual network operators also provide a Pay As You Go service:

ASDA Mobile
59% of our readers choose to join ASDA Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 3.5GB internet.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB internet (avg. 50p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.
ASDA Mobile SIM Card 2017

You can order a free SIM card from the ASDA Mobile website.

For calling and texting, ASDA Mobile has some of the lowest rates available in the UK. They charge 8p/minute and 4p/text. Mobile internet is charged at 5p/MB. There’s no need to top-up every month, and your credit won’t expire providing your account remains active.

Regular users can buy a bundle from ASDA Mobile for better value usage. For instance, £7/month will get you 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of internet (increased to 2.5GB/month until the 27th June 2017).

For £10/month, you’ll get 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 1.5GB of internet (increased to 3.5GB until the 27th June). This is probably the best value bundle currently available from a mainstream mobile network in the UK at present.

ASDA Mobile uses the 2G and 3G networks provided by EE. This gives them 99% population coverage.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Co-operative Mobile
1% of our readers choose to join Co-operative Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 250 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB internet.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 10p/MB internet (avg. £1/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

The Co-operative Mobile charges 8p/minute, 4p/text and 10p/MB when you’re browsing the internet (this works out to be around £1/day for the average smartphone user).

For regular users, it’s possible to buy an all-inclusive bundle from £5/month. The most popular bundle from Co-op costs £10/month and gives you 250 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of 3G internet.

As the Co-operative Mobile is owned by its members, customers will receive an annual dividend payment. In the most recent financial year (2014-2015), the dividend payment was equal to 1.5% of your VAT-exclusive spend (this is equivalent to a £1.50 dividend if you were to spend £10 every month). In previous years, members earned a dividend of 1.5% (2013-2014), 2.5% (2012-2013) and 2.0% (2011-2012).

Order Co-operative Mobile SIM card (Free) »

giffgaff
10% of our readers choose to join giffgaff*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 50p/day).
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

giffgaff is a low-cost mobile service running on the O2 network. They currently offer 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of 4G internet for £10/month. Heavy users can get 1000 minutes, unlimited texts and 5GB of 4G data for £15/month. For more information, please refer to the giffgaff website.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

iD Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 10p/day).
  • Uses the Three network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

iD Mobile is a relatively new Pay As You Go mobile network from the Carphone Warehouse. Available since December 2016, the iD Mobile Pay As You Go service makes use of coverage from Three.

Customers on iD Mobile Pay As You Go will pay 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. Alternatively, customers can convert their credit into a one-month bundle such as 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data for £10/month.

Order iD Mobile SIM card (Free with £5 top-up) »

Lebara Mobile
0.4% of our readers choose to join Lebara Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 66 minutes or 62 texts.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 19p/text and 19p/MB internet (avg. £1.90/day).
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 98% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

Lebara Mobile is a specialist provider of international calling. Using a Lebara SIM card, you can call abroad from 1p/minute. However, domestic usage within the UK is fairly expensive: it’s 15p/minute when calling a UK number, 19p/message when you text a UK number and 19p/MB when you access the internet.

Other mobile networks such as Tello and giffgaff may give you low-cost international calling whilst also providing lower UK rates. For more information, see our side-by-side comparison of international calling rates.

Order Lebara Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Lycamobile
0.6% of our readers choose to join Lycamobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 19p/minute, 19p/text and 12p/MB internet (avg. £1.20/day).
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Lycamobile is another specialist provider of international calling. They offer international calls from 1p/minute and international text messages for 19p each. Domestic calls to a UK mobile are 19p/minute and texts to a UK mobile are 19p each. You can read our full review of Lycamobile here.

Order Lycamobile SIM card (Free) »

Orange

As of February 2015, it’s no longer possible to order a SIM card from Orange. Customers are instead advised to join EE Pay As You Go. EE has 4G connectivity and allows you to browse the internet from £1/week. Alternatively, ASDA Mobile gives you coverage from EE but at a much lower cost (8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB).

Customers already on Orange Pay As You Go (e.g. on the Dolphin plan) can stay on the Orange network for as long as they like.

Order EE SIM card (Free) »

Talkmobile

As of April 2017, it’s no longer possible to order a new Talkmobile SIM card. Previously, Talkmobile offered a Happy Hour SIM card where customers paid a flat rate of 10p for all phone calls up to an hour in length.Customers wanting coverage from Vodafone should now order a SIM card either from Lebara Mobile or directly from Vodafone.

Tello
4% of our readers choose to join Tello*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 3p/text and 1p/MB internet (avg. 10p/day).
  • Uses the Three network. 98% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Tello SIM CardTello is a low-cost mobile network using coverage from Three. They offer 4G coverage and have a feature where you can build your own bundle from £3/month (you can choose how many minutes, how many texts and how much data you want on your plan).

Tello also has super-competitive Pay As You Go rates both for calling in the UK and for calling abroad. UK calls cost 3p/minute whilst international phone calls start from 1p/minute.

Order Tello SIM card (Free with £2 top-up) »

Tesco Mobile
1% of our readers choose to join Tesco Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB internet.
  • Rates: 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB internet (avg. £1/day).
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Tesco Mobile Rocket Pack BundlesTesco Mobile offers a choice of Pay As You Go tariffs: there’s Rocket Packs for frequent mobile users and Triple Your Credit for lighter users.

For regular users, you can buy a Rocket Pack bundle with calls, texts and internet from £5/month. The most popular Rocket Pack costs £10/month and gives you 500 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of 4G internet.

For lighter users not purchasing a Rocket Pack, Tesco Mobile has the Triple Credit tariff. Here, you’ll pay 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB. When you top-up your phone with £10, you’ll also get £20 of bonus free credit which will last for a month. For more information, please see our full review of Tesco Mobile Pay As You Go.

Order Tesco Mobile SIM card (Free) »

T-Mobile

As of February 2015, it’s no longer possible to order a T-Mobile SIM card. Customers wanting to join T-Mobile are instead advised to join EE. EE has 4G connectivity and offers Everything Pack bundles that are similar to the Smart Packs previously offered by T-Mobile.

Customers already on T-Mobile can stay on their existing plan for as long as they like.

Order EE SIM card (Free) »

Vectone Mobile
0.1% of our readers choose to join Vectone Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 52 minutes or 52 texts.
  • Rates: 19p/minute, 19p/text and 9p/MB internet (avg. 90p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

Vectone Mobile is a specialist provider of international calling. See our international calls price comparison table to see how Vectone Mobile compares to rival networks.

Order Vectone Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Virgin Mobile
1% of our readers choose to join Virgin Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: £10 airtime (equiv. 28 minutes), 3000 texts and 1GB internet (Big Data & Texts)
    or 120 minutes, unlimited landline calls and £10 airtime (equiv. 83 texts) (Big Talk)
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 12p/text and £1/day internet (up to 100MB).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

Virgin Mobile offers a choice of two Pay As You Go tariffs. The ‘Big Data & Texts’ tariff will give you 3000 texts and 1GB of internet lasting for a month when you top-up by £10. You’ll also be able to keep your £10 of credit. The ‘Big Talk’ tariff gives you 120 mobile minutes and unlimited landline calls for the next 30 days.

Order Virgin Mobile SIM card (Free) »

For more information about any of the tariffs listed on this page, please click through to the mobile network’s website. Our recommended deals are currently to order a free SIM card from ASDA Mobile or to order a free SIM card from giffgaff.

If you’re asked to specify the size of SIM card required in your phone (e.g. Standard SIM, Micro SIM or Nano SIM), please see our guide to smartphone SIM card sizes.

The “£10 top-up buys” calculation is based on a user who tops up by £10 every month. If you top up less regularly than once every month, your allowances may run out before the next top-up.

* Statistics on mobile network chosen by readers of this article. Based on the number of Free SIM click-throughs from the 1st October 2016 to the 31st December 2016.

** Mobile internet charges. For networks that charge on a per-megabyte basis, we have given the average daily data cost for a smartphone user consuming 10MB of data. If you’d like to create a custom comparison using a different estimate, you can enter your own estimated data figure on our interactive Pay As You Go price comparison table.

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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.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 198 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Robert said:

    I am going to the UK in June and would like to have (ideally 2) SIM cards in hand before I leave (for me and my wife) I don’t see that the vendors will ship outside the UK. Do I have to wait and find an ASDA store when I get there? We are coming into the Glasgow airport.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Robert,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t believe ASDA will ship their SIM cards outside the UK, so it’s likely you’ll need to pick one up from a store when you arrive in the UK. Alternatively, you might be able to send a SIM card to your hotel or B&B address in the UK.
      Occasionally, some mobile networks (e.g. giffgaff) will ship their SIM cards abroad. Alternatively, if you’re not fussy about which mobile network you use, you can also pick up a Pay As You Go SIM card from almost any supermarket or mobile phone store when you arrive.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  2. Khairul said:

    Ken, for those who have accumulated quite a bit of credit on Virgin PAYG, do you know what kind of bundles they can buy with that credit?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Khairul,
      Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any bundles you can buy on Virgin PAYG to efficiently use up the credit. However, there are two things possibly worth exploring:
      1) You could call Virgin Media on 789 and enquire about moving to one of their SIM-only deals. They might offer to transfer your Pay As You Go credit to your Pay Monthly account (hence, probably giving you a couple of months of free line rental).
      2) You can donate it to charity following the instructions here. Obviously, this would be a lot better productive than trying to spend it frivolously or leaving it in Virgin Mobile’s coffers.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  3. Netta Kettell said:

    Hi I am looking for a cheap sim to use with a Ltl Acorn 6210MC and I wonder if you know which sim would be compatible with it. Its my understanding their not all compatible.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Netta,
      Thanks for your comment. Do you have any further information about which technologies and bands are supported on the device? The information here should help you to identify network compatibility (although it is a little out-of-date at the moment as it lacks information on 4G).
      Thanks,
      Ken

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