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

June 11th, 2014

How to get a free mobile SIM card: Pay As You Go offerings compared from 17 UK mobile networks.

Pay As You Go SIM CardWhether you’re a smartphone fanatic or someone who only uses their phone for emergencies, there’s some great deals to be had on Pay As You Go.

The best Pay As You Go tariffs offer super-low calling rates even rivalling those on a Pay Monthly tariff. To take advantage of the offers currently available, simply order a free SIM card below and slot it in the back of your existing mobile phone. There are no credit checks and no need to set up a direct debit: simply top-up your phone when you need extra money.

In the table below, we review the free SIM card offers from 17 of the UK’s most popular mobile networks. We’ve included mainstream players, low-cost providers and specialist Pay As You Go providers for calling abroad. We’ve also compared the cost of each network to help you with getting the most bang for your buck.

  1. Changing mobile network? If you’re switching network, it might be necessary to unlock your phone. We’ve got a step-by-step guide on unlocking an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy device or a BlackBerry device.
  2. Coverage is identical on many mobile networks. Many mobile networks share the same coverage provider: you’ll get identical levels of coverage on each of the networks. To give an example, customers on giffgaff get the same coverage as customers on O2.
  3. Choosing the right type of SIM Card. When ordering your SIM card, you might be asked about which size you require. There are three types of SIM card currently available: Standard SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM. Find out which one is required for your phone.
  4. Keeping your mobile number. If you’re changing network, it’s super easy to keep your existing number. Ask your old provider to give you a PAC Code and then provide this to your new mobile network. The transfer process will normally happen in less than a day with minimal loss of service during the transfer. For full details, see our guide on how to transfer your mobile number.

Free Pay As You Go SIM Card Offers

Our top pick amongst the UK’s Pay As You Go offerings is giffgaff. They have consistently proven to be the best value Pay As You Go network and have also been the most popular network amongst readers of our site.

Top Choice: 40% of our readers choose to join giffgaff*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 10p/minute, 6p/text and 20p/day for mobile internet (up to 20MB).
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, check coverage here.

Giffgaff Goodybagsgiffgaff is currently the most popular Pay As You Go offering amongst readers of our site. The giffgaff network is fully-owned by O2: customers receive the same level of coverage as they would on the parent brand.

Costs are the main difference between giffgaff and O2: phone calls are 70% cheaper when made on giffgaff rather than O2. giffgaff also have much better data packages for people using a smartphone. You’ll get twice the amount of data for £10/month and unlimited internet from £12/month.

Most giffgaff members choose to buy a goodybag bundle. The £10/month goodybag gives you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. For light users, the £7.50 goodybag can offer even bigger savings with 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 250MB of internet. Finally, heavy smartphone users can get unlimited internet from £12/month. giffgaff members can also call and text each other free of charge.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

Other major Pay As You Go providers include:

3% of our readers choose to join EE*

  • £10 top-up buys: 1GB of mobile internet.
  • Rates: 30p/minute and 12p/text. Bundle required to access the internet.
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage (70% with 4G), check coverage here.

EE Sim CardEE currently charge 30p/minute and 12p/text on their 4G-enabled Pay As You Go plan. When accessing the internet, it’s required to buy one of EE’s 4G internet bundles. Most users choose the £10/month package which comes with 1GB of internet at 4G speeds. There are no calls and texts included on the bundle.

Customers on EE can get 2-for-1 cinema tickets every Wednesday through the EE Film promotion.

Order EE SIM card (Free) »

6% of our readers choose to join O2*

  • £10 top-up buys: 100 minutes, 1000 texts and 500MB internet (Big Bundles).
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 12p/text and £1/day for mobile internet (up to 50MB).
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, check coverage here.

O2 offers a number of Pay As You Go plans.

O2 Big BundlesThe most popular option is the Big Bundles tariff: for £10/month you’ll get 100 minutes, 1000 text messages and 500MB of data. You also get additional benefits of being on O2 such as discounts and offers through the Priority Moments service. 4G is available on Big Bundles from £15/month (for £15/month you’ll get 200 minutes, 2000 texts and 1GB of 4G data).

As well as Big Bundles, O2 also offers a range of other Pay As You Go plans. Some users could be better off on the O2 Unlimited or O2 International tariffs. Information on the tariffs can be found via the O2 website.

Order O2 SIM card (Free) »

Tip: For £10/month, giffgaff offers 5x as many minutes, unlimited texts and twice the amount of data. giffgaff is owned by O2 and uses the O2 mobile network. Coverage is identical on both giffgaff and O2. Find out more about giffgaff.

5% of our readers choose to join Orange*

  • £10 top-up buys: £10 credit (equiv. 33 minutes), 400 texts and 1GB internet (Dolphin).
  • Rates: 30p/minute, 12p/text and 65p/MB internet (avg. £6.50/day).
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, check coverage here.

Orange DolphinOrange offers a choice of 4 Pay As You Go “Animal” plans. The most popular plan is Dolphin: customers receive 1GB of free internet (“shed loads of data“) and 400 text messages when they top up by £10/month. The remaining £10 credit will allow you to make 33 minutes of calls.

Other Pay As You Go plans include Canary (free evening & weekend calls), Racoon (a flat rate of 14p/minute and 14p/text) and Camel (cheaper international calling).

Customers on Orange Pay As You Go can also benefit from the Orange Wednesday offer. You’ll get 2-for-1 tickets at participating cinemas every Wednesday.

Order Orange SIM card (Free) »

9% of our readers choose to join Three*

  • £10 top-up buys: 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB internet.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB internet (avg. 10p/day, first 150MB free).
  • Coverage: 98% population coverage, check coverage here.

Three: 321 PlanIn the UK, Three offers the lowest calling rates on any Pay As You Go network. On the 321 Tariff, you’ll pay super-low rates of 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. For a typical smartphone user, data charges will add up to around 10p/day.

Heavy users can save money by opting in to an All In One Plan. For £10/month, you’ll get 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of internet. For unlimited data, choose the £15/month plan. You’ll get 300 minutes, 3000 texts and all-you-can-eat data. Customers will receive 150MB of free data whenever they top up. The free allowance will last for up to 30 days and you’ll need a 3G handset in order to join the network.

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

2% of our readers choose to join T-Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 100 minutes, 400 texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 14p/text and £1/day for mobile internet (up to 500MB/month).
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, check coverage here.

T-Mobile Smart PacksT-Mobile has a range of Smart Packs on Pay As You Go. For £10/month, you’ll get 100 minutes, 400 texts and 1GB of internet.

For light users, the Text plan could offer better value. You’ll get unlimited free texts when you top-up by £10/month and an extra 500MB of data when you top-up by £15/month.

Order T-Mobile SIM card (Free) »

4% of our readers choose to join Vodafone*

  • £10 top-up buys: 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 250MB internet (Freedom)
    or £10 credit (equiv. 40 minutes), 300 texts and 500MB internet (Text & Web).
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 14p/text and £1/day for mobile internet (up to 25MB).
  • Coverage: 98% population coverage, check coverage here.

Vodafone FreedomVodafone offers a range of Pay As You Go plans. The Freedom plan gives you 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 250MB of data for £10/month. Alternatively, the Freebee Minutes & Freebee Data plans allow you to keep the credit you’ve topped up by. With every £10 top-up, you’ll either get 150 minutes for free or 500MB of data for free.

Order Vodafone SIM card (Free) »

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

ASDA Mobile
9% of our readers choose to join ASDA Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 250 minutes, 2000 texts and 250MB internet.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB internet (avg. 50p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.

For calling and texting, ASDA Mobile has some of the lowest rates available in the UK. They charge 8p/minute and 4p/text. Internet access is charged at 5p/MB with the average smartphone user needing to spend about 50p/day. The only network offering cheaper rates is Three who charge 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. ASDA Mobile uses the 2G and 3G networks provided by EE.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) »


  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 10p/minute, 6p/text and 20p/day for mobile internet (up to 20MB).
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, check coverage here.

giffgaff is a low-cost mobile service using the O2 network. They offer 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet for £10/month. For full details, please refer to the giffgaff website.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

IKEA Family Mobile
3% of our readers choose to join IKEA Family Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 125 minutes or 250 texts.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB internet (avg. 50p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.

IKEA Family Mobile is a low cost virtual network operator. You can have one centralised login to manage all of your family’s separate mobile accounts. Another unique selling point is you’re able to choose your own mobile number. This is not possible on other mobile networks.

Order IKEA Family Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Lebara Mobile
2% of our readers choose to join Lebara Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 67 minutes or 67 texts.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 15p/text and 15p/MB internet (avg. £1.50/day).
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 98% coverage, check coverage here.

Lebara Mobile is a specialist provider of international calling. You can call abroad for as little as 1p/minute and within the UK for 15p/minute. Text messages cost 15p each (either to the UK or to an international number).

Order Lebara Mobile SIM card (Free) »

3% of our readers choose to join Lycamobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 100 minutes or 83 texts.
  • Rates: 10p/minute, 10p/text and 9p/MB internet (avg. 90p/day).
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, check coverage here.

Lycamobile is another specialist provider of international calling. They offer international calls from 1p/minute and international text messages for 12p each.

Order Lycamobile SIM card (Free) »

Mobile By Sainsbury’s
5% of our readers choose to join Mobile By Sainsbury’s*

  • £10 top-up buys: 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB internet.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 50p/day for mobile internet (up to 25MB).
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 98% coverage, check coverage here.

Mobile By Sainsbury’s is a low-cost offering running on the Vodafone network. Calls cost 8p/minute and texts cost 4p each. Frequent users can save money by buying a monthly bundle: £10/month will give you 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of internet. Bundle customers also receive extra Nectar points when shopping at Sainsbury’s.

Order Mobile By Sainsbury’s SIM card (Free) »

2% of our readers choose to join Talkmobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 125 minutes or 250 texts.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 25p/day for mobile internet (up to 25MB).
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 98% coverage, check coverage here.

Talkmobile is the own-brand mobile service run by the Carphone Warehouse. It runs on top of the Vodafone network.

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

Tesco Mobile
2% of our readers choose to join Tesco Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 120 minutes or 300 texts.
  • Rates: 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB internet (avg. £1/day).
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, check coverage here.

Tesco Mobile runs a “Triple Your Credit” promotion on their Pay As You Go tariff. If you top up by £10, you’ll receive an extra £20 of free credit which lasts for a month. Any unused bonus credit which remains after a month will expire and will not carry over.

Order Tesco Mobile SIM card (Free) »

The People’s Operator
1% of our readers choose to join The People’s Operator*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB internet.
  • Rates: 12.5p/minute, 7.5p/text and 6p/MB internet (avg. 60p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.

The People’s Operator is an “ethical” mobile network designed to support charities and good causes. 10% of your bill is allocated towards a charity you’d like to support. The £10 Power Bundle comes with 500 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB of internet.

Order The People’s Operator SIM card (Free) »

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

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 100 minutes or 100 texts.
  • Rates: 10p/minute, 10p/text and 9p/MB internet (avg. 90p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.

Vectone Mobile is a specialist international calling provider.

Order Vectone Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Virgin Mobile
4% of our readers choose to join Virgin Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: £10 airtime (equiv. 28 minutes), 300 texts and unlimited 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% population coverage, check coverage here.

Virgin offers a choice of two Pay As You Go tariffs. The “Big Data & Texts” tariff will give you 3000 free texts and 1GB of free internet when you top-up by £10/month. The “Big Talk” tariff gives you 120 mobile minutes and unlimited free landline calls for the next 30 days.

Order Virgin Mobile SIM card (Free) »

For more information on any of the tariffs, please click through to the mobile network’s website. Our recommended deal is currently to order a free SIM card from giffgaff.

The “£10 top-up buys” calculation is based on a user who tops up by £10 each month. If you top up less regularly, 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 between the 1st January 2014 and the 10th June 2014.

** 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 would 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

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 42 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Lotzi said:

    Your compilation and the comments are really useful, thanks for them.

    If you have possibility to guide me on which PAYG is supporting call forwarding, MMS and has good international rates, that would be helpful.

    My “study” showed, that GiffGaff supports it, although Lebara ha s better international tariffs, although not supporting call forwarding.

    As for Lyca which is also good for international rates, I was not able to identify their call forwarding policy other than in the terms & conditions or customer code of practice: “you agree not to use the SIM Card or the Services and not to permit another person to use your SIM Card or the Services:” “• to support calls to call forwarding services, onward calling services or calls to telephone numbers which pay a revenue share or resell to others or commercially exploit our Services.

    I am not sure whether they provide call forwarding service beyond this limitation.

    Could you give me advice on that?

    Thank you in advance,


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Lotzi,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe very few networks support call forwarding on Pay As You Go – the main reason being it can very quickly your PAYG credit. giffgaff is one notable exception (aside from that, unfortunately, I don’t have a list of which networks support call forwarding/divert).

  2. Spamlet said:

    Handy review, but a bit light on details.

    In particular you’ve missed the point that BackBerry users (except on the latest versions) have to use BlackBerry Internet Services, and the companies are not very up front in pointing this out.

    I looked forward to my expensive virgin contract running out and had been eyeing up the GiffGaff offers for some time.

    Nearing the day for the switch over, I got to the check out on my £10 goodybag before realising that my BlackBerry Curve would not work without paying a premium on top. GiffGaff *will not let you add to, or cancel a bag that you’ve already paid for*, so my Curve was out of service for a month, until I could start a bag with the premium added. I could still have used it for calls only, but…

    I took the hint, and upgraded my phone to the latest BB Q10, which uses a different browser and doesn’t need BIS, so I could get through my month…but…

    With a mere 4 hr battery life and no cursor making text editing all but impossible, and a keyboard too wide to use one handed, the Q10 is an expensive, essentially non-mobile, toy; but, important to this discussion, is that, though one thinks not having to be tied to BIS is a good thing, actually, the BIS system compresses internet data, making it go further. I have to say, that, while on the virgin scheme, I often found myself downloading podcasts at the last minute, to use up my 500 meg a month: on the Q10, I got a BIG shock, when, after two weeks, I received a message telling me my 1 gig was nearly used up! Thus the deal I was getting, was far from twice as good as the virgin one: in practical terms it was half as good. (Also, as I had to get broadband as well, no sooner did I sign up for a year’s cheap Plusnet deal, than virgin sent me a new offer where I could have got the mobile thrown in for only £5 a month. It really is impossible to get the right deal with so much complication!)

    So, I’m waiting till Sept 9, when my next GoodyBag with the BIS premium included, kicks in, and then my sim is going back in the good old Curve, despite it’s tiny memory and browser that won’t load anything without turning off Java!

    Incidentally, GiffGaff is changing its charges for new customers at the end of Sept, and the unlimited £12 bag will only be continued for existing customers. So, if you have broadband at home, and link up to that instead of using the mobile network, you may be better off with the £10 bag, as opposed to the ‘unlimited’ ones, which will be more expensive from the end of Sept.

  3. Paul said:

    Giffgaff has appalling customer services – they exist only virtually. There is no way to call somebody. Answers to your questions come typically next day.

    In my case, I bought a monthly “goodybag” with “unlimited internet”. Used it for 2 days on iPad and got banned. The message stated: “SIM blocked due to unusual activity”.

    Apparently it is illegal to use mobile internet with this offer on non-phone devices. There was no such information on a page with the offer. There was no warning, just immediate ban.

    Now they say, that I could have my mobile data transfer re-activated after 12 weeks if I buy another monthly goodybag from them (sic!).

    Wasted 12 pounds and 5 days for useless emails. They claim, they would be happy to help, but cannot do a thing.

  4. Penny said:

    I’m surprised that your top pick is Giffgaff as it is one of the more expensive virtual networks. Unless you buy a bundle, the calls are 10p per minute and the texts are 6p and data 20p per day for up to 20mb (and 20p per mb thereafter). Ridiculously expensive for a virtual network!

    Many other virtual networks give you free calls within network (like GG) but have cheaper (non bundle) rates – for example White Mobile have unlimited free calls and texts within network, and calls to other networks are 3p/6p per minute for landlines/mobiles, texts 5p, and data 2.5p per mb. White Mobile also give you free voicemail, unlike GG which charges 8p per minute.

    Three 3 2 1 is cheaper still, and if you use a call-through number, calls to landlines in the UK and abroad (for many countries) are only 2 per minute.

    Even if you look at bundles, Lycamobile are similar value to Giffgaff (and both have unlimited free calls and texts within network)

    £5 bundle
    Giffgaff 60 minutes, 300 texts, 50mb
    Lycamobile 100 minutes, 100 texts 50mb

    £7.50 bundle
    Giffgaff 200 minutes, unlimited texts, 250mb
    Lycamobile 150 minutes, 150 texts, 500mb

    £10 bundle
    Giffgaff 500 minutes, unlimited texts, 1Gb
    Lycamobile 500 minutes, unlimited texts, 1Gb

    £15 bundle
    Giffgaff 500 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited data
    Lycamobile 500 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited data

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Penny,
      Thanks for the comment! giffgaff is our recommended choice for two main reasons:
      1) They offer great value goodybag packages and are ideal for the average smartphone user. On top of that, their goodybag line-up has been remarkably stable. In contrast to this, Lycamobile changes their bundle line-up at an incredibly high frequency (e.g. unlimited 4G data cost £12/month only in May – its now gone up to £15 already). For long term users who don’t want to change their network every month, a stable bundle line up provides a lot of certainty and value (it’s easier to plan for the future). Compared to other networks (Three in particular), the PAYG rates are slightly higher. Hence, light and occasional users should probably choose Three’s 321 tariff.
      2) From the 1st January 2014 to the 10th June 2014, 40% of readers on our website chose giffgaff as their network of choice.

  5. Mena said:

    Thank you very much for your review. I run a guesthouse in Cambridge and everyday I have to answer this question. My answer was “I’m so sorry, I really don’t know which one is the best”. Now I can tell them to read your review. I would be nice if I can share this on my facebook.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mena,
      Thanks for your comment and I’m really glad the page was useful! You are more than welcome to share our link on Facebook – I really appreciate all of the kind support!

  6. Brian Mallalieu said:

    I come in the category I suppose of the unattractive network user?? I am an exceedingly low user that very occasionally wishes to make use of it for emergencies that might arise (e.g. car journeys, holidays) and so time can pass for many months without use! Hence, I am vulnerable to losing my top-up fee each time when the account is closed!! Is there any PAYG (or alternative) way of obtaining the best deal for me, please?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your comment! Take a look at my earlier article on the time it takes for your PAYG credit to expire & for your account to be closed by the network. My recommendation is to choose a network where your credit will last for the maximum amount of time (currently 6 months). To keep your account active, you’ll still need to make a note to use your phone at least every 6 months. Three would be a good value option: simply browse the internet or send a text message every twice every year and you’ll be able to keep your account active (with data costing 1p/MB, the minimum annual spend would be only 2p/year).
      Hope this helps,

  7. Gary said:

    Hi again,

    You titled this page “Pay As You Go SIM cards”, but a lot of the information here applies to contract SIM cards, not PAYG. (Giffgaff is one example, I think Three is another.) Adds to the confusion that I’m struggling with.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gary,
      Thanks for your comment! All of the information shown on this page relates to Pay As You Go rather than Pay Monthly. The one thing which makes it a little complex is that most networks now promote their monthly PAYG bundles. With a bundle, you turn your airtime credit into a monthly allowance of calls, texts and internet. To give an example, giffgaff customers without a goodybag can choose to pay 10p/minute, 6p/text and 20p/day for 20MB of data. Most people choose to buy a goodybag as it provides better value: in this case £10/month gets you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. There’s no contract nor any obligation to renew the bundle after it expires.
      Hope this helps,

      1. Gary replied:

        So tariffs quoted “per month” is not necessarily a contracted plan, but might be. Yikes, more muddy water! It seem for someone traveling in the UK for ten days, the monthly non-contract plans make sense: one avoids the 20 MB/day limit on data. Internet usage might be high for a tourist making plans, consulting websites, checking maps, using WhatsApp, etc.

      2. Gary replied:

        Digging through the Giffgaff website, I find that international calls cannot be made on Goodybag plans. I’m still trying to determine what (if any) charges Giffgaff makes for *incoming* international, or even local, calls. Some SIM card vendor advertise that incoming calls are “free” in the sense that there are no charges to the SIM card. By now I think you can probably see how difficult this process is for foreign visitors. Information is spread out everywhere, and difficult to find.

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Gary,
          Thanks for your comment. In the UK, it’s always free to receive a phone call (whether it’s a call from the UK or from an international number). Like many other countries, we operate the “calling party pays” system (i.e. there’s never a charge to receive a call). I realise this is different from the US where the receiving party will also pay for the call.
          With regards to international calling, there’s no international minutes included on the goodybags. Instead, you need to pay on a per minute basis (e.g. 3p/minute to call the US). Take a look at this page for full details of giffgaff’s international calling rates.
          I hope this helps to clarify your query, though do drop me a comment if you have other questions!
          Many thanks,

  8. gogsie said:

    I have purchased a TT Phone from QVC which is a basic phone with no Internet and wish to purchase a standard sim card pay-as-you-go that I can top up with no contract. I only use my phone in emergencies and family calls.
    What is the most reasonable charge per minute I can expect. I am 80+ and don’t need anything other than to make and receive calls to family.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi gogsie,

      For a full comparison of per-minute rates, please see the PAYG comparison table I produced earlier on this website. To sort networks by per-minute rates, please click the “calls” column title. To give a brief overview, the cheapest PAYG network for making phone calls is Three (3p/minute). The downside is you need to have a 3G-compatible handset (a simple handset might be 2G-only). Across the other networks, you’re looking to pay around 8p/minute on a low-cost network (giffgaff is 10p/minute but you also get free calls and texts to other giffgaff members). Another consideration should also be the amount of time before credit expires (important for people like yourself who mainly use their phone for emergencies).

      Hope this helps!


  9. Phillip Dudd said:

    Hello Ken
    Thankyou in advance for your support, indeed for all your work on this informative site.
    My question is with regards to 0845 0870 numbers. etc…
    i was caught out a while ago when i used all my top up for a bundle and found that i needed separate credit for these type of numbers.
    specifically my question is with regards to:
    three 321 tariff, and orange (any animal pack)
    do you know how they stand with these numbers.
    To date i’ve only found vodafone support these unlimited for an extra payment of around

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for your comment!

      With regards to Three, you can check their special call prices via this link. For 0845 and 0870 numbers, it’s a rather hefty 35p/minute :(

      For Orange, the Pay As You Go price guide can be found via this link. On page 16, you’ll see it costs 12p/minute to call 0845 and 0870 numbers.

      With regards to cutting costs, it’s definitely good to find a non-geographic number (e.g. your bank might list a number you’re able to use when calling from outside the UK – you can often use this number within the UK too). There’s also websites such as SayNoTo0870. Finally, most government departs have switched to using 0345 – using the new number should save a ton in calling costs.

      Hope this helps!


  10. Fiona said:

    Hi, I’m looking for a payg that offers a family subscription. I know Vodafone do but I’m not happy with the intermittent coverage where I live, it’s very rural. We do get Orange though. Do they do a family subscription? Thanks in advance.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Fiona,
      Thanks for your comment. By a family subscription, do you mean that everyone can call & text each other for no extra charge? One possible option could be to join giffgaff – whenever you top-up you’ll get free calls & texts to other giffgaff members for a period of three months. They’re using O2′s network so you’ll need to have O2 coverage where you live.
      T-Mobile could be another option: take a look at their £5/month Family Booster option (the person setting up the group will need to be on Pay Monthly).

  11. Wallace said:

    Hi Ken, very useful info, thanks for the view.

    I am planning to visit UK for 2 weeks. Since my tablet do not support SIM card, are there any pay-as-you-go SIM which also include tethering? If not, is there any other alternatives?
    Thank you.


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Wallace,
      My recommendation is to get the giffgaff SIM card: you’ll get 1GB of internet on their £7.50 gigabag (fully tetherable). Alternatively, go for the £10 goodybag: 1GB of internet (tetherable) as well as 500 minutes and unlimited UK texts.
      Hope this helps!

  12. Shun said:

    Hi Ken, thank you for the info on your site.
    I am going to visit the UK for about 2 weeks and would like to go for a pay-as-you-go SIM, with about 10-20 MB data per day. I also will make quite a bit of international calls too. But then, I cannot order a free SIM now, as I do not have a UK address. Please advice. Thank you.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Shun,
      If you aren’t able to get a SIM card sent in advance, my recommendation would be to get a SIM card on arrival. Look out for Lycamobile and Lebara Mobile: their SIM cards can often be found in the high street: both networks offer low cost international calling and they have some decent deals for smartphone data. As well as the high street, you can also find their SIM cards at major airports (I remember seeing a large store at Heathrow Terminal 1).
      If you’re able to get a SIM card in advance, my recommendation would be to order one from giffgaff. They’re pretty good for low data users: 20p/day for up to 20MB. Over a fortnight, you’ll only spend about £2.80 on data. International calls are also fairly cheap – you can see their rates here.
      Hope this helps!

  13. Robin said:

    Great site I have been using Tesco pay as you go for some time and swapping between Triple credit and Lite as a low user means one month free when you top up and then on Lite at the low rate of 8p for calls 4p for text means incredibly low payments overall.
    However ’321′ have knocked this into the park and no need for all that swapping around.

  14. Alex HUTCHINSON said:

    Hello Ken, great site. My typical week is 3 working days in UK and rest of the week in Switzerland, where I live. I already have an Orange subscription in Switzerland (which includes unlimited calls to Europe & USA), so I need a pay as you go in UK. My UK customers will always call the UK number even when I am in Switzerland. Could you please advise the best UK sim and deal to buy a new 5S iPhone. Appreciated Alex

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comment. Within Europe, you’ll pay up to 7p/minute to receive calls on your UK phone number (this has been capped by the EU). As Switzerland isn’t technically part the EU, mobile networks could differ in the charges they offer for customers in Switzerland. Assuming you receive 100 minutes of phone calls to your UK number whilst living in Switzerland, this might add an extra £7 to your monthly mobile bill.

      Something worth looking at would be EE’s roaming inclusive plans. You can make and receive calls using your UK allowance whilst being in Switzerland. Another possible deal could be Vodafone PAYG with the Passport add-on. It’s 75p to receive a call on your UK number whilst living in Switzerland (call can be up to 60 minutes).

      You can also look at getting a Skype Number (£3.35 per month, see my review for more info). You can set up a geographical number in the UK (e.g. 020) from which you can receive phone calls on a Skype-enabled smartphone.


  15. Gazza said:

    How about the ovivo pay-as-you-go sims ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gazza,

      Thanks for getting in touch! You can order a SIM card from Ovivo here. I didn’t include them in the guide above as Ovivo charges £20 for the SIM card. You’ll get £15 of credit on activation however which reduces the effective cost of the SIM card to only £5.


  16. Bill Van L said:

    I have for years been on T mobile pay as you go with very low use and no time limit on my credit. They now want to charge me £10 every month for the privilege of being on their network. Where should I move to in order to find a tariff with no time limit?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Bill,

      As far as I know, T-Mobile shouldn't be charging you to be on their network. I suspect you have probably subscribed to something like the £10 Smart Pack? This will automatically charge £10 to your account each month (in return you'll get an allowance of calls, texts and internet). You can disable this on your account by following the instructions here:

      Hope this helps,


  17. RikTrik said:

    If you can handle giffgaff's appalling customer services dept.

  18. Manix said:

    I hardly ever use my mobile and I thought I was already on the cheapest rate, at £10.50, with 02 unlimited. I phoned them and was never told about 02 simplicity.

    Whether I am a customer of 02 unlimited or 02 simplicity I am assuming I will still get same price reduction on 02 internet.

  19. Guest said:

    Is there a provider offering free PAYG calls to same provider mobile without having to top up each month?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Guest,

      As far as I'm aware, most of them require you to top-up at some point otherwise the business would be unsustainable. Giffgaff only require one top-up every 3 months so that may be a good option for you!


  20. speedbird foxbat said:

    you have not added now mobile

  21. damien said:

    Hi Ken!

    Thanks for this interesting post!
    Just to let you know, a new operator arrived in the market, GTmobile, seems to be quit interesting for internationnal call!


  22. Spike said:

    Thank you Ken for this review.

    I found looking at some of the indvidual service provider websites quite confusing and were pushing pseudo-contracts a bit too hard.

    As a light user I chose Asda because of their clear and concise tarrif details (plus no hidden charges) and the ability to add cheap talk minutes as and when I need them.
    Other points I like about Asda are that they use Vodafone for their network and the call centre staff are really pleasant and super helpful.


  23. alson said:

    are those information updated. like 3 pay as you go offers. would it last for 90 days with those amazing credits

  24. hnghntrg said:

    what bout blyk

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Unfortunately Blyk closed last June in the UK. See my article on Orange taking over Blyk’s technology.


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