Pay As You Go Networks: Compare Minimum Call Charges, Per-Minute & Per-Second Billing
December 5th, 2014
Pay As You Go mobile networks differ in the method they use to charge customers for a call. Techniques such a minimum call charge and per-minute billing can add substantially to the cost of your service.
In the UK, it’s estimated that half of all phone calls last for under one minute. With most Pay As You Go networks now imposing a minimum call charge, you could be stung up to 35p when your phone call connects and when you hang up immediately (e.g. after reaching someone’s voicemail). Many mobile networks have also switched to using per-minute billing where the length of all phone calls is rounded up to a full minute before your account gets charged. These two techniques can add fairly substantially to the overall cost of your Pay As You Go service.
In this article, we’ll compare the UK’s Pay As You Go mobile networks and how much they charge for outgoing calls on their network. We’ll look at minimum call charges and which billing method is employed on each network (per-minute billing or per-second billing).
Table: Minimum Call Charge & Billing Method on UK Mobile Networks
The table below shows you the per-minute rate and the minimum call charge on UK Pay As You Go networks. We’ve also listed how each network is charging for their calls: whether it’s on a per-minute or on a per-second basis. You can use this table along with the guidance below it when choosing your next Pay As You Go network. You can also refer to our other useful guides before choosing a new network.
To sort the table, please click on the relevant column heading.
|Network||Calls (per min)||Minimum Call Charge||Charging Type|
|ASDA Mobile||8p/min||8p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|EE||30p/min||30p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|giffgaff||15p/min||15p per call||✔ per-second billing|
|O2 Big Bundles||35p/min||35p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|O2 Big Talker||30p/min||30p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|Three||3p/min||3p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|Vodafone||30p/min||30p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|Co-operative Mobile||8p/min||1p per call||✔ per-second billing|
(9p/min to landline)
|15p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|Orange Dolphin||30p/min||30p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|Orange Racoon||14p/min||14p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|T-Mobile||35p/min||35p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|Talkmobile Happy Hour||8p/min||10p per call||✘ per-minute billing|
|Talkmobile Rewards||25p/min||25p per call||✔ per-second billing|
|Tesco Mobile Lite||8p/min||8p per call||✔ per-second billing|
|Tesco Mobile Triple Credit||25p/min||10p per call||✔ per-second billing|
|TPO Mobile||4p/min||4p per call||✔ per-second billing|
|Virgin Mobile||35p/min||35p per call||✔ per-second billing|
Sources: mobile.asda.com, ee.co.uk, giffgaff.com, o2.co.uk, o2.co.uk, three.co.uk, freesim.vodafone.co.uk, payg.thephone.coop, lebara.co.uk, ee.co.uk, ee.co.uk, talkmobile.co.uk, tescomobile.com, tescomobile.com, thepeoplesoperator.com, store.virginmedia.com. Last updated on 23rd September 2016.
Minimum Call Charges
In the UK, our mobile networks don’t charge a separate connection fee for setting up your call (this is in contrast to landline providers who will typically charge a separate call connection fee).
Rather than having a separate call connection fee, UK mobile networks will typically have a minimum call charge for every outgoing phone call. On most mobile networks, this is equivalent to the cost of a one-minute phone call. You’ll still be charged for a full minute of calling even when you hang up the phone in under a minute. It’s a rather frustrating experience especially when around 50% of phone calls last for less than one minute. It also makes it costly when you reach someone else’s voicemail (you could be charged up to 35p for the privilege even when you hang up immediately).
If you regularly make phone calls lasting for less than one minute, it could be worth choosing a network with a lower minimum call charge. The Co-Operative Mobile stands out with the lowest minimum call charge of any UK network. They’ll charge only a minimum of 1p for every outgoing phone call (you’ll pay this whenever your phone call lasts for less than 7 seconds). Three is another strong and worthwhile contender: they charge a minimum of only 3p per call (you’ll pay this whenever your phone call lasts for less than 60 seconds).
The following UK networks have the lowest minimum charge when making a short call:
|Network||Minimum Charge for Outgoing Calls|
|Co-operative Mobile||1p per call (up to 7 seconds in length)|
|Three||3p per call (up to 1 minute in length)|
|TPO Mobile||4p per call (up to 1 minute in length)|
|Tesco Mobile Lite||8p per call (up to 1 minute in length)|
|ASDA Mobile||8p per call (up to 1 minute in length)|
|Talkmobile Happy Hour||10p per call (up to 75 seconds in length)|
|Tesco Mobile Triple Credit||10p per call (up to 24 seconds in length)|
Per-Second VS Per-Minute Billing
In the UK, mobile phone networks broadly split up into two separate camps: those that charge on a per-second basis and those that charge on a per-minute basis. Per-second billing is the cheaper option but many networks have recently moved towards per-minute billing. Switching to per-minute billing is a way to stealthily increase prices through the back door.
On mobile phone networks that charge on a per-second basis, you’ll always be charged for the exact length of your call. For instance, imagine a network using per-second billing and charging a rate of 30p/minute. If you were to make a phone call lasting for 1 minute and 30 seconds, you’d be charged 45p for the call (that’s 1.5 minutes x 30p per minute = 45p in total).
On mobile networks that use per-minute billing, the length of all phone calls is rounded up to a full minute. For instance, a phone call lasting for 1 minute and 30 seconds would be rounded up by your network to a full two minutes. You would then be charged 60p for the call (that’s 2 minutes x 30p per minute = 60p in total). On average, you would pay 15p extra for every outgoing call under per-minute billing at 30p/minute.
To illustrate this, the following table compares the cost of an outgoing phone call under per-second billing and per-minute billing. It assumes a rate of 30p/minute:
|Length of Phone Call||Cost with per-second billing*||Cost with per-minute billing*|
|1 minute, 15 seconds||38p||60p (22p more expensive)|
|1 minute, 30 seconds||45p||60p (15p more expensive)|
|1 minute, 45 seconds||53p||60p (7p more expensive)|
* Calculations assume a rate of 30p/minute. The average cost saving is 15p per call using the network with per-second billing.
The actual impact on how much you’d save will depend on your mobile network’s per-minute rate. For instance, if your network charged 8p/minute then the average cost saving under per-second billing would be 4p per call.
In general, we would recommend choosing a network that uses per-second billing.
The following table shows how UK mobile networks split up across the two billing methods:
|✔ Networks with Per-Second Billing||✘ Networks with Per-Minute Billing|
You’ll be charged for the exact length of your phone calls.
The length of all phone calls will be rounded up to a full minute.
For more information on how to choose a Pay As You Go network, see our in-depth articles with a Pay As You Go price comparison, a list of Pay As You Go bundles and our guide to inactivity and credit expiry on UK networks.
You can also order a free Pay As You Go SIM card.
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.