Pay As You Go Inactivity: Time For PAYG Credit Expiry & SIM Card Cancellation

June 2nd, 2016

If your Pay As You Go SIM card isn’t used for a certain amount of time, your credit could expire and your account could be closed.

Top Up LogoPay As You Go mobile tariffs are often the choice of people who only use their phone on a very occasional basis (e.g. once every so often or only in emergencies). Unlike Pay Monthly contracts, there is no regular monthly line rental and you only need to pay for what you actually use.

One thing to investigate closely when choosing a new Pay As You Go mobile network is the credit expiry and SIM card cancellation policy. On most mainstream mobile networks, your credit won’t expire as long as you make a chargeable activity at least once every six months (e.g. an outgoing phone call, text message or data session). However, some smaller mobile networks have a much stricter policy and your credit can expire just 90 days from top-up. Your SIM card could also be cancelled automatically if you haven’t used it for as little as 84 days.

In this article, we’ll review and compare the credit expiry and SIM card cancellation policy of UK Pay As You Go mobile networks.

Overview of Inactivity Policies

In the following table, we’ve summarised the credit expiry and SIM card cancellation policy of UK Pay As You Go mobile networks. Unless otherwise stated in the table, the times listed refer to an inactivity period (e.g. so your credit will only expire if your SIM card is left unused for more than a certain amount of time).

Mobile Network Inactivity Period (Amount of time without chargeable event)
PAYG Credit Expiry SIM Card Cancellation Phone Number Deleted
ASDA Mobile 270 days 270 days
restricted use after 180 days
360 days
EE 180 days 180 days 180 days
giffgaff 6 months 6 months 6 months
O2 6 months 6 months 6 months
Tesco Mobile 6 months 6 months 6 months
Three 6 months 6 months 6 months
Virgin Mobile 180 days 180 days 180 days
Vodafone 270 days 270 days 270 days
Smaller Pay As You Go Networks:
Co-Operative Mobile 180 days 180 days 180 days
Delight Mobile 90 days
from date of top-up
120 days 120 days
Lebara Mobile 90 days
from date of top-up
84 days 84 days
Lycamobile 90 days
from date of top-up
120 days 120 days
Orange 6 months 6 months 6 months
Talkmobile 180 days 180 days 180 days
Tello 6 months 6 months 6 months
T-Mobile 180 days 180 days 180 days
TPO Mobile 3 months 3 months 3 months
Vectone Mobile 90 days
from date of top-up
120 days 120 days
  • PAYG Credit Expiry: When your Pay As You Go credit expires, you’ll no longer be able to use it or recover it. On most mainstream mobile networks, your credit never expires providing your SIM card remains active. On some of the smaller mobile networks, your credit will expire just 90 days after you top-up.
  • SIM Card Cancellation: When your SIM card is cancelled by the network, you’ll lose coverage on your phone and you’ll see an error message like “Inactive SIM” or “SIM card registration failed”. Your SIM card will be cancelled automatically if you haven’t used it for a certain amount of time (normally between 84 days and 270 days depending on the network).
  • Phone Number Deleted: In some cases, your phone number will be held even if your SIM card has already been cancelled. This means you’ll be able to restore service on the phone number or you’ll be able to use a PAC Code to transfer the number to another network. Once a phone number has been deleted by your mobile network, it’ll no longer be possible to recover it or to transfer it to another network.

Recommended Deal For Light Users

At present, ASDA Mobile is our recommend network for light mobile users. They have super-competitive rates and the most customer-friendly inactivity policy (your credit will never expire providing you use your phone at least once every 270 days):

ASDA Mobile

  • Low Pay As You Go rates. 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB. See full rates here.
  • Your credit will never expire. You just need to use your phone once every 270 days.
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.
ASDA Mobile Website 2016

ASDA Mobile has one of the most customer-friendly inactivity policies of any UK mobile network.

ASDA Mobile is currently our recommended network for light mobile users. They have a Pay As You Go SIM card where your credit never expires (you just need to use your phone every 270 days to keep the SIM card active).

ASDA has highly competitive Pay As You Go rates of 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB. They also allow a minimum top-up of only £5. Regular users can save even more with a 30-day bundle.

ASDA Mobile has 99% population coverage (they have 2G and 3G coverage from the EE network). It’s a straightforward process to transfer your current phone number to ASDA Mobile.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Through the rest of this article, we’ll discuss the inactivity policy of each mobile network in more depth.

Major Pay As You Go Networks

ASDA Mobile

On ASDA Mobile, you should normally use your SIM card at least once every 180 days in order to keep it active. Providing you do this, your credit will never expire and your account will always remain open.

After 180 days of inactivity on your account, outgoing phone calls will be forwarded to ASDA’s automated service (you’ll need to call them on 0800 079 2732 to re-instate a full service). After 270 days of inactivity on the account, remaining credit will be removed and the SIM card will be cancelled. Finally, after 360 days of inactivity, your phone number will be deleted by ASDA Mobile.

For more information, see the ASDA Mobile FAQs (search for ’emergency usage’):

If you haven’t used your SIM in the last 180 days, your calls will be forwarded to our automated service, however you will still be able to receive inbound calls. To reactivate your SIM, you will need to call us on 0800 079 2732 from a landline to reactivate your account.

If you haven’t used your Asda SIM in the last 270 days, all activity will be barred from your SIM card and all credit will be removed. You can reactivate the SIM by purchasing an Asda top up voucher.

After 360 days, the number will be disconnected from the network and the number will be deleted. We’re unable to reactivate a SIM if the number has not been used for over 360 days.

The legal terms relating to this policy can be found in clause 3.1(c) of the ASDA Mobile Terms & Conditions:

3.1 We can suspend (i.e. bar) or terminate the provision of the Services (in whole or in part) without telling you (although we will, where possible, inform you that action may be taken)

(c) if you choose not to use the Services for a continuous period of 180 days (‘use the Services’ means (i) making any chargeable outbound calls (excluding calls to 2732, see Price Plan for prices), or (ii) any topping up of your account);

Source: ASDA Mobile Terms & Conditions (dated May 2015)
Tariff Information: ASDA Mobile Website

EE

EE will disconnect Pay As You Go customers if no “connection actions” are taken for 180 days. At the same time as the disconnection, unused credit is removed and your EE phone number is also deleted from the system.

You can keep your account active either by topping it up (£5 minimum) or by make a chargeable phone call. From clause 6.3 of the EE Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions:

6.3 You must make a Connection Action at least once every 180 days. If You do not, Your SIM Card will be disconnected from the Network and You will not be able to use the Services. You will lose Your mobile phone number and any Credit on Your Account at the time of such disconnection will be forfeited.

If you’re opted in to one of EE’s Pay As You Go packs, you may find that credit is deducted from your account either every week or every month. To stop this, you can opt-out of the bundles by texting STOP PACK to 150. This will allow you to keep the credit on your account for longer (without a pack, your credit will only expire after 180 days of inactivity).

Source: EE Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions (version 01A, dated September 2013)
Tariff Information: EE Website

giffgaff

giffgaff will disconnect your SIM card if your account has been inactive for a period of six months. You’ll lose your unused credit and your giffgaff phone number will also be deleted from the system.

There are several ways to keep your giffgaff account active such as making a phone call, sending a text message, accessing the internet, receiving 4 phone calls of more than 10 seconds, topping up your phone or earning Payback points. Clauses 13.3 to 13.5 of the giffgaff Terms & Conditions state:

13.3. Your SIM Card will be disconnected unless, at least once every six months, your Account is used to:
a) make at least one call, SMS or MMS to another number (not including calls to emergency services or Member Services);
b) make at least one connection to the Internet;
c) make at least 4 received calls of more than 10 seconds;
d) make at least one airtime credit or Bundle purchase; or
e) receive Payback Points.

13.4. If your SIM Card is disconnected, you will lose any remaining credit or Bundle balance on your Account and if you wish to be re-connected, you will be given a new mobile phone number.

13.5 If your SIM Card is disconnected and you wish your SIM Card to be reconnected to the Network, you must contact Member Services. If we agree to reconnect you, you may pay a reconnection fee unless the disconnection was due to our negligence. A detail of the current reconnection fee is available on request.

Please note: if you’re converting your credit into a goodybag bundle, your allowances will expire one month after the goodybag purchase. For more information, please read our full giffgaff review.

Source: giffgaff Terms & Conditions (dated 1st June 2016)
Tariff Information: giffgaff Website

O2

On O2 Pay & Go, customers will have their SIM card disconnected after six months of inactivity. You’ll also lose your phone number and any unused remaining credit. From clause 7.1 of the O2 Pay & Go Terms and Conditions:

7.1. If you do not make or receive a chargeable call at least once in any 6 month period your Mobile Phone will be disconnected and you will lose any remaining credits balance on your Account. If you wish to be re-connected after this time you will be given a new Mobile Phone number.

Customers buying an O2 Big Bundle will see their allowances expiring after one month. If you don’t want your credit to be converted automatically into a monthly Big Bundle, you should switch to either the Simply Pay As You Go or International tariffs.

Source: O2 Pay & Go: Terms & Conditions (dated 13th June 2014)
Tariff Information: O2 Website

Tesco Mobile

Customers on Tesco Mobile Pay As You Go will lose their service after six months of inactivity. Clause 5.4 of the Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions states:

5.4 If you do not use your Mobile Phone for six months we will disconnect you and you will lose your Credits and Mobile Phone number. If your Mobile Phone is disconnected and you would like to reconnect it, you must call Customer Care.

Source: Tesco Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions (dated 25th September 2006)
Tariff Information: Tesco Mobile Website

Three

Three will suspend your Pay As You Go account if you don’t top-up or make a chargeable event in a six-month period. According to clause 9.1(h) of the Three Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions:

9.1 We may Suspend any or all of the Three Services you use without notice if

(h) you have not activated a Pay As You Go Voucher on your account or undertaken any chargeable events or activities (for example, made telephone calls, sent text or photo messages, accessed content or the internet or any other Three Services for which a charge is made) using any credit or allowance on your account within the preceding 6 month period.

Source: Three Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: Three Website

Virgin Mobile

If you’re on one of Virgin Mobile‘s latest Pay As You Go tariffs (e.g. the Big Data & Texts or Big Talk tariffs), there’s an inactivity period of 180 days. You’ll need to make a chargeable phone call or text message at least once during this period. According to clauses 3.7 and 7.2(g) of their terms & conditions:

3.7 Keep talking!: You need to use our Services at least once within any 180 day period either by making a chargeable call or sending a text message. If you don’t we may suspend your access to the Services and disconnect you from the Network. We don’t really want to lose you as a customer so please ensure you keep talking or texting!

7.2 Suspension for other reasons: We may also suspend your use of the Services and disconnect your SIM from the Network without giving you notice if you, or anyone who uses your SIM:

(g) chooses not to use our Services within a 180 day period either by making a chargeable call or sending a text message;

If you’re on an older tariff such as “Pay As You Go Addict” or “Simply 8p”, the inactivity period is only 90 days. Pleaseefer to clause 3.8 of the old terms and conditions.

Source: Virgin Mobile: Terms & Conditions for ‘Big Data & Texts’ and ‘Big Talk’ (dated July 2012)
Tariff Information: Virgin Mobile Website

Vodafone

Vodafone Pay As You Go customers need to top-up their phone or make a chargeable outbound activity at least once every 270 days. You’ll be sent a reminder by SMS after 180 days of inactivity on the account.

For more information, please refer to clauses 6(a)3 and 6(b) of the Vodafone Pay As You Go Airtime Conditions:

6a. We can suspend (in other words bar), restrict or stop providing the services (all or part of them) in the following circumstances:

3. You choose not to use the service for 180 consecutive days. Using the service means making any chargeable outbound activity such as making an outbound call (excluding calls to 191), sending an SMS, using data or topping up your account.

6b. If we suspend the mobile equipment because you have chosen not to use the services (as defined in 6a3 above) for 180 consecutive days we will send you an SMS notifying you that you should top up your account or make a chargeable outbound call (but not calls to 191), send a chargeable SMS or use your data within the next 90 days. If you then fail to make any chargeable outbound calls (but not calls to 191), send a chargeable SMS, use your data or top up your account within 90 days from the date of the SMS because you have not kept to this agreement or not used the services for 270 consecutive days, we will disconnect your mobile equipment, and you will lose any credit held on your account.

If you’re on one of Vodafone’s Big Value Bundles, your airtime will be converted automatically into a bundle each month. If you don’t want your credit to be used up each month, you should change to an another tariff such as Freebie Data.

Source: Vodafone Pay As You Go Airtime Conditions (dated April 2016)
Tariff Information: Vodafone Website

Smaller Pay As You Go Networks

On the mainstream mobile networks, you’ll normally be able to leave your SIM unused for up to 6 or 9 months. On smaller virtual network operators, the inactivity policy is much more varied. On some of the smaller networks, your SIM card could be cancelled after as little as 84 days of inactivity. Some of the smaller mobile networks will also remove your credit 90 days after the date of your top-up (this is regardless of how many times you’ve used your phone in this period).

Co-Operative Mobile

Customers of The Co-Operative Mobile will either need to use their phone for a chargeable call or will need to top-up their account at least once every 180 days. From sections 7.1 and 7.4 of the Co-Operative Mobile Terms & Conditions:

We may disconnect Your SIM if, during the previous 180 days, You have not made a Top-up or used the Service. You will be notified and Your mobile telephone number will be designated for reassignment. On reconnection You will be assigned a new telephone number.

Upon Termination (by You or Us) or suspension of this Agreement, no credits or refunds will be given for unused Credit Balance.

Source: The Co-Operative Mobile Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: The Co-Operative Mobile Website

Delight Mobile

On Delight Mobile, your Pay As You Go credit will automatically expire 90 days from the date of the relevant top-up. For example, if you were to top-up by £10 on April 1st, any leftover credit remaining from that £10 will automatically expire on June 30th.

Furthermore, if you don’t use your Delight Mobile SIM card for a period of 120 days, it will be disconnected from the service and your phone number will be lost. For more information, see clause 12(b) of the Delight Mobile terms and conditions:

(b) We can cancel this agreement immediately if any of the following occur:
i. Where you do not use the Services at least once every 120 days your Delight Mobile SIM will be disconnected from the Network, this Agreement will be terminated, Multifunctional Top-up Voucher recorded on your Account that has not expired will be forfeited and you will lose your Number;
ii. If any call credit is not used within 90 days, (including any credit that has been allocated to you by a Delight administrator) Delight will place your My Delight Account on inactive status and you will not be entitled to a refund of any remaining credit stored thereto.

Source: Delight Mobile Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: Delight Mobile Website

Lebara Mobile

On Lebara Mobile, all Pay As You Go credit expires 90 days from the date of the relevant top-up. For instance, if you were to top-up by £10 on April 1st, any leftover credit remaining from that £10 will expire on June 30th.

In addition to their credit expiry policy, Lebara also requires you to use your SIM card at least once every 84 days. If you don’t make an chargeable phone call or text message for 84 days, your account will be closed and your SIM card will be terminated. Your phone number and Pay As You Go credit will both be lost when this happens.

For more information, see clause 6.1 of the Lebara Mobile terms and conditions:

6.1 If any call credit is not used within 90 days, (including any credit that has been allocated to you by a Lebara administrator) Lebara will place your MyLebara Account on inactive status and you will not be entitled to a refund of any remaining credit stored thereto.

You can also see Lebara’s FAQ on SIM card validity:

For a Lebara SIM card to remain active, you will need to make a chargeable call or send a chargeable SMS within 84 days of your last chargeable call or chargeable SMS. If no chargeable call is made or chargeable SMS sent; your SIM card will expire and the Service will be disconnected.

Source: Lebara Mobile Terms & Conditions (dated 26th August 2015)
Tariff Information: Lebara Mobile Website

Lycamobile

On Lycamobile, all Pay As You Go credit will expires 90 days from the date of your top-up. For example, if you were to top-up by £10 on April 1st, any credit remaining from that £10 will expire automatically on June 30th.

Further to this, customers also need to make a chargeable event or need to top-up their phone once every 120 days (a warning is sent after 90 days). If 120 days elapse since the last chargeable event, your account will be closed and you’ll lose any remaining credit. Your phone number will also be reallocated to another customer. Please see clauses 3.3-3.5 and clause 4.6 of the Lycamobile Terms & Conditions:

3.3 If you do not use your SIM Card to make a voice call, or send a message or data, or if you do not purchase a top-up using the Top-Up Services, for a period of ninety (90) days from the date you registered or activated your Account or your last use of the Services (whichever is later), Lycamobile will contact you by SMS or e-mail advising you that your SIM Card will be deactivated. Lycamobile will then provide you with an additional thirty (30) days to make a voice call, send a message or data, or purchase a top-up using the Top-Up Services.
3.4 If you make a voice call, send a message or data, or purchase a top-up using the Top-Up Services within the additional thirty (30) day period, your SIM Card will remain active. Any previous credit balance in your Account will remain available for you to use, and you will be able to access and use the Services.
3.5 If you do not make a voice call, send a message or data, or purchase a top-up using the Top-Up Services within the additional thirty (30) day period, your SIM Card will be deactivated. If the SIM Card is deactivated, your specific telephone number will be reallocated to another Customer, you will not be able to access or use the Services, and you will not be entitled to a refund of any credit balance in your Account.

4.6 From 5 August 2014 any new top up credit shall expire ninety [90] days from the date of top-up or recharge. For the avoidance of doubt, this does not apply to the existing credit balance in your Account before 5 August 2014.

Source: Lycamobile Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: Lycamobile Website

Orange

Customers on Orange Pay As You Go will have their account terminated if it isn’t used for a period of six months. Your phone number will also be reassigned to another customer. There is some discretion for Orange to re-credit any lost balance but this isn’t guaranteed by the terms & conditions. From clause 3.4 of the Orange Pay As You Go Network Terms:

3.4 We will disconnect your Device if during the previous six months, you have not Registered a new Top Up or you have not made chargeable calls from your Device. For the avoidance of doubt calls shall include but not be limited to voice calls, data calls and text messaging. On disconnection your mobile telephone number will be reassigned. On Reconnection you will be assigned a new mobile telephone number. Orange may at its discretion, on request and on Reconnection to the Services, recredit the amount remaining on your account at the time it was disconnected.

Source: Orange Pay As You Go Network Terms (dated 15th November 2012)
Tariff Information: EE Website

Talkmobile

Talkmobile will disconnect Pay As You Go customers if more than 180 days have passed since the last chargeable activity or top-up. Clause 4.1.4 of the Talkmobile Terms & Conditions states that:

4.1. We can at our discretion bar your SIM Card from making calls (other than to the emergency services), sending MMS and/or SMS messages and/or sending or receiving data and/or disconnect your SIM Card from the Network, if:

4.1.4. if you do not use the Services for 180 days. Using the Service means making a chargeable outbound call (but not calls to 5888), sending a chargeable SMS, using data or topping up your account.

Source: Talkmobile Terms & Conditions (dated May 2015)
Tariff Information: Talkmobile Website

Tello

Tello will disconnect your SIM card if you don’t use it for a period of 6 months. This can be seen in the Tello terms and conditions under the Tello UK SIM and Pay As You Go Service Agreement sub-headings:

Tello SIM is a prepay service that does not imply any minimum contract period. No prior notice or cancellation fees are speculated when customers want to stop using the service. If Tello SIM is not used for a period of 6 months (no calls, texts or data usage is registered), the SIM will be deactivated and all unused balance will be lost. Upon SIM deactivation, Tello recalls no obligation to refund any lost data, Pay As You Go credit, minutes or any other account balance.

Pay As You Go credit is available for a period of 6 months since customer’s last order or call. If no order or call was placed in a period of 6 months, SIM and Pay As You Go credit will not be available for calls.

Source: Tello Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: Tello Website

T-Mobile

Customers on T-Mobile Pay As You Go are required to make a “connection action” at least once every 180 days. If you don’t use your phone for 180 days, your account will be closed and you’ll also lose any remaining credit as well as your phone number.

According to T-Mobile, “connection actions include topping up your account and making a chargeable call.” From clause 6(c) of their Pay As You Go Terms of Service:

(c) You must make a connection action at least once every 180 days. If you do not your SIM will be disconnected from the network and you will not be able to use the service at all. You will lose your mobile phone number. Any credit on your account at the time of such disconnection will be forfeited.

Source: T-Mobile Pay As You Go Terms of Service (version 59A, dated November 2010)
Tariff Information: EE Website

TPO Mobile

TPO Mobile (The People’s Operator) will suspend your service after three months of inactivity. Your phone number will also be lost. According to clause 8 of their Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions:

We may suspend or cancel the Services (or any part of it) immediately and/or end this agreement if:

you have not used the Services, or topped up your account, for more than 3 months. We will send you a text before we permanently deactivate your SIM and number allocated to you;

Source: The People’s Operator: Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions (dated November 2012)
Tariff Information: The People’s Operator Website

Vectone Mobile

On Vectone Mobile, your Pay As You Go credit will automatically expire 90 days from the date of the relevant top-up. For example, if you were to top-up by £10 on April 1st, any leftover credit remaining from that £10 will automatically expire on June 30th.

Furthermore, in order to keep your account active, customers must use their SIM card at least once every 120 days. If more than 120 days have passed since the last chargeable activity, your account will be closed and your phone number will be lost. For more information, see clause 12(a) of the Vectone Mobile terms and conditions:

(a) We can cancel this agreement immediately if any of the following occur:
i. Where you do not use the Services at least once every 120 days your Vectone Mobile SIM will be disconnected from the Network, this Agreement will be terminated, any Multifunctional Top-up Voucher recorded on your Account that has not expired will be forfeited and you will lose your Number;
ii. If any call credit is not used within 90 days, (including any credit that has been allocated to you by a Vectone administrator) Vectone will place your My Vectone Account on inactive status and you will not be entitled to a refund of any remaining credit stored thereto.

Source: Vectone Mobile Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: Vectone Mobile Website

As always, we strongly recommend you double-check the details listed here against your mobile network’s website. Terms and conditions can change occasionally along with your mobile network’s policy on credit expiry and cancellation.

More Information

For more information, please refer to your mobile network’s website. Currently, our recommended network for light mobile users is ASDA Mobile due to their low rates and the customer-friendly inactivity policy.

If you’ve chosen a mobile network which you’d now like to join, see our guide to latest free SIM card offers. You can also see our Pay As You Go price comparison tables and our guide on transferring your phone number to a different mobile network.

Like this tip? Get the most from your mobile phone...

  • Discover brand new ways to use your mobile phone
  • Techniques to get more out of your mobile phone for less
  • Be the first to learn about new mobile technology

Enter your email to receive free regular Ken's Tech Tips:

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

  1. Maddy said:

    I have a wifi device Alcatel Y800. Unused for a year. Sim expired
    Can I just put a new EE sim in with a different number and top up and use it?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Maddy,
      Yes: it’s just the SIM card that has expired. You can still use the wi-fi device with a new SIM card inside it (e.g. £15 for 2GB of data or £30 for 6GB of data).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  2. Lad said:

    Well I’m only saying this as reading the post from everyone & as other users have said I have an o2 sim card that I stopped topping it up about 5 years a go and still receives phone calls and sms, which is useful.

  3. Daniel Salas said:

    So a “connection action” for EE or ASDA could just be some free toll call?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Daniel,
      On ASDA Mobile, a connection action is defined as “(i) making any chargeable outbound calls (excluding calls to 2732, see Price Plan for prices), or (ii) any topping up of your account)”.
      On EE, it’s pretty similar (the wording explicitly mentions “topping up Your Account, using data and making a chargeable call or sending a chargeable text”).
      For this reason, a toll-free call would not count as a connection action on the above networks.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  4. Arif said:

    Hi Ken
    Fantastic website – many thanks for your very informative and useful explanations. I only wish I had found it before now!

    My comments echo many earlier ones, as I hadn’t appreciated there are 2 different types of PAYG . . . and staff at Carphone Warehouse never bothered to explain there were 2 or the differences!

    I’ve had a basic usage O2 SIM pay-as-you-go card for just 1 month cost £10 – barely made any calls or texts or used any data, so most surprised today that balance is now £NIL and O2 say tough – give us another £10 each month to continue! What a rip-off.

    Had previously tried an iD SIM which I discovered had no reception in my area then a Vodaphone SIM with the same result. Carphone Warehouse suggested an O2 SIM . . . though it has a very weak signal at least that’s something but they made no mention credit would expire after 30 days, regardless of usage, unless it was topped up. Given my very limited usage this is going to be a very expensive option.

    I’ll have to start all over again and see if I can find a SIM (giving reception in my area) with a ‘true’ PAYG plan that retains credit for a reasonable time-period.

    Many thanks again for your website. Kind regards

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Arif,
      Thanks for your comment and glad the website was useful! For more information about the two types of PAYG, it might be interesting to read my articles on PAYG bundles and traditional Pay As You Go (it sounds like you’ll need the latter type of tariff).
      For my part, I’d suggest trying out an ASDA Mobile SIM card. They use coverage from EE (check here) and charge just 8p/minute and 4p/text. They also have a really good policy on account inactivity (you only need to use your phone at least once every 270 days – ideally at least once every 180 days – to keep the SIM card active).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Arif replied:

        Hi Ken

        Thank you very much – I’ve taken up your suggestion and applied for the ASDA SIM – just hope signal reception here is as indicated in the coverage map.

        I’ve initiated Plan B just in case – had to eat two tins of beans and found some string but has limited range and poor voice quality . . . may have to resort to Plan C with an old blanket and wet firewood.

        Keep up the good work – it’s great there are good people like you on the Net.

        Top marks to you. Kind regards.

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Arif,
          Thank you for the kind comments… it’s things like this that make it all worthwhile! 🙂 Fingers crossed you’ll have luck with the coverage from ASDA/EE, and hope it won’t be necessary to implement plans B and C 😉 Just in case you’re interested in this topic, you can also take a look at my article on mobile phone coverage (there are some tips there that may help you to improve your mobile coverage).
          Thanks again and best wishes,
          Ken

  5. Gualtiero said:

    Does anyone know if Three’s Pay As You Go allows for recurring topups?

    Thanks

    Gualtiero

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gualtiero,
      As far as I’m aware, Three doesn’t support automatic top-ups (for more information about topping up, see the article here). The easiest way to regularly top-up would probably be using the My3 app or by calling 444.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  6. Phil said:

    Hi Ken. I’m probably odd as I doubt anyone else would ask this. I am currently using a mobile number which I plan on keeping indefinitely, but this has left me with two sims, one O2 and one EE which I no longer use. I want to get rid if them, but am reluctant to do so until they have been taken back by the network and the sims deactivated. I know I could just leave them until they do it automatically, but I’m sure at least one is already over the 180 days stated in the t&c’s. Is there any way the networks can take back the numbers now if they know I don’t use them?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Phil,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure I caught the exact question in your comment. However, to attempt to answer this: your mobile network can in theory close your account for any reason that’s listed in their terms and conditions.
      With regards to inactivity on a Pay As You Go account, they often say 6 months in the T&C, but how strictly they enforce this varies on a network-by-network basis. Regardless, however, it’s always a good idea to stay within the terms and conditions to prevent this from happening, as their enforcement policies can also change at any time in the future within the T&Cs.
      Ken

  7. Mohammed Habib said:

    Hi ken did not top up payg phone with lebara.cannot Top-up, still receiving calls on my number,no longer with lebara saying sim is expired with them,
    Desperately want to keep the same old number
    Please ken can you help as I am panicking
    How do I keep my old number with a new provider and how if possible do I register with a new provider

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mohammed,
      Sorry to hear about the issue regarding the loss of your phone number at Lebara Mobile.
      Unfortunately, the only way to recover your phone number is to do this via Lebara Mobile customer support. I recommend you give them a call to get the phone number reinstated. Once this has happened, you can request a PAC Code from them which will allow you to move your phone number to another network.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  8. daisy said:

    Well done Ken. One of the most well written and responsive posts I have read online. Not even the companies mentioned take so much care and effort in updating information and doing it as (I believe) a one man band – much praise indeed. It is with good reason that you top the SERPS for your keyword enquiry.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Daisy,
      Thank you for the kind words – this is indeed a one-man effort and it’s made totally worthwhile with lovely comments like yours!
      Thanks again – it’s much appreciated.
      Ken

  9. anon said:

    also a text reminder that cutoff is coming should be sent from the operator. useless offcom.

  10. anon said:

    these tables are now seriously out of date, please update. many of the smaller networks have been bought by bigger networks which means less choice in the market. vodaphone cuts off and deletes credit after 90 days so the big networks are doing this also now. 90 days is too restrictive. ofcom should set the limit at 12 months for all operators.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. So I’ve just double-checked on the Vodafone website and it appears the 270 days should still be correct:

      To keep your Pay as you go number active, you need to use it for at least one chargeable activity – like sending a text or topping up – every 180 days.
      If you don’t top up or use any credit, we’ll send you a text explaining that your account will expire in the next 90 days.
      To avoid this, simply use your phone for a chargeable activity after you receive the 90 day reminder text. This will let you carry on as normal with your current number.
      However, if you don’t use your phone within that 90-day period, your mobile number will be disconnected and will no longer work.

      Thanks,
      Ken

  11. Alan Malsher said:

    Great website. Thanks for your research.
    I can confirm that Vodafone scrap your number and credit in well under 270 days, NOT as your table shows.
    Also, someone commented that Three credit on the 321 PAYG deal doesn’t expire. It DOES if you use the 1 (ie mobile data) option. Depending on how much you pay, it may only last 1 day !!
    This despite their website claim “you only pay for what you use”. In fact if you don’t use it, you lose it. I think their best deal for low use is £30 for 1 year. This gives you 12GB of data. You have a year to use it, thereafter top up for another year (price may change), or lose it.
    One other comment: I think Three’s website is awful. I have three devices with Three SIMS, tablet, iPhone and old emergency phone for wife’s car. I can’t seem to see all those devices together on My3 online account. Pathetic.

  12. TT said:

    The information is not fully accurate. Lebara cancelled my number after only 20 days of top-up expiry. And I had transferred that number over from Vodafone… They made it impossible for me to recapture the number.

    Lebara is absolutely the worse phone company in the UK. Total scammers.

  13. Ron said:

    Hi Ken,
    I have (had) a PAYG phone with T-Mobile which was used for emergencies only. I tried to use the handset last week and found that it wouldn’t connect. When I checked my on-line account I found that my £10 or so credit had become 25p and when I checked the calander I had exceeded the 120 days. As you’ve stated above their Ts & Cs tell me that they bar your phone and remove your funds. I don’t have a problem with them barring my phone or taking my number (especially since no-one knows it including me – I have to look it up !) but I do have a problem with them helping themselves to my credit. OK- it’s in their Ts & Cs but isn’t this just “legal theft” ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ron,
      Thanks for your comment. Are you by any chance using a smartphone with mobile data switched on? If so, this might explain why your credit has been disappearing. If not, it might be worth calling T-Mobile Customer Services to get an explanation of where the credit has gone. Usually, there will be some explanation for the credit disappearing, and it may be possible to get the charges reversed.
      Ken

  14. Graeme Chesser said:

    I was told by Orange yesterday that their limit was 3 months before warning of loss of number and credit balance. I received the text message warning yesterday, although I had made a long high cost call 10 days ago. The representative said it was an automated text when I questioned why it had been sent given my costly call 10 days ago.

  15. GianMariot said:

    That’s all fine and good, but you didn’t take into account that, on EE, you need to choose a “package” that expires after 30 days. You can’t use your mobile without the package! You can top it up and have your stagnant credit for 180 days with a completely useless mobile. But if you choose a package so you can actually use it, after 30 days it is gone.
    Never believe everything these guys throw at us, they are smart arses.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      Believe it or not, it is actually possible to use EE without a monthly pack! The caveat is you can’t use mobile internet on your smartphone and they craftily hide this option away. If you’re OK with just calling and texting and don’t want a package that expires after 30 days, text STOP PACK to 150 once you have your EE SIM card. You’ll pay their standard PAYG rates of 30p/minute and 12p/text. Alternatively, I suggest getting a SIM card from ASDA Mobile instead. You get coverage from EE and they charge just 8p/minute and 4p/text.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  16. Jane said:

    Hi Ken,
    Thanks for your web site, it is very helpful.
    I’ve just go my first EE pay as you go SIM card and I’m not sure from what point I should start counting 180 days.
    From the moment I insert sim in my phone and it is registered in EE network or what?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jane,
      Thanks for your comment! If you’re buying one of the Pay As You Go packs, it will expire 30 days after the pack is purchased. If you’re just using normal Pay As You Go credit without a pack, it will only expire after 180 days of inactivity. This is measured from the date on which you last used your handset for a chargeable activity. So if you were to use your phone today, your credit would expire in 180 days time if you weren’t to use your SIM card in that time. Every time you use your phone for a chargeable activity, the 180 day counter is reset.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  17. John said:

    it appears delight mobile now take your credit off you after just 90 days

    https://www.delightmobile.co.uk/terms-and-conditions

    just discovered this shortly after they took my credit

    1. John replied:

      also they disconnect you after 120 days now

    2. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi John,
      Thanks for the heads up about this. I’m currently working on a full re-write of this article so I’ll make sure the updated version has the new policy for Delight Mobile.
      Thanks again,
      Ken

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi John,
        Just to let you know, I’ve revised the article above with the updated information about Delight Mobile.
        Thanks again!
        Ken

    3. ChrisK replied:

      I just past the 90 days mark and lost my remaining balance so my sim card for this network is now in the bin.

      I don’t know whats the matter with these two-bit mobile phone providers as a couple of quid a month is better than nothing and as far as I’m concerned they wont be getting another penny from me.

      I hope Delight and all their other off springs go the way of the Post Office and Sainsburys network.

    4. ChrisK replied:

      Just to add to my comment about Delight as I’ve never know this before with any other network and that is they take your credit even if you have used the phone so if you top up £5 and make a £1 worth of calls over the 90 days from your £5 top-up they still take the £4 that’s left so be warned.

      1. John replied:

        if you can be bothered i guess it might be possible to do a visa chargeback if you paid with a credit card

        the aspect Im annoyed about is that when I added the credit that they have now taken off me the terms & conditions still said credit lasted for 180 days – so its basically theft IMO

        if you are looking for a new provider that doesnt steal your credit (as long as sim is used once every 180 days) then try talkmobile happy hour tariff

        1. ChrisK replied:

          Hello John

          Not too worried about the money to be honest as it was only a couple of quid and I don’t mind the number being withdrawn after 6 months non use but like you said taking the money when you’re using the sim is something else.

          I’m a disabled driver and to be sure of being able to contact the RAC should I breakdown even if it’s only a tyre puncher is very important for me and this is why I have sims for all the network and I’ve got Vodafone covered with Talkmobile, o2 with GiffGaff and my main sim is 3, 3-2-1 and my OH has 30 day rolling contract with Lifemobile so that covers EE/BT.

          I was going to complain to Ofcom about the theft of money but their site takes you around and around in circles trying to find exactly where to complain, they more than likely like it that way.

  18. Clive said:

    I’m on EE PAYG. I just got off the phone and the guy said that i need to make a chargeable call within 3 months, although this contradicts all that i have found on the web. Any confirmation on what the inactivity duration is? 180 days or 3 months?

    Also, forgot to ask customer service while i was with them, but if i RECEIVE a chargeable call, as opposed to making the call via the phone myself, does that keep my line active?

    Regards,
    Clive

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Clive,

      According to the terms and conditions listed on EE’s website, you need to make a Connection Action at least once every 180 days. Might be worth querying this with their team (it’s section 6.3 of those terms and conditions). The definition of a Connection Action as given their T&C:

      Connection actions include by way of example only, topping up Your Account, using data and making a chargeable call or sending a chargeable text. A full list of connection actions is set out in Our booklet of Charges

      My interpretation is that receiving a phone call with not count as a Connection Action as you don’t normally need to pay to pick up a phone call?

      Ken

    2. John replied:

      its 180 days, not 3 months

      receiving call/text is not listed as something that will keep a SIM active so would not rely on doing that

      I vaguely recall that just registering the SIM to an online account might count as a connection action & therefore something that will keep the SIM active so that might be your solution

    3. John replied:

      a link to some more info

      https://ee.co.uk/content/dam/ee-help/e-gain.s3.amazonaws.com/external/content/EE/Price%20plans%20and%20costs/P14_EE_PAYG_030914.pdf

      In particular :

      • You must make a connection action at least once every 180 days. If you do not, your SIM card will be disconnected from the network, and you will not be able to use the service at all. You will also lose your mobile phone number. Any credit on your account at the time of disconnection will be forfeited

      • Connection actions’ are:
      – Making a chargeable outbound call
      – Sending a text message
      – Topping up your account
      – Making a payment for an Add-On or Pack
      – Registering your details

      1. John replied:

        note the last one ‘registering your details’ which doesnt cost anything

  19. adam said:

    Looks like Vectone changed it to 120 days now, can you update please?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Adam,
      Thank you for the heads up about this. I’ve just updated the information above with Vectone Mobile’s latest inactivity policy.
      Thanks again,
      Ken

  20. Roger Brenton said:

    I don’t want to lose my payg credit or phone service so I need to make a charged call/text etc every 180 days. Is there an app or some mechanism that will remind me when I’m getting near that deadline?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Roger,
      I’d personally recommend using a tool like Google Calendar – within it, you can set up recurring e-mail reminders (e.g. to remind yourself to use your phone every 170 days).
      Ken

      1. Roger Brenton replied:

        Hello Ken, Thank you for that suggestion – I’ll certainly give it a go.

        I thought someone might have created an app that could monitor when the last call was made and send a reminder when the relevant period is due to expire.

        There must be loads of people like me who tend to use their payg phones just occasionally and, like me, have forfeited their credit just because they didn’t make a call during the required period. It’s a pity that the service provider doesn’t issue a reminder instead of simply taking your money!

        Regards.

        Roger.

  21. Leila said:

    I’ve been using White Mobile payg SIMs for a while now. Their pricing is very good but you have to have a chargeable event on them every 60 days or they expire – and they are red hot on this. We maintain one in an emergency phone for an elderly neighbour and have had to replace it twice now because we’ve been a bit late going round to turn it on and make a call. Recently we’ve swapped her on to Delight Mobile (also runs on EE network with 3-2-1 pricing), which lasts for 180 days.

    On a more positive note, I have an old T-Mobile payg SIM with 7p credit that hasn’t had any chargeable events since 2014 and is still getting a signal and can receive calls.

    Many thanks for maintaining this site. Very useful.

  22. Ian said:

    Been trying to find out and gave up trying virgin customer services. I have two mobiles (Orange and virgin) both are out of credit in less than a month even though i make no calls, data sense etc turned off. Am i on a wrong tarriff or do they just take it all after 30 days.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you probably have mobile data enabled on your smartphone. This will cost 65p/MB on Orange and £1/day on Virgin Mobile. May I ask which device you’re using at the moment? If you disable mobile data on your phone, you should find this problem comes to an end.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  23. john said:

    I have several payg phones with sims that need a chargeable call every so often or the credit and phone number will be lost.

    The only one where the credit never expires is a 321 sim from 3.

    I have TPO sims which need a call every 3 months. These are in ‘spare’ phones.

    It an outrage that they can steal your money and even worse take your phone number away.

    I have had the same number since February 1986 and would not want to lose that number!
    For that reason I have it with 3 on a 321 sim.

  24. Keith said:

    Hi ken , my wife has lost her vadaphone account with vodaphone through inactivity , can she reactivate that account or how does she go about getting the phone back in use ,its an iPhone 4s your advice would be appreciated, keith

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Keith,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, your wife will need to contact Vodafone Customer Services to see if it’s possible to get her account reactivated. You can call them on 03333 040 191. Sorry I’m unable to help – it’s just that this is an account-specific query only Vodafone can look at.
      Thanks,
      Ken

      1. keith replied:

        thanks for the info ken , i will get my wife to ring them and will let you know the outcome as it may help your future questions and answers, cheers keith

  25. Simon said:

    Where the automatic termination of prepay sims really hits, is all those people, often elderly, who have a phone for emergency use, don’t use it for a while, then when they come to need it, can’t use it! The other complication is some other services, e.g. Gmail and some banking services, they need to send a verification code to the phone, which if not active, never arrives, leaving these other services incapacitated!

    The networks really need to understand that many people have a phone for very infrequent use, and to deactivate it without telling them can lead to potentially dangerous or at least very inconvenient situations that they require assistance to recover from. Perhaps they should generate an automated outgoing call to the phone to warn them of impending deactivation, or register a 2nd number to notify.

  26. Andrew said:

    Can you please tell me, can a pay as you go contract receive calls when there is no credit?
    Regards
    Andrew

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Andrew,
      You can indeed receive incoming calls even when you have no credit on your Pay As You Go account. The only thing you need to watch out for is that your account will eventually be closed unless you make a chargeable activity once every so often (and of course, chargeable activities require you have some credit on the account). So yes: in the short term, this is definitely possible. However, you wouldn’t be able to keep doing this permanently.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  27. John said:

    regarding an EE PAYG SIM

    if you ONLY top up will this keep the SIM active ?

    Just asking as the terms & conditions talks about “connection action” & Im not sure a top up counts as a ”connection action”

    FYI I want to keep an EE SIM active but I cannot actually ‘use’ it as I have a pack preloaded onto it that will active as soon as I use it – however I dont want to activate the pack as I dont need it yet – hence the only way would be to top it up if that works

    1. John replied:

      futher to my last message I note that Orange terms & conditions specifically mention a top up keeps a SIM active

      As Orange is part of EE does this make it more likely that EE considers a top up to be a connection action

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi John,
        Thanks for your comment. I believe a top-up should count as a connection action on EE. According to the definitions in the terms and conditions:

        ‘Connection action’ an action that must be taken to maintain connection. Connection actions include by way of example only, topping up Your Account, using data and making a chargeable call or sending a chargeable text. A full list of connection actions is set out in Our booklet of Charges.

        Hope this helps,
        Ken

  28. kevin said:

    How many people would like to just bang a PAYG sim in an old phone, stick a tenner credit on it and hide it in the car in case of an emergency without having to remember to use it every few months? these companies make vast profits and should be forced to provide such a card as a duty of care, even if it were priced higher than normal to use

  29. Nick said:

    Great table very helpful. Just too let you know that family mobile is now out of business.

  30. Raj said:

    Hi Ken

    Great site. Thank you for making it.

    Looking at Lycamobile, I was attracted by the fact that its the only network with free voicemail… that is until I saw what you said about credit expiring irrespective of usage. Can I just clarify something: if I top up with say £20 and make a phone call every week, any credit not used gets taken off me after 90 days?

    Cheers mate,
    Raj

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Raj,
      That’s right: clause 4.6 of their terms and conditions says all credit will expire 90 days after your top-up. Hence, the £20 you top up today will expire in November even if you make a phone call every day.
      Ken

  31. Igor said:

    Hi!

    I want to buy a pay-to-go sim without any monthy plans, bundles, etc. To have my credit valid for at least a few months and pay calls a normal per minute tariff (without pre-paid bundles of minutes/texts).
    I know this is possible at giffgaff – they call it “airtime credit”. (but I’m trying to avoid giffgaff for various reasons)
    I’m looking at O2 and Lebara, but they both seem to have bundles or plans which last only for 30 days (which means you have to top-up every month).

    Is there any other operator that has normal, lasting, credit available?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Igor,
      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you (I was away on holiday for the past two weeks). In the UK, it’s still possible to use traditional Pay As You Go on almost every network – see the web page here for information. With traditional PAYG, your credit remains until you actually use it (you just need to keep the SIM card active, normally by using your phone at least once every 180 days). The more recent addition is known as a Pay As You Go bundle: this is where your allowances will run out after 30 days. If you don’t want this to happen, you should opt out from the bundle or you should choose traditional Pay As You Go.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  32. Kieron O'Meara said:

    Hi Ken
    Could you please try* to provide an explanation as to WHY these companies do this?
    I just don’t get it…
    The cost of keeping a few kb of data on there computer systems seems negligible compared to the cost of losing customer trust / loyalty / continued custom, etc
    Does the UK Telecoms industry perhaps force these regulations on them?

    * It’s understood that you do not represent these firms so your opinion is purely speculative.

    sorry one more thing…
    http://shop.ee.co.uk/rook-from-ee?wt.mc_id=ON_MEC_D_N6580.136252.FACEBOOKUK&WT.tsrc=Facebook_Paid

    This Advert specifically mentions that…
    “If you don’t use your SIM to make a “connection action” every 180 days your PHONE will be disconnected and you’ll lose any credit on your account.”
    (Not your SIM) …are they now planning on LOCKING YOUR PHONE through lack of use?

    Wow, that would be HARSH

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Kieron,
      Thanks for your comment! I’ve heard lots of explanations about why the mobile networks do this. One is it helps their bottom line: people leave lots of money in dormant bank accounts… for PAYG SIM cards, it’s even worse as the amount is much smaller. Some of these will actually never be used again (e.g. the SIM card is lost or people have moved to another SIM card). The second explanation is that it’s an Ofcom regulatory requirement (though I’ve never seen any concrete evidence this is the case).
      The closest to an official explanation is probably this blog post from giffgaff (it mainly deals with phone number expiry but PAYG credit expiry is also related as the two often happen at the same time).
      Finally, with regards to the link from EE, there’s no need to worry about this! It’s loose wording on the part of EE: your phone will continue to work as before, only the SIM card will be disconnected from the network.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Hilary replied:

        I’d love to understand how the mobile operators are getting away with what amounts to the theft of these remaining balances on little used accounts. The banks have longed to do this for years and have not been permitted to do so – why the mobile operators? I have just experienced this with Virgin who are intransigent: no offer of any kind to restore my number or even provide an alternative. They also seen to have no obligation to inform you. It’s nothing short of an old fashioned scam but I guess we have only ourselves to blame. The ombudsman should be taking this up as it is not in the interests of consumers.

  33. Robin Whelan said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the informative and detailed information. To update you Family Mobile will cease on 31st August 2015 (http://www.yourfamilymobile.co.uk/).

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Robin,
      Thanks so much for the update on Family Mobile. I’ll work on updating the website following news of the Family Mobile closure.
      Thanks again,
      Ken

  34. Melville said:

    Ken
    an update to ASDA Mobile position on inactivity on a PAYG SIM.

    I have had an ASDA SIM for some time for my “emergency Phone” but have been caught out by a different set of rules when they moved to the EE network. What the terms and conditions don’t say is that they will stop outgoing services if you don’t make a chargeable call that reduces the money credit on your SIM in the first 90 days. (It is important to note that ASDA Mobile does not consider the use of the free minutes/data/text that come with the SIM as chargeable. Beware of free gifts) After this “restriction” of service, you might still be able to receive calls but can’t make outgoing calls until you fall foul of the 180 day rule when they cut your number off. They don’t notify the user of any restriction/termination of service or final cutoff of credit. Other companies are clearer about restriction/suspension/termination by spelling it out in their Terms and conditions (T&C); However ASDA Mobile do not have it in their T&C but after the event will point to this hidden 90 day rule rule in their FAQ https://mobile.asda.com/pages/help#questions/120045/8428.

    Hence, to maintain an outgoing service on an ASDA Mobile phone you have to use up any free credit and make a chargeable call that reduces the money credit on your SIM every 90 days.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Melville,
      Thanks for the heads up about this – it’s super useful! I’ve updated my ASDA Mobile review to mention this policy – will also make sure the article above is updated as well.
      Thanks again!
      Ken

      1. Melville replied:

        Thanks Ken,
        I suggest you could add a column to your “Inactivity Period (With No Chargeable Events)” table in the PAYG article of October 28th 2014, to cover “phone use restricted” after xx days. I suspect that there may be other companies who do this. I haven’t experienced the problem with Giff Gaff but then they accept incoming calls as activity.

        I appreciate that backup phones/sim is not a common use, but an emergency mobile phone can be a lifesaver for some people. Your PAYG article comes up in searches about backup phones.

        Thanks for the informative site

        1. melville replied:

          Ken,
          thanks for updating your tables to include the effect of inactivity. The red triangle against ASDA and customer complaints have obviously had an effect. They have now revised their FAQ to say they will only suspend service after 180 days without chargeable event. Then after 270 days of no use they cancel credit and finally after 360 days comes loss of the number.
          This is more in line with the published terms and conditions than before. A shame it took many people to lose their credit before ASDA responded.

          1. Ken Lo
            Ken replied:

            Hi Melville,
            Amazing news – thank you for the heads up and for letting me know! I’ll get the information above updated ASAP.
            Ken

  35. sarah said:

    Hi Ken. I hv a Virgin PAYG sim which was purchased in May 2014 and the sim is still on my spare phone. I have never topped up before since my initial purchase. The credit has since expired but i am still able to receive sms message. Is the account still active?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Sarah,
      Yep – your account at Virgin Mobile is still active 🙂 If the account had been deactivated, you wouldn’t be able to get a signal from Virgin (you also wouldn’t be able to receive an incoming text message). The 6 month threshold mentioned in this article isn’t enforced strictly by all networks (it simply means they have the right to deactivate your phone if it’s been inactive for too long).
      Ken

  36. Martin said:

    Hi I have an O2 phone where I have lost the number and credit through inactivity. I’m not bothered about retrieving the number. Can I just get another O2 sim to replace it – or is it more hassle than that? Many thanks.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Martin,
      It may still be possible to recover your Pay As You Go credit but this will entirely be at the discretion of O2. You can contact their Pay As You Go team on 0344 809 0222 if you’d like to discuss this.
      Ken

  37. gerald malone said:

    Ken Hi I have a requirement for a payg sim for use in an emergency personal disabled person alarm. Hopefully Never required to send an emergency message.
    This requires to be live continuously but not used or not de-activated.
    is there such a sim available in the uk Thank you

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gerald,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m afraid I can’t recommend any Pay As You Go SIM cards specifically for this purpose. The SIM cards I’m aware of are only designed to work in a smartphone (they’re not designed to work in other devices). I also believe there may be Ofcom regulations which require a mobile network operator to disable a SIM card once it’s been inactive for a certain amount of time. Have you tried checking with the manufacturer of the device?
      Ken

  38. Darren said:

    Hi Ken.

    My brother in law has had to get a new Pay As You Go sim from EE as he has been getting issues from an ex girlfriend constantly bombarding him. Even though he has blocked her number she just calls from various others and enough was enough. He is not bothered that he has a new number but what he is bothered about is that there are other people out there that haven’t got the new number so are still contacting the old thinking he’s still on it. Can the number be stopped so that when anybody calls it says it is no longer available? I notice you say it’s 180 days of inactivity before the provider kills the number but he would like it doing asap.

    Many thanks
    Darren

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Darren,
      Sorry to hear about the situation. The best way to do this is probably to call EE Customer Services on 150. Let them know you want to close the old account: they should be able to do this for you.
      Ken

  39. Paul said:

    Hi Ken,
    I had an old O2 Pay as you go SIM card some years ago. I still have the SIM, but there is no life on it.
    Can I reconnect it online? I live too far away from an O2 store to take it there or get a new one.
    Thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Normally, it won’t be possible to reconnect an old SIM card (it’s likely the phone number & credit has gone given there were several years since you last used the SIM card). Still, it’s probably worth checking with O2 directly… you can give their Pay As You Go team a call on 0344 809 0222.
      Ken

  40. Claire said:

    Hi,

    I recently changed from contract to PAYG and transferred my mobile number that I had had for 25 years over to the new SIM. Unfortunately I did not use the number regularly and it has expired. I didn’t receive any notification that it was going to expire and as I only bought the new SIM last October I didn’t realise the expiry was 84 days (the network is Lebara) and that I had passed it.
    Do you know if there is a way to retrieve my mobile number in any way or to buy it back from whoever it has been assigned to? I have hundreds of business cards with the number on it+ all my customers have that number…

    Thanks for any advice on this.

    Claire.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Claire,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m very sorry to hear that Lebara Mobile have taken your phone number: the 84 day rule is written in their terms and conditions but it’s craftily hidden away after 61 other paragraphs of legalese. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of other Lebara customers are also unaware that this could happen to their number (most other networks give you at least 180 days).
      The only thing I’m able to suggest is to contact Lebara customer services (020 7031 0791). It’s possible they might still be holding the number (if not, you can always ask them what they’ve done to the number).
      If Lebara have indeed cancelled your number, it will normally be returned to the mobile network that first issued the number. If you aren’t sure which network this is, consult this spreadsheet provided by Ofcom. The S/ABC and D/DE are the first five digits of your mobile phone number after the first zero (e.g. if your mobile number was 07123 456 789 then the S/ABC would be 7123 and the D/DE would be 4). You can contact the network listed under that entry to see whether they’re able to offer you the old number back.
      I wish you all the best of luck in reclaiming the phone number.
      Ken

  41. Ann Huckin said:

    A very useful information, thanks for taking the trouble.
    Is it possible to change a SIM card from an LG phone on O2 (with about £20 credit) to an LG phone on Orange. Both are PAYG but the O2 LG phone is unreliable, not holding a charge. I don’t want to lose my credit. Would be very grateful for any help.
    Ann

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Anne,
      Thanks for the feedback – it’s very much appreciated! You can move your SIM card between smartphones but you’ll need to make sure the new handset is unlocked (otherwise the LG handset provided by Orange will not accept a SIM card from O2). The other thing you’re able to do is to transfer your phone number over to Orange. However, this would result in the loss of your credit as you can’t transfer airtime between networks.
      Ken

    2. Ann Huckin replied:

      Hi, Many thanks for the useful information in your answer to my question.
      Ann

  42. Gareth Davies said:

    Your period for expiry of credit forr EE/T-mobile pay-as-you go is incorrect. I’ve just had EE Customer Support confirm the period is 3 months. I live in Spain but have maintained my T-Mobile UK pay-as-you-go SIM for many years so I can use it on the odd occassions I am back in the UK. I have always ensured I made a chargeable event (call or text) every 180 days in order to keep the phone active, and in doing so I never saw any credit mysteriously disappear – until past year. Between Jan and end June 14 my balance was reduced by £5.22 down to only 25p with me making no calls or texts in that period; and between end July and Jan this year, my balance was again reduced by £14.98 down to 25p with me again making no calls or texts in that period? I was very angry about this so phoned EE Customer Support today and she was very emphatic that I must make a call or text every 3 months or credit is lost. I said this did not used to happen and they must have changed the period from 180 days to 3 months for loss of credit. She said, no this had always been the case, but I said that I knew from experience this was not so and that if they had changed the terms and conditions they should have let me know. Bloody rip off! Anyway, please update your table for EE and it’s other owned services such as T-Mobile to state that 3 months is now the period for expiry of unused credit.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gareth,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve just doubled-checked on the EE/T-Mobile website: the “180 days” is still correct (see clause 6(c) of the T-Mobile Pay As You Go terms and conditions).
      In regards to your situation, I don’t believe this is a problem with credit expiry (under the terms and conditions, you’d see the SIM card being disabled and all credit being lost after 180 days of inactivity on the account). Instead, I believe there’s probably something else consuming your Pay As You Go balance. Are you by any chance using a smartphone primarily on wi-fi? If so, could you kindly double-check whether mobile data has accidentally been enabled? If you’re using an Android smartphone, you can find this through “Settings > More networks > Mobile networks”. Make sure the box is unticked. I find this is a fairly common issue in the case of disappearing credit (with the option enabled, your smartphone automatically connects to the mobile internet @ £1/day if it loses a wi-fi connection).
      Ken

      1. Max replied:

        Ken,

        I just spoke to the customer service at EE for my T-Mobile PAYG number reactivation and I was told that the credit expiry happens after 90 days (instead of 180) and the number is disconnected after 180 days. I can not find this in the official Terms and Conditions but it seems Gareth is correct. EE has been a nightmare in general for us T-Mobile PAYG customers, so it is not unexpected of their corporate greed. I will make sure to move to another operator as soon as I return to the UK.

        Max

  43. Bob taylor said:

    I have a pay as you go mobile with orange(EE). Although I only make one or two emergency calls a month and never use any other services my credit disappears rapidly over the month. Any ideas why. I have read on Google that this has happened to other people.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Bob,
      Thanks for your comment. Are you by any chance using a smartphone (e.g. an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone handset)? If so, it’s possible you’ve left mobile data turned on for your handset (some applications will automatically access the internet in the background which will incur charges to your account without you even using the application). Another possible explanation is subscription-based text services (e.g. if you’re getting regular text messages which need to be paid for e.g. news alerts or ringtones).
      Ken

      1. Bob Taylor replied:

        Hi Ken thanks for your reply. I am using a smartphone(old iPhone 3gs).indeed mobile data was turned on,phone was originally pay monthly contract never thought to turn it off when I changed to pay as you go.will see how it goes. Thanks again.

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Bob,
          No worries – that should do the job in fixing the problem… Orange charges 65p/MB so you’ll find only a small amount of mobile data consumption leads to a large amount of credit disappearing from your account. If you do want to keep the mobile internet access (so apps will still work when you don’t have wi-fi), consider switching to Three’s 321 tariff where you’re only charged 1p/MB. You should find the £10 of credit lasting approximately 65 times as long 😉
          Ken

  44. Suzanne said:

    Hi Ken – i see on your page that Vodafone requires a call every 180 days? but is it really a “call” or can some other chargeable event like a text or some web usage work?

    thanks !

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Suzanne,
      Thanks for your question – and a very good one! A literal interpretation of point 6.3 in the Vodafone Pay As You Go Terms & Conditions says only a chargeable outbound call (excluding to Customer Services) will count towards the 180 day limit. Saying that, Simon from the Vodafone Tech Team has said outbound texts & data connection are also counted towards the limit. Hence, you’ll probably be fine to only text or browse the internet but making a chargeable outbound phone call is the only way to strictly stay within their terms and conditions.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Suzanne replied:

        Thanks Ken – the link you’ve provided actually further breaks down the 180 days into a 90 day suspension + 90 further days before permanent deactivation, with the crux of the matter surrounding terms 6a3 (which vaguely says 180) and 6b (which breaks this further down into the aforemention 90+90 days) – which seems to have confused many in that thread.

        No matter, I’ll just make a call every 89 days and all will be well 🙂 – thanks once again!

  45. Andy T said:

    Brilliant that someone has taken the time and collate all this information into one place. I was caught by Lebara a couple of years back with its 84days = 7weeks non use policy which is strictly enforced.

  46. Peter said:

    Hi I have a vodafone SIM card which I had £5.87 credit on and I didn’t use it but when I came to use it the credit had gone so I contacted vodafone which there told me that due to non uses credit had expire. Also I get a Vodafone signal. tried to top up so I don’t lose the number but Vodafone saying I can’t top up as the process for recycling my number has started. Is there anything I can do to stop this and to get my number to work

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, this is something you’ll need to discuss with Vodafone directly – the only way to put a stop to this happening is to ask Customer Services to put a stop to the process. There’s no guarantee they’ll be able to do it but it might be possible if you’re early in the process (I had this problem with O2 in the past and they were able to restore my phone number and credit).
      Ken

  47. fizz said:

    Thank you for a brilliant up-to-date page!

  48. David G said:

    Hi Ken, very helpful article on PAYG, thank you.
    I purchased a 3 mobile Trio PAYG voice sim yesterday plus a top up voucher for £10 at a 3 store. How long do I have to actually activate the top up credit i.e. insert the sim card and use the activation sim pin code.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi David,
      According to the Three website, “your voucher will expire if you don’t activate it within 90 days of buying it”. Once the voucher has been loaded on to your account, the information in the above article will then apply (you’ll need to use your phone at least once every six months to keep your account active & to stop your PAYG credit expiring).
      Hope this helps to answer your question!
      Ken

  49. S Kane said:

    Thanks for the information, Ken. Have you any comparative rates for use of UK PAYG sims in Europe. Also, are you aware of any Oftel reports on this subject?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      I’ve written an article about the costs of using your UK SIM card when travelling in Europe – hopefully some of it might be useful? Aside from that, I’m not aware of any specific reports from Ofcom or Oftel.
      Ken

  50. S Kane said:

    I just checked EE PAYG costs and for example, an sms costs 12p to send. It seems outrageous. I have a contract SIM with them with free SMS etc but I had wanted a PAYG phone for emergencies. Are these typical PAYG charges or am I looking the wrong place.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      I’m afraid 12p is the standard rate for sending texts on EE Pay As You Go (other networks sometimes charge even more e.g. 14p/text on Vodafone). For a better value deal, you could consider giffgaff at 6p/text or Three at only 2p/text. As with EE, both giffgaff and Three also require you to use your phone at least once every 6 months.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Jes replied:

        Just thought you’d like to mention that giffgaff SMS texts now cost only 5p in UK as in EU; PAYG UK minutes cost 15p (as in EU without UK goodybag; having UK bundle/goodybag reduces EU PAYG costs).

        My husband still has his TMobile PAYG phone (now EE) and receiving a call as well as making call keeps it active.

  51. Guru said:

    Hi Ken,

    I haven’t read all the comments by yourself or other, however, my query is that I had a PAYG sim frmo t-mobile which remained inactive for a while and now it has expired. How is it possible, if at all, to get this number back as it was on some of my marketing material and it will cost to reprint. Please advise. Man thanks.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Guru,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get your old number back once it’s been lost (you’ll have to ask T-Mobile Customer Support and unfortunately there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to return the number back to you). My recommendation is to contact T-Mobile as quickly as possible – you can either dial 0845 412 5000 or you can go to an EE retail store. They should hopefully be able to tell you the status of your phone number.
      Ken

  52. Bill said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for this and all the work you’ve put into it…really appreciated!

  53. George said:

    Thanks for explaining it all Ken
    I am still confused over payg
    On most mobile networks it usually talks about monthly payments
    Yet you explain a SIM card can last up to 6 months
    As a single pensioneri I need pay when my money runs out then top up
    Ie non monthly I always took this as payg is this correct
    Regards
    George

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi George,
      Thanks for your comment. Pay As You Go isn’t quite as simple as it was in the past – let me explain the two different types of Pay As You Go tariff.
      The first type of tariff is traditional Pay As You Go (you pay per-minute, per text and per megabyte of data you consume). This form of Pay As You Go is probably better suited to your usage. No credit is taken from your phone unless you actively use it for calls, texts or internet. Your credit will normally expire if you don’t use your phone for a period of 6 months (the exact period will depend on your network). I have a comparison table for traditional Pay As You Go tariffs.
      The second type of Pay As You Go tariff is hybrid Pay As You Go where you pay a fixed amount every month for a set allowance of calls, texts and internet. With hybrid Pay As You Go, the same amount is taken every month from your phone. This is regardless of whether you actually use your phone during that month. It’s very subtly different from your credit expiring as you’re actually using the credit to buy a bundle every month. The article here allows you to compare Pay As You Go bundles.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  54. John said:

    Hi Ken, thanks for the useful website. I think a friend changed their number (approx 8m ago) but I’ve lost the new number. The old one (on Tesco) went straight to answer phone does this suggest that it’s still active or am I clutching at straws?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’re reaching voicemail when calling the number, there must be an account active on that number. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t tell you who actually currently owns that number (it could perhaps still be your friend or the number may have since been re-assigned to another user on the network).
      Hope this helps and best of luck getting in touch with your friend,
      Ken

  55. huss said:

    Hi there I had a number with vodafone for 15 years and due to my motor bike accident was in & out of hospital for 2 years recovering. I last recharged my number on the 2nd of august 2013 last year and after everything thats gone on I managed to loose my sim card. I bought a new one to reactivate this number and they said I lost my number and there is no way you can get it back 🙁 for me that a huge loss is there anything I can.do to get it back? I will do and pay whatever it costs to get it back any ideas would be much appreciated please thank you

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Huss,
      I’m very sorry to hear about your accident and I hope you’re continuing to recover well. In regards to your question, this should probably be posed to Vodafone Customer Services. There’s a chance the number hasn’t yet been re-assigned to another customer in which case they may be able to recover it for you. You can contact Vodafone by dialling 191 from your handset. Alternatively, send them a message through their website.
      Best wishes,
      Ken

  56. Andrew Keir said:

    Hi Ken,
    thanks for this info, I couldn’t find it anywhere else. I am a light user (dongle on my narrowboat is used for emails when I’m away from home) and don’t want to lose my money/credit.
    I’ll set up a Google calendar reminder to avoid the 6 month rule.
    Thanks again,
    Andrew

  57. gaz said:

    Hi i had a backup phone in my ambulance and not used it for 90 days and im told i lost the number for good is then any way i can get it back ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gaz,
      Thanks for your comment. Which network are you using in the backup handset? With many networks, it’s worth making a call to Customer Services to see whether its possible to reactivate the SIM card and phone number. The terms and conditions differ for each network so the response will vary depending on the network you use.
      Ken

      1. gaz replied:

        Hi ken the network is Lebara i called them and was told i now lost the number and cant get it back , dont sound right to me 🙁

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Gaz,
          Sorry to hear that the phone number has been lost 🙁 Lebara Mobile has the strictest policy amongst the UK networks: it’ll expire your phone number after 84 days of inactivity (most other networks will only expire your number after 6 months of inactivity). Given this is stated in their terms and conditions, I’m afraid there’s very little we’re able to do at this stage – Lebara will simply point at the fact that you agreed to the terms when signing up to their network. Going forward, it might be worth choosing a network with a longer inactivity period (e.g. with a 6 month expiry). I’d also recommend setting up some automatic reminders (e.g. use Google Calendar to send yourself a reminder to use the phone at least once every 6 months).
          Ken

  58. Dave said:

    Hi all

    I had a Lyca mobile that was topped up in March. I misplaced the SIM but knew it was in the house. I found it a few days ago and found I had lost my credit. I contacted Lyca and explained but they just hid behind the terms and conditions. I discussed it with the Ombudsman Office but they said they didn’t believe I had a case because it is in the terms and conditions. I mentioned the Ufair Terms and Conditions Act 1977 and they changed their mind ever so slightly. I don’t know if I will win or not but I am going to give it a good go because it was my money not theirs. I’ll let you know how I get on.

  59. ashimole joshua said:

    what are the various ways i can top up my credit?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ashimole,
      There are lots of ways of topping up your phone: you can do it online via your mobile operator’s website or you can buy a top-up voucher in the supermarket or other retailers. You can also do it over the phone or you can sometimes go to a nearby cash machine. Please refer to your mobile operator’s website for a full list of available top-up options.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  60. Peter said:

    I understand the general idea of wanting to keep the quantity of mobile numbers down. But think it’s “unfair” of the phone companies to effectively take your existing credit for no service (The whole point if PAYG is you are charged as you use – so they have taken even though you haven’t used). I’ve as yet been unable to get a satisfactory justification from my provider as to why they will not refund unused credit, other than that’s what’s in their terms.

    So, as I see it, not refunding existing credit is an “Unfair Term”.

    Ofcom say they will look at “Unfair Terms” on their website:
    http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/tell-us/telecoms/contracts/

    “Although Ofcom cannot handle individual consumer complaints, we can consider complaints made about the fairness of any contract term drawn up for general use.”

    Given what happened with Unfair Bank Charges, I wonder if complaining to Ofcom will make them change their stance.

  61. David Mann said:

    I have an old T-mobile PAYG number which I haven’t used for years. However it still accepts incoming calls so I call in for messages now and again!

  62. Podge said:

    I have a Vodafone PAYG smartphone and am a light user. After 180 days of inactivity I lose any unexpired credit.

    Is there an app (or any other facility) that will monitor the period of non-usage and warn me when the limit is being reached ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Podge,

      Thanks for your comment. My recommendation is to pop over to the Google Calendar service. Log in with your Gmail account and create a reminder event that recurs every 170 days. When creating the event, you’re given the option to add notifications/reminders. You can set up the event to alert you via e-mail or SMS.

      Ken

Leave a Reply

E-Mail Notifications: By default, I'll drop you an e-mail when there's a reply to your comment. If you don't want to receive such a notification, please select the "Don't Subscribe" option from the dropdown menu above.