SIM Only Deals: The UK’s Best Value SIM Cards For Your Smartphone

December 26th, 2016

You can often save more than £200/year by getting a low-cost SIM card and placing it into your smartphone. We compare the UK’s best value smartphone SIM-only deals.

SIM card for SIM Only tariffA great way to save money on your phone bill is to switch your tariff to a SIM-only deal. Compared to a normal mobile contract, you can typically save about £200/year whilst keeping the same phone number as before. You’ll also get lots of flexibility with the choice of either a 12-month or 1-month contract.

In this article, we’ll review and compare the UK’s best value smartphone SIM-only deals. We’ll compare SIM-only deals from 14 different mobile networks, from the big names like EE and O2, to lower-cost virtual network operators like ASDA Mobile and giffgaff.

SIM Only Deals: How Do They Work?

A SIM-only deal is a low-cost airtime-only tariff for your mobile phone. With one, you’ll get a new low-cost SIM card that slots inside your unlocked smartphone, saving you about £200 per year whilst allowing you to keep your existing phone number.

Here are three key things you should know when choosing a SIM-only deal:

1. You’ll always get coverage from either EE, O2, Three or Vodafone

  • EE
  • O2
  • Three
  • Vodafone

The UK has only four coverage providers: all other mobile networks will piggyback on one of the four.

With SIM-only deals, you’re currently able to choose from 14 different mobile networks. While this sounds complicated at first glance, it’s worth being aware there are only four underlying network coverage providers: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. All other mobile networks piggyback on coverage from the big four:

To compare the coverage in your area, please see our list of UK mobile phone coverage checker tools.

2. You can keep your current mobile number

iPhone 6It’s a straightforward process to keep your current phone number when moving to a SIM-only deal. If you’re changing mobile networks, you can do this by obtaining a PAC Code from your old mobile network. The PAC Code should then be given to your new mobile network. The process of transferring your phone number will take about one working day and our PAC Code Finder can take you through the process one step at a time.

3. You might need to unlock your smartphone

If your smartphone was originally provided by another mobile network, either on a Pay Monthly contract or on Pay As You Go, it might be necessary to unlock it before you’re able to use the handset on another network. For more information, see our guides on unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Recommended SIM Only Deals

For a full overview of all of the available options, please jump to the relevant section of this article according to your desired price range:

Less than £10/month

5 Pound Note

In the UK, you can get a SIM-only deal for less than £5/month.

If you’re looking for a super-cheap SIM-only deal, there are a variety of options starting from about £5/month.

The UK’s cheapest SIM-only deal currently comes from Tello. For just £3.50/month, you’ll get 100 minutes, 100 texts and 100MB of internet. Tello provides 97% coverage using the Three network.

For most people, the best all-round value SIM card in this price range probably comes from Plusnet Mobile. They have a SIM card costing £7.50/month with 1000 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. With Plusnet Mobile, you’ll get 3G and 4G coverage from the EE network.

The following table show a full list of SIM-only tariffs available for less than £10/month:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Three200Unlimited500MB£5.00
Tesco Mobile1005,000100MB£6.00
Three200Unlimited500MB£7.00
Three200Unlimited500MB£7.00
Tesco Mobile2505,000500MB£7.50
Tesco Mobile5005,000250MB£7.50
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£9.00
Three600Unlimited1GB£9.00
Tesco Mobile2505,0001GB£9.00
Tesco Mobile5005,000500MB£9.00
Vodafone250Unlimited250MB£9.50
EE250Unlimited250MB£9.99

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Tello100100100MB£3.50
iD Mobile2505,000250MB£4.00
iD Mobile2505,000250MB£4.00
ASDA Mobile1002,0002.1GB£5.00
iD Mobile2505,0001.5GB£5.00
iD Mobile2505,0001.5GB£5.00
Plusnet Mobile5001,0001GB£5.00
Plusnet Mobile250500500MB£5.00
giffgaff150500100MB£5.00
Tello100100500MB£5.50
Virgin Mobile300Unlimited300MB£6.00
ASDA Mobile300Unlimited2.5GB£7.00
iD Mobile5005,0002GB£7.50
iD Mobile5005,0002GB£7.50
Plusnet Mobile1,000Unlimited1GB£7.50
giffgaff250Unlimited750MB£7.50
Tesco Mobile2505,000100MB£7.50
Virgin Mobile1,500Unlimited1GB£9.00
Tello200Unlimited1GB£9.00
Tesco Mobile2505,000500MB£9.00

From £10/month

The vast majority of SIM only deals start from £10/month.

At the £10/month price point, there’s a huge variety of SIM-only deals.

The most eye-catching offers come from Talkmobile (a low-cost sub-brand of the Vodafone network). For instance, you can get 12GB of data, 5000 minutes and 5000 texts for £12/month on a 12-month contract. You’ll get 98% coverage from Vodafone (see our in-depth review of Talkmobile for more information).

We think it’s also worth having a look at the £10/month deals from iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, Talkmobile and Three (with our preference being the deal from Plusnet Mobile as it comes with 4G coverage from EE, full support for tethering and just a 30-day contract).

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Tesco Mobile5005,0002GB£10.00
Three600Unlimited1GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile5005,0001GB£10.00
Sky Mobile001GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,000500MB£10.00
BT Mobile400Unlimited500MB£10.00
O2250Unlimited250MB£10.50
Tesco Mobile5005,0002GB£11.00
Three200Unlimited2GB£11.00
Three600Unlimited8GB£12.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£12.00
Tesco Mobile1,5005,0004GB£12.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0003GB£12.50
Vodafone500Unlimited500MB£12.50
iD Mobile2505,000500MB£12.50
EE500Unlimited500MB£12.99
Three200Unlimited2GB£13.00
O2500Unlimited500MB£13.00
Three600Unlimited8GB£14.00
EE1,000Unlimited1GB£14.99

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
iD Mobile5005,0005GB£10.00
iD Mobile5005,0005GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited3.5GB£10.00
Plusnet Mobile1,500Unlimited2GB£10.00
giffgaff500Unlimited2GB£10.00
Tello500Unlimited1GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile2505,0001GB£10.00
Three200Unlimited500MB£10.00
Tesco Mobile5005,0001GB£11.00
Vodafone2500250MB£11.50
giffgaff750Unlimited3GB£12.00
Virgin Mobile2,500Unlimited2GB£12.00
Three600Unlimited1GB£12.00
Three200Unlimited500MB£12.00
Tesco Mobile5005,0002GB£12.50
O2250Unlimited250MB£12.50
Three200Unlimited2GB£13.00
Three600Unlimited1GB£13.00
Vodafone5000500MB£14.50

From £15/month

15 Pound NotesThere are a wide variety of SIM-only deals to choose from at the £15/month price point.

Namely, Tesco Mobile (uses coverage from O2) and iD Mobile (uses coverage from Three) are both offering 6GB of data for £15/month. On Tesco Mobile, you’ll get also 3000 minutes on a 12-month contract and on iD Mobile, you’ll get 2000 minutes on a 30-day rolling contract.

The following SIM-only deals are currently available from £15/month:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Three600Unlimited12GB£15.00
Three600Unlimited8GB£15.00
Three600Unlimited4GB£15.00
Sky Mobile003GB£15.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£15.00
BT Mobile1,000Unlimited2GB£15.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£15.00
Vodafone1,000Unlimited1GB£15.00
iD Mobile5005,0001GB£15.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£16.00
O21,000Unlimited1GB£16.00
Vodafone500Unlimited5GB£17.50
iD Mobile5005,0002GB£17.50
EEUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£17.99
Three600Unlimited30GB£18.00
Three600Unlimited8GB£18.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£18.00
Tesco Mobile3,0005,0006GB£18.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£18.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited16GB£19.00
Three200Unlimited12GB£19.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited10GB£19.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited2GB£19.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£19.99
EEUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£19.99

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
iD Mobile2,0005,0006GB£15.00
iD Mobile2,0005,0006GB£15.00
giffgaff1,000Unlimited5GB£15.00
ASDA Mobile1,000Unlimited5GB£15.00
Plusnet MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£15.00
Virgin Mobile2,500Unlimited4GB£15.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0003GB£15.00
O2500Unlimited500MB£15.00
Three200Unlimited2GB£16.00
Vodafone1,000Unlimited1GB£17.00
giffgaff2,000Unlimited6GB£18.00
Tesco Mobile1,5005,0004GB£18.00
Three600Unlimited4GB£18.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£18.00
O21,000Unlimited1GB£18.00
Vodafone500Unlimited5GB£19.50

From £20/month

20 Pound NoteAt the £20/month price point, most mobile networks are offering unlimited calls and unlimited texts. You can also get huge amounts of data at this price point (e.g. 30GB of high-speed 4G internet on the £22/month Advanced SIM card from Three).

For unlimited downloads and ultimate flexibility, we recommend choosing giffgaff’s £20 goodybag. For £20/month, you’ll get unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and ‘Always On’ data (unlimited downloads with tethering and 4G speeds on the first 6GB per month).

The following deals are also available from £20/month:

 

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£20.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£20.00
Sky Mobile005GB£20.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£20.00
iD Mobile2,0005,0003GB£20.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited15GB£21.00
Three200Unlimited30GB£22.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£22.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00012GB£23.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£23.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited4GB£23.00
Three200UnlimitedUnlimited£24.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimitedAlways-On£20.00
ASDA MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£20.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£20.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£20.00
Three600Unlimited8GB£21.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited2GB£21.00
Three200Unlimited12GB£22.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£23.00
Tesco Mobile3,0005,0006GB£23.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£23.00
Three600Unlimited12GB£24.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£24.00

From £25/month

The following SIM-only deals are available for £25/month or more:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00025GB£25.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£25.00
iD Mobile2,0005,00010GB£25.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£26.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited25GB£26.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£26.00
Three600UnlimitedUnlimited£27.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00020GB£28.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited8GB£29.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Three200Unlimited30GB£25.00
Virgin Mobile5,000Unlimited20GB£25.00
Vodafone500Unlimited10GB£25.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited4GB£25.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£26.00
Three200UnlimitedUnlimited£27.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00012GB£28.00
Three600Unlimited30GB£29.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£29.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£29.00

£30/month and more

The following SIM-only deals are available for £30/month or more:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£30.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£32.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£34.99
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00030GB£35.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited16GB£36.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited40GB£40.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Three600UnlimitedUnlimited£30.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited8GB£31.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£33.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£35.00

More Information

For more information about the mobile networks listed in this article, please see our in-depth mobile network reviews. You may also find it helpful to read our guides on comparing mobile coverage, transferring your phone number and unlocking your smartphone.

For more information about a specific SIM-only deal, please refer to the mobile network’s website. You can click through to their website as follows: ASDA Mobile, BT Mobile, EE, giffgaff, iD Mobile, O2, Plusnet Mobile, Sky Mobile, Talkmobile, Tello, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. Prices change on an occasional basis. For this reason, you should double-check the details on the mobile network’s website before signing up to any deal.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 98 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Oliver Scott said:

    Ken missed out on a deal that EE is currently running that I switched to personally, 20 GB, unlimited calls and texts for £20 a month + 3 months BT sport app and apple music use.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Oliver,
      Thanks for the heads up about this! I am actually listing this in the table above, though it’s possibly a little bit confusing (the tariff is actually £19.99/month, so is listed the “From £15/month” section rather than “From £20/month” section). Definitely a great deal, especially if you get it with the voucher code offer!
      Ken

      1. Oliver Scott replied:

        I’d have listed it up to the “£20/month” but this isn’t oliverstechtips.com haha!
        Also you have another EE offer for £19.99 for only 2GB which would only add to the confusion of whether that’s a typo. Anyhow, glad to be of assistance. I think this offer will only be valid for this month though, atleast that’s what I was told at the shop. This bundle’s regular price is £34.99.
        Keep doing what you do and have a good one.

  2. Wulfrunian said:

    Hi Ken!
    I’m coming to the UK for a 2 week holiday and need a PAYG Sim card for calls only – text and internet not necessary – but the number of options are many and most offer what I don’t need or want to pay for, so what do you suggest?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Wulfrunian,
      Thanks for your comment. I’d recommend having a look at my article on free Pay As You Go SIM cards and on Pay As You Go bundles. With regards to the best value SIM card for phone calls, you’re probably best off getting a SIM card from Three. They charge 3p/minute so your £10 of credit should give you about 333 minutes of calling (slightly less if you also text or use mobile data). You can also get a Pay As You Go bundle from any other mobile network (typically, they all start from £10 for 30 days usage).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  3. bobby kennedy said:

    Sir,
    Soon i will be returning to uk, at the moment i am an ex-pat,,
    lots changed in the mobile network since i left uk ,, My wife wile be following me to the uk a few months after,,

    i planed to get a prepaid bundle like on giffgaff or so , then did a search on international texting , and realized that things not going to be easy or cheap, some wanting extra cash on balance, for that reason ,, and the so called unlimited texts and minutes hardly ever used,, but on the data i could be classed as a heavy user

    hmm wondering what your thoughts will be on this,, i would be in uk , but main contacts abroad, no i do not think i would be roaming on the real sense on roaming ..i also expect my data usage to be 6 gb,or more, seen 3 do a 12 gb not too big on the txts or minutes

    anyways thats my story ,, your thoughts welcomed,,i also looked at lycamobile, great for getting the distance calls,, not best as what can see on international txts,, think tat can also be set up for Philippines contact from uk..
    don’t think ill be the only 1 with a situation like this,, might thia be an add on for your page, with your own composition of course.
    thank you

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Bobby,
      Thanks for your comment. You might find it helpful to read my article on international calling (it compares the cost of making international phone calls from the UK). With regards to international texting, giffgaff and Tello are probably the cheapest (or even better, you can side-step these charges by using an instant messaging app such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger).
      With regards to the best all-round option, you’ll probably need to cross-reference the information on that page with the list of available bundles here. Alternatively, if you’re happy to make internet-based phone calls through Skype or WhatsApp, you can simply look at the best Pay As You Go deals and you can then consider international calling as a totally separate matter.
      Ken

    2. Stefan Westen replied:

      I use the Tesco International Calling app for calling and texting abroad. The rates are quite competitive and you get 2000 free international texts a month as long as you have a positive balance. You get £1 free when you first install the app. Calls can be made using a local number or WiFi. Calls to the local number from Tesco mobile are free. You can find the terms and conditions for the free texts here: https://www.tescointernationalcalling.com/terms-and-conditions/
      When you’re abroad you can also call UK landlines and mobiles for 1p/min using WiFi and text UK mobiles for free.

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