Three’s 321: The UK’s Cheapest PAYG Tariff at 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB
September 9th, 2015
Three currently has the cheapest Pay As You Go tariff in the UK at 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. Regular users can save even more with an All-in-One bundle from £10/month.
In the UK, Three has the cheapest Pay As You Go tariff currently available. On their 321 SIM card, calls are 3p per minute, texts are 2p each and mobile internet is 1p per megabyte. There’s also 150MB of free mobile internet every time you top-up your SIM card.
A notable feature of the tariff is the low rates you’re able to access without buying a monthly bundle. It’s the ideal option for light and occasional users: there’s no standing charge and you only pay for the airtime you actually use. Your credit also doesn’t expire but you’ll need to keep the SIM card active by using it once every 6 months. For regular users, an All-in-One bundle can offer even better value. It also allows you to benefit from the Feel At Home offer.
In this article, we’ll review the Pay As You Go service from Three. We’ll look at how the service compares to that on rival networks including EE, giffgaff, O2 and Vodafone. We’ll also look at coverage on the network and how you can keep an existing phone number when moving to Three.
- 1 Bundles & Prices
- 2 Feel At Home
- 3 Comparison To Alternatives
- 4 Handsets
- 5 Coverage
- 6 Switching to Three: Keep Your Existing Phone Number
- 7 More Information
Bundles & Prices
Pay As You Go Pricing
In the UK, Three currently has the lowest Pay As You Go rates of any network. A standard UK phone call will cost 3p/minute, UK text messages cost 2p each and accessing the mobile internet costs you 1p/MB.
With every top-up of £5 or more, you’ll get a 30-day data allowance of 150MB for free.
|Voice Calls||3p/minute (any network, any time)|
|Calls to Voicemail||3p/minute|
|Calls to Special Rate Numbers||25p/minute access charge
+ service charge from the company you’re calling
|Text Message (SMS)||2p|
|Picture Message (MMS)||17p|
|Free Allowance||150MB free allowance (valid for 30 days)|
The prices in this table are stated for UK-to-UK only. If you’re roaming, making international calls or calling a special number (e.g. 08 & 09 numbers) higher charges will normally apply. Source for pricing information: Three.co.uk.
Most other mainstream UK networks currently charge about 30p/minute and 12p/text (see our full comparison of Pay As You Go rates in the UK).
On Three, your Pay As You Go credit doesn’t expire. However, you’ll need to use the SIM card for a chargeable activity at least once every six months to keep it active. This is stated in clause 9.1(h) of the terms and conditions.
Charges For Using Mobile Data
At 1p per megabyte, you can expect to pay approximately the following when using your smartphone on a mobile internet connection:
|Email & WhatsApp: Send 1,000 instant messages or e-mails (no attachments)||3p|
|Music: Downloading a single MP3||5p|
|Skype Voice: Making a 15 minute voice call on Skype||9p|
|Apps: Downloading or updating an application||13p|
|Web Surfing: Browsing the internet for an hour||35p|
|Skype Video: Making a 15 minute video call on Skype||60p|
|Online Radio: Listening to an hour of online radio||60p|
|Online Video: Watching 15 minutes of online video||£1.25|
Calculations are based on a price of 1p per megabyte. See the article here for more information and for the data usage rates we’ve assumed in this table.
You won’t be charged for any data usage when connected to wi-fi. For more information, please see our in-depth article on mobile data usage.
All in One Bundles
As well as having the basic 321 pricing, Three also has the option of a Pay As You Go bundle. With a bundle, you convert a certain amount of your Pay As You Go credit into a 30-day allowance of calls, texts and internet.
The major benefit of choosing a Pay As You Go bundle is you get a discounted rate on your airtime. For instance, the All-in-One 10 bundle comes with 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of internet. At normal 321 rates, this would cost you up to £68 (whereas the bundle is fixed in price at £10 for 30 days).
The downside of choosing an All-in-One bundle is that your allowances will last for a maximum of 30 days. For this reason, light and occasional users may prefer staying on normal Pay As You Go rates (with the 321 rates, you only pay for what you actually use).
Feel At Home
A notable feature of Three’s Pay As You Go service is their Feel At Home offer for customers with an All-in-One bundle.
With Feel At Home, you can use your smartphone abroad at no extra charge in 18 other countries (the full list of countries includes Spain, the USA, Italy, France, Australia, the Republic of Ireland and 12 other countries).
If you’d like to use the Feel At Home offer on Pay As You Go, it’s best to buy a one-off bundle before leaving the UK (the All-in-One bundle will last for 30 days). Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to use the Feel At Home offer on normal 321 rates (this is because you won’t have any inclusive allowances to actually use abroad).
For more information, please see our full review of the Feel At Home offer. If you’re joining Three as a new customer, you can order a SIM card with the All-in-One bundle preloaded.
Comparison To Alternatives
In general, Three is a good option for light and occasional users (they have the lowest per-minute and per-text rates in the UK). For regular users, a better value deal can normally be found on other networks (e.g. with a giffgaff goodybag).
Pay As You Go Pricing
With their basic Pay As You Go pricing, Three currently has the lowest rates in the industry at just 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.
In the following table, we compare these rates against rival mobile networks:
|Network||Calls (per minute)||Texts (per SMS)||Data (per MB)|
|giffgaff||10p/minute||6p/text||20p/day for 20MB|
|O2||30p/minute||14p/text||£1/day for 50MB|
|Vodafone||30p/minute||14p/text||£2/day for 50MB|
For more information, please see our full comparison of Pay As You Go rates.
£10 per month bundles
For £10/month, the All-in-One 10 bundle from Three has 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of internet.
For the same monthly price, better value options are available on other networks. Our recommended deal is the £10 goodybag from giffgaff which gives you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of 4G internet. ASDA Mobile can alternatively give you 600 minutes and 1.5GB of 3G internet.
£20 per month bundles
For the same monthly price, giffgaff has a £20 goodybag with 2000 minutes, unlimited texts and always-on data (unlimited downloads but only the first 6GB/month are at 4G speeds with support for tethering).
For a more detailed comparison, see our in-depth article on Pay As You Go bundles.
There are two ways of joining Three Pay As You Go. If you’d like to buy a new smartphone to use on Three, you can order one directly from their website (prices currently start at £29.99). If you’re happy to keep your current smartphone, you can instead order a Three Pay As You Go SIM card.
If you’re looking to buy a new smartphone from Three, popular choices currently include:
- Samsung Galaxy J1 – £59.99
- Moto G 3rd Generation – £139.99 (recommended)
- Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – £219.99
- Huawei Honor 6+ – £299.99
If you’re looking to use an existing smartphone on Three, make sure it’s unlocked for use on any network. For more information, you can see our in-depth guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy. When ordering your SIM card, you should also take care to choose the right size of SIM card (either Standard SIM, Micro SIM or Nano SIM depending on your handset).
3G and 4G coverage
Before joining the Three network, we strongly recommend checking the coverage in your area. You can do this by entering your postcode on Three’s website:
We would only recommend joining Three if you’re able to get “indoor & outdoor coverage”. Please note that unlike other network operators, Three doesn’t provide any legacy 2G coverage. For this reason, you can’t use a 2G-only handset on Three (at the very least, your handset will need to work on 3G networks).
Tethering & Personal Hotspot
Tethering or personal hotspot refers to the process of sharing your mobile internet connection with other devices (e.g. with your laptop or tablet). Unfortunately, tethering is not permitted for Pay As You Go customers on Three. From their Pay As You Go terms & conditions:
When using data, tethering a phone to a laptop for internet use, using the SIM in a Mobile Broadband Device or using hotspot functionality is not included.
If you’d like to tether from your smartphone, you should instead choose a Pay Monthly SIM card from Three (they start in price from only £8/month).
For more information, please see our in-depth guide on the best tariffs for tethering in the UK.
Wi-Fi on the London Underground
For Pay As You Go customers on Three, there’s free access to wi-fi on the Underground (this would normally cost you £15/month if you were to buy access directly from Virgin Media). The only requirement for receiving free wi-fi is you must have used the SIM card in the past 30 days (this means either making a phone call, sending a text message or accessing the mobile internet).
To set up wi-fi access on the Underground, you should log in to your My3 Account whilst still above ground. Here, you can register for a login through the ‘Wi-Fi on London Underground’ section. It can take up to 48 hours for your access to be added. When completed, you’ll be able to log in to the ‘Virgin Media WiFi’ network.
Switching to Three: Keep Your Existing Phone Number
If you’re moving from another mobile network to Three Pay As You Go, it’s a straightforward process to keep your existing number.
To start with, you’ll need to ask your old network to issue you with a PAC Code.
When your new phone or SIM card arrives from Three, you can enter your PAC Code here on Three’s website. After you do so, Three will schedule the transfer of your phone number (normally for the next working day). In the meantime, you’ll continue to receive service on your old network. You should try to use up any remaining credit on your old mobile network before the transfer takes place.
For step-by-step instructions on moving your phone number to Three, please select your current mobile network:
|PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to Three|
I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.
Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.