Which Pay As You Go tariff is right for me? The cheapest & best value tariffs.

December 13th, 2009

Ken’s Tech Tips presents the cheapest & best value tariffs for 11 different types of mobile user.

In the past, we’ve covered how to get free calls, free texts or free mobile internet access without switching network. But if you don’t mind switching network, which network and which tariff offers the best value? There are a whole plethora of different prices and tariffs so it’s easy to get lost. We’ve done the hard work and found the best value tariffs on the market for every type of mobile user.

Party in the sky
Creative Commons License photo: Seattle Miles

Light/occasional users

If you’re a light or occasional user of your mobile phone (you only use it in emergencies for example) then Giffgaff or ASDA Mobile provide prices which can’t be beaten.

  • Calls: 8p/minute
  • Texts: 4p/text
  • Data: Free on Giffgaff for 6 months; 20p/MB on ASDA Mobile

Visit the Giffgaff or ASDA Mobile website for more information on their tariffs.

Medium user: Mainly calls

Calls mainly to landlines

If you make a lot of calls to UK landlines, O2’s Favourite Place tariff will give you free minutes to landlines and O2 mobiles. One caveat: you need to make all of your free calls from within one postcode area.

Top-up amount Free allowance
£10-£14 500 minutes for 30 days
£15-£29 1000 minutes for 30 days
£30+ Unlimited minutes for 30 days

Outside of your allowance, O2 charges 25p/min for the first 3 minutes and then 5p/min for your calls to landlines.

Falling phone boxes
Creative Commons License photo: doug88888

Calls mainly to O2

If your calls are predominantly to friends on the O2 network, the O2 Unlimited tariff gives you unlimited calls to them for a month when you top up £15.

Top-up amount Free allowance
£10-£14 Unlimited texts to O2 mobiles for 30 days
£15+ Unlimited texts and calls to O2 mobiles for 30 days

Outside of your allowance, O2 charges 25p/min for the first 3 minutes and then 5p/min for your calls to O2 mobiles.

Calls mainly to Three

If your calls are predominantly to friends on the 3 network, the 3Pay tariff (see our guide) gives you unlimited calls to them for 3 months when you top up. The minimum top up is £5. There are also lots of other freebies such as texts and internet access.

Top-up amount Free allowance
£5 Unlimited calls to 3 mobiles for 90 days

Outside of your allowance, Three charge 20p/minute for calls to UK landlines and mobiles.

Calls mainly on Skype

If you make a lot of calls over the internet on Skype, you’ll love Three’s offer of “free calls forever” on Skype.

Top-up amount Free allowance
N/A Unlimited calls on Skype

You’ll need to sign up for the 3Pay tariff and then download a Skype client onto your phone from the “Planet 3” portal.

Other networks typically won’t allow you to use Skype on their network.

Noches doradas
Creative Commons License photo: Amir K.

Calls mainly abroad

Many “vanilla” tariffs charge up to £1.50/min for you to call abroad. However, there are some specialist providers of phone calls abroad from your mobile such as LycaMobile (see our guide) and Lebara Mobile which charge 4p/minute for international calls.

O2 offers a Your Country plan but the small allowance makes it a reasonably poor deal when LycaMobile and Lebara Mobile are offering calls at such low rates.

Vodafone Passport is great if you go abroad a lot – you’re charged an extra 75p connection fee but all the normal call costs are the same as if you were in the UK.

Medium user: Mainly texts

If you send a lot of texts, 3Pay offers the best allowance of free texts. The 3Pay tariff (see our guide)gives you 600 free texts that last for 3 months when you top up £10 online. For a £25 top-up, all of your texts are free for the next 3 months.

Top-up amount Free allowance
£10 600 texts for 90 days
£15 1000 texts for 90 days
£20 2000 texts for 90 days
£25 Unlimited texts for 90 days

T-Mobile Monthly Text and Internet Reward (see our guide) could also be worth considering. For a £10 top up, you’ll get unlimited free texts but it only lasts for 30 days.

Ferris Wheel Long Exposure in HDR
Creative Commons License photo: Brandon Godfrey (busy)

Medium user: Mainly data/mobile internet

Giffgaff is offering free data for the next 6 months (100MB/day allowance) without regular top ups so is currently the best deal with data. However, otherwise:

Less than 50MB per month

Three’s 3Pay tariff (see our guide)offers customers 150MB of internet access that lasts for 3 months when you top up. This is equivalent to 50MB per month.

Top-up amount Free allowance
£5+ 150MB for 90 days

Creative Commons License photo: Incase Designs

More than 50MB per month

T-Mobile Monthly Text and Internet Reward (see our guide) provides better value if you need a larger data allowance than Three offers. For a £10 top up, you’ll get unlimited data for the next 30 days.

Top-up amount Free allowance
£10+ Unlimited data for 30 days

O2 Text and Web does something similar but it’s more pricey at a minimum £15 top up.

Pizza and Cinema lover

The final tariff that is worth considering (but for very different reasons!) is Orange if you watch a lot of films and eat a lot of pizza (see our guide) on Wednesdays. You can get 2-for-1 on cinema tickets and at Pizza Express on Wednesdays. That said you don’t need to use Orange as your main network in order to benefit from these deals.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 4 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Mrs King said:

    Can you advise me?On Orange(racoon) tariff pay as you go. Son in South Ireland on O2 (S) Ireland .I am in UK(N.Ireland. Calls are costing me a lot, and he is my main contact, severa l times a week. Also have a friend in England i now want to call, but cant afford it otfen(I'm on minimum income) Is there a better tariff for me. Orange not really helpful. Someone told me the "camel " tariff would be better..Can you help to reassure me of this. So much around it just leaves me confused! Thank you!

  2. arne said:

    really impressed with the effort you put into this, keep it up!!

  3. mike said:

    Hi, i’m thinking of buying a Nokia e71 the using it with a payg package with a 3g Internet Simcard. Who does the best deal? i’m looking for a payg deal because my calls are limited to say the least, but would also access maps and email which would be very usefull.
    Open to other suggestions of course.

  4. Ron said:


    I need some help.
    I am at the end of an O2 iphone (3g) pay as you go period. I am a very light phone and text user, a dozen short phone calls and less than 20 texts a month. O2 have offered a £15 charge to unlock the phone. Also a £10 per month for future data access.
    I have and use Skype a little mainly on the mac rather than on a iphone, but could expand use of Skype as I have the app and it works pretty well.
    What do you recommend as the best deal/ rates/tariffs I should go for? (I do not like the idea of being ‘tied-in’ in to any provider for a fixed 12/18/24 contract that is why I went for PAYG.)

    Your insight is very much appreciated.


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for your comment on my website!

      It sounds like your looking for a tariff with a good data allowance, a short/no contract and Skype.

      My primary recommendation would actually be 3’s £15/mo. SIM only tariff. It’s a 1 month contract (only slightly less flexible than PAYG) and comes with 1GB monthly data allowance and you are allowed to use Skype on their 3G network. You’ll also get 300 minutes and unlimited texts so I suspect this will easily cover all of your additional calling costs. Seeing as you’d be paying £10/mo. just for data on O2, this seems like a fairly good deal. You can see more information about this tariff on the following page:

      See the following page for information about unlocking your iPhone:

      Alternatively, you could look at T-Mobile’s PAYG deal which gives 40MB/day of internet and unlimited texts when you top up £10/mo.
      I’m unsure if you can use Skype on their network though and there is a danger of extra charges if you exceed 40MB in one day.

      Hope this helps!


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