If you’re a light mobile user, it’s best to choose a low-cost Pay As You Go plan with no monthly subscription or credit expiry.

If you only use your mobile phone from time to time (e.g. during trips away from home or as a backup for emergencies), it’s normally best to choose a fairly cheap Pay As You Go SIM card with no regular monthly charges.

When you choose a Pay As You Go SIM card, it’s important to look at a number of factors such as the minimum usage or top-up requirement, the coverage available on the SIM card and how you’re able to top it up with credit.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top things to look out for when choosing a Pay As You Go SIM card if you’re a light mobile user. We’ll also review a selection of mobile networks that we think are particularly well suited for light mobile users in the UK.

Choosing a Mobile Network For Light Usage

As a light mobile user looking for a Pay As You Go SIM card, we think there are six important things to look out for in your mobile network:

No Regular Monthly Charges

As a light mobile user, you’ll normally want to stay away from SIM cards that have a regular monthly charge. This is because you’ll need to pay a fixed amount every month, regardless of whether you actually use your SIM card.

Because of the regular monthly charge, Pay Monthly SIM cards and Pay As You Go bundles should normally be excluded from your search unless your typical spend exceeds £5/month.

Instead, you’re better off choosing a “traditional Pay As You Go plan” where there are no regular monthly charges on your SIM. You’ll then only pay for what you actually use (so you’ll pay nothing in the months where you don’t actually use your phone).

Credit That Doesn’t Expire

When it comes to topping up your SIM card, it’s important to choose a mobile network where your credit doesn’t expire. It’s also worth having a look at the minimum top-up amount and at the methods that are available to you for topping up.

On the best Pay As You Go mobile networks, your credit will never expire and it’ll normally be possible to top-up from as little as £5 each time. Other mobile networks have a minimum top-up of £10. You should ideally also look for a range of available top-up methods, both in-store and online if possible. The ability to top-up your account automatically when the balance drops below a certain amount can also be a useful feature.

Typically, on the larger Pay As You Go networks, your credit won’t expire provided your SIM card remains active. However, on some smaller mobile networks, top-ups are sold with only as little as 90 days of validity. On these networks, if you don’t use your credit within 90 days of topping up, it will expire and be removed from your account.

Minimum Usage Requirements

The minimum usage requirement for keeping your account active is worth investigating closely before you choose a mobile network.

In the UK, all Pay As You Go networks will have a minimum usage requirement for keeping your SIM card active. On the best mobile networks, you’ll only need to use your SIM card for a chargeable activity once every 180 days. However, on some smaller mobile networks, this can sometimes be as little as 84 days.

On SIM cards with a very short inactivity period, it’s possible for your SIM card to get inadvertently disconnected (this can happen particularly easily if you only use your mobile phone from time to time). Upon disconnection from the mobile network due to inactivity, you’ll lose your phone number and any credit remaining on your account.

Where possible, we’d recommend choosing a mobile network that only requires you to use your phone every 180 days.

Reliable Coverage

The coverage that you’re able to get on your phone is another important consideration. You’ll want to make sure your mobile phone is actually available for you to use during those trips away and during those “emergency situations”. The availability of 2G, 3G and 4G coverage is therefore very important.

In the UK, there are only four network coverage providers: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. All other networks are known as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and piggyback on coverage from one of the big four. For instance, customers on 1pMobile will get coverage from EE and customers on giffgaff will get coverage from O2.

Customer Support

The availability of customer support can be another important consideration when choosing a Pay As You Go network.

Most mobile networks offer telephone support, but some networks offer online-only support (e.g. through an online forum, e-mail or live chat). If you’d like the ability to pick up the phone to talk to customer support, you should avoid mobile networks like giffgaff that have online-only support.

Low Prices & Availability of Bundles

Finally, and probably slightly less important, it’s worth looking at the exact per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte rates. Generally, it’s worth choosing a fairly priced mobile network. However, this shouldn’t be the overriding factor, especially when compared to the other factors above. The reason for this is that you might only be spending a few pounds on your phone bill each month. Therefore, the savings from choosing a slightly cheaper network might be fairly small and measured in pennies.

As well as having access to low Pay As You Go rates, it’s also worth choosing a mobile network where you’ll have the option to buy a bundle when required. This can be useful in situations where you need to use your mobile phone a lot in a short amount of time (for instance, if you wanted to make a long phone call or if you were taking a long trip away from home).

Recommended Networks

At present, we’d recommend the following SIM cards for a light mobile user:

giffgaff

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. With the option to buy a bundle from £6/month.
  • Top-up from £10, no expiry. Available in-store & online. Top-ups won’t expire providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 180 days.
  • Uses O2 coverage. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Online only (via community forum or web form).
  • Pay As You Go Rates: 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB.

giffgaff is a popular option for light mobile users, offering 4G & 5G coverage from the O2 network.

On giffgaff, it’s possible to use your mobile phone with no regular monthly charges. Just order a free SIM card online, without choosing a monthly plan. On regular Pay As You Go, you’ll just need to use your mobile phone at least once every 180 days to keep the SIM card active.

The minimum top-up on giffgaff is £10. Each time you top-up your account, you’ll get free calls and texts to other giffgaff members for the next 3 months. This means you’ll pay absolutely nothing to call friends and family who are also on giffgaff. If you’re calling customers on a different mobile network, it’s 25p/minute and 10p/text. Mobile data costs 10p/MB with the option of buying a goodybag bundle from £6/month.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) →

Lyca Mobile

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. With the option to buy a bundle from £5/month.
  • Top-up from £5. Available in-store & online. Top-ups won’t expire providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 90 days.
  • Uses EE coverage. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Available by phone (322) or online.
  • Pay As You Go Rates: 23p/minute, 23p/text and 15p/MB.

As a special offer for February 2024, Lyca Mobile is offering a £1.29 SIM card with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 5GB data. You’ll pay £1.29 per month for the first three months, then £5.90 per month thereafter.

There’s no contract and no credit check on this Lyca Mobile offer, so you can easily move to their traditional Pay As You Go service at any time.

On Lyca Mobile’s traditional Pay As You Go service, you’ll pay 23p/minute, 23p/text and 15p/MB. There are no monthly fees and no requirements to top-up your phone every month. However, you’ll need to use your SIM card for a chargeable activity at least once every 90 days.

Order Lyca SIM card (£1.29) →

ASDA Mobile

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. With the option to buy a bundle from £4/month.
  • Top-up from £5. Available in-store & online. Top-ups don’t expire provided account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 180 days.
  • Uses Vodafone coverage. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Available by phone (2732) or online.
  • Pay As You Go Rates: 15p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB.

On ASDA Mobile, you can use your mobile phone for 15p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB. There’s no need to top-up every month.

To sign up, you can order an ASDA Mobile SIM card for £4. This will give you unlimited minutes and unlimited texts for the first month. Just switch off the ‘auto-renew’ feature when you sign up and you’ll move onto their traditional Pay As You Go plan after the first month.

For an extra £1, you can also bag yourself 3GB of data to use in your first month on ASDA Mobile.

On ASDA Mobile, you’ll get 4G coverage from the Vodafone network. Your credit won’t expire provided you keep your SIM card active, which means using it for a chargeable call or text message every 180 days.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (£4) →

1pMobile

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. With the option to buy a bundle from £5/month.
  • Top-up from £10. Available online only. Top-ups don’t expire provided account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: £10 every 90 days.
  • Uses EE coverage. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Available by phone (03333 442278) or online.
  • Pay As You Go Rates: 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB.

1pMobile offers a flexible Pay As You Go service, with the lowest headline rates of any Pay As You Go network in the UK. The network charges just 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB.

The main disadvantage of 1pMobile is the fact you’re required to spend at least £10 every 90 days. Although you’ll have complete flexibility on how you spend it (e.g. for calls, texts or data), it’s important to bear this mind if you’re a very light user.

Alongside their traditional Pay As You Go tariff (1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB), 1p Mobile has a one-year plan where you’ll pay £48 per year for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB data per month. This is a good option if you’re looking for a low-cost plan with unlimited calls & texts included in the price.

As a special offer for readers of this website, you’ll get a 4GB Data Boost at no extra cost when you activate a new 1pMobile SIM card. Simply order your SIM card through this link and enter VAKTT4GB as your voucher code at the checkout.

Order 1pMobile SIM card (Free) →

Vodafone Pay As You Go 1

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. With the option to buy a bundle from £10/month.
  • Top-up from £5. Available in-store & online. Top-ups don’t expire provided account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 180 days.
  • Uses Vodafone coverage. 99% population coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Available by phone (191) or online.
  • Pay As You Go Rates: £1/day for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts & 50MB data.

If you only use your mobile phone from time to time, but tend to use it quite a lot on the days when you do, Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1 is worth considering.

On the Pay As You Go 1 plan, you’ll pay £1/day for unlimited UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and up to 50MB of mobile data. You’re only charged on the days that you actually use your mobile phone. You can therefore save a lot of money by batching up your usage together on one day (e.g. making lots of phone calls together on one day).

Vodafone offers 99% population coverage on their 2G, 3G and 4G networks. You can top-up from £5 each time and your credit will never expire provided your SIM card remains active (you’ll need to use it for a chargeable activity at least once every 180 days). If you like, you can also buy a one-month Big Value Bundle from £10.

Order Vodafone SIM card (Free) →

For information on how other mobile networks compare, please see the following in-depth guides:

More Information

For more information, see our guide to Pay As You Go deals in the UK. In particular, it’s also worth reading our full overview of the best Pay As You Go SIM cards.

Your Comments 497 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 497 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • I need a PAYG SIM card to run an intruder alarm at a remote location. The card will be stored inside the secure control box. It will send me a txt if there is an intruder and also a weekly report. It seems that the info on your site regarding 1p and Asda is out of date. 1p requires a ‘minimum top-up requirement of £10 every 120 days’. ASDA’s contract information states, ‘Any unused data, minutes or text will expire at the end of the calendar month for which they were purchased and do not roll over’.
    I ordered a GiffGaff SIM card, but that seems to require a monthly payment of £6 as well.
    Any suggestions about the cheapest way I can achieve what I want? Thanks.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. Your allowances will only expire if you choose to convert your Pay As You Go credit into a one-month bundle. On both giffgaff and ASDA Mobile, you can choose the traditional Pay As You Go plan, where you’ll just pay on a per-minute, per-text and per-MB basis.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      • The article says – “On both giffgaff and ASDA Mobile, you can choose the traditional Pay As You Go plan, where you’ll just pay on a per-minute, per-text and per-MB basis.”

        Is that still an option anywhere? Looking at giffgaff site, and others, there is no information on choosing traditional PAYG. They have monthly renewal plans where unused credit expires. Even 1p mobile has now changed to a minimum spend of £10 every 90 days and any unused credit is now not rolled over to the next 90 day period. Perhaps the providers have all changed their terms since you wrote the piece on best SIM for light users.

        • Hi Keith,
          Thanks for your comment. Yes, this option still exists on giffgaff 🙂 Choose the “No thanks, I just want a free SIM” option. You’ll then be able to activate your giffgaff SIM card with Pay As You Go credit, without choosing a monthly bundle. Their Pay As You Go rates will then apply, with no monthly fee.
          With regards to 1pMobile, this looks to be a change that they’ve made this month. I’ll update the guide shortly to reflect.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  • Ken
    My O2 PAYG sim does not connect to Internet away from Home. Can you advise which PAYG sim would do this, Incidentaly I am a very light user so do not require a contract plan.

    Thanks

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. All of the SIM cards listed on this page will allow you to connect to the internet when you’re away from home – you’ll just pay the “per megabyte” rate that’s listed. For instance, you’ll pay 1p per MB on 1pMobile. However, do keep a close eye on your usage when you’re away from home, as you may find it cheaper to buy a Pay As You Go bundle, depending on your usage.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • ASDA mobile sim now asks top up every 180 days to keep account active. Otherwise, service becomes restricted.
    This is in addition to chargeable call/text every 180 days.

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