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

In this article, we’ll discuss our 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 recommended 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 really important things you need to look out for in your mobile network:

No Regular Monthly Charges

As a light mobile user, it’s highly likely you’ll 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 that month.

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 mobile phone bill will exceed £5/month.

Instead, you’ll be better off choosing a “traditional Pay As You Go plan” where there are no regular monthly charges on your SIM. Instead, you’ll 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 require 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 useful.

Typically, on the larger Pay As You Go networks, your credit won’t expire providing your SIM card remains active. However, on some smaller mobile networks, top-ups are sold with only 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 very closely before choosing a mobile network.

In the UK, all Pay As You Go networks 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 call or text message once every 180 days. However, on some smaller mobile networks, this can be as often as every 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 normally 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 level of coverage you can 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 trips away from home 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 four providers. This means you’ll get the same coverage as on the underlying network (so 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 thing to consider when choosing a Pay As You Go network.

Most mobile networks offer telephone support, but some networks emphasise online-only support (e.g. through an online forum, e-mail or web 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 than the other five factors, 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 dominate your decision, especially when compared to the other factors listed above. The reason for this is if you’re only spending a few pounds on your phone bill each month, the savings from choosing a slightly cheaper mobile network will be 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 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 wanted to use data more extensively on a trip away from home).

Recommended Networks

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

1pMobile

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. No bundles but data boosts are available from £6/month.
  • Top-up from £10. Available online only. Top-ups don’t expire providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Requires at least a £10 top-up every 120 days after the first year.
  • Uses EE coverage (2G, 3G & 4G). 99% 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, with no regular monthly charges for keeping your SIM card active.

You can order a SIM card from 1pMobile with £30 of credit and no need to top-up for one year. After the first year, there’s a minimum required top-up of £10 every 120 days to keep your SIM card active (equivalent to £2.50 per month). While there’s no obligation to actually spend this credit, a non-refundable balance would accumulate over time if your average usage is less than £2.50/month.

1pMobile offers coverage from the EE network. Alongside their traditional Pay As You Go tariff (1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB), data boosts are available from £6/month. It isn’t possible to buy an all-inclusive bundle with minutes and texts on 1pMobile.

Order 1pMobile SIM card (Free) →

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 don’t expire providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 180 days.
  • Uses O2 coverage (2G, 3G & 4G). 99% 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 2G, 3G and 4G coverage from O2. On giffgaff, it’s possible to use your mobile phone with no regular monthly charges. You’ll just need to use your 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 of a different network, it’s 25p/minute and 10p/text. Accessing mobile data costs 10p/MB with the option of buying a goodybag bundle from £6/month.

Order giffgaff 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 providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 180 days.
  • Uses Vodafone coverage (2G, 3G & 4G). 99% 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 save a lot of money on Pay As You Go 1 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 providing 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) →

Three Data Reward SIM

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. With the option to buy a data plan, or switch to Pay As You Go.
  • Top-up from £2. Available in-store & online. Top-ups don’t expire providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 180 days.
  • Uses Three coverage (3G & 4G). 99% coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Available by phone (333) or online.
  • Pay As You Go Rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.

Three offers a traditional Pay As You Go plan called the Data Reward SIM. You’ll get 200MB of free data on the SIM card each month once you’ve ordered your Data Reward SIM card and activated the free data offer online. Outside of the 200MB monthly free data allowance, you’ll pay 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.

On the Data Reward SIM card, you can top-up from just £2 each time (less than the £5 minimum top-up that’s required on Three’s normal Pay As You Go service). The downside is you won’t be able to buy one of Three’s 30-day bundles with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and a data allowance from £10/month.

You can buy a Data Reward SIM card for £10. This comes with a 1GB data allowance for your first month, followed by 200MB of free data every month that follows (with no need to top-up your SIM card any further to get this).

Order Three Data Reward SIM card (£10) →

Three Pay As You Go SIM

  • 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 providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 180 days.
  • Uses Three coverage (3G & 4G). 99% coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Available by phone (333) or online.
  • Pay As You Go Rates: 10p/minute, 10p/text and 5p/MB.

Customers joining Three on their regular Pay As You Go service have the option of buying a monthly bundle from £10/month. Without a monthly bundle, you’ll pay 10p/minute, 10p/text and 5p/MB.

On Three, your Pay As You Go credit will never expire providing you keep the SIM card active by using it at least once every 180 days. You can top-up from £5 each time.

A key benefit of joining Three’s Pay As You Go service is that you’re able to use your mobile phone abroad in 71 destinations at no extra charge. Three’s Go Roam offer covers most of Europe along with the USA, Australia, Brazil, Singapore and more.

Order Three SIM card (Free) →

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

  • Minimum usage requirements & credit expiry: Find out how often you’ll need to use your SIM card in order to keep it active and to stop it from expiring.
  • Topping up your phone: Information on how to top-up your SIM card and how much credit you can add to it.
  • Mobile network coverage: Find out how coverage compares across different UK mobile networks, and the coverage provider used by each network.
  • Pay As You Go rates: Compare the per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte rates for every Pay As You Go mobile network in the UK.

More Information

For more information about Pay As You Go deals, see our other in-depth guides around this topic. In particular, it’s worth reading our full overview of the best Pay As You Go SIM cards. We’ve also got an in-depth comparison of traditional Pay As You Go deals.

Your Comments 404 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 404 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Ken, I’m a low usage user of occasional texts and calls, mainly using my phone for emergencies. Now I will get stung by 1ps mobile “contract” of £2.50 per month. I’ve told 1pmobile I am leaving. Which provider out there is best for me now on a sim only, no contract, rollover credit etc?

  • Hi all,
    Just to update you on the comments below regarding 1pMobile – it turns out the new £2.50/month minimum spend requirement only applies to customers who joined 1pMobile before the 1st January 2021.
    New 1pMobile customers and existing 1pMobile customers who joined on or after the 1st January 2021 will not be affected by the change. For this group, there’s still no minimum monthly spend requirement – only the requirement to top-up by £10 every 120 days. According to 1pMobile, there are also no plans to introduce the minimum spend requirement for this group (though who knows what will happen in the future).
    Ken

    • VictorianDad replied:

      With respect Ken, isn’t that the same difference?

      Having to top up 1pMobile by £10 every 120 days is the same as a minimum spend of £2.50 per month, isn’t it?

      • Hi there,
        Not quite! With the £10 every 120 days minimum top-up requirement, there’s no obligation to actually spend the credit you’ve added. It can therefore accumulate over time. For instance, you could accumulate £30 of unused credit after one year, if you like.
        With the £2.50 minimum spend requirement, you do actually need to spend money from your account every month.
        Ken

        • VictorianDad replied:

          Ken, you are talking about money leaving a person’s mobile account.

          I am talking about money leaving a person’s bank account.

          I agree it doesn’t expire in the mobile account, but it has to be used up doesn’t it?

          • Yes, it does need to be used up eventually. I guess the “£10 top-up every 120 days” gives you a lot more flexibility. For instance, you could spend no credit for one year and then you could spend the £30 of credit in one go then (e.g. when you go away on holiday where you’ll be using your phone a lot more than at home). Alternatively, some people put their SIMs in a low-usage device like a vehicle tracker for a while, before swapping it into a smartphone every few months to use up that credit.
            With the “£2.50 minimum spend every month”, you do need to spend money from your top-up balance each month. Even if you didn’t use your phone for one month, you’ll still be charged a minimum of £2.50 per month. In the same scenario where you didn’t use your phone for one year, you’d have topped up by £30 over a year but would then have no credit leftover for future usage.
            Hope that makes sense,
            Ken

  • Totally agree with Ashwin Chauhan. The way Ip have handled this is appalling, trying to sell it as benefit to low users. What fakery!
    Even worse, Mobile Customer Support tell me that my initial minimum charge period will be run from 1st Oct 2021 to 21st Oct 2021 (not 30 days as promised in new Clause3) because I will be assessed based my starting initial contract date when activated the SIM, which was 21/06/2019. Anything I do not spend of my £2.50 in this initial 21 day period will be deducted of my credit.
    Customer Services don’t even know if 1p Mobile will stick to the 21st for me, or stick to the 30 day rule. As most people can forecast, a 30 day assessment period means the date they will be assessed on how much they spent will vary from month to month, becoming an earlier date each month following a 31 day month, or later the next month if assessment period is performed in a February with only 28 days.

  • Hi Ken,

    Here’s my situation. I don’t want a smartphone, but I have to keep mine in order to access my online banking (a real drag, if you ask me!). So, I need a SIM card just to have a number to provide the bank with and also use their app with the same number.

    In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need any credit at all. All I need is a number (and a smartphone, of course!), with as few obligations as possible in order to keep this number active.

    Which provider would allow me to get this – or as close as possible?

    Initially, I thought 1p would fit the bill. However, looking at recent comments, I can see that’s probably not the case (anymore?).

    Which provider would you recommend for my specific situation?

    Thank you!
    Tino

    • Hi Tino,
      Thanks for your comment. I’d probably recommend getting a SIM card from giffgaff (giffgaff is part of O2 and uses O2 coverage). On giffgaff, your top-ups won’t expire – you’ll just need to use your SIM card at least once every 180 days. Their rates are 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB (so the cost could be as little as 20p/year if you only send a text message every 6 months).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • That’s great! Thank you so much for the tip, Ken. Really appreciate you taking the time to answer. Have a great night! Tino x

  • Ashwin Chauhan said:

    Had a message from 1p Mobile, with new terms and conditions.
    Minimum spend each month on calls, texts and data will be £2.50.
    If you use less than that, the remaining amount will be taken from your balance, to make a total spend of £2.50 a month.
    I’ll probably be switching soon !

    • Yup, they’ve just blown their USP. My mobile usage varies *wildly* from month to month (less than £1 some months, >£10 in others) so their proposition fitted me really well. Now they’re going to take £2.50 off me every month even I use only 1p.

    • This constitutes an unfair and fraudulent? contract as the credit accrued is on the 120 day top up and as such was purchased on that basis. Refund due? Will be checking this later. O2 had their 123 tariff but nothing on their site.

      • Terry Modley replied:

        yes Steve – shouldn’t OFCOM be investigating this. i will also, during the next couple of days be closing my 1p mobile account. Terry M.

    • Watch Ip Mobile’s Trustpilot rating tumble! Funny how 1p Mobile only show 4 and 5 star rating reviews on their website. Check the date you started the SIM with 1p Mobile – or see my separate message above – they do not intend even giving users 30 days to use up the first minimum period check – I have been told 21 days is all I get. Then there is added confusion which will be my regular assessment date after that. After having no problems for 2 years with 1p, they have now destroyed their reputation with me.

  • Michael Berkson said:

    Thank you for your helpful guide.

    I am using a Doro Primo 215 – phone only, no data capability.

    My usage last month with giffgaff was calls £1.41 (5.64 minutes); texts £1.40 (14 texts).

    How does top up and credit rollover work without data usage? I assume that 1pMobile would be uneconomic in the long term if the accumulating credit balance is non refundable Would Vodafone Pay as You Go — not Pay as You Go 1 — work at 250 min and unlimited texts for £10 or would I have to top up before I had exhausted the credit?

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. Switching to 1pMobile might not actually be a bad option as you’re currently spending around £2.81 per month on giffgaff.
      If you were to switch to 1pMobile, you’ll only spend around 20p of credit each month. However, taking the minimum top-up requirement of £10 every 120 days into account, you’d still need to top-up by an average of £2.50 per month (still less than the £2.81 you’re spending on giffgaff). Of course, you’d only use around 20p of that £2.50 credit each month, so your credit would likely accumulate by around £2.30 each month. However, you can “save it up” to spend in the future (e.g. in case you get a smartphone in the future, or in case you’d like to use your phone more). And even if you didn’t, you should still be saving around 30p/month.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • 1pMobile are changing their terms. I received this email today:
        ———–
        Our terms and conditions are changing

        We are writing to advise you that we will shortly be changing the terms and conditions of your 1pMobile service as set out below; these changes will become effective on 1 October 2021. Please note that there is no change to our core pricing of 1p/minute, 1p/text, and 1p/MB.

        Summary of the change we are making

        We are replacing the requirement to top-up your 1p mobile account with a minimum of at least £10 every 120 days, with a new minimum spend requirement of £2.50 per month.

        For many lower users of our service, this change will reduce the number of top-ups you need to make over the short/medium term, and prevent you continuing to build a large and growing credit balance that you may never need.

        To implement this change, we will be amending the wording of Clauses 2, 3 and 7 of our terms and conditions; the new wording of these clauses are as follows:

        New Clause 2 wording

        Duration

        This Agreement will commence on the date that you agree to the terms that we offer you (whether by accepting them online or via our customer services or sales teams) and will continue thereafter unless cancelled by us in accordance with clauses 2(b), 3 or 7 below. The commencement date (‘Commencement Date’) for any Service shall be the date that such Service is activated by you, or 7 days after the SIM card has been dispatched by us, whichever shall be the earliest.

        New Clause 3 wording

        Minimum Monthly Spend Requirement and Zero Balance Process

        Our 1pMobile service is subject to a minimum spend of £2.50 every 30 days. If your actual spend during any 30-day billing period falls below £2.50, we will deduct the shortfall from the credit balance on your account; your billing period runs on a 30-day cycle from the Commencement Date. If we are unable to collect the shortfall because your credit balance is insufficient for us to do so, then your service will immediately be suspended until (i) the date you top-up your 1pMobile account, and (ii) 10 days have elapsed (in which case we will close your 1pMobile account and your mobile number will be disconnected), whichever shall come earlier. In addition, if the balance on your 1pMobile account falls to zero and you do not make a top-up within the following 10 days, then we will close your 1pMobile account and your mobile number will be disconnected.

        • Richard
          Worse than that – I have been told today by 1p Mobile Customer Services Advisor that I will be assessed for the minimum charge as from its starting date of their new rules (01/10/21) to my contractual? date, the 21st of each month.
          They are telling me I have a contract date based on when I activated the SIM on 21/06/2019, over 2 years ago. Therefore I will be assessed initially from 01/10/21 to 21/10/21. Say I spend £1.00 in this period of 21 days I will lose a further £1.50, swiped of my balance by 1p for lack of use!
          Furthermore the advisor could not state whether I would be continually assessed on my minimum spend thereafter be on the 21st, or a different day each month?
          As most realise, new Clause 3 stating 30 days, (not calendar monthly) will cause date to shift. How annoying is that!

      • Not any more Ken. As of today 1p Mobile have changed their charging policy. Yet it still is not visible or declared on their website! If you now only spend £0.20 in any single month, 1p Mobile will take the other £2.30 off you! Worse than that – I have been told today by 1p Mobile Customer Services Advisor that I will be assessed for the minimum charge as from its starting date of their new rules (01/10/21) to my contractual? date, the 21st of each month.
        They are telling me I have a contract date based on when I activated the SIM on 21/06/2019, over 2 years ago. Therefore I will be assessed initially from 01/10/21 to 21/10/21. Say I spend £1.00 in this period of 21 days I will lose a further £1.50, swiped of my balance by 1p for lack of use! I can only suggest be very careful of recommending 1p Mobile to anyone currently.

  • Light users face extortion.Surprising after paying for credit on pay as you go £10-£30 the phone companies can then cancel credits and take it back after 30 days.The regulators are very weak willed.If we bought a car that was seldom used would car companies be allowed to take their cars back? same principal.Admittedly they have to cover charges but the answer is to increase rates not steal back credits

    • I bought a gps tracker for my car using 1pMobile which at the moment has £8 credit and expires today and I don’t want to top up with a further £10. Trackers don’t use up a lot of data.
      I know it’s in their t and c’s that credit is lost if not topped up, but it’s outrageous that they won’t refund it.
      So what do these companies do with our credits?
      Not amused!

      • Hi Kate,
        Unfortunately, this is just a by-product of how 1pMobile’s business model works. It ensures you’re spending at least £2.50/month on average. However, there’s nothing to stop you from putting the SIM card in another device at a later date (e.g. you could roll up £20 or £30 of credit, use it in your smartphone or tablet for a while, and then put it back in your tracker). Alternatively, other mobile networks may be more suitable for your usage if your average spend will be less than £2.50/month on it.
        Hope this helps,
        Ken

        • Hi Ken and thanks.
          Great idea of yours to use the sim in another phone.
          As the gps tracker only sends texts when I go out in the car which isnt often, it’s a waste using it with 1p mobile and the like!
          Thanks again.
          Regards
          Kate

        • Perhaps 1p Mobile read your good tip above. They have now put a stop to that by taking off you anything you do not spend of £2.50 every 30 days.

  • Sarah Waring said:

    My husband has a Nokia 105 (not smart!) for occasional use, he used to have an O2 PAYG and topped up when necessary but that has been withdrawn. Would Three’s Data Record Sim or their PAYG sim be ok in this phone?

    • Hi Sarah,
      Sadly, the Nokia 105 doesn’t support 3g networks which is required to be able to use a SIM card from Three. I’d therefore consider an alternative network (anything that uses coverage from EE, O2 or Vodafone).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Probably time to consider an upgrade that has at least 4G connectivity. The Nokia 225 (£45 at Argos) has dual SIM, basic camera and 4G that will be fine for many years to come. You can get it for under £40 if you shop around.

    • Hi Edward,
      O2 has already stopped offering Classic Pay As You Go to new customers. I’m not aware of any plans to close it for existing customers or to increase their rates just yet.
      Ken

  • With the 1p mobile say I have remaining credits left but have to pay the £10 every 120 days is this a waste of money?

    • Hi Anis,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you’ll still need to top up by £10 every 120 days, regardless of how much credit you have on your account. This makes it disadvantageous for very light mobile users who’ll spend less than £2.50/month on average.
      Ken

      • Daniel Gilbert replied:

        I am on 1p mobile and I will say that any unused credit is kept and added to the top up you make after the 3 months which I think is pretty good and useful for if you have a heavier month down the line

  • Susan Davies said:

    How can Tesco Mobile – and no doubt other phone companies – get away with calling their Sim Cards ‘Pay as you go’, when in fact they are nothing of the sort. I received a Smart phone for my birthday this year. The £10 credit ran out after a month (with virtually no use!) and I now need to top it up with another £10 ! My old trusty mobile (not a smart phone) is the one I rely on when out and about. I top it up when necessary – and it’s certainly nothing like £10 per month! (More like £15 per year!).

    • It sounds like that you have the Data switched on in settings which is for Internet use which you probably don’t use , but is usually charged at £1 per day automatically if your Data is switched on. .

  • Thanks for all the information on your site – really useful.

    One factor that persuaded me to switch to Three, besides the good rates on their 3-2-1 sim, was their roaming rates. Eventually we’ll be allowed to go abroad again so this will be important – so it would be nice to have this as one of the factors to be taken into account.

    I guess it is more complicated now that we’ve left the EU as the UK companies are no longer required to charge UK rates in EU countries, but most of them seem to be doing so at present.

  • With you now needing to spend £10 to get the Data Reward SIM, is that £10 applied in the form of usable credit? Or does it disappear in exchange for 1GB?

    • Hi Khairul,
      Thanks for your comment. The £10 top-up gives you 1GB of data to use in the first 30 days. From then onwards, you’ll get 200MB of free data every month with the ability to use more at 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Khairul Islam replied:

        Thanks for the reply.
        With regards to those rates, can that be spent out of the original £10 outlay, or do I need to make a separate top-up?

        • Hi there,
          Sadly, the initial £10 you add is converted into a 1GB data allowance that lasts for 30 days. You’ll therefore need to add further credit to your account for other usage (with a minimum top-up of £2 each time).
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

          • There is no need to purchase the £10 pre-paid 1GB sim card to enjoy the free 200mb/month data. You can get a free data sim card from Three.co.uk. Just order the free data sim card from the Three.co.uk website and fill out the details. When you have received the sim pop it into the phone and follow the instructions in the welcome pack. If you get a message “Sim card not eligible” just go into your APN settings on your device and change the APN name to 3internet. Then follow the instructions again in the welcome pack and then it should ask for your details to register the free 200mb/month.

  • Hi Ken,

    I know O2 no longer officially offers O2 classic payg, 3p per minute, 2p per text, 1p per MB. But Ebay UK vendors still sells these sim cards and the SIM I bought recently and activated (transfered number from Vodafone) had an “activate by April 2022 expiry date.” Do you think you could add this information somewhere as I think it’s still a very valuable and valid option for many people albeit can longer purchase from official channels.

    Also your website helped me transfer my number to O2, so thanks for that!

    • H Simpson replied:

      Did you have any problems activating it? I’ve just got one with expiry date of Oct 21 to replace a Three one as their charges have gone up in February but I didn’t get the text telling me. I am a pensioner and don’t use a phone a lot. I also want to keep my existing number so hope that won’t cause a problem as O2 are not selling this sim.

  • Hazel Booth said:

    Hi Ken
    I’ve been into my Three store today enquiring about the Data reward sim. The guy told me that it’s no longer available but is still on their website so what is going on? Have been with them a long time on PAGo but not happy with the recent bike so need something cheaper as am a light user.

    • Hi Hazel,
      Thanks for your comment. The Data Reward SIM card has always been a little bit of a niche product so it doesn’t surprise me that some of their staff don’t know anything about it! If you order a SIM card online, you can still join them on the Data Reward SIM.
      Ken

      • Hazel Booth replied:

        Hi Ken
        Thank you for the info. Don’t understand why I was told it no longer existed because I’ve been with them a good few years. They hiked up my PayandGo this year so was looking to move to 1p server which has good reviews. May still do so because Three are being greedy now. I’m only a light user.
        Regards
        Hazel

  • Frank Bushnell said:

    I I have been a Three customer on PAYG for a couple of years. I want to order a new Three PAYG SIM for my new phone.

    Several times I filled in the online form correctly, using the “Enter Postcode” and “Select Address”, so I am certain that my details are correct.
    But the page always says, “There are the following errors. Sorry, we can’t find that address”
    This problem has happening for the last two weeks !

    I tried calling Three on my old phone but their operative totally refused to offer me a PAYG SIM !
    I tried their online chat service, but the operative said she was unable to find the link to send me a PAYG SIM !

    As you are aware, Three recently tripled it’s PAYG charges.
    It appears that Three is trying to stop offering PAYG service !

  • Hi,

    Are the calls, texts, and data for three’s data reward SIM still 321 rate? And do they still offer the 200mb data each month?

    Thanks

    • Hi Adam,
      Yes, they’re still offering the 321 rates on the Data Reward SIM – at least, for the time being. I’ve not heard of any immediate plans to change this to 10/10/5 but I imagine they’ll probably want to change it at some point in the future as well. And yes, you can still get the 200MB of free data every month 🙂
      Ken

      • Peter Richardson replied:

        Hi Ken, I was on Three’s 321 up till about a year ago, I tried to go back onto it a couple of weeks ago but they don’t do it anymore, it was a good deal for light users, I am disappointed, regards Pete

        • They still offer it Peter, but you need to use the Data Reward SIM. That gives you the 321 rates while also giving you 200MB of free data every month.

          You can get the Data Reward SIM for free (Google it) and the minimum top up is £2.

  • Hi Ken,
    In my opinion you can’t beat the 1p mobile offering 1p for everything. Bundles are useful but there are just £10 pound per month contracts in disguise. All bundles under 10 are not worth it as they offer very little data. I have just moved and can no longer get the EE signal so after 4 years have had to leave 1p and go with the £10 giffgaff monthly offering.

  • I was with Asda without any complaints. Then they moved to Vodafone, and it wiped all my credit off. Three members of my family have had this trouble with Vodafone and have all moved elsewhere. I moved to 1p Mobile, who are efficient, but I just don’t use the credit! Not sure what the answer is.

  • Ian White said:

    Hi, I use a SIM card in a router to monitor a remote location (system data only, no video), so obviously data only and a low usage. Been very happy for a couple of years, but it now seems impossible to monitor my plan, as to access the web page to see usage and credit, I have to authenticate it with a code sent to the sim card, which I cannot read.

    Does anyone do a low cost PAYG Sim card without this problem?

  • I am currently trying to reactivate my late wife’s old orange-locked Samsung, which was shut down due to inactivity (!). I have tried various different websites and thought that ee, being successors to orange, would provide the solution. Eventually visited local EE shop intending to buy a payg sim but told that it would not work and I should contact customer services (!). No suitable contact number, for this purpose and the “live chat” just wasn’t functioning. There didn’t seem to be any facility for texting so the only option was complete a survey and leave suitable comments. Can you offer any easily accessible solution? The only thing I have thought of is the “unlock your phone” kiosk in the local shopping centre and they always look a bit dodgy. I would appreciate any reasonable comments.
    Thanks,
    Clive

    • Hi Clive,
      Thanks for your comment. As far as I know, EE are still the people that deal with unlocking requests for Orange. Until recently, I know their unlocking form had an option for you to say that it is an Orange device. I believe they can still unlock the device for you with a charge of £8.99 when you contact their Customer Services team on the phone.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken
    Three Data Reward SIM…from their site there seems no mention of call/text usage.
    I have the original 321 sim still and like others are bothered by the large hike in charges so this looked promising but it appears as data only. Mildy confused.
    Has to be said Three were very generous with their lockdown donation for school children so I guess that needs to be paid for somehow. In terms of service they are way ahead of the other big bunnies,
    mike

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. Three mainly advertise this as a data SIM card as you only get a data allowance included on it (technically speaking, it’s classified as a mobile broadband SIM card). However, you’ll still get a normal phone number on it and you’ll be able to make and receive calls and texts (at the rates of 3p/minute and 2p/text). As of yet, they haven’t increased the rates to match the 321 plan.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Hi Ken
        Thank you for the confirmation.
        if nothing changes in the near future this looks like a handy option.
        mike

  • DAVID HEWETT said:

    These are the new ASDA Mobile (on Vodafone) PAYG rates from their website today
    Calls to UK mobiles & landlines 4p per min
    Texts per 160 characters 4p each
    MMS 25p each
    Data/GPRS 4p per MB
    Voicemail 4p per min
    Access to automated helpline Free
    Customer Service Centre Free
    0800/0808 Free
    Other service numbers 4p per min access charge + service charge
    Personal numbers (070) 75p per min
    Non-mobile 07 numbers 4p per min

  • Asda mobile PAYG is now on Vodaphone at 4p/min, 4p/text, 4p/MB with 180 day chargeable use to keep credit active, nearly as good as the old Three 321

    • vijay chaudhary replied:

      I recommend ASDA Mobile too; very helpful staff and good value rates (as noted by David Hewett in his message of March 24. I think since the move to Vodafone, the non chargeable use period to maintain validity of sim has come down to 90 days.

    • Keith Millington replied:

      My wife had the ‘3’ 321 plan and I was aghast when I logged in recently to top up, only to find the enormous increase to the tariff. At first it wouldn’t let me log in so I had to reset the password which I gave as the original. I had no notification they had discontinued the 321 tariff. I have now ordered the ASDA sim and obtained my PAC from 3. The ASDA package seems to be reasonable and competitive as there are very few operators providing this type of true PAYG sim for light users.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, sadly, they withdrew the Classic Pay As You Go tariff from sale in November 2019 🙁
      Ken

      • David Parry replied:

        Thanks for your reply Ken. The reason I wanted a O2 classic PAYG sim was for a old windows phone (locked to O2) to be used as a backup. It would appear that O2 have decided that they aren’t making enough money from casual users. Thank goodness that the other providers such as 3 and 1p mobile are still flying the flag for occasional users. For myself I was able to source a O2 classic PAYG sim from a ebay trader which could still be activated. I can’t help thinking that O2 are missing a trick as occasional users aren’t likely to be conned into taking out a monthly contract with them but will just move to another provider.

    • Hi Liam,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s definitely still available – they’ve just hidden it away on the page. Scroll down to the section that says “Rather choose a bundle later” and then choose the “Get a free SIM” option. If you don’t choose a bundle, you’ll be on the standard Pay As You Go 1 rates.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken. This is exactly the sort of info I was looking for. I want a second mobile number for my courier business but I only need it to occasionally receive calls from the office. The issue is having to top them up with credit I’d never use but it looks like Vodafone has the longest life and the lowest top up. So I could top up £5 and then sending a text every 270 days would keep the account alive??
    Do I needs specific Vodafone 1* sim? Or will any Vodafone PAYG SIM be viable?
    Thanks again for all the info good sir!

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s worth noting that Vodafone has now changed their policy to once every 180 days (this changed back in January this year). As you say, you can keep it active by making a call or sending a text every 180 days, so it will essentially you about £2 per year.
      With regards to getting the SIM, choose the option to “get a free SIM” on the Vodafone website. As long as you don’t add a bundle to your account, you’ll be on their normal Pay As You Go 1 rates.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for bringing this to my attention! Since January, you’re now required to use your Vodafone SIM card once every 180 days (they’ll send you a warning after 90 days of inactivity if you don’t do this). I’ve updated the article to clarify 🙂
      Thanks again,
      Ken

  • John Michael Oliver said:

    Hello,
    Three Data Reward SIM. On their website they don’t mention smartphones, only tablets and the like.
    If this SIM does work for ‘phones will the £10 top up last more than a month ? Or does it disappear like the free data ?

    Thanks,
    John

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. The Data Reward SIM is technically classified as a mobile broadband SIM card but there’s nothing to stop you from using it in a mobile phone. With regards to the top-up, it won’t expire and will remain on your account as long as you keep it active 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Michael Blaxall said:

    If your buying a sim card to go into a tracker, then DON’T buy from Giff-Gaff When purchasing my new Mercedes they asked did I want a tracker installed and this would be done at the factory, I said yes, and they asked I purchase a Sim card of my own choice and they would install it for me. I phoned O2 and asked about theirs and also mentioned I was also looking at Giff-Gaff and they told me they operated their system, so phoned them and advised I wanted this to be installed in a tracker and they said no problem, do I want them to send me a Sim Card. I said yes, and asked £5 credit be put on it, and told, £5 may not be enough, if your car gets stolen then this will stop working when the £5 is used up, and to get £10 with an automatic £5 top up, which I agreed to, this was then put in my tracker and no one knew other that the fitter in Germany knew where. All was working as it should then I had an email from Giff-Gaff to say I had not used the card for 3 months and gave 7 days to use it or the card would be cancelled, I phoned and explained it was in a car tracker and would only be used if I reported the car stolen to the Police and told, not our problem, you have 7 days to use it or its cancelled and with it all your credit. I tried various people at Giff-Gaff and non were helpful, and after 7 days they cancelled my card and also my credit, so Giff-Gaff goes at the very bottom of companies I would advise you buy from

  • Hi, This is an interesting read. I’m looking for a sim pay as you go for my daughter. Looking at all the all deals the pay as you go has changed! You used to be able to get a sim, top up when needed and everything just carried forward. Now it seems if you don’t use it you lose it. What’s the best way forward for a good deal with a young teenager? I don’t want to pay the earth every month.

    • Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for your comment. These “traditional” Pay As You Go deals are still available but they tend to be worse value than one-month bundles (especially if you’re using a smartphone). Are you looking for a SIM card that you can use in a smartphone? If so, you should be able to get a SIM card for as little as £5/month with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and an allowance of data (e.g. on SMARTY or giffgaff).

  • I bought a goody bag from Giffgaff for a friend who needs data away from the house, thought it was a good deal £ 20 for 80gb. However I now find out that it expires in several days. I thought it was a pay as you go , but not tied to month usage. A bit unfair I thinks. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks M

  • Hi Ken, I have a PAYG on three plan and have been informed that the prices are going up tomorrow 16th. Would it be possible to convert my current SIM unto the Three Data Reward SIM which superficially appears to be an even better deal for me, the charges would appear to be the same with the addition of 200 MB of free data every month?
    Thanks Yvonne

  • Very useful article! Thanks for it!
    Does all of these networks have roaming coverage in the EU? Do you know the roaming rates?

    Best regards,
    Martin

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, all of these networks have roaming coverage in the EU 🙂 Although we’ve now left the Brexit transition period, I believe all UK networks are still allowing you to use your plan in Europe at no extra cost.
      Ken

    • Hi Trip,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it should include the Go Roam offer. However, you’ll only get a 200MB allowance which doesn’t go very far (additional usage will then be charged at a higher rate).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Thanks Ken for this information. My phone has gone faulty so I have bought a cheap replacement from eBay until I can go out to look for a new one (I like to physically handle new phones to be sure it is right for me).

    No doubt I will not want to take the new phone out where it might get damaged so keeping the old phone with a new SIM without expiry or minimum top up is just what I was looking for

  • Im looking to buy SIM cards for cellular ipads for my primary school. The data will be used rarely eg for fire drills and when out on trips. I would like to be able to buy a pre-loaded sim card which doesnt expire. What do you think is my best option?

    • Hi Cathy,
      Thanks for your comment. I think any of the SIM cards listed on this page can potentially be fine, though you will need to make sure you comply with the minimum usage requirements (once every 180 days on most networks).
      Ken

  • ID Mobile pay as you go dose not look to bad, as is 1p per MB for data, 2p per text and 3p per minute for calls. Also they have bundles that are fairly competitive with Gifgaff and a likes. I’ve not used them as an better off on SIM only but thought it might be good for some people who just need a bolt in occasionally and make do with standered pay as you go the rest of the time.

  • I want to use a Samsung J1 as a monitor for my front door cctv camera.I don’t want to make any calls texts or use data. Ideally I just want to connect to my WiFi and watch for who’s ringing the doorbell.
    I don’t mind if I lose the number after a period of time. I don’t want to pay monthly charges

    • Hi Vic,
      Thanks for your comment. As you don’t want to use your phone for calling, texting or mobile data, you’re probably best off using it without a SIM card inside! Simply connect it to your home Wi-Fi network and it’ll work as you require (no need to put a SIM card inside it).
      Ken

  • I am with O2 as PAYG and have a really poor signal, although the checker says its good. I also have a contract phone with them and was able to activate Wifi calling, which solved the problem. This option is not available on O2 PAYG.
    Is Wifi calling avaialable on a PAYG with any of the other networks, EE, Vodafone or Three?
    I’m worried that I will change provider and still get a poor signal, when I’ve checked they all say its good, same as O2.
    What would you advise it’s a second phone for light use only.

    • Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe it’s currently possible to get Wi-Fi Calling on Three and SMARTY Pay As You Go. I don’t believe the other networks have this at the moment on Pay As You Go.
      Ken

      • Hi Ken,
        Thanks for your reply. I had a look on SMARTY, and found this, I thought you might like to know,

        Wifi calling – Smarty doesn’t currently offer wifi calling, a technology that allows you to make voice calls over a wifi connection when you have no 4G or 3G signal.

        I have checked out Three, they were my preferred choice. Sadly looks like the phone will not support Wifi calling on Three, it’s a Galaxy S4.

        I might still go with them and hope for a better signal.

        Many Thanks for your help, there’s so much to take into account,

        JMKS

        • Hi JMKS,
          Thanks for your comment. SMARTY only launched Wi-Fi Calling in November so it’s possible that parts of their website haven’t yet been fully updated. There’s more information here on their 4G Calling & Wi-Fi Calling service. Saying that, it looks like it wouldn’t be compatible with your current phone (e.g. for Samsung, they only support Wi-Fi Calling on the Galaxy S20 and above).
          Ken

  • Loraine Sladden said:

    I am looking for a sim only for my 85 year old cousin. Do not want contract. He would only use it when he went fishing. Don’t want network you have to top up. Looking for a deal where their is no expiry date. Some years he might not use it all

    • Hi Loraine,
      Thanks for your comment. Most of the SIM cards on this page should probably be suitable for your usage, but I’d probably recommend getting a SIM card from giffgaff. This will give you coverage from O2 without the need to top-up every month. To keep it active, you will need to use it at least once every 180 days (though this is the same on pretty much every network) so I’d recommend putting a reminder in your diary somewhere to do this!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I have a dual-sim phone with one sim running on EE. I want to add a second sim for business purposes, rather than carrying two phones. Can I use a PAYG sim for this and does it have to be an EE sim?
    Thanks.

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, your second SIM card can be a Pay As You Go SIM card if you like, and no, there’s no need for it to be an EE SIM card. In fact, you’re probably best off choosing a SIM card from another network (that way, if you’re in an area without coverage from EE, there’s a chance you’ll still have coverage on the other network). There’s more information in my guide to dual-SIM phones.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • If I use my home wifi will I be charged £1 a day? I only want the phone to send whatsapp messages and receive texts/phonecalls, not make any or send any texts. Thank you

    • Hi Jules,
      Thanks for your comment. You won’t be charged for using your home wi-fi network, but I’d make sure you disable “mobile data” to be sure (so your phone won’t automatically connect to 4G data if you were to lose Wi-Fi for some reason).
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    Very informative site!
    I just wanted to check on something?
    The Three Data Reward Sim – can it be used just like the normal sim in a mobile ie calls, texts, internet?
    If so, i wonder why it isn’t the go to solution for people wanting to stay with Three if the rates are the same as the old 321?
    Of course those rates could easily be subjected to change anytime soon too…
    Thanks!

    • Hi Ben,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it can be used as a normal SIM card for calling, texting and data. I believe a few people have been moving over to this plan, albeit, I suspect it will probably get the increased rates at some point in the future.
      Ken

  • Barbara Booth said:

    Ken – I bought the 3 3-2-1 PAYG sim in store about two years ago. I had to top up in early December 2020 which I also did in store. They put on an “PAYG Internet Add-on” which cost me £10 and which expired after a month which is not what I wanted. I only used about £1.50 (on 3-2-1) rates in that month. I also received a text to say rates were increasing to 10p min/phone, 10p/text and 5p/MB etc in mid-Feb. I have made a complaint and await their response.

    I now want to change provider I was very upset and disappointed by 3. I have also bought a new phone so dont mind changing. I am a low user of calls, texts and internet. Which sim would you recommend ? Are sims easy to install and use ? Thank you. I am glad I have found your site.

    • Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, any of the SIM cards listed on this page could be suitable for you – it really depends on how much and how often you use your phone. With regards to changing the SIM card, this is also very easy – you simply need to take out the old SIM and insert your new one (unless the phone is locked to a network). You can also follow the instructions on this page to transfer your existing phone number to the new SIM card.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • hi
    just to be sure i can top up £5 on voda phone and send a few texts during 270 days and that will keep my number active ?

    thanks in advanced

    • Hi Stephen,
      Yes, that’s right. However, they changed the policy earlier this month so you’ll need to make a chargeable activity once every 180 days. You’re also charged £1/day as soon as you make a call, send a text message or use mobile data, so you may as well use it more on that day. Providing you follow this rule, you can keep your SIM card active for a spend of just £2/year.
      Ken

  • James churchill said:

    I’ve just been in touch with Three and I have been told that the Data reward sim cards will also charge at the incoming 10p/10p/5 p rates of the PAYG SIM and that they 3-2-1p rates will not apply to the Data Reward sim. With your clout and access can you confirm this? There seems to be some confusion on this.

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for your comment. The Data Reward SIM card is remaining on 321 rates for the time being. I expect they will change it at some point to align with the 10/10/5. However, as of yet, no changes have been announced in this area.
      Ken

  • Hey Ken

    LOVE your site

    Sorry for the basic question, but which of these PAYG have the LOWEST top up amount? Ideally I spend £5 max for a sim I’d only use every month for work purposes. Even GiffGaff is £6

    I’ve seen those Classic O2 sims on ebay but are they minimum £10 top up?

    THANK YOU

    • Hi Lee,
      Thanks for your comment. Take a look at this article – it should answer your question with regards to the minimum top-up amount on each network. Do, however, also consider how long the credit will last you. For instance, giffgaff has a minimum top-up of £10, but the credit won’t expire providing your SIM card remains active. There’s no need to buy their £6 plan if you’re better off on their normal Pay As You Go rates.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the info. I joined 1p mobile but they disconnected my account without warning – no email and no text message to ask me to top up. I had only used about 20 pence of my balance on 20 text messages, so they kept the remaining £9.80 or thereabouts. Really disappointed at that.

    Of course they said that they’d reconnect my service if I top up another £10, but where is the incentive for doing that ? After working out at 50 pence per text message, I’m likely to look elsewhere now. Can you recommend another provider that does not expect a minimum top up of £10 per 120 days and that still charges only a small amount per text message, call or Megabyte of data ?

    • Hi Colin,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the requirement to top up by £10 every 120 days makes 1pMobile an unsuitable option for anyone who spends less than £2.50 per month. Like you say, you could just continue topping up the SIM to keep it active, but your balance would just grow over time and would be non-refundable.
      I’d recommend having a look at some of the other options listed above. They certainly won’t have rates that are as low as 1pMobile, but it might not make very much difference if you’re a light user who only sends a few text messages from time to time. For instance, if you’re only sending around 6 text messages per month, giffgaff would cost you 60p/month on average so your £10 top-up would last you 16 months (i.e. until mid-2022 until you’d need to top up again).
      Ken

  • Thanks for the website Ken.
    I’ve been on Three’s 3p/2p/1p plan for many years as I’m not a fan of monthly charges and don’t make that many calls. But it looks like they’re killing it off. It looks like you’ve done my research for me.

  • Thanks Ken.
    I am already with Giffgaff but can’t see anything about PAYG, just bundles. I need a very basic plan so I can use social media, incl WhatsApp, to interact with clients. I rarely telephone anyone on it, but some do ring me. How do I change over to PAYG?

    • Hi Anne,
      Thanks for your comment. On giffgaff, you’ll switch to Pay As You Go rates as long as you don’t have an active goodybag on your account. Simply opt out when you’re given the option to buy one.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Laurence Jones said:

    Well done Ken:
    All I was looking for was a sim that I could top up when exhausted, nothing else. I didn’t want to have to lose money every month. You seem to be the only person out of all the phone companies that could tell me what to get. The card is for a friend who is very old and vulnerable who only need it to phone 3 numbers if ill.
    Laurence

  • Hi Ken
    Great article, very useful for those like me with very light use (mine WELL below £5 p.m)
    I already have an ‘old fashioned’ Tesco PAYG with no limits other than to top up when credit goes below £10.
    I now want to add another mobile to keep in car, and acquired a Tesco sim, only to find their PAYG no longer has this system, but offers bundles, e.g £5 p.m renewed monthly.
    Shouldn’t I, as an existing mobile customer, be allowed another sim on same old basis?
    I can’t find a way of doing this, and attempting to do so via their robotic voice system is hell on my hearing disability – had to give up.
    Any suggestions please?
    Bill

  • Hi Ken,
    Just wanted to thank you for such a well-written and comprehensive article! Literally everything I needed to know in one place. Thank you.

  • Jonathan Bagley said:

    Hi Ken,
    I have an ee pay as you go sim, only so my sister can contact me in emergencies. I mustn’t have used it for several months. The number is now inactive and it seems I’ve lost all my credit. Can I reactivate the same number/sim card. EE just tells me there is an error when I try to top it up.

    • Hi Jonathan,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s possible that EE might have deactivated your SIM card if you haven’t used it for a chargeable activity for more than 180 days – more info here. If that’s the case, your best bet would be to get in touch with their Customer Services team to see whether they’re able to restore it for you.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken thanks for the information you’ve provided! I’ve ordered a Vodaphone PAYG sim (using your link) for a gps/gsm arduino tracker project that I’m building.
    It should only require text messages to operate so £5 top up for most of the year should cover it.

    All the best!

  • Hi Ken great article, I posted about Chris the Vodaphone PAYG 1 price increase which I am on. Was thinking of ASDA tariff but do you think they will now revert to Vodaphone’s new rates when they merge in early 2021 ie. £1 minimum call?

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your comment. Great question. ASDA haven’t announced how their pricing will change after the move to Vodafone. I’m expecting it will change in some way, but it will probably still be priced differently to Vodafone Pay As You Go. Watch this space…
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    A three customer rep told me the 3 data reward sim does.not work on the 321 rates?

    Please let me know if he’s right

    Cheers

  • Hi Ken
    What a excellent blog, wish I had found this earlier! I have been researching for the no contact sim for a few weeks! I have bought my husband a Dora phone for Christmas after spending 12 hours at the A and E without any contact because he never had a phone ! Hopefully he will use it so I have gone with the Asda sim, rightly saying he can top up when he wants just so long as he uses it now and then? Don’t lose anything and not a rollover monthly contract.
    Thank you stay safe
    Paula

    • Hi there,
      Thank you for the kind words!
      Yes, that is correct – he’ll only need to use it once every 6-9 months. The only caveat I’d add to this, however, is they’re moving to the Vodafone network in early 2021. It’s possible they might decide to change the pricing or the terms and conditions at that point, so do keep a close eye on any announcements from there on.
      Ken

  • Thank you for this excellent article. I have been able to choose a traditional pay as you go sim for my second phone from the information so clearly given, especially being able to check the coverage before purchase.

  • Hi
    I am looking for a sim that you only top up when you need to. Not monthly bundles or top ups as its for a very occasional user. Any advice would be welcome. Thank you

    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. Any of the SIM cards listed on this page should probably do the job fine! Do let me know if you have specific questions however, as I’d be glad to help 🙂
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I’ve been in touch with 3 quite alot of times because I am unable to activate my voice mail on my three data reward sim. They keep telling me to try after 4 or 2 hours and then dial 123, and 1212 as the pin. Unfortunately when ever i dial the 1212 the operator doesn’t recognise that pin and says try again. I would greatly appreciate if you could help me with this issue.
    Cheers

  • An extremely useful page. I’m looking for a PAYG SIM to be used with a cheap 2nd hand mobile for my elderly mother to use for video calls (whatsapp or iphone’s imessage) with children/grandchildren. She’ll be using WIFI exclusively for the calls and only needs the SIM to allow whatsapp, for example, to be set up as it requires a phone number (such a pain). This makes this page invaluable. I can’t think of a better solution but open to suggestions from anyone.

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, WhatsApp does require a phone number for the setup. There’s no obligation to leave that SIM card inside the phone, however, so you can always take the SIM card and use it yourself. Alternatively, she could also borrow someone else’s SIM card for the purposes of setting up WhatsApp, albeit, it will be linked to that phone number going forward.
      Ken

      • Andrew Scott replied:

        Hadn’t thought of your first suggestion. Yes, that does mean I could use it in MY backup phone but, fingers crossed, I’d not need it. Decided on Asda as, IMHO, it offered the cheapest “sleeper” SIM. I note your advice to use it with 180 days to avoid issues.

        By the way, I looked back through your replies to others and they are both numerous and very timely. Also courteous and helpful. We’ll done, Sir!

    • Hi Norman,
      Thanks for your comment. On some mobile networks and plans, your credit or allowances may automatically expire after a certain amount of time (e.g. after one month on a Pay As You Go bundle). With 1pMobile, the credit you add to your account will never expire. However, there’s an obligation to keep your account active which involves topping up by £10 every 120 days. As long as you do this, your credit won’t expire and will still be there for you to use as you please.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • David Edwards said:

    Hello Ken
    Thanks very much for the article. As of October 2020 is the ASDA information still correct? I have ordered a sim from them. How much money would I have to put on it initially?

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the information for ASDA should still be correct. However, it’s worth knowing that they’re switching to the Vodafone network in early 2021. At this point, it’s likely their pricing and plans may change.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken
    Forgive basic questions – am bit of ignoramus about this.
    If I buy a phone am I right to assume it comes without a SIM unless I specifically buy one with it?
    If I then get a free SIM from one of the above & fit it in the phone am I right to think the phone number comes with the SIM?
    There seem to be different sizes of SIMs. How do I know whether the SIM I order will fit the phone?

    I think this site is very useful. Many thanks

    • Hi Derek,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, if you buy a ‘SIM-free’ or ‘unlocked’ phone from retailers like Amazon, Argos, etc, it usually won’t come with a SIM card included. However, if you buy it from a mobile network on contract or on Pay As You Go, they’ll give you a SIM card with it.
      With regards to the different sizes of SIM card, don’t worry too much about this. All UK mobile networks now provide a triple-SIM, so you can simply pop out the size of SIM card you require.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Derek Bird replied:

        Many thanks Ken. The phone is for an elderly person with hearing & arthritis problems – only needed for calls & texts (not to use internet). It seems Doro phones are good for this sort of use (I’m thinking of maybe the 5516) but most of their phones are 2G & a few 3G. Is there any difference between them for this sort of use? Is the coverage with 3G any better (or worse) than 2G?

        Also if I buy a new (i.e. not secondhand) phone from Doro or Amazon or Argos etc. am I right to assume it will be unlocked & will remain unlocked when I put a SIM into it (e.g. for Asda Mobile)?

        • Hi Derek,
          Thanks for your comment. Coverage should be fine on both 2G and 3G. Obviously, the 3G phones will allow you to use more different types of coverage (so could be better in some places) but I imagine the 2G coverage will probably be sufficient in most areas.
          With regards to your second question, yes, the phone will remain unlocked even after you put a SIM card inside it 🙂
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

        • Maureen Tranter replied:

          We are both in our 80s and have hearing problems. I bought mine about 4 years ago then one for Other half. The DORO clam-shell phones are easy to use – large letters etc. – and on speakerphone we can easily hold conversations. Hope this helps

  • what is the best call only PAYG sim. don’t need data or text, just need a reliable SP with a responsive customer support, nothing complex for a 90yr old.

    • Hi there,
      Any of the SIM cards listed on this page could potentially work for you, though ASDA Mobile is potentially a good choice. They have pretty decent customer service with traditional Pay As You Go at 8p/minute.
      Ken

  • Please note that O2 and 3 both have a 3p min, 2p txt, 1p MB PAYG tariff with a 180 days inactivity cutoff.
    O2 is good for the Priority benefits and 3 is good for use abroad in more countries that any of the others by far.

    • Hi Fivish,
      Thanks for your comment! Sadly, both of these tariffs have now been withdrawn from sale 🙁 There might be a few SIM cards floating around on Amazon/eBay/etc but you’ll no longer be able to get them from O2 or Three.
      Ken

  • Hello
    I’ve just bought a Nokia 105 to return to basics and to use whilst out and about and to avoid surveillance (not that I have anything to hide).

    I heard that EE sims don’t work on this phone so I’m wondering if anyone can recommend a sim that doesn’t need topping up every week or whatever and just allows top up when running low.

    I’ll basically use this for emergencies whilst at work.
    Thanks for this site 😊

    • Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. Pretty much any SIM card listed on this page should work fine on your Nokia 105, except from Three and any other network that uses coverage from Three. This is because you’ll need a 3G handset to use the Three network, whereas the Nokia 105 is a 2G-only device.
      My personal recommendation would probably be to get an ASDA Mobile SIM card. On ASDA Mobile, you’ll pay 8p/minute and 4p/text. There’s no obligation to top-up every week or every month – you simply need to use your phone for a chargeable activity once every 270 days (ideally once every 180 days if possible).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Edalia,
      Thanks for your comment. On giffgaff, your allowances will expire after one month if you buy a goodybag bundle. However, this doesn’t apply if you’re using traditional Pay As You Go without a bundle on your account.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Lesley Dantinnes said:

    Hi Ken
    On the island where I live EE has the best coverage. I’m a very light user of a smartphone, a very small amount of data, a few calls and also I use the phone over our Wi-Fi.
    Is there a plan you would recommend please?

    • Hi Lesley,
      Thanks for your comment. I’d typically recommend either 1pMobile or ASDA Mobile if you’re looking for a Pay As You Go SIM with EE coverage that’s suitable for light users. 1pMobile charges 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB, though you’ll need to top-up by at least £10 every 120 days. On ASDA Mobile, you’ll pay 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB. However, they’re planning to switch to Vodafone coverage from next year.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

        • Hi Lorna,
          Thanks for your comment. It just means they’re changing their coverage provider to Vodafone. However, the plans will remain different for ASDA Mobile customers. They’re yet to announce whether they’ll keep the same pricing, or whether it will change after the move to Vodafone.
          Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I am a very light user, as I don’t make calls or send SMS at all unless it is an emergency Same goes with the data. So which pay as you do SIM can you kindly recommend for me?

    Many thanks!

      • Thanks for that Ken,

        I also would like to know if the three reward data sim uses 321 standard rates and if I top up £2 credit online how many minutes texts and data will I get. Also is the 321 plan the cheapest rates at the minute?
        Cheers.

        • Hi Adam,
          Thanks for getting back to me! Yes, the Data Reward SIM card uses 321 rates (3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB). Therefore your £2 top-up would get you 66 minutes, 100 texts or 200MB of data (or some combination of the three things based on how you use it). You’ll also get the 200MB of free data each month.
          The only network offering lower rates at the moment is 1p Mobile, but they require a minimum £10 top-up every 120 days.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

          • Hi,

            Thanks again. Hope I’m not being annoying but I was just wondering what’s the difference between the asda £1 top up and the £5 top up? And same goes for the 3 £2 and £5 top up

            Cheers.

          • Hi Adam,
            Not at all! There’s no difference between the £1 and £5 top-up, except from the amount of credit you’re adding to your phone. On ASDA, the £1 top-up is only available when you top-up over the phone. It’s a £5 minimum if you’re topping up in store.
            Ken

  • I have a 3G remote Alarm System, that sends a Text if the system is activated, but is dormant for the rest of the time.
    I am looking for a One time Top Up with up to 270 day coverage, can you reccomend a Sim for this purpose.

    Colin Erith

  • For ASDA mobile, you’ve said, “Your top-ups on ASDA Mobile will never expire providing your SIM card remains active,” but on this page of their website, it says, “Any minutes, texts or data left after the 30-day period will expire.” Does the info in your article need to be updated, or could you clarify which is correct?

    • Hi Greg,
      Thanks for your comment. If you add Pay As You Go credit to your account, it won’t expire providing your SIM card remains active. However, if you turn your Pay As You Go credit into a 30-day bundle, the allowances in your bundle will expire at the end of the 30 days. This is the key difference between using ASDA Mobile (or any other Pay As You Go network, for that matter) as a traditional Pay As You Go plan or with a Pay As You Go bundle.
      Hope this helps to clarifies things,
      Ken

  • I need to get a new phone the one I have is very old fashion but I am a light user and don’t need lots of apps I am on pay as you go can you suggest a suitable phone that doesn’t use all your credit on apps, I am on Tesco at the moment

    • Hi Sally,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I can’t make a specific mobile phone suggestion but there are lots of great devices out there! If you’re using a smartphone, you can simply disable the “mobile data” feature on it and that’ll prevent applications from using up your credit. You’ll still be able to use apps on Wi-Fi if you do this.
      Ken

  • go with Smarty. you only have to but one month then cancel if you want to. all plans have unlimited calls and texts. cheapest starts at £6 and you get money back if you dont use all of the data allowance. im currently paying ten pounds and i get 30gigs of data! it runs on threes network.

  • The thing is… almost all phones use at least some data. Even 2G phones (sometimes called 2.5G, GPRS or “Feature Phones”) can actually have some useless apps that will try to connect and so they will eat your credit whenever your phone is on – even if you make no calls and send no texts. This is especially true for SIMs like Vodafone which charge £1/day. In 5 days your credit will be gone, just by turning the phone on. If you were hoping it might last 6 months, you will get a shock. All your credit will silently go on data you didn’t know about.

    • Hi Steve,
      Agreed – definitely something to keep a close eye on. You can, however, stop this from happening by switching mobile data off on your phone. This will ensure your mobile phone only connects to Wi-Fi, and will prevent any data charges from being made.
      Ken

  • Thank you for some very good advice. Could you please advise me further, my husband has never owned a mobile phone and has refused so far to carry one. Unfortunately after a car accident he realised that he might have to reconsider. I do have an old Nokia that he would be happy to have in the car in case of emergency but which sim ? He will most likely make only a couple of calls a year and no texts or internet. Thank you 😊

    • Hi Dani,
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, any of the SIM cards listed on this page should probably be fine. However, I’d possibly consider a SIM card from either ASDA Mobile or giffgaff given they both have pretty lenient minimum usage requirements. ASDA Mobile uses coverage from EE and giffgaff uses coverage from O2 so it might be worth comparing the quality of coverage where you live.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Adrian Bryce said:

    Followed your very clear helpful information for years now, after reading some baffling write ups it’s good to see your Ken, thanks for your kind efforts.

  • Juliet Stewart said:

    I’ve just received a free Data Reward Sim from Three – tried to activate the free data on a Samsung S7 and got a message saying “Sorry, your current sim isn’t eligible”. Went on the Three web page and this sim is listed as Data only, not suitable for smartphones. I have an unactivated 3-2-1 Three sim so will try that. My partner is a very light phone call/text message user and wants to try occasional mobile internet use so will see how the 3-2-1 sim works out. (Trying to move him into the 21st century with the Samsung S7 instead of his, very ancient, Nokia)

  • Great resource Ken – thanks for putting this together. Do any of these providers offer e-SIM’s so that 2 numbers can be stored in one phone? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are any Pay As You Go providers supporting e-SIM in the UK at the moment.
      Ken

  • If getting a Three Data Reward SIM to use in a phone, can an existing mobile phone number be ported to it? Since the Data SIM ostensibly isn’t intended for voice use (only data) I’m not sure if Three will allow this!?
    Thanks.
    Charles

    • Hi Charles,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe it should still be possible to transfer your phone number to one of these SIM cards.
      Ken

      • Dear Ken,
        thanks for your prompt reply: you’re providing a great service here! I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that it might actually be possible to port an existing mobile number to a Three Data Reward SIM! If attempting this, would the procedure be something like:
        – order a Three SIM;
        – when it arrives, put it in the phone (I’ll be using an iPhone so it should work) and activate it;
        – then get in touch with Three customer support and give them the PAC code from my existing provider, plus the phone number I want to port and the phone number of the Three SIM card??
        Thanks again,
        Charles

        • Hi Charles,
          Exactly right – that should be how it works. To be 100% honest with you, I haven’t actually tried it myself on a Data Reward SIM but I know they definitely give you the option to do this on their Pay Monthly mobile broadband plans. Therefore, I see no reason why it shouldn’t work with Data Reward (which is technically a Pay As You Go mobile broadband plan) – I believe number portability is still a consumer right, regardless of whether it’s technically a voice or mobile broadband SIM.
          Ken

          • If not, using a SIP (internet phone) service provider might provide a solution.

            Though, if you want to retain the number you presumably have a use for it that would justify sending a text once in a blue moon to keep a SIM active.

  • Christine Mitchell said:

    My husband needs a PAYG phone purely for emergencies when he is out walking in the Highlands. We both have a mobile PAYG with EE but they keep disconnecting his number as he rarely uses it. Can you recommend a network which will not disconnect his number please.

    • Hi Christine,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, all UK mobile networks have a requirement for you to use the handset periodically for a chargeable activity (e.g. for an outgoing phone call). The best option for you might be to get a SIM card from ASDA Mobile which also uses the EE network. They’ll only require you to use your phone for a chargeable call or text at least once every 270 days (but you should ideally try to use it every 180 days if you’re able to do this).
      Ken

    • The £10 ultd mins, texts and 10gb data from 3 has been removed in the last week or so I think. Now it seems they’re doing the same deal but with 5gb or data so another network might be more advantageous

    • Hi Christine, but I have a 3 sim that I’ve had between one and two years and haven’t topped it up in about six or seven months and it’s still active. I did used to top up every two months or so when I first had it. Even though I’ve not topped up I did get calls to the number so not sure if that’s made a difference in why it’s not been disconnected but I’m using it just as a normal sim at the moment without fear of it being disconnected. I didn’t even know they did that to be honest as I’ve never had a problem but things may have changed with the type of sims these companies put out now so may not be relevant for you but hope it helps in some way

  • Hi Ken
    I’m moving to Australia fro 2 years so looking for a cheap UK PAYG sim that i can transfer my current UK number to, so my number remains active. I receive verification texts when i do UK online banking and shopping so need to keep my UK number so i continue to receive them. This will be the only activity my UK sim will see while i’m overseas as i will purchase an Australian sim for my other phone while living in Oz.
    Can you recommend a UK PAYG sim that doesn’t need topped up often and will only be needed for receiving or sending the odd text from/to the UK
    Many thanks

    • Hi Jim,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re probably best off getting a SIM card from ASDA Mobile or giffgaff. You’ll need to use it for a chargeable activity at least once every 180 days but this can simply be a short text message whilst you’re abroad. Apart from that, there’s no obligation to top-up your SIM card on a regular basis.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Thank you for the breakdown for the various companies and their offers.
    I need a Sim card for data only. The machine will connect online daily but will only be for a short time and will use minimal data.

    As I understand it, If I order the Asda sim card and top up with £10, dependant on how much data the machine actually uses, the £10 could last us at least 270 days.

    • Hi Alison,
      Thanks for your comment. With an ASDA Mobile SIM card, your credit never expires so it could conceivably last you multiple years! The requirement is simply that you use your SIM card for a chargeable activity every 270 days (i.e. for something that reduces the balance on your account).
      Ken

  • Kenny Paterson said:

    Ken
    My wife uses payg with Three, the credit seems to disappear very fast, is there any way she can view the log of calls.

    Ken Paterson

    • Hi Kenny,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure that Three Pay As You Go offers itemised billing, though it’s something you might be able to ask them for via their Customer Services team. One thing: have you checked the mobile data usage from the handset? With data costing 1p/MB, charges for using the internet on your phone can very quickly add up (e.g. sometimes you might still be at home but lose your Wi-Fi connection temporarily, and it could eat a fair amount of credit without you even realising).
      Ken

  • Dave Watson said:

    I am a light user and after reading this guide went for 1p mobile because I didn’t want to keep paying £7+ per month direct debit with EE. What this guide doesn’t tell you is that 1p mobile charge for calls over wi-fi (where most of my calls are made). Now wishing I hadn’t switched from direct with EE (where there’s no charge for calls over wi-fi) because I am going to end up paying more not less.

    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your comment. What do you mean exactly by calls made over Wi-Fi e.g. do you mean calls made via WhatsApp/Skype/etc? 1pMobile shouldn’t be charging you for these – I’m wondering if you might inadvertently be using some mobile data and running up some charges there?
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Great blog! Well done and thank you.

    Just to check my understanding:
    – I only need a sim to accept calls from a buzzing system at my building entrance
    – So if I choose the 1p mobile sim for example, I understand I need to make a call every x days or so.
    – But would incoming buzzes also be charged or would they be free?

    Stay safe

    • Hi Pearl,
      Thanks for your comment. With 1pMobile, you’d need to top-up your SIM card with at least £10 of credit every 120 days. There’s no further need to use it for an outgoing phone call, but credit would simply build up over time if you didn’t use it for anything. With regards to incoming buzzes, I’m not quite sure how this works with your system (i.e. whether it’s an incoming call, an outgoing call, a data session or something else). However, if it is an incoming phone call to the SIM card, this would be free and would not trigger any charges on the SIM.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Thank you so much for this, I have really found this helpful. I am looking for a sim card provider that activates without having to top up. thank you.

  • Bill Hodgson said:

    Are there any PAYG SIMs that offer wifi calling? Three used to offer this until a couple of years ago, by means of an app, which I found very useful as I live in a poor signal area, and I was devastated when they stopped it.

    • Hi Bill,
      Thanks for your comment, and a very good question! I believe Three should allow you to use Wi-Fi Calling on a Pay As You Go SIM card – is this not the case when using a compatible device? However, I do agree that it’s a real shame they discontinued the inTouch application and that device support for Wi-Fi Calling is still a bit more limited.
      Ken

      • Bill Hodgson replied:

        Yes, they do offer it on newer phones. However, the InTouch app worked on both my own and my wife’s ancient Motorolas, which still work for everything else, so we’re not planning to replace them any time soon.

    • kurt bedford replied:

      The three wifi calling is still used but on newer phones this is now within the software and is a on off feature within the phones settings

  • Samantha rabbetts said:

    When is says minimum usage does that include incoming calls?.. or do I atchally have to call or text or topup to keep it activated? I’m just after a phone to receive incoming calls really ..

    • Hi Samantha,
      Thanks for your comment. You’ll normally need to make a chargeable activity to keep your SIM card active, so an incoming call unfortunately would not count. An outgoing phone call or text message that reduces the balance on your account would keep your account active.
      Ken

  • Dan MACKENZIE said:

    Hi Ken, Love your site and help and advice. Was a sole bookmark – now one of two. (BGas)

    Have been having No service problems with my O2 PAYG mobile. It seems my number has been hijacked. But, one other avenue is…
    Could I have been cut off mid call (without notification) since I have only just, after c 260 days, used up my first £10 and their “free” £10 has gone!!
    Aside, I am looking at the O2 prices on your site and the rates have shot up to say 35p a min, when last July (and last week) it was 4p a min. Is that correct??

    • Dan MACKENZIE replied:

      Hi Ken. An update and possible word of caution to others. READ THE SMALL PRINT.
      Having re-visited O2 site, it is highly likely that I have been disconnected as I have not added any monies in the last 6 months. A bit harsh, a warning message would have helped.

      Apparently I can reconnect, but with a NEW number. Who wants all that hassle and cost (x10 dearer to call). I liked my old number ……007. Do you think I will be able to recover it thro PAC? I am almost persona non gratia on myO2.
      Thanks and everyone stay safe.

    • Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I believe it’s possible you’ll be cut-off in the middle of a call if you were to run out of Pay As You Go credit – that could certainly be an explanation for what happened.
      With regards to the jump in O2 Pay As You Go prices, this is because they withdrew their Classic Pay As You Go plan from sale. It’s now only possible to get an O2 Big Bundles SIM card where the Pay As You Go rates are substantially higher than on Classic Pay As You Go.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Dan MACKENZIE replied:

        Thanks, already sent for an Asda SIM.
        I still think it is unethical to disconnect your number, will need to contact doctors, dentist, taxman and yes friends and family.
        Fyi, With no mobile service or MyO2 acct was unable to effect a PAC myself. After several calls I nearly succeeded, but I failed answering the first security question on my balance. Whilst I dialled in again, twice I got cut off. Lost the will….
        Lesson learnt by this old dog.

  • Hi Ken, just wanted to say thanks for this really useful information. It’s in a different league to the almost useless listings that pop up everywhere else. Well done!

  • Vijai Ananth said:

    Hi Ken,

    Im from outside UK (Oman to be specific). If I buy Three PAYG SIM, I gather that I have to make a “chargeable” event every 180 days. Can you kindly answer my queries below?

    Let’s assume that I bought the SIM on 1st Jan 2020.

    Q1: If I topped up £10 via voucher on 1st January 2020, the SIM will expire on 28th June (180th
    day), unless I do a “chargeable” event between 1st Jan 2020-28th June 2020?

    Q2: If the “chargeable” event which I made i Q1 amounts to £2, then I shall have remaining £8
    balance on my account 28th June onwards, & I presume this £8 will not expire from 29th
    June 2020-25th Dec 2020 (180 days), provided that I make another “chargeable” event
    between 29th June 2020 & 25th Dec 2020?

    Q3: For those abroad like me, I know voucher would be the best method to top-up. Can you
    advise which voucher website is the most cost effective?

    Thank you Ken.

    .

    • Hi Vijai,
      1 & 2. Yes, that is correct. As soon as you top-up or make a chargeable event, that will extend the expiry of your SIM card to 180 days after the date of that activity. For instance, if you were to make a chargeable event today, that would extend the expiry date to around mid-October.
      3. You can top-up on Three’s official website without any extra charges.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Good morning Ken.
    I’m thinking of going for the ‘Three Data Reward Sim’. Just to clarify, once i have bought my Sim card for the initial £5, and put it in my phone, i will pay 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB, and then top up as required with a minimum of £2, and also get a 200MB monthly free data allowance.
    Sorry if this sounds a bit obvious, but the Three website doesn’t explain it very well.

    • Hi Richard,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, that’s right. You’ll get a 1GB allowance for your first month. After that, you’ll get 200MB of data each month, or you can pay for additional usage at 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Thanks for that Ken. I’m a bit of a ‘numpty’, so just to confirm – I can buy a Three Data Reward Sim for £5, put it in my phone and use that £5 credit at 3p/minute. 2p/text and 1p/MB(over the 200MB monthly free data allowance/1GB first month allowance), until it runs out (no time limit) and then top it up with a minimum of £2.

        • Hi Richard,
          Sadly, not quite! The £5 upfront cost for the SIM card gives you a 1GB data allowance to use in the first month (plus the 200MB allowance). Once that’s over, you’ll just get the 200MB of data per month with additional usage costing 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. There’s no Pay As You Go credit included, though you can add some from as little as £2 each time.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I’ve noticed Three have introduced a New Pay As You Go 5G plan replacing the 321 rates plan. As far as I know existing customers aren’t effected and they will still pay the cheap rate. (I hope so otherwise i’m going to another network!!) Also, the pay as you go data (internet with legs) tariff remain the same. There standard rates have increased on the new plan. Calls are now 10p/minute, 10p/text and 5/gb.

  • Maureen Julian said:

    Virgin have told me that my pay as you go deal is ending and they will switch me to a new £7 a month contract. My phone is only used for emergencies – so this is too expensive for me. I do not need data – just calls and texts will be adequate. Having read the above, Giffgaff sounded OK but I cannot find the offer you mention. Has this ended? Can you recommend any other where the credit does not expire please Many thanks for your help.

    • Hi Maureen,
      Thanks for your comment. You can order a SIM card from the giffgaff website here. When you activate it, you can simply decline the option to buy a one-month goodybag and you’ll be able to use the service on a Pay As You Go basis. Your credit won’t expire providing you keep your SIM card active by using it for a chargeable activity at least once every six months. Do note that they’ve recently increased their Pay As You Go rates to 25p/minute, 10p/text and 5p/MB.
      Ken

  • This is all so complicated-I currently have lebara trad sim only but no reception at home-SA3 3BT. I just want cheapest trad sim only call & text charges with no contract. Preferably tel support free. I hardly use moby buit need reception at home. Please help!

  • ive ordered the giff gaff light user sims but when trying to activate there are no selections for that except monthly charges which i dont want as i only want to use this sim as gps tracker for a pet

    • Hi Dee,
      Thanks for your comment. There should be an option just to add credit to your account. This will allow you to use the SIM card without buying a monthly bundle.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken
    Went for the giffgaff so I could send texts at 5p with a £10 credit top up.
    Sim arrived next day – brilliant, set it up, started texting, being charged 24p per text….

    • Hi Richard,
      Are you by any chance sending text messages with an emoji? giffgaff should only be charging 5p/text (10p/text from the 26th Feb). However, MMS messages are charged at 16p, which could possibly explain some of the difference in price? Alternatively, are you texting a special rate number? If you’re unable to get to the bottom of why you’re being charged 24p, it might be worth getting in touch with one of giffgaff’s agents via their website.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    Three Data Reward SIM is for tablets not phones according to 3 Cust Serv.
    It’s not clear if you can make network calls with it at all.

    • Hi John,
      The Data Reward SIM Card can be used in any device, including smartphones, tablets and mobile broadband devices. You can make phone calls for 3p/minute on the Data Reward SIM.
      Ken

  • Please can you list PAYG SIMs that would work on an old 2G era device – an entryphone from a remote gate. I think that just because a network still has 2G, that does not mean their SIMs don’t require a newer device.

  • Hi Ken,

    We’ve bought my father the Doro 580 3G. It will used predominantly for us to call him and occasionally for him to call out. No text or data will be used. Please could you advise on best PAYG, any network.

    Many thanks

  • Catherine Marshall said:

    Hi Ken. I’ll be moving from UK to live and work in Russia. I’ll be keeping my mobile switched on there, but won’t be using it for calls, etc. Which Pay as You Go SIM would be best for me ? I’ll be coming to the UK from time to time, so would like to keep my mobile number. But won’t like to pay for a monthly bundle – just to top up SIM credit sometimes.
    Thank you
    Catherine

    • Hi Catherine,
      Thanks for your comment. What do you plan on using your UK SIM card for whilst you’re abroad in Russia? If it’s simply for receiving incoming text messages (e.g. for online banking/shopping codes, etc) then it shouldn’t really make a very big difference except from the minimum activity requirements being slightly different on each network. If you’d actually like to make or receive phone calls on the SIM card then I’d also compare the Pay As You Go rates for using your handset in Russia.
      Ken

  • Hi ken

    I want to see if the sim is good in an area which isn’t that great with mobile signal. Before I buy credit will I be able to go to the area and see if I can receive texts first before I buy a bundle thanks

    • Hi Julie,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s absolutely possible to do this! Simply order a free SIM card from whichever mobile network you’d like to join and you can bring it to the place where you’d like to check out the coverage.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hello Ken. I’ve just ordered my first mobile from Amazon, a Doro5030(2G)(Disabled Senior) I will use it about twice monthly to phone a taxi from stores without a Freephone. What do you recommend by way of PAYG very light user.

  • kevin gwilliam said:

    I am at present with giffgaff, I use the £6 credit but I always have loads of minutes and text left over every month. It’s not often that I use my phone out doors but it’s a safe guard just in case. Every month I lose all that I’ve paid for. Could you suggest another package for me with roll over. Thanks.

  • Ken – good work and massive thanks. I was looking for a sim card I could use in a house alarm as a WiFi back up. Hopefully the sim will never be used but I wanted one I could add credit and forget about. I’ll send a reminder to ensure it is used within the 180 period. I went for the giff gaff sim.

    I felt compelled to write a comment to say thanks for your advise and putting the effort in to help others.

    • Hi Jack,
      Thank you for taking the time to write this message – I’m really glad to know that you found the website useful and very pleased that I was able to help you out!
      Ken

  • Hello Ken, many thanks for a clear comparison of UK PAYG options. I thought the giffgaff PAYG terms sounded perfect for my needs but when I click the link it goes straight to the goodybags. Unless I’m missing something I don’t think they offer the same PAYG option you’ve shown so I’ll keep looking.
    John

      • Hi Ken,
        I ordered the SIM and on the activation page the top-up option is right at the bottom of the list of goodybags, not exactly obvious but your assurance that it was there certainly helped. Many thanks again!
        John

        • Hi Ken,
          I’ve recently been advised that the giffgaff PAYG charges are rising. Texts are doubling in price to 10p each and calls rise from 15p/min to 25p/min, quite large jumps. There was nothing in the email I received about data pricing except that picture messages will increase from 16p to 30p each. Hope that’s useful to you.
          John

          • Hi John,
            Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s a real shame that giffgaff are increasing their Pay As You Go rates 🙁 This potentially makes them a lot less attractive for light mobile users who want the lowest per-minute and per-text rates. I believe it comes into effect on the 26th February 2020.
            Ken

  • Mr Alan Rawlins said:

    Hi, I am 84 years old and my family want me to have a mobile phone so they can keep in touch when I am away from my home and my normal landline phone. I have bought a DORO 6030.
    My needs are to be able to send and receive Texts and phone messages as well as sending them. I would like to be able to top it up when and only when I have used up the the money on the phone and don’t want to be disconnected for whatever reason.

    • Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. Firstly, it’s worth knowing that the Doro 6030 is a 2G-only phone. For this reason, it won’t work on the Three network or on any other mobile network that uses coverage from Three. That leaves you with EE, O2 and Vodafone as well as any mobile networks making use from one of the three networks. In my opinion, giffgaff might be a good option as you’ll get coverage from O2. You’ll pay 15p/minute and 5p/text, and you only need to use your phone once every 180 days. Alternatively, consider a SIM card from ASDA Mobile which will give you coverage from EE.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • We need to get a data SIM card for my fathers new iPad pro.
    Ideally one where we can just buy a load of date and when he uses it up be buy more. As his data usage will vary dramatically from month to month and some months he won’t use and mobile data at all so we would ideally like one where his data will not run out. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Jeremy,
      Thanks for your comment. Do you know roughly how much data your father is likely is use? One of Three’s Pay As You Go mobile broadband SIM cards might be a good bet. For instance, you can pay £45 for a SIM card with 24GB of data. This is equivalent to 0.19p/MB which is pretty good. It lasts for up to 24 months, so not quite forever, but I think this should probably be fine as long as he uses an average of around 1GB per month or more.
      Ken

  • Need a phone that just makes calls/texts. Will only be used a few times a year so your info is very helpful. What I’m wondering is if I was to buy a Doro 5030 which is a 2G phone – is this likely to stop working if 2G is being phased out by network providers?

    • Hi Denise,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, a 2G-only phone like the Doro 5030 will stop working when 2G coverage is phased out. However, I think there’s very little to worry about in the immediate future as this is unlikely to happen for at least another 5-10 years. In fact, it’s probably more likely that 3G will be phased out first as 2G technology is used in lots of embedded systems such as sensors which are much harder to replace than mobile handsets. You can choose from any mobile network that uses coverage from EE, O2 or Vodafone (as Three doesn’t provide any 2G coverage).
      Ken

      • Thanks Ken, that’s really useful information and has helped me decide. Having looked into the sims for PAYG on your recommendations I have gone for the Vodaphone PAYG1 which I picked up in my local supermarket. Very easy to set up. I did look into the 02 Classic, but they stopped doing that last month and just want to sell you bundles, which I didn’t want as this really is just for very occasional use/emergencies. Again, thanks for your help and recommendations

  • Hi Ken, I bought a new phone recently on an O2 Refresh deal, where the cost of phone was paid in full upfront and I opted for the lowest price Airtime deal.

    I understand I can do a switch via STAC, so could I get the Asda SIM purely for the purposes of transferring the new phone number over then use my current SIM in the new unlocked phone? I’m happy with my current provider and would not use the Asda SIM after the switch was complete. This means I can continue paying for my current deal and cancel the new airtime plan with O2. Hope this makes sense.

    • Hi Angela,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure I understand your question fully, but I think the answer is yes to using your STAC Code on ASDA Mobile. Alternatively, I think it should also be possible to use the STAC Code on your current network.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, I have just taken out a monthly contract on a Samsung A10 for 24 months. I know I have a 14 day cooling off period but i am very happy with it, however, my Fitbit is not compatible with it therefore my Fitbit wont sync with it. I was wondering if I could put a traditional pay as you go sim card in my old phone to enable me to carry on getting data from my Fitbit using my old phone. Thanks

    • Hi Susan,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it should be possible for you to do this. Alternatively, if your Fitbit doesn’t actually require your mobile phone to have an always-on 3G/4G connection, it might be possible for you to synchronise your data without having a network connection (or synchronising whilst you’re connected to wi-fi instead).
      Ken

  • This is all excellent advice. I have been wondering why I dont get a good reception or phone cuts out. The checker showed It is poor with EE in my area. I am now going to change to Vodafone for a much better reception.The phone deal comparisons are interesting and takes a lot of the slog out of trying choose .Thanks Ken.

  • O2 appear to have withdrawn the Classic PAYG on 7 November 2019. Cheapest option now is for a £5 per month Big Bundle for unlimited calls and text. Minimum term of 2 months.

    • With O2 leaving the pure PAYG scene I’d agree. I have Three data sims on the 321 which covers me fine for a few pounds a year of very light use.

      1p Mobile only makes any sense if you know you are going to use that £30/year credit, or the EE signal is best in the area.

  • Very useful info thanks.

    1P Mobile has been brilliant – top up is £10 minimum for 120 days but if you top up say £20 then your next top up would be due in 240 days etc. Early top ups you make start from the end of your current top up period – no waste, you don’t get “diddled”!

    Basically, I estimate our “house mobile” calls are costing around £22 per year. Paying £30 in tops ups means we’ll just donate to a charity using SMS at some stage to get the surplus down a bit.

  • I’m with ASDA, and as a very light user, it’s been fine. However as a protest against their treatment of their workers [ supermarket ], I’m going to transfer elsewhere asap.

    ASAP ? Well woke up this morning to find my trusty dumb cellphone [ Samsung ] simply and dignifiedly telling me: “Insert Sim”.

    Googling is not much help, no matter what additional words one adds, like ‘error’ or ‘suddenly’, since poor old Google just thinks any query is a request to buy something new, and starts babbling about how to insert a sim into a new smartphone.

    So either ( the best advice obtainable ) I take out the sim-card, polish it lovingly, replace, reset time and date, start up: see same error and rinse and repeat ad infinitum; or it’s a network problem; which means can’t transfer the old number until it’s fixed…

    Just wish most of the others allowed top-up by phone, as that’s the simplest and best…

    https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/uk-news/asda-contract-six-petition-staff-17097107

  • Asda T and Cs for true PAYG say data cost is rounded up to nearest penny at end of a “browsing session”. O2 says the same about “every data session however short” on the 321 Classic.

    I take a session to be when you switch mobile data on and off again. If you switch it on and off ( perhaps to stop some apps or the Android system from using your data ) the pennies could rack up.

    I know you can restrict app data use but it’s laborious and imperfect. What do you think Ken? Is it better to keep data on full time?

    • Hi Gavv,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think most people normally leave their data switched on so they can get notifications for things like instant messages, emails, etc. For this reason, data sessions often don’t end for quite a long time. If you’re only using data once in a while (e.g. to save on credit), there’s obviously a trade-off to be made here in when you decide to switch off your data.
      Ken

      • Hi Ken, I’m working on suppressing data use. I bought a small phone ( Alcatel Pixi 4) to use for First bus mTickets. It came with a launcher which used data but I’ve replaced it and the system use is down to 0.5 MB per day approx which I can live with if I switch to a 1p/MB PAYG sim.

        Cheers, Gavv

  • Yes, Ken, their data charge is steep – would be OK if more granular eg 10p for 10 MB or 5p for 5.

    Some older phones have poor control over data so could wipe out the credit v easily – one Alcatel flip phone I have seems to randomly go to a (predefined) site, so not one I use much – looking for voice and text only SIM deal to limit charges!

  • Nice article as a low user and wish to not to have a contract I picked up a Pay as you Go card for 02 and expected to just top it up when required. £10 would last me months.
    Instead of this I now found out it in order to keep the rollover I need to pay monthly. I wish to change this to Traditional Pay As You Go with 02 but on there online site this is not offered..

    Having my new card for a just few weeks I soon found out I could not text or make a phone call after, I took advantage of the free wifi in my local & used the web. Does 02 charge you using the free wifi? I not texted & just made 1 phone call. Still, I had to top up.

    I would use data for use of Facebook, Twitter using free wifi at home or in pubs etc than for phone calls do you know of a Pay as You Go

    Do you know if a traditional Pay As You Go which would offer a larger data useage then text messages.?

    • Hi Todd,
      Thanks, and that’s a really good idea! Unfortunately, I don’t know very much about US cell phone carriers, being based in the UK myself! Perhaps someone else though might have a few recommendations?
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    Thanks for a well-structured and informative site!
    Most helpful.
    Based on your information we were ready to get two ASDA SIMs, but did a scan of ASDA mobile reviews online first – which were a shock to us.
    eg: TrustPilot https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/mobile.asda.com

    TrustPilotr reviews of ASDA mobile are 47% good, 44% bad and the remainder in the middle.
    Bit of a ‘Marmite’ result, that.

    On the same site, 1P mobile are rated 83% excellent.

    I understand how the statistical validity of online reviews can be suspect, but other review sites in our trawl do confirm the trend.

    Most of the ASDA criticism detail points to a user-hostile attitude by ASDA, is this a recent thing, or is it a customer service reflection of endless finger trouble with the average user, in your opinion? Your detailed information on how their system works is far better than the untidy ASDA site.

    Thanks again for all your hard work, Ben (retired silicon chip engineer)

    • Hi Ben,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s actually a bit of a surprise to me to see the negative reviews of ASDA Mobile. For instance, I believe they recently won some awards from Which?, based on positive customer feedback. However, I must say I haven’t used the service myself in the past few months so it’s possible they might be going through some customer service problems.
      Ken

      • I think I noticed worse policies since switch of Asda from Vodafone to EE. Used to get a SIM free rather than for a fee, when also getting a £5 e-voucher top-up.

        Maybe call centre staff have different attitude if more pessured than before, too.

  • Hi Ken,
    The Asda SIM cards for a light mobile user, Top-up from £1 each time, no expiry.
    The usage within the 270 days, does the usage have to be incoming or can it be outgoing calls or messages.
    Thanks

    • Hi Tricia,
      It needs to be a chargeable activity so you’ll need to make an outgoing call or text message for it to be counted.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Brilliant info. Was looking for the best deal just to keep my number alive as moving abroad and will get a local phone there but still need to keep my UK number even though will not be using it for a year or two. The information here is clear and exactly what I needed. Thanks!

  • Hi Ken, Love your website. We’ve just ordered our first smartphone, sim-free and are looking for a PAYG sim. Have tried websites for ASDA and Giffgaff and they only appear to offer bundles, not a true PAYG. Is it possible? Or are we misunderstanding? Thanks, Graham

  • Virgin payg offer top ups that give you texts/mins/data (deoendenton at least ten pound top up and you get to keep all credit after the full month has passed. For example say on the 29th of the month you top up with £10 or £15 your credit starts on the 1st of the following month. You get so many texts and calls. And data if enough credit. As soon as you pass the last day of the month this reverts to normal call charges/text charges. This is great if you don’t like to be tied to a contract but like to keep credit. And essentially get a free month of no charges. This was handy when I moved as I was using to ring estate agent/removal men/energy companies etc. Handy as a second phone for use occasionally but as stated if you know you going to be using heavier some weeks. Also moving had a delay on my Internet with data allowance I could use this free data kindly given.
    Online this doesn’t seem to be available but the supermarkets or pound shops have these sims for a pound or less.

    • Hi Clare,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think they used to have a tariff called ‘Big Data & Texts’. Like you said, it’s unfortunately no longer available to new customers. However, anyone who’s already on it is able to stay on that plan. Saying that, one downside of the plan in my opinion, is the high Pay As You Go charges (35p/minute, 12p/text and £2/day for 200MB data). This means it’s very easy to use up £10 of credit in less than a week!
      Ken

  • I love the clarity of this site, keep up the good work.

    I am a very occasional mobile user, with a traditional T-mobile PAYG credit of around £5, that has lasted for months, so at least EE have not expired it, but they will lose this customer when the credit is finally used-up.

    If a customer exceeds the no-use period is the mobile at least able to make calls to emergency services?

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. In the UK, you can make a phone call to the emergency services (999 or 112) without an active SIM card in your mobile phone. Therefore, it will still be possible to do this.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • I am looking for a suitable PAYG SIM to use on a vehicle tracker. It must have some data allowance (obviously) but also needs to be capable of sending/receiving text (SMS) messages as this is one of the ways of checking the tracker.
    The tracker is permanently powered and on the network but would only be actively transmitting/receiving data when contacted via an app.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Stuart,
      Thanks for your comment. I think most of the SIM cards listed on this page should probably be fine. However, it’s worth thinking about how much data it’s likely to use and how many SMS messages it’s likely to send. In addition, if the tracker operates on 2G rather than 3G or 4G, it won’t be possible to use Three or any other network that uses coverage from Three. The level of coverage in places where you’ll go is also worth considering (e.g. if you tend to drive a lot in rural places then something like EE could be more suitable due to the greater rural coverage).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • heh Ken
    love the website,facts&figures.The three home wifi looks good value is there a catch?
    Do you run this site for fun(just being nosy).
    cheers Mike.

    • Hi Mike,
      Thank you for the kind feedback! I wouldn’t say there any “catches”, though there are certainly pros and cons of using the service! With regards to the website, I started off writing about this for interest back in 2005. However, the website does nowadays make money from advertising – more information about that here and here.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi! I live in Norway but want to access a Natwest app to check my UK account. Unfortunately Norway is not a country at the moment available on the app. I have an old Apple 4s telephone that I want to use on a UK pay as you go SIM card with international access. Can you recommend a Service Provider that can give me service as and when I need it with no expiry and non rental charge. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your comment. It might be worth contacting Natwest first to see if they’re able to register your Norwegian phone number. This is probably the “best” solution if available as you won’t need to carry round a separate SIM card (or go searching for it when you need to make a payment online, etc). If it’s genuinely only possible to use a UK-based SIM card, I’d recommend going with something like ASDA Mobile or giffgaff. However, you’ll need to make sure you comply with the inactivity policy (usually, you’ll need to make a chargeable activity at least once every 6 months to keep your SIM card active).

    • Hi Brian,
      First of all, you don’t need a UK sim card just to access your UK bank account from Norway. However if you really need a UK phone number then you should take Ken’s advice in picking the right sim but remember, just like he says, you will need to use the sim card at least once every few months by making a couple rings and hanging up before someone answers if you don’t want to lose credit.
      If you want to access your UK Natwest bank account, I would suggest using a VPN, even a free one, with a server location based in the UK so you can easily log in as foreign countries are usually blocked by banking institutions as they class those logins as frauds/hacks.
      Secondly, I wouldn’t recommend using a banking app as it just collects plenty of data and would recommend using the bank’s login website instead.

      Regards

  • I am looking for Pay as you go sim for old style mobiles without data I have tried several networks but the £10 credit is swallowed without using the mobile Is there a sim which you can top up only when the credit runs out

  • Hi. I have been an O2 user for years, always been happy with topping up as and when needed and they give me rewards every 3 months to use as credit, or save for something. However the signal where I live is atrocious. I cannot make or receive calls from my phone at home, 3 bars drop to 2 or even one during a conversation. When I need to contact O2 I have to drive several miles away to get a signal. I live in Brynmawr South Wales. Everyone here uses EE but I am unsure because the cost of calls or texts are higher. I tried an O2 big bundle but didn’t like the automatic money grab each month so went back to Classic pay as you go. I don’t make many calls, I send a few texts, and use WIFI for data, but it is a nuisance when someone tries to call me and neither of us can catch what the other is saying as the signal comes and goes.

    • Hi Marilyn,
      Sorry to hear about the problems you’ve encountered with coverage from O2. Have you tried using a SIM card from ASDA Mobile? You can order a free SIM card from their website and they also use the EE network for coverage. This means you can benefit from the same coverage as customers on EE, but at a much lower price. You can place the SIM card in any unlocked smartphone to test out the service/coverage.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Will Snell replied:

      Hi, I use 1p mobile. Runs off EE network. It’s 1p a min, 1p a text and 1p a mb. Only rule is you must top up £10 every 4 months. So if your an occasional user, it’s great plus you don’t lose any credit you put on,

  • peter mcallister said:

    hello, can you please tell help me, i recently purchased a vodafone mobile,where can i get hold of
    a plastic swipe payment card,like i had with my last mobile,i dont want to use my credit card for this payment,i cant find any information reguarding this thank you

    • Hi Peter,
      I believe you can get a top-up card from your nearest Vodafone retail store, or by calling them on 191.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • You do not mention 3 PAYG. It costs 3p a minute, or text. Just send a text every 3 months to keep it live.

  • Hi, I don’t see any mention whether Pay as you go can be used internationally and if so can the useage (eg use once evry 120 days to keep active) criteria can be met by an international call eg from say Spain or India

  • Chris Billingsley said:

    Hi Ken
    I am in the process of purchasing a Dual Sim mobile which has 2G,3G and 4G availability.I intend to transfer over my existing number to this phone and at the same time purchase a PAYG second Sim for receiving my business emails.My current Sim is with ID(Carphone Warehouse) but I am not sure which second Sim to purchase that will work alongside in view of previous comments you made about Three not being very good for this type of setup.I like my ID contract as it suits my daily usage etc so do not wish to change this if at all possible.Your guidance would be greatly appreciated.
    Chris

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re right in saying that Three SIM cards don’t work in some dual-SIM handsets. This is because most dual-SIM handsets only support 2G coverage on the secondary SIM (of which Three does not offer any). As an MVNO using Three’s network, the same is also the case when using an iD Mobile SIM card. Some quick thoughts:
      1) You’ve mentioned using the second SIM card to receive business emails. Is this necessary? As email is received over the data connection, it shouldn’t be necessary to have a second SIM card for this (a secondary SIM card should only be required if you want a second phone number for calling & texting). You could set up business email on your existing SIM card through a separate e-mail application.
      2) If you do want the multiple SIM cards, it might be possible to use an iD Mobile SIM card if you have a Dual SIM 4G handset. If you have a 4G+2G handset, the primary SIM card should be set to iD Mobile and you can use any mobile network that offers 2G in the secondary SIM card slot.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Thanks Ken for this very accurate and honest description of what is available and what to look for.
    If only all reviewers were like this.
    5*

  • I (originally a former Orange customer) think I’m being advised by EE that my PAYG (taken out for light usage with Orange) terms will be changed. Currently I top up as and when required. The EE website I was referred to gives examples of what different levels of top up give but it also talks about “Duration” (of 30 days with my normal top up amount). After that period you must top again and you lose any unused aspects.
    Am I interpreting this correctly?
    I just want a PAYG mobile for light use and not have to top up if I don’t use it. Some months I would use the phone a lot other times I only use it for the odd call or text.
    Older adults need a phone for emergencies and to keep in touch with family but may not be able to afford a monthly outlay on top of everything else.

    • Hi Phil,
      Thanks for your comment. On most mobile networks, the way you keep your SIM card active is by making a “chargeable activity”. Incoming phone calls are not chargeable so will not count for this purpose – you’ll need to make an outgoing call for it to qualify.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Olivia,
      Thanks for your comment. There is no need to provide ID when activating a SIM card in the UK. With regards to top-up cards that are linked to your account, I’m also not aware of any mobile networks that require verification.
      Ken

  • O2 classic is cheaper than giffgaff and they run the network that gg use. If you don’t want a bundle it’s a no brainer to use them if the O2 coverage suits you.

  • Hi is there a pay as you go provider that is suitable for minimal use IE only every 3 to 6 months without loosing all unused credit.I only use it to very rarely

  • Hi, I have bought a Nokia back up mobile that I keep in the car in case of emergency or if I leave my regular mobile at home. I haven’t used it for a year or so then I left my mobile at home and went to use it and it would not register the sim for use…frustrating to say the least. Any advice?
    Cheers
    Gary

    • Hi Gary,
      Sorry to hear about what has happened to your old phone. Unfortunately, most UK networks will disable your SIM card if you don’t use it for a chargeable activity once every 6 months. The best way to avoid this is to make sure you use your phone once in a while (or put it in your diary to send a text message every 5 months or something). There’s more information in my guide to PAYG inactivity.
      With regards to the SIM card that has already been disabled, you could try contacting your mobile network’s customer services to see whether they’re able to restore it. There’s certainly no guarantee they’ll do this, but it might be possible for them to do.
      Ken

    • Hi Jackie,
      Sainsbury’s no longer have a mobile network of their own, but I believe they do stock a large number of SIM card from other suppliers (e.g. EE, O2, giffgaff, Lebara, etc). You’ll probably need to pay something like 99p to buy a SIM card in-store, so I would recommend ordering your SIM card online for free if you’re by any chance able to do this.
      Ken

  • Brian Plummer said:

    Very useful information on this website. Trouble is tariffs keep changing. At the moment O2 ‘Classic Pay as You Go’ seem very good at 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB, with a 6 month non-usage period. Although the £10 minimum top-up is rather high.

    • Hi Brian,
      You’re right: there’s no guarantee that the tariffs will remain the same going forward. To minimise your risk, I’d therefore recommend holding only a fairly small balance on your account. You should also be willing to change mobile networks should prices increase in the future. In reality, I suspect it’s probably unlikely that O2 will increase their prices, as the trajectory recently has been downwards (previously they were charging 5p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB).
      Ken

  • You don’t list Tesco Mobiles PAYG Lite – uses O2 network – minimum £10 top-up, 8p min calls and 4p min texts….credit lasts as long as it lasts….very comparable with your Asda recomended deal.

    • Good deal the Tesco PAYG Lite, as good as Asda, except for the £10 minimum top up. The big plus is the use of the O2 Network for those who have a poor EE signal

  • Ken, brilliant website and article. Can’t you thank you enough for the time you put into this!

    I have a dual sim phone but my usage is perhaps more unusual than many, I barely send any texts or place phone calls, purely using data with perhaps 5-10 texts or calls a month. My data usage can be anywhere between 500mb and 3gb a month, depending how much I travel.

    What would be the best way to partner two sims together to keep costs as low as possible? I am currently using Giffgaff with their £7.50 plan or £10 plan each month but I try to save money where I can inbetween when I don’t use data much.

    What second sim would be ample for this for times I don’t use data that much? Is a PAYG sim worth considering as a second sim or the Vodafone £1 sim?

    Or is there really no money for me to be saved compared to just keep my £7.50/£10 goodybag continuously rolling?

    I also liked for a while when I was using Freedompop with 3 coverage next to my Giffgaff sim because many times where I cannot get a signal on o2 I can get coverage with 3. What would be a good second sim using a different network if the need be compared to GiffGaff?

    Thanks

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your comment, and really glad you’ve found the content on this website to be useful! I think you’ve got a pretty good deal with giffgaff’s £7.50 or £10 goodybag.
      As you say, there might be some opportunities to save some money in the gap between your goodybags, as giffgaff charges 15p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB when you don’t have an active goodybag on your account. Some options might be O2 Classic Pay As You Go (3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB) or 1pMobile (1p/minute, 1p/text, 1p/MB with coverage from EE, minimum top-up of £10 every 120 days). I’d avoid using a SIM card from Three or from any other network that uses Three coverage, as this often won’t work correctly in a dual-SIM phone.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Jim Donohoe said:

    What sim would you recommend for use in a GSM burglar alarm, where the alarm rings or sends texts to key holders in the event of faults or burglaries.

    • Hi Jim,
      To be honest, this is a bit of a grey area as most of the SIM cards here are designed to work in a mobile phone (and often, the terms and conditions may require you to use it in a phone). Saying that, there’s no technical reason why any of these SIM cards wouldn’t work in a GSM burglar alarm (the main thing to be aware of here is you probably won’t be able to choose Three or a Three MVNO as they don’t offer 2G/GSM coverage).
      Read the inactivity policy closely for the SIM card that you choose, as most networks will require you to use the SIM card for a chargeable activity every so often. It might be worth having a look to see if your GSM alarm has a feature to send scheduled/regular text messages to ensure this requirement is met.
      Ken

    • Three offered a sim for £10 that doesn’t have to be used at all and would never cease for lack of use, but as you have pointed out it may not work in a GSM alarm.

  • WILLIAM JOHN DONNELLY said:

    Hi, Ken just found this today, I have a £5 pound with Tesco mobile but I have to top up £10 pound each month I get 100min phone and text plus 25mgbs, but after I top up my balance drops to £9.95 and towards the end of the month they keep telling me to make sure I have enough to top up again I am going to see them today as I would like to know where the 5p goes as I can only top up £10 pounds to me that should last me two months.

    • Hi William,
      Many thanks for your comment. Is there a gap in between you topping up your phone and then buying the £5 bundle from Tesco Mobile? If so, it’s possible you might incur some data charges when this happens – you can ask Tesco Mobile customer support to have a look into it for you, or can attempt to reduce the time period between topping up and buying a bundle in the future.
      Ken

      • WILLIAM JOHN DONNELLY replied:

        Hi, Ken thank you for your input before, I have left Tesco, as every month part of my topup would disappear and when I asked all I could get was you used extra data but with their app you can check your usage and I always had enough to last if I got near my limit I just switched data off, I decided to try giffgaff and just changed this month and I took my old number with me, but so far its taking them over 48 hrs to transfer my number which may be in use by 9pm tonight yet when I changed before it only took about an hour, so not a good start for giffgaff, why should it take so long, may look at the 02 bundle as I am a lite user, thanks William

  • Peter Creswell said:

    Ken
    I use GiffGaff and they are fine on the monthly £5 bundle, but there is a catch. I spend a lot of time in Spain and giffgaff restrict free roaming to 90 days in four months. So if I go for three months to Spain, I will end up being charged for any calls that start from outside the UK. I have already had one warning this year and just got back to the uk in time, but I presume when I return to Spain in a week or so they will start to aggregate my total time abroad and force me to buy airtime as well. I need another sim but not sure where to go. Very small user apart from occasional outburst using waze or google maps!

    • Hi Peter,
      Thanks for the information and feedback on this! On a related note, if you’re interested in finding out more about EU roaming limits, you can have a read of my in-depth guide here. I believe most networks have a similar policy requiring you to spend the majority of your time in the UK (otherwise, roaming will start to be chargeable).
      Ken

  • Matthew Joyce said:

    Hi Ken – really useful website, thank you. Just one point re ASDA mobile, you can top up by just £1 with a credit card, the minimum is not £5 as stated above unless you use eVouchers when the minimum is £5.

    From ASDA mobile website: If you’re topping up using a debit or credit card, you can top-up by any amount between £1 and £30 in full pounds only.

    I’ve done this with a new SIM. I also got a 10 minute, 10 text and 10MB bundle to use for the first month free. So it’s ideal for really light users who don’t even want to top up £5 – I use it as a second SIM in a dual SIM phone.

    • Hi Matthew,
      Thanks a lot for bringing this to my attention, and fantastic news that ASDA Mobile allows top-ups from just £1. Anyone else wanting to see this in the ASDA Mobile FAQs can find it within “Topping Up Questions” and then “How much can I top up on Asda Mobile?”.
      I’ve just updated the article above to reflect this information.
      Thanks again!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken
    For light users the best options are 1) O2 payg 3/2/1 2) 3Uk payg 3/2/1 and 3)1p mobile 1/1/1

    Keep up the good work with the site

    Miles

  • Ken, Firstly may I say I value your website as a good source of information. I have recently moved one of my little used phones to O2 classic payg – even before it reduced in price to 3p-2p-1p in January. They now match the offering of Three for cheap payg from a major network – and as you rightly say – Three are not that good in rural areas (like my home area). What puzzles me is how giffgaff, which is after all owned by O2, can still get away with their exorbitant prices for plain payg – i.e. when you have not bought a bundle. Wonder how long it will be before O2 offer bundles on the Classic network. They just texted me with a deal for £6/mth giving a bundle which they say is only available by phone – not on website or shops.

    I do agree with you that it is important to check the terms & conditions for what period of non use will loose you your number and any credit you may have – especially if the phone is left in a car or holiday caravan etc. I have just checked Asda Mobile and it seems they no longer offer such good inactivity terms as you list – they now in section 3.2 of T&C just list 180days as most other good operators do.

    • Hi Andy,
      Many thanks for your comment. It looks like O2 Classic PAYG has gained a really loyal following here amongst readers of the website, so I’ll definitely make sure to mention them in an updated iteration of this review.
      You’re right regarding giffgaff and their comparatively high rates for traditional PAYG. When they first launched some 9 years ago, I think they were just a fraction of the cost VS O2 Pay As You Go. Now, they’re much more expensive, albeit their focus has probably shifted towards the 30-day goodybags (which starting at £5/month offers really decent value, even for many light mobile users). Hopefully they’ll bring down the prices on traditional PAYG in response to the move from O2… watch this space!
      Regarding ASDA Mobile, their T&C does mention 180 days. In reality, what they do however, is they just redirect your outgoing calls to an automated service (inbound calls, etc still work fine). In between the 180 days and 270 days, you can easily reactivate full outgoing service on the account (explained in a little bit more detail on this page).
      Thanks again for your input and do let me know if you have any further thoughts!
      Ken

  • Philip Maeers said:

    Hello Ken, I always find your website interesting. I was wondering why there was no mention of the 321 offer from Three?

    • Hi Philip,
      Many thanks for your comment. I think Three’s 321 is a great option. The reason I’ve initially left it out of my recommendations at point is two-fold:
      1) I think Three performs a lot worse on rural coverage, making it less suitable for use when you’re out and about (whereas I think it’s really well suited towards urban usage and high volumes of data consumption).
      2) They also don’t have any 2G coverage. This is becoming a lesser problem as many people now have a 3G-enabled smartphone, but is still an issue on some more basic handsets.
      For customers who’d typically spend more than £5 per month, a bundle from ASDA Mobile or giffgaff is likely to provide better value.
      For customers who’d typically spend between £2 and £5 per month, 1pMobile (1p/min, 1p/txt, 1p/MB) offers coverage from EE and is likely to be cheaper
      For customers who’d typically spend less than £2 per month, Three’s 321 is certainly worth considering (along with O2’s Classic Pay As You Go).
      Would love to hear any further thoughts you may have, and will look at making this clearer in a future iteration of this guide!
      Ken

  • For low usage on the O2 network I would say that O2 Classic (3p/2p/1p) is rather better value than giffgaff (15p/5p/5p).

    • Hi Pete,
      Many thanks for your comment! I’m agreed this is also a really good option, and sometimes better value compared to giffgaff. The reason I’ve left it out of this selection and included giffgaff instead is because giffgaff gives you the ability to buy a temporary bundle from £5. The one-off bundle is really useful for the occasional user who mainly uses their phone during trips (e.g. on a domestic trip or on an international trip within Europe)… this is essentially the “low frequency but high concentrated usage” scenario.
      I think O2 Classic Pay As You Go is a better option for “medium frequency and low usage” scenario (e.g. somebody who consistently uses a couple of minutes or texts each month, but never enough for it to warrant them buying a bundle). However, the unfortunate thing about Classic Pay As You Go is it’s a separate tariff from O2 Big Bundles, with you required to leave the Classic PAYG tariff (& give up those rates) to buy a Big Bundle. If the average spend level on O2 Classic PAYG were to reach around £3/month, something like 1pMobile would potentially also make more sense.
      For the “low frequency and low usage” scenario (e.g. a phone in the glovebox of a car but almost never used), it probably makes only a small difference (e.g. giffgaff would cost a minimum of 10p/year, whereas O2 could cost as little as 2p/year).
      Hope this makes it clearer (at least, how I’m thinking about it) – would definitely love any further input you may have. Thinking it might also be quite useful to put together a scenario calculator or something at some point!
      Ken

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