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 or mainly 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 it up.

In this article, we’ll discuss our top things to look out for when choosing a Pay As You Go SIM card as 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 each 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 you think your typical mobile phone bill will exceed £5/month.

Instead, it’s possible to choose 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 (that’s 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 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 a 90-day validity period. 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 you choose 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 or 270 days. On some other mobile networks, however, this can be as short as once 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 remaining credit on the account.

Where possible, we’d recommend choosing a mobile network that only requires you to use your phone every 270 days. For a wider selection of mobile networks, you can also consider mobile networks that require 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 and during those “emergency situations”. The availability of 2G, 3G and 4G coverage is therefore important.

In the UK, there are only four network coverage providers: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. All other mobile networks are known as virtual network operators (MVNOs) and piggyback on one of the four network coverage 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 but 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 actual 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 needed. This can be useful in situations where you need to use your 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.
  • 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.

An important requirement of 1pMobile is their minimum top-up of at least £10 every 120 days. This equates to around £30 of top-ups per year, or approximately £2.50 per month. While there’s no obligation to actually spend this credit, a non-refundable balance would simply 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 of 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB, data boosts are also available (e.g. giving you a discount of 40% when you use 1GB of data per 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: 15p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB.

giffgaff is another 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.

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 15p/minute and 5p/text. Accessing mobile data costs 5p/MB with the option of buying a goodybag bundle from £6/month.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) →

ASDA Mobile

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. With the option to buy a bundle from £5/month.
  • Top-up from £1 each time, no expiry. Available in-store (from £5) or by phone (from £1). Top-ups don’t expire providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 270 days (restricted usage after 180 days).
  • Uses EE coverage (2G, 3G & 4G). 99% coverage, check coverage here.
  • Customer Support: Available by phone (dial 2732 from your ASDA handset).
  • Pay As You Go Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB.

ASDA Mobile offers a Pay As You Go service with coverage from EE. With a SIM card from ASDA Mobile, you can use your mobile phone with no regular monthly charges. The only requirement is you must use your phone at least once every 270 days (although outgoing calls will be suspended when you reach 180 days of inactivity, with you then needing to follow a short process to reactivate a complete service).

The minimum top-up on ASDA Mobile is £1 if you’re topping up by phone, or £5 if you’re topping up in store with a voucher. Optionally, you can decide to set up automatic top-ups for when your Pay As You Go balance drops below a certain amount.

When using a SIM card from ASDA Mobile, you’ll get 99% population coverage from EE, including on 2G, 3G and 4G. Bundles are available to buy from £5/month and your top-ups will never expire providing your SIM card remains active.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) →

Three

  • 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: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.

If you’re looking for low Pay As You rates on one of the four big providers, Three offers a Pay As You Go SIM card with 321 rates (3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/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 and 30-day bundles are available from £10 if you need one.

In addition, you can use your mobile phone abroad in 71 destinations at no extra charge on Three’s Pay As You Go service. Three’s Go Roam offer covers most of Europe, the USA, Australia, Brazil, Singapore and more.

Order Three SIM card (Free) →

Vodafone Pay As You Go 1

  • Traditional Pay As You Go. No bundles available, unless switching to Big Value Bundles tariff.
  • Top-up from £5. Available in-store & online. Top-ups don’t expire providing account is kept active.
  • Minimum usage requirement: Once every 270 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 & 500MB 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 20p/minute, 20p/text and 20p per 5MB of data. The maximum daily charge is capped at £1 per day which gives you unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and up to 500MB of data. What this means is you can save money by batching up a number of long phone calls or by using more data 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 270 days). Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to buy a one-month bundle unless you switch to Vodafone’s Big Value Bundles tariff.

Order Vodafone SIM card (Free) →

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

More Information

For more information 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 in the UK and our comparison of traditional Pay As You Go deals.

Your Comments 95 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 95 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • 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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