Looking for the cheapest Pay As You Go tariff in the UK? Our interactive comparison table allows you to compare Pay As You Go rates and network coverage.

If you’re looking for a Pay As You Go network in the UK, there are more than 15 different mobile networks you’re currently able to choose from.

It’s never been easier to change mobile networks to take advantage of a cheaper Pay As You Go deal. Simply order a free Pay As You Go SIM card and place it into your unlocked smartphone to take advantage of lower Pay As You Go rates. You can keep your current phone number when moving to a new Pay As You Go network.

When choosing a new Pay As You Go mobile network, you’ll want to think about both the price and the coverage. It’s important you’re getting the best value deal with the lowest Pay As You Go rates. However, it’s also important that your mobile network gives you fast and reliable coverage. In this article, we’ll compare Pay As You Go networks, both on price and on the coverage available.

Traditional Pay As You Go VS Monthly Pay As You Go Bundle

Before choosing a new Pay As You Go network, it’s important to be aware there are actually two different types of Pay As You Go tariff:

  • Traditional Pay As You Go with no regular monthly charges. You simply pay for what you actually use on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis. Often best for light users.
  • Pay As You Go monthly bundles. You’ll need to top-up your phone every month but will often get more minutes and more megabytes for your top-up. Often best for regular users.

The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the two different types of Pay As You Go plan:

Traditional Pay As You Go Pay As You Go Bundles
Best for light users who don’t have a smartphone. Best for regular users and smartphone users.
Pay on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis. Rates are typically higher compared to a bundle. Get a one-month bundle with calls, texts & data. Pay a fixed monthly amount which is known in advance.
Typically, your credit doesn’t expire providing you keep your SIM card active. Unused allowances expire after one month, after which you’ll need to buy another bundle.
No credit check & no contracts to sign. No credit check & no contracts to sign.

In this article, we’ll mainly be focussing on traditional Pay As You Go tariffs where you pay for usage on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis.

If you’re a regular mobile user, you might be better off getting monthly Pay As You Go bundles rather than using traditional Pay As You Go. For more information, see our guide to the UK’s best value Pay As You Go bundles.

Cheapest Pay As You Go Tariffs

The cheapest Pay As You Go tariff in the UK is 1pMobile, which offers 99% coverage from the EE network:

1pMobile

1pMobile offers the lowest Pay As You Go rates of any mobile network in the UK. With a super-straightforward tariff of 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB, customers of 1pMobile can access high-speed 3G & 4G coverage from EE.

The main thing to be aware of before joining 1pMobile is the minimum top-up requirement. In order to keep your SIM card active, your phone needs to be topped up by at least £10 every 120 days. This means you’ll need to top-up your phone with at least £30 of credit per year, though you retain complete flexibility on when and how to actually spend the credit. 1pMobile is backed by the sister company of Utility Warehouse and is part of Telecom Plus PLC, a FTSE 250-listed company. Read our in-depth review of 1pMobile for more information.

Order 1pMobile SIM card (Free with £10 top-up) →

For a full comparison of traditional Pay As You Go tariffs, please read on to see the full comparison table.

Pay As You Go Rates and Coverage: Comparison Table

In the table below, we’ve listed the Pay As You Go rates on each UK mobile network. We’ve also listed the coverage provider for each network and provided a link for where you’re able to check the coverage on that network. You can use the table below in conjunction with our other guides to help you choose a new Pay As You Go network.

To sort the table, you can tap on the relevant column heading.

NetworkMobile Internet
(per day)
Calls
(per minute)
Texts
(per SMS)
Picture Message
(per MMS)
VoicemailSpecial Rate
(per minute)
Coverage
Provider
1pMobile~10p
(estimated from 1p/MB)
1p1p30p1p
per minute
20p
+ service charge
EE
ASDA Mobile~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
8p4p25p8p
per minute
8p
+ service charge
EE
CMLink~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
8p6p--
per minute
8p
+ service charge
EE
Co-Op Mobile~£1
(estimated from 10p/MB)
8p4p25p4p
per minute
21p
+ service charge
EE
EEData usage requires
30-day bundle
35p15p40p35p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE
giffgaff~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
25p10p30p8p
per call
25p
+ service charge
O2
iD Mobile~10p
(estimated from 1p/MB)
3p2p5p3p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Three
Lebara Mobile~90p
(estimated from 9p/MB)
25p19p45p19p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Vodafone
Lycamobile~£1.20
(estimated from 12p/MB)
19p
(12p to landline)
19p-0p
per call
23p
+ service charge
O2
O2
Big Bundles
£1
(fixed, for 50MB/day)
35p15p45p35p
per call
55p
+ service charge
O2
O2
International
£1
(fixed, for 50MB/day)
35p15p45p25p
per call
55p
+ service charge
O2
T-Mobile£1
(fixed, for 500MB/month)
40p15p30p40p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE
Tesco Mobile
Triple Credit
~£1
(estimated from 10p/MB)
25p10p25p15p
per minute
25p
+ service charge
O2
Tesco Mobile
Lite
~£1
(estimated from 10p/MB)
8p4p25p8p
per minute
25p
+ service charge
O2
Three
321 (Legacy Plan)
~10p
(estimated from 1p/MB)
3p2p40p3p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Three
Three
New Pay As You Go
~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
10p10p40p10p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Three
Vectone Mobile~90p
(estimated from 9p/MB)
19p
(12p to landline)
19p25p10p
per minute
12p
+ service charge
EE
Virgin Mobile£2
(fixed, for 200MB/day)
£2/day
(max 200 mins)
£2/day
(max 200 texts)
30p26p
per call
36p
+ service charge
EE
Vodafone
Big Value Bundles
£2
(fixed, for 50MB/day)
35p14p45p35p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Vodafone
Vodafone
Pay As You Go 1
£1
(fixed, for 500MB/day)
20p
(max £1/day)
20p
(max £1/day)
20p20p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Vodafone
VOXIData usage requires
30-day bundle
30p14p45p30p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Vodafone

Sources: 1pmobile.com, mobile.asda.com, cmlink.com, thephone.coop, ee.co.uk, giffgaff.com, idmobile.co.uk, mobile.lebara.com, lycamobile.co.uk, o2.co.uk, o2.co.uk, ee.co.uk, tescomobile.com, tescomobile.com, three.co.uk, three.co.uk, vectonemobile.co.uk, virginmedia.com, vodafone.co.uk, voxi.co.uk. Last updated on 17th March 2020.

If you’d like to see the charges for MMS picture messaging, voicemail and special rate phone numbers, tap the “…” column or hover your mouse over it to reveal these charges.

Remember: the rates listed here are for traditional Pay As You Go usage. If you choose to buy a monthly Pay As You Go bundle, you won’t actually pay the rates listed in the table. This is because your one-month bundle will already include an allowance of minutes, texts and data to cover your usage.

In the rest of this article, we’ll look at each type of charge in more detail.

Background Information

Mobile Data

On traditional Pay As You Go, the lowest charge for using mobile data is currently 1p/MB. This is equivalent to paying £10 per gigabyte (GB).

If you regularly use data on-the-go (e.g. using apps or browsing the internet on your smartphone), it will often work out cheaper to buy a Pay As You Go bundle. This is because you’ll pay £10 for up to 10GB data, along with unlimited calls and unlimited texts.

The following table shows £10/month Pay As You Go bundles with inclusive data:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£10.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
VOXIUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited3GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited3GB£10.00
EE1,000Unlimited2GB£10.00

If you’re a light data user, traditional Pay As You Go will sometimes work out to be cheaper. Although you’ll often pay more for each megabyte (or gigabyte) of data, there’s no obligation to top-up and to use data every month.

For instance, a light user consuming 10MB of data per day on average would pay in the region of 10p/day or £3/month on the following tariffs:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Mobile Internet
1pMobile 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
iD Mobile 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
Three 321 (Legacy Plan)1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)

Some Pay As You Go networks charge on a “per day” basis rather a “per megabyte” basis. In the table above, we’ve assumed 10MB of data usage each day. If you know how much data you actually use, you can personalise the comparison by entering your daily data usage.

If you’re an infrequent data user but tend to use a lot of data on the days when you use it, Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1 may work out to be better value. This is because they charge £1/day for up to 500MB of data with unlimited minutes and unlimited texts.

Phone Calls

Phone CallOn traditional Pay As You Go, you’ll be charged for outgoing phone calls on a per-minute basis. The standard per-minute rate will apply for phone calls to a UK mobile or landline (most phone numbers beginning with 01, 02, 03 and 07).

The following table shows the cheapest per-minute rates available on UK Pay As You Go networks:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Making A Phone Call
1pMobile 1p per minute
iD Mobile 3p per minute
Three 321 (Legacy Plan)3p per minute
ASDA Mobile 8p per minute
CMLink 8p per minute
Co-operative Mobile 8p per minute
Tesco Mobile Lite8p per minute

Different rates apply when you’re calling special-rate phone numbers (e.g. 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers). Calls to voicemail and international phone calls are also charged at a different rate. Our guide to UK phone numbers can help you to understand the relevant charges for each number. You’ll never be charged to receive an incoming phone call in the UK.

If you buy a Pay As You Go monthly bundle, it’s possible to get unlimited minutes on the following plans from £5/month. This will almost certainly work out to better value if you make a large number of phone calls each month:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedNo data£5.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited500MB£6.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£10.00
VOXIUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00

Most mobile networks have a minimum charge for outgoing phone calls. This is normally equivalent to the cost of a one-minute call. For instance, if your mobile network charges 35p/minute, the minimum call charge will usually be 35p per call. Some mobile networks will also round up the length of your phone calls to a complete minute before working out how much to charge you. For instance, a 61-second phone call might be rounded up to 2 complete minutes.

Text Messages (SMS)

A SMS text message is able to contain up to 160 characters, and you’ll normally be charged for them on a per-SMS basis.

If the length of your text message exceeds 160 characters, your message will be split up and sent as multiple SMS messages. In this case, you’ll also be charged for every additional SMS that is sent (e.g. you’ll be charged double if your text is split into 2 SMS messages).

The following Pay As You Go mobile networks have the lowest per-SMS charge:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Texting
1pMobile 1p per message
iD Mobile 2p per message
Three 321 (Legacy Plan)2p per message
ASDA Mobile 4p per message
Co-operative Mobile 4p per message
Tesco Mobile Lite4p per message

In recent years, the cost of sending a SMS message has become much less important as people move towards smartphone messaging apps (e.g. iMessage, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger). When using an instant messaging app on your smartphone, you won’t incur any charges for sending a SMS message. This is because instant messages are routed over your data connection (the normal charges for mobile data will apply for this).

Picture Messages (MMS)

Galaxy S6 CameraOn most 3G and 4G handsets, it’s possible to send a picture message through MMS functionality (Multimedia Messaging Service). The cost of sending a picture message can range from 5p to 45p per MMS and each MMS message can be up to 300KB in size.

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Sending A Picture Message
iD Mobile 5p per picture message
Vodafone Pay As You Go 120p per picture message
ASDA Mobile 25p per picture message
Co-operative Mobile 25p per picture message
Tesco Mobile Triple Credit/Rocket Pack25p per picture message
Tesco Mobile Lite25p per picture message
Vectone Mobile 25p per picture message

You can see MMS charges in the table above by tapping the “…” column.

You can avoid paying for MMS picture messages by sending your photos through an instant messaging app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. These apps share your photos using the data connection rather than using MMS functionality.

Voicemail

Most mobile networks offer a voicemail service for when you aren’t able to receive an incoming phone call. The voicemail service will activate automatically when your phone is switched off or when you miss an incoming call.

With voicemail, you’ll normally be charged twice for the service: once when an incoming caller leaves a message on your voicemail, and again when you later listen back to the voicemail recording.

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Accessing Your Voicemail
1pMobile 1p per minute
iD Mobile 3p per minute
Three 321 (Legacy Plan)3p per minute
Co-operative Mobile 4p per minute
giffgaff 8p per call

You can see voicemail charges for each mobile network in the table above by tapping the “…” column.

Voicemail charges will normally be included within your allowance of minutes when you buy a Pay As You Go bundle.

Special Rate Phone Calls

UK Calling Logo

If you’re calling a special rate phone number (phone numbers beginning with 084, 087, 09 or 118), you’ll be charged differently to when you’re making a normal phone call.

With special rate phone numbers, the charge is divided into two separate parts. Firstly, there’s a per-minute access charge from your Pay As You Go network. You can save money by choosing a mobile network with lower per-minute access charges. Secondly, there’s a service charge from the company you’re calling, which is fixed regardless of the network you call from.

The following Pay As You Go networks currently have the lowest per-minute access charge:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Making A Special Rate Call
ASDA Mobile 8p/minute access charge + service charge
CMLink 8p/minute access charge + service charge
Vectone Mobile 12p/minute access charge + service charge

You should enquire with the company you’re calling to understand the relevant service charge for the number you’re calling.

You can see the charges for calling a special rate phone number in the table above by tapping the “…” column.

Coverage Provider

In the UK, only four companies hold a license to build and maintain their own mobile network infrastructure. These companies are EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. Each of them has licensed some spectrum from the Government and maintains a network of mobile phone masts across the country.

All other companies offering a mobile phone service are known as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs for short. MVNOs piggyback on infrastructure from one of the four coverage providers. You’ll therefore get access to the same coverage as on the host mobile network. To give an example, customers using 1pMobile will get 2G, 3G and 4G coverage from EE.

The coverage offered by a Pay As You Go network depends solely upon the coverage provider they’re using in the background. We’ve therefore listed the coverage provider for each mobile network in the table above for ease of comparison.

If you’d like to quickly check the coverage in your area on each of the four coverage providers, tap on the relevant logo:

Alternatively, see our in-depth guides to the coverage on EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. We’ve also got an overview on mobile coverage in the UK.

Handset Compatibility

Providing your handset is unlocked, it should work on any mobile network listed in the table above. The only exception is for 2G-only handsets which won’t work on Three or on any other network using coverage from Three.

If you already have an unlocked handset, you can order a free SIM card from most of the mobile networks above. The SIM card will slot inside your existing unlocked smartphone and you’ll be able to transfer your existing phone number to it.

If your smartphone is currently locked to a network, see our step-by-step guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Alternatively, see our overview of handset unlocking.

Bundles & Credit Expiry

On most traditional Pay As You Go services, your credit won’t expire providing your SIM card remains active. This makes it perfect for people who rarely use their handset (e.g. if your mobile phone is mainly used for emergencies).

In order to keep your SIM card active, you’ll normally need to use it around once every 6 months. However, this can vary depending on your mobile network and can be anything from 84 days to 270 days. On 1pMobile, your credit won’t expire but you’ll need to top-up with at least £10 every 120 days.

On some Pay As You Go networks including Delight Mobile, iD Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Lycamobile and Vectone Mobile, your Pay As You Go credit will expire a certain amount of time after the credit is added to your account (e.g. 90 days from top-up). This will be the case even if you don’t turn your credit into a bundle.

Monthly Bundles

For customers who convert their credit into a Pay As You Go bundle, the allowances included in your bundle will normally expire after one month. The following table shows what you’re able to get for around £10/month on a Pay As You Go bundle:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£10.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
VOXIUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited3GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited3GB£10.00
EE1,000Unlimited2GB£10.00

For more information, see our full comparison of Pay As You Go bundles. You can also read our in-depth reviews of the bundles from EE, giffgaff, O2, Three, Vodafone and VOXI.

Order VOXI SIM Card (Free) → Order giffgaff SIM Card (Free) →

Keeping Your Phone Number

If you’re changing mobile networks, it’s super easy to keep your current phone number. To do so, simply request a PAC Code from your old mobile network. You can get this through your mobile network’s website or app, or by texting PAC to 65075. Once you have a PAC Code from your old network, provide it to your new mobile network after you sign up.

It normally takes around one working day to move your phone number from one mobile network to another. For step-by-step instructions, see our full guide to how to move your phone number between networks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any Pay As You Go networks where I don’t need to top-up every month?
Yes. The important thing to do is to choose a traditional Pay As You Go plan rather than a monthly Pay As You Go bundle. There are no regular monthly charges on a traditional Pay As You Go plan: you simply pay for your usage on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis.
Which mobile network offers the lowest Pay As You Go rates?
At present, 1pMobile has the lowest Pay As You Go rates of any mobile network in the UK. You’ll pay just 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB. Three follows shortly behind in second place, charging 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.
How much will I pay for data on Pay As You Go?
On traditional Pay As You Go, it’s possible to use mobile data from 1p/MB (equivalent to £10 per GB). Alternatively, you could get a Pay As You Go bundle with up to 10GB data for £10/month.
How much will I pay for phone calls on Pay As You Go?
On traditional Pay As You Go, you can make phone calls from 1p/minute to UK landline and mobile numbers (that’s most phone numbers starting with 01, 02, 03 and 07). Alternatively, a Pay As You Go bundle with unlimited minutes is available from £5/month.
Will my Pay As You Go credit expire if I don’t use it?
On most traditional Pay As You Go plans, your credit won’t expire providing your account remains active. The criteria for keeping your account active varies based on the mobile network.
How do I get a Pay As You Go SIM card?
You can order a free Pay As You Go SIM card from most mobile networks through this page.

More Information

For more information, see our full guide to the UK’s best Pay As You Go deals. You can also read our in-depth reviews of every UK mobile network.

Your Comments 178 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 178 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi Ken, I’ve recently been auto ‘upgraded’ from an old virginmedia payg which included free VoiceMail. The new one is ‘Daily Bonus Plan’ with chargeable VM (26p a time). As I don’t use data and my only outgoing call usage is VM this has made quite a difference. Is their any other payg product that includes free VM? Thanks, Tom.

    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the recent changes to Pay As You Go on Virgin Mobile are rather disappointing. Unfortunately, they’ve decided to gradually phase out that product so they’re currently increasing the prices to get customers off it. At present, I’m not aware of any mobile network that gives you free voicemail without a regular monthly charge.
      Ken

  • Hello. O2 appear to have closed their O2 Classic PAYG tariff to new customers. From visiting their website it looks like new customers have to buy a Big Bundle, which is minimum £5 per month (for which you get unlimited minutes and texts, but no data!

Load more comments (173)

Leave a Reply