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

If you’re looking for a Pay As You Go network in the UK, you’re spoilt for choice with nearly 20 different mobile networks to choose from.

With the UK having one of most competitive marketplaces in the world for mobile communication, it’s never been easier to change mobile networks to take advantage of a cheaper deal. Just order a free Pay As You Go SIM card and insert it into an unlocked smartphone to take advantage of lower rates.

When choosing a new Pay As You Go mobile network, there are two primary considerations you need to think about. Firstly, there’s the price: you’ll want to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to. Secondly, there’s the coverage: you’ll want a mobile network that gives you fast and reliable coverage.

Before choosing a new mobile network, it’s worth being aware there are two different types of Pay As You Go tariff:

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 30-day bundle with calls, texts & data included. 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 30 days, 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 comparing 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 or if you typically use a smartphone, you might be better off buying a 30-day bundle. 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 tariffs we’d typically recommend are 1pMobile and O2’s Classic Pay As You Go:

1pMobile

1pMobile currently offers the lowest Pay As You Go rates available in the UK. With a super-straightforward tariff of 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB, customers of 1pMobile are able to 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 essentially means there is a minimum spend of £30 per year. 1pMobile is also a fairly new network, but is backed by the sister company of Utility Warehouse. Read our in-depth review of 1pMobile for more information.

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

O2

  • 3p/minute, 2p/text, 1p/MB. No minimum top-up requirement; use phone every 6 months.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.
  • Keep your current number. It’s easy to transfer your number to O2.

Out of the mainstream mobile networks, O2 is our recommended network for low Pay As You Go rates.

On O2’s Classic Pay As You Go tariff, you’ll pay just 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. There is no minimum top-up requirement or regular monthly subscription: you’ll just need to use your SIM card at least once every 6 months.

On Classic Pay As You Go, you’ll have full access to O2 Priority customer offers (e.g. including a free weekly coffee from Caffè Nero and a £5 main course from Pizza Express). You’ll also have access to 99% population coverage, including on 2G, 3G and 4G.

Order O2 Classic SIM card (Free) →

Two other mobile networks (Three and iD Mobile) also charge the same 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB rate. However, we’d typically recommend choosing O2 over both of these options as you’ll generally have access to better coverage and you’ll be able to benefit from O2 Priority offers.

For a full comparison of other traditional Pay As You Go tariffs, please read on for the full comparison table below.

Pay As You Go Prices and Coverage: Comparison Table

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

To sort the table, please click 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
O2
Classic PAYG
~10p
(estimated from 1p/MB)
3p2p45p3p
per call
55p
+ service charge
O2
Three~10p
(estimated from 1p/MB)
3p2p40p3p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Three
ASDA Mobile~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
8p4p25p8p
per minute
8p
+ service charge
EE
C4C Mobile~£1
(estimated from 10p/MB)
10p
(1p to landline)
10p-0p
per call
23p
+ service charge
O2
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)
15p5p16p8p
per call
25p
+ service charge
O2
iD Mobile~10p
(estimated from 1p/MB)
3p2p5p3p
per minute
45p
+ service charge
Three
Lebara Mobile~£1.90
(estimated from 19p/MB)
19p19p45p19p
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
Orange
Dolphin
~£6.50
(estimated from 65p/MB)
40p15p40p40p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE
Orange
Racoon
~£6.50
(estimated from 65p/MB)
22p15p40p22p
per minute
44p
+ service charge
EE
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
TPO Mobile~20p
(estimated from 2p/MB)
4p3p30p4p
per minute
5p
+ 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)
40p15p30p26p
per call
36p
+ service charge
EE
Vodafone
Big Value Bundles
£2
(fixed, for 50MB/day)
30p14p45p30p
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, o2.co.uk, three.co.uk, mobile.asda.com, c4cmobile.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, thepeoplesoperator.com, vectonemobile.co.uk, virginmedia.com, freesim.vodafone.co.uk, voxi.co.uk. Last updated on 12th November 2018.

If you’d like to compare charges for picture messaging, voicemail and special rate phone numbers, you can hover your mouse or tap on the “…” column.

Remember: if you choose to buy a Pay As You Go bundle, you won’t actually pay the rates listed in the table above. Instead, your 30-day bundle will include a certain allowance for accessing the mobile internet, calling and texting. The rates listed in the table above are only for customers using traditional Pay As You Go.

For more information about each type of charge, please read on for a full explanation and comparison.

We endeavour to keep the information on this page as up-to-date as possible. However, prices can sometimes change without us being aware. If you know of any changes to the pricing listed above, please contact us by leaving a comment at the bottom of this article.

Background Information

Mobile Internet

data-binaryOn traditional Pay As You Go, you’ll typically be able to access data on-the-go from 1p/MB. This equates to £10 for 1GB of data (you should then add the cost of phone calls and text messages to this).

Typically, a cheaper way of accessing the internet on-the-go will be buying a Pay As You Go bundle. For the same £10/month, you’ll typically be able to get between 2GB and 3GB of inclusive mobile data (2GB is equal to 2,000MB). You’ll also get inclusive minutes and texts, making the bundle often much better value for smartphone owners.

The following table shows what you’re currently able to get for a £10 Pay As You Go bundle:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited3GB£10.00
O25005,0002GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited2GB£10.00
Three3,0003,0001GB£10.00
EE250Unlimited1GB£10.00

If you’re a light user, not using the internet every day, it can sometimes be more economical to use traditional Pay As You Go. For instance, if you were to use 10MB of data per day, the cheapest tariffs on traditional Pay As You Go would be the following:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Mobile Internet
1pMobile 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
O2 Classic PAYG1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
Three 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
iD Mobile 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
TPO Mobile 2p/MB (20p/day for 10MB)

On traditional Pay As You Go, calculations are made more complicated by the fact there are two ways of paying for your data. Some mobile networks charge on a ‘per megabyte’ basis whereas others charge on a ‘per day’ basis. For ease of comparison, the table above assumes you’ll use an average of 10MB of data per day. If you know how much data you actually use, you can tailor the comparison by entering your daily data usage here.

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 (these are phone numbers beginning with 01, 02, 03 or 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
O2 Classic PAYG3p per minute
Three 3p per minute
iD Mobile 3p per minute
TPO Mobile 4p per minute
ASDA Mobile 8p per minute
Co-operative Mobile 8p per minute
Tesco Mobile Lite8p per minute

Different rates will apply when you’re calling special-rate phone numbers (see below for more information). Calls to voicemail and international phone calls are also charged at a different rate. You’ll never be charged to receive an incoming phone call in the UK.

Please note: 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 typically be 35p per call. Certain mobile networks will also round up the length of your phone calls to a complete minute before working out how much to charge (for instance, a 61-second phone call might be rounded up to 2 complete minutes and charged as 2 x 35p/minute = 70p).

Text Messages (SMS)

iMessage VS SMSA SMS text message is able to contain up to 160 characters, and you’ll normally be charged for text messages 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. In this case, you’ll also be charged for every additional SMS sent (e.g. you’ll be charged double if your text message 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
O2 Classic PAYG2p per message
Three 2p per message
iD Mobile 2p per message
TPO Mobile 3p 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 many people have moved towards using smartphone messaging apps (e.g. iMessage, WhatsApp, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger). When you’re using an instant messaging app for your smartphone, you can send messages through the app without incurring a SMS charge (you just need to pay your normal data charges for accessing the internet).

Picture Messages (MMS)

Galaxy S6 CameraOn most 3G and 4G handsets, you’re able to send a picture message over the mobile network using 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
giffgaff 16p 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.

If you’d like to avoid paying for MMS, you can use a smartphone messaging app such as iMessage or WhatsApp. You won’t be charged for sending a picture message when using these applications – you’ll just pay your normal charges for accessing the internet.

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 or reject an incoming phone call.

With voicemail, you’ll normally be charged twice for the service: once when an incoming caller leaves a message, 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
O2 Classic PAYG3p per call
Three 3p per minute
iD Mobile 3p per minute
Co-operative Mobile 4p per minute
giffgaff 8p per call
TPO Mobile 4p per minute

You can see voicemail charges in the table above by tapping the … column.

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

Special Rate Phone Calls

UK Calling Logo
The cost of calling special rate numbers is split into two parts: an access charge and a service charge.

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 numbers, the charge is divided into two separate parts. Firstly, there’s a per-minute access charge from your mobile phone network (you can save money by choosing the network with the lowest per-minute access charge). Secondly, there’s a service charge from the company you’re calling (this will always be the same regardless of which network you’re calling 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
TPO Mobile 5p/minute access charge + service charge
ASDA Mobile 8p/minute access charge + service charge
Vectone Mobile 12p/minute access charge + service charge

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

Coverage Provider

UK
All UK mobile networks provide at least 98% coverage. Many mobile networks piggyback on a 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. They each license spectrum from the Government and build their own network of mobile phone masts to cover the country.

All other companies offering a mobile phone service are known as mobile virtual network operators (or MVNOs for short). They piggyback on infrastructure from one of the four coverage providers. You’ll therefore get identical coverage to on the host network when using one of these networks. To give an example, customers using ASDA Mobile get the exact same coverage as customers using EE.

The level of coverage offered by a Pay As You Go network depends solely upon which coverage provider they’re using. We’ve therefore listed the coverage provider for each 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, please select a logo to see the relevant online coverage map for your area:

For more information, please see our in-depth guide on how to check and compare mobile network coverage.

Handset Compatibility

Providing your handset is unlocked, it should work on any mobile network in the table above. The only exception is for 2G-only handsets which will not work on Three or any other network using coverage from Three (this is because Three doesn’t have any 2G coverage).

If you already have a handset that’s unlocked, 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 mobile network, please see our step-by-step guides on unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy. Alternatively, see our overview of handset unlocking.

Bundles & Credit Expiry

On the majority of 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). Typically, you’ll need to use your SIM card at least once every 6 months to keep it active. However, this varies depending on your mobile network between 84 days and 270 days. On 1pMobile, you’ll also need to top-up your SIM card at least once every 120 days.

On certain mobile networks (which include Delight Mobile, iD Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Lycamobile and Vectone Mobile at the time of writing), your Pay As You Go credit will expire a certain amount of time after top-up (e.g. 90 days from top-up).

For customers who convert their credit into a Pay As You Go bundle, the allowances included on the bundle will normally expire after 30 days. For instance, the following Pay As You Go bundles are currently available for £10 per month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited3GB£10.00
O25005,0002GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited2GB£10.00
Three3,0003,0001GB£10.00
EE250Unlimited1GB£10.00

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

Order giffgaff SIM Card (Free) →
giffgaff’s £10 bundle comes with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 3GB internet (coverage from O2)

Keeping Your Phone Number

If you’re changing mobile networks, it’s super easy to keep your existing phone number. Simply ask your old mobile network to provide you with a PAC Code and then give this code to your new network. The transfer process normally takes about one working day. For more information, see our guide on moving your phone number between networks.

More Information

For more information, please 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 165 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 165 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi
    Please help! I’m currently with giffgaff & happy with them. Unfortunately i’m being scammed by the payforit text messages. I really don’t want to change my number. Please please can you give me Any advice? As you obviously know what you’re talking about.
    Regards

    • Hi Louise,
      I’m very sorry to hear about this. There are probably two things I’d do here:
      1) I recommend getting in touch with a giffgaff agent and letting them know about this. They might be able to place a block on this activity.
      2) Take a look at the Phone-paid Services Authority website. They’re the UK regulator for premium rate mobile phone services & have lots of information on how you can dispute charges, etc.
      Ken

  • I went into an O2 shop on 28th sept 2018 with the intention of transferring my payg from EE to
    O2 Classic payg, to be told that CLASSIC payg closed down on 27th sept 2018.

    O2 are still advertising this offer now – but it does not exist!

    Ian

    • Hi Ian,
      Thanks for the heads up about this! I’m not sure I can corroborate this statement from the staff at the O2 shop – as of today, O2 still seem to be actively promoting Classic Pay As You Go on their website…
      Ken

      • Richard Williams replied:

        I’ve just been to an O2 shop and been told exactly the same thing – are O2 required to offer a basic pay as you go arrangement but are trying to avoid selling it?

        • Hi Richard,
          It’s possible that their staff are incentivised to sell the Big Bundle SIM card which probably makes them a lot more money. The easiest thing to do is probably just to order a free SIM card online. As a matter of fact, I ordered one just last month and managed to activate it fine…
          Ken

  • COLETTE CULLINAN said:

    Thank you so much for your review on the various providers for PAYG users. It is the most comprehensive, very detailed and very user friendly. The best of all the ones I’ve been browsing. Most grateful! Keep up the excellent work!

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