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 currently 14 mobile networks 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 inside your unlocked smartphone to take advantage of lower Pay As You Go rates. You can keep your current phone number when moving to another 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 that you’re getting the best value deal but it’s also important that you’re getting 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 Bundles

When choosing a new Pay As You Go network, it’s important to know there are actually two different types of Pay As You Go plan:

  • Traditional Pay As You Go with no regular monthly charges. You 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 get larger allowances in return (i.e. more data and more minutes). Often best for regular users.

The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the two 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’ll potentially be better off getting a monthly Pay As You Go bundle instead of 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

At present, the cheapest Pay As You Go network 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 straightforward tariff of 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB, customers of 1pMobile can benefit from this straightforward pricing with high-speed 3G & 4G coverage from EE.

You can order a 1pMobile SIM card with £30 of credit and with no further need to top-up again for another 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). There’s no obligation to actually spend this credit, although your balance would build up over time if your average usage is less than £2.50/month.

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) →

If you’re looking for a bigger name network, ASDA Mobile charges 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB with coverage from EE. Alternatively, Vodafone offers a Pay As You Go 1 tariff where you’ll pay £1/day for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and up to 500MB of data per day.

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 in your area. 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
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£2
35p15p45p35p
per call
55p
+ service charge
O2
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~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
Vodafone
Big Value Bundles
£2
(fixed, for 50MB/day)
35p20p45p35p
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, thephone.coop, ee.co.uk, giffgaff.com, idmobile.co.uk, mobile.lebara.com, lycamobile.co.uk, o2.co.uk, tescomobile.com, tescomobile.com, three.co.uk, vectonemobile.co.uk, vodafone.co.uk, voxi.co.uk. Last updated on 30th August 2020.

If you’d like to see the charges for MMS picture messages, voicemail or special rate phone numbers, tap on 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 data on your phone is currently 1p/MB. This is equivalent to paying £10 per gigabyte (GB) of data.

If you regularly use data on your smartphone, it will normally work out cheaper buying a Pay As You Go bundle. This is because you can pay £10 for a one-month bundle with up to 9GB of data per month. You’ll also get unlimited minutes and unlimited texts included in the bundle.

The following table shows Pay As You Go bundles costing £10 per month:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited9GB£10.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
VOXIUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
EE100Unlimited4GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited3GB£10.00

If you’re a light data user, traditional Pay As You Go can sometimes still work out to be a little bit cheaper. This is because there’s no obligation to top-up every month. For instance, a light user consuming 10MB of data per day would only pay 10p/day (around £3/month) on 1pMobile:

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Mobile Internet
1pMobile 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
iD Mobile 1p/MB (10p/day for 10MB)
ASDA Mobile 5p/MB (50p/day for 10MB)
giffgaff 5p/MB (50p/day for 10MB)
Three New Pay As You Go5p/MB (50p/day for 10MB)

Some Pay As You Go networks charge on a “per day” basis rather than on a “per megabyte” basis. In the table above, we’ve assumed you’re using 10MB of data 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 do, Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1 is well worth a look. This is because they charge £1/day for up to 500MB of data (equivalent to 0.2p/MB if you were to use up the entire 500MB allowance). You’ll also get unlimited minutes and unlimited texts included in the £1 daily charge.

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 applies for phone calls to a UK mobile or landline number (that’s 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
ASDA Mobile 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 will help you to understand the relevant charges for different types of phone numbers. You’ll never be charged to receive an incoming phone call in the UK.

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

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedNo data£5.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited500MB£6.00
VOXIUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00

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 normally 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 phone call lasting 61 seconds might be rounded up to 2 complete minutes when the charge is calculated.

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 be charged for every additional SMS message that is 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
iD Mobile 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 using instant messaging apps instead (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 (only the normal charges for mobile data will therefore apply).

Picture Messages (MMS)

Galaxy S6 CameraOn most 3G and 4G handsets, it’s possible to send a picture message through MMS functionality (using the 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 comparison table above by tapping on the “…” column.

You won’t need to pay for MMS picture messages when sending your photos through an instant messaging app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. This is because these applications 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 kick in when your phone is switched off or when you don’t answer 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 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
Co-operative Mobile 4p per minute
giffgaff 8p per call

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

If you buy a monthly Pay As You Go bundle, voicemail will normally be included within your allowance of minutes.

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 split into two 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 mobile network you use.

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

At A Glance: The Cheapest Networks For Making A Special Rate Call
ASDA Mobile 8p/minute access charge + service charge
Vectone Mobile 12p/minute access charge + service charge
1pMobile 20p/minute access charge + service charge
Co-operative Mobile 21p/minute access charge + service charge
Lycamobile 23p/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 comparison table above by tapping on the “…” column.

Coverage Provider

In the UK, only four companies hold a license to build and maintain their own network of mobile masts. These companies are EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. Each company licenses some spectrum from the Government and runs a network of masts across the country delivering mobile phone signals.

All other companies offering a mobile phone service are known as mobile virtual network operators (or MVNOs for short). MVNOs piggyback on one of the four coverage providers. You’ll therefore get access to the same coverage as on the underlying host 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.

For more information about the coverage available, read the relevant guide for the mobile network you’d planning to join:

Alternatively, you can also read our guides on how mobile networks piggyback on each coverage provider.

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 and some dual-SIM phones which will not work correctly on iD Mobile or Three.

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

If your smartphone is locked to a network, see our step-by-step guides to unlocking an iPhone or 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 phone (e.g. if your handset is mainly being 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 of credit 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 currently able to get for £10/month on a Pay As You Go bundle:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited9GB£10.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
VOXIUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
EE100Unlimited4GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited3GB£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 on EE, giffgaff, O2, Three, Vodafone and VOXI.

Order giffgaff SIM Card (Free) →

Keeping Your Phone Number

If you’re changing mobile networks, it’s super easy to keep your phone number. To do so, simply request a PAC Code from your old mobile network. You can get one through your mobile network’s website or app, or by texting PAC to 65075.

Once you have a PAC Code from your old network, you can order a SIM card from your new network. When you’re ready to move your phone number over, give the PAC Code to your new mobile network. Your phone number will then be moved over on the next working day.

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to transfer Pay As You Go credit between networks, so you’ll need to use it up before you transfer your phone number.

For detailed step-by-step instructions, see our full guide on 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. On a traditional Pay As You Go plan, there are no regular monthly charges. You simply pay for what you actually use 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. If you’re looking for a bigger name network, ASDA Mobile charges 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB. Alternatively, Vodafone charges £1/day for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and up to 500MB of data.
How much will I pay for data on Pay As You Go?
On traditional Pay As You Go, you can use mobile data at the rate of 1p/MB (equivalent to £10 per GB). Alternatively, you can get a Pay As You Go bundle with up to 9GB 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 depends 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 major UK mobile network.

Your Comments 184 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 184 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi Ken. If I top-up the minimum amount of £5 Can I get unlimited text, unlimited call, and 5GB or 6GB of data on Three Mobile in a month in As pay as you go?
    Will you tell me how much Text, Calls, and Data I may get on Three mobile in a month if I top up £5 in topping up as pay as you go?

    Thank you

    • Hi Ab,
      Thanks for your comment. Sadly, you won’t be able to, no. The cheapest bundle available on Three costs £10/month. Without it, you’ll need to pay their standard Pay As You Go rates which are 10p/minute, 10p/text and 5p/MB. Your £5 top-up would therefore only get you 100MB of data (0.1GB). If you’re looking for something that costs you less than £10/month, my recommendation would be to go for the SIM-only deals from Three instead.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken. Can I get unlimited text, unlimited call, and 5GB or 6GB of data on Three Mobile in a month for £5?
    Will you tell me how much Text, Calls, and Data I get on Three mobile in a month for £5?

    Thank you

  • Hi Ken, I want a free SIM card to just receive calls or texts. I don’t want to use any minutes, texts or data so don’t want to spend anything. Can you tell me which companies allow me to not spend anything because I guess most will want me to top up when I get the card? Thanks in advance, Neil.

    • Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your comment. Sadly, all networks will require you to make a minimum initial top-up and to use your SIM card for a chargeable activity once every so often. In the grand scheme of things, this shouldn’t cost you very much – you can keep a SIM card active for less than 10p per year. You will, however, need to top-up your SIM card at some point (often with either £5 or £10 of credit).
      Ken

Load more comments (178)

Leave a Reply