Looking for the cheapest Pay As You Go tariff in the UK? Our interactive comparison table allows you to compare Pay As You Go mobile 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 world’s most competitive marketplaces 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 actually 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. 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 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 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 means you’ll need to top-up your phone with at least £30 per year, though you retain complete flexibility on when and how to spend the credit. 1pMobile is 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 just need to use your SIM card for a chargeable activity at least once every 6 months.

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

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’re also 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 on 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, 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
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
CMLink~50p
(estimated from 5p/MB)
8p8p--
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)
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
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, 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, vectonemobile.co.uk, virginmedia.com, freesim.vodafone.co.uk, voxi.co.uk. Last updated on 17th June 2019.

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

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, mobile data charges currently start from 1p/MB. This equates to paying £10 for 1GB of data (you should then add the cost of your phone calls and text messages to this).

Typically, a cheaper way to access mobile internet on-the-go is by buying a Pay As You Go bundle. For the same £10/month, you can get about 4GB of inclusive mobile data (4GB is equal to 4,000MB). You’ll also get an allowance of minutes and texts included, making the bundle much better value for users of a smartphone.

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

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited4GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited3GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£10.00
O25005,0002GB£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)

It’s worth being aware that traditional Pay As You Go tariffs can charge for data in two different ways: either ‘per megabyte’ or ‘per day’. In the table above, we’ve assumed 10MB of data consumption per day. If you know how much data you actually use, you can tailor the comparison by entering your daily data usage here.

If you don’t use mobile data very often, but tend to use large amounts on the days when you do (e.g. when travelling), Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1 tariff is the ideal option. Vodafone will charge you £1/day on traditional Pay As You Go for up to 500MB of data, 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 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
ASDA Mobile 8p per minute
CMLink 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. Our in-depth guide to UK phone numbers can help you to understand the relevant charges. You’ll never be charged to receive an incoming phone call in the UK.

On a Pay As You Go bundle, you can typically get unlimited minutes for around £10/month (e.g. on giffgaff’s £10 goodybag). Therefore, it will certainly be cheaper to use a Pay As You Go bundle if you make a large number of phone calls from your mobile.

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. Some mobile networks will 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 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
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 enabled 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.

To avoid paying MMS charges, you can use a smartphone messaging app such as iMessage or WhatsApp. You won’t be charged for sending a picture message through 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 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
O2 Classic PAYG3p per call
Three 3p per minute
iD Mobile 3p per minute
Co-operative Mobile 4p per minute
giffgaff 8p per call

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

Voicemail charges will normally be included within the minutes allowance 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
ASDA Mobile 8p/minute access charge + service charge
CMLink 8p/minute access charge + service charge
Vectone Mobile 12p/minute access charge + service charge

The company you’re calling on the special rate phone number should inform you about the service charge for calling the number.

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

Coverage Provider

All UK networks provide at least 98% population 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 four companies are EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. They each license some spectrum from the Government and maintain 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). They piggyback on infrastructure from one of the four coverage providers. Therefore, on these ‘virtual networks’, you’ll get identical coverage to what is available on the host network. 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 phone coverage in the UK.

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 offer 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 to 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
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited4GB£10.00
Vodafone250Unlimited3GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£10.00
O25005,0002GB£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 ASDA Mobile SIM Card (Free) →
ASDA Mobile’s £10 bundle comes with 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 4GB data (coverage from EE)

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 to 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 172 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 172 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi Ken, very useful few pages – many thanks for collating the info’. Do you have any knowledge about the best PAYG providers for ‘bonus’ bundles that come/are given with top-ups? For example, I’m presently on the Dolphin Plan with Orange and, when I top up £10 a month, I get an additional ‘free’ 1gb of data, 100 minutes calls, and 400 texts – all to use in a month. But the important point being that I still have the original £10 credit in my PAYG credit balance (which, as a relatively light user, means that I often go a few months without using-up any of my credit as the ‘free’/bonus extras are enough, whereupon I build up a fairly sizable pot of PAYG money credit that I can use to buy extras for a few more months without having to top-up). As such, this is a really cheap – and flexible – way for me to use my mobile. However, I have had a text from EE saying that they’re closing down all Orange accounts and transferring them over to EE, which doesn’t have a similar plan to the one I’m on. As such, do you know if any other providers have a similar thing to the Orange Dolphin plan that I can make use of? I had an idea that O2 used to offer something similar with one of their PAYG sims, but I can’t see any details on their website.

    • Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the “free top-up offers” were pretty good back in the day! O2 used to have their “Genie” or Text & Web SIM cards where you’d also get a free allowance every time you topped up your phone (similar to the Orange Dolphin plans). Unfortunately, that’s no longer available for new customers.
      Sadly, the only one I’m really aware of that is still out there is Tesco’s Triple Credit tariff (£20 of free credit lasting for one month, whenever you top-up your phone by £10). Saying that, I would not recommend this tariff as the original prices are far higher than on other mobile networks/tariffs (i.e. you’d be far better off choosing lower prices over the Triple Credit offer).
      You can see my guide to Pay As You Go SIM cards for a summary of the offers currently available – there are some great SIM cards out there with very low prices or competitive bundle allowances.
      Ken

  • I live abroad and I’d like to buy a PAYG sim for my Mum to call her. Are there any charges for a UK mobile to receive incoming international calls?

  • Are there any providers where unused money pay as you go doesn’t expire after a certain number of days? My Orange payg has moved to EE and they only offer 30 days and then any remaining is lost. I don’t use £10 in that time or even 60 days if adding on. My phone is for emergencies.

    • Hi Veronica,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you just need to choose a “traditional Pay As You Go” tariff rather than a “Pay As You Go bundle” (with the latter, your bundle allowances will run out every 30 days). My recommendation would probably be either 1pMobile (1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB) or O2 Classic Pay As You Go (3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB) – you just need to use your phone occasionally as described here to keep the SIM card active.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

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