Free Pay As You Go SIM Cards: Listed, Reviewed & Networks Compared

August 23rd, 2017

Get a free SIM card for your mobile phone: Pay As You Go offerings compared from 18 UK networks.

Pay As You Go SIM CardWhether you’re a smartphone fanatic or someone who only uses their phone occasionally, there are some great deals to be had when you order a free Pay As You Go SIM card in the UK.

The best Pay As You Go SIM cards offer super-low rates that can even rival Pay Monthly SIM cards in terms of value for money. To take advantage of the best offers currently available, simply order a free SIM card below and slot it inside your mobile phone. There are no credit checks or upfront fees. There’s also no need to set up a direct debit: simply top-up your SIM card when you need credit to pay for your airtime.

In the table below, we’ve reviewed free SIM card offers from 18 of the UK’s most popular Pay As You Go networks. We’ve included mainstream providers as well as low-cost alternatives and specialist Pay As You Go mobile networks for calling another country. We’ve also compared the cost of each network to help you get the best value for money.

  1. Changing mobile network? If you’re keeping the same phone but changing to another network, it might be necessary to first unlock your handset. We’ve got a step-by-step guide on unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy handset.
  2. Coverage is identical on many mobile networks. Many networks share the same coverage provider: you’ll get identical levels of coverage when using any of these networks. To give an example, ASDA Mobile uses coverage from EE and giffgaff uses coverage from O2.
  3. Keeping your mobile number. If you’re changing mobile networks, it’s super easy to keep your current phone number. Once you’ve ordered your new SIM card, contact your old network and ask them for a PAC Code. You can then pass this on to your new mobile network and your phone number will be moved over on the next working day. For more information, see our guide to transferring your mobile phone number.

Free Pay As You Go SIM Card Offers

At present, ASDA Mobile is our top pick amongst the UK’s Pay As You Go offerings. They offer super-low rates and 99% coverage from the EE network.

ASDA Mobile
Most Popular: 47% of our readers choose to join ASDA Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB internet (avg. 50p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

ASDA Mobile is currently our recommended network for anyone who is looking for a free Pay As You Go SIM card. ASDA has 99% population coverage on EE’s 2G, 3G and 4G network.

For light users, ASDA Mobile charges 8p/minute and 4p/text. There are no regular monthly charges and your Pay As You Go credit won’t expire (you just need to use your phone at least once every 180 days).

For regular users, ASDA Mobile has a competitive range of great value bundles. For instance, £10/month will buy you 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of 4G internet. This is four times as many minutes as you’ll get directly on EE and four times more data to use every month. To take advantage of the offer, you should order a free SIM card from the ASDA Mobile website.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Amongst readers of our website, giffgaff and 1pMobile are also highly popular choices. They both offer 4G internet and low Pay As You Go rates.

giffgaff
11% of our readers choose to join giffgaff*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 50p/day).
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Giffgaff Goodybagsgiffgaff is another highly-popular Pay As You Go offering amongst readers of our website. A fully-owned subsidiary of O2, giffgaff gives its members the exact same coverage as customers on O2.

Most giffgaff members choose to buy a goodybag bundle. For instance, on the £10/month goodybag, you’ll get 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of 4G internet. This is five times as many minutes and twice as much data as you’d get on O2’s £10 Data Big Bundle.

For lighter users, giffgaff’s £7.50 goodybag can give you even bigger savings (you’ll get 250 minutes, unlimited texts and 750MB of 4G internet). Alternatively, if you’d like more data, you can get 5GB of data for £15/month or Always-On data for £20/month.

Members of giffgaff can call and text each other free of charge (to qualify, you’ll just need to top-up your phone at least once every 3 months). giffgaff also has discounted rates for international calling.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

1pMobile
13% of our readers choose to join 1pMobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 1000 minutes, 1000 texts or 1GB data.
  • Rates: 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB internet (avg. 10p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

1pMobile is a relatively new Pay As You Go provider with an eye-catching tariff of 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB (the lowest rates of any mobile network in the UK). The network provides 3G & 4G coverage from EE and is operated by the sister company to Utility Warehouse. Smartphone owners can buy a Data Boost bundle from £4/month.

A unique requirement of 1pMobile is you’ll need to top-up your phone at least once every 120 days. As the minimum top-up is £10 each time, this means you’ll need to top-up your phone with at least £30 of credit per year. 1pMobile offers automatic top-up functionality which you can use to make sure you meet the minimum top-up requirement.

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

Other major Pay As You Go providers include:

EE
3% of our readers choose to join EE*

  • £10 top-up buys: 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB internet (Everything Pack)
    or 100 minutes, 1000 texts and 1GB internet (Data Pack).
  • Rates: 30p/minute and 12p/text. A bundle is required to access the internet.
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

EE Pay As You Go SIM CardEE offers 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of 4G data on their £10 Everything Pack (the allowances on your pack will last for up to 30 days).

For light users not buying a pack, calls will cost 30p/minute and texts will cost 12p each. Internet access is only available when you buy a Pay As You Go pack. The cheapest available pack is the £1/week Data Pack which gives you 100MB of internet to use on your phone (100MB = 0.1GB).

For more information, please see our full review of EE Pay As You Go.

Order EE SIM card (Free with top-up) »

Tip: For £10/month, ASDA Mobile gives you 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of data. This is 4x as many minutes and 4x as much data as going directly to EE. The coverage on ASDA Mobile is provided by EE. Find out more about ASDA Mobile.

O2
8% of our readers choose to join O2*

  • £10 top-up buys: 100 minutes, 1000 texts and 1GB internet (Big Bundles).
  • Rates: 5p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 50p/day, Classic).
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

O2 offers a choice of three tariffs on Pay As You Go.

O2 Cat - SIM CardThe most popular option, particularly for smartphone owners, is the Big Bundles tariff. For £10/month, you’ll get 100 minutes, 1000 text messages and 1GB of 4G internet.

Alternatively, light users can choose the Classic Pay As You Go or International SIM cards. On Classic Pay As You Go, you’ll pay 5p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB. Meanwhile, the International SIM card allows you to call other countries from 1p/minute.

Customers joining O2 Pay As You Go will get access to discounts and offers through O2 Priority. For more information, read our review of the Big Bundles and Classic Pay As You Go SIM cards.

Order O2 SIM card (Free) »

Tip: For £10/month, giffgaff offers five times as many minutes, unlimited texts and twice as much data. giffgaff is owned by O2 and uses the O2 network for coverage. Find out more about giffgaff.

Three
8% of our readers choose to join Three*

  • £10 top-up buys: 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB internet (avg. 10p/day).
  • Coverage: 98% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Three 321 Pay As You GoThree is one of the UK’s cheapest mainstream mobile networks for traditional Pay As You Go usage. They charge 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB: a fraction of what other major mobile networks typically charge.

Regular users can save money by buying an All-in-One bundle. Bundles start from £10/month for 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB of internet. Your All-in-One bundle can also be used in 60 Feel At Home destinations including most of Europe, the USA, Australia and more.

Importantly, it isn’t possible to use a 2G-only handset on Three. This is because Three doesn’t provide any 2G coverage. Your handset will need to support at least 3G coverage to work on the Three network.

Order Three SIM card (Free with £10 top-up) »

Vodafone
2% of our readers choose to join Vodafone*

  • £10 top-up buys: 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet (Big Value Bundle)
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 14p/text and £2/day for mobile internet (up to 50MB).
  • Coverage: 98% population coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Vodafone SIM CardVodafone offers 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of 4G internet on their £10/month Pay As You Go Big Value Bundle. As a bonus, you’ll get 10% of your top-up back through Vodafone Rewards which can be exchanged for gifts like a free selfie stick.

Light users can save a bit of money by switching to a different tariff after receiving their Vodafone SIM card. Vodafone also offers the Freebie Minutes, Freebie Texts, Freebie Data and Freebie International Minutes tariffs. These four alternative tariffs will allow you to keep the credit you’ve topped up by. With each £10 top-up, you’ll get a free allowance of either 150 UK minutes, 1000 UK texts, 500MB of UK data or 60 international minutes. However, you’ll need to pay standard Pay As You Go rates and won’t be able to buy a Big Value Bundle.

Order Vodafone SIM card (Free) »

The following virtual network operators also provide a Pay As You Go service:

1pMobile
13% of our readers choose to join 1pMobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 1000 minutes, 1000 texts or 1GB data.
  • Rates: 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB internet (avg. 10p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

1pMobile is a virtual network operator using coverage from EE. The network charges just 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB: the lowest Pay As You Go rates currently available in the UK.

Customers joining 1pMobile need to be aware that a top-up of at least £10 is required every 120 days. If no top-ups are added to the account for more than 120 days, it will be closed automatically and your phone number will be lost.

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

ASDA Mobile
47% of our readers choose to join ASDA Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB internet (avg. 50p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.
ASDA Mobile SIM Card 2017

You can order a free SIM card from the ASDA Mobile website.

For calling and texting, ASDA Mobile has some of the lowest rates available from a mainstream Pay As You Go mobile network. They charge 8p/minute and 4p/text. Mobile internet is charged at 5p/MB. There’s no need to top-up every month, and your credit won’t expire providing your account remains active (you just need to use your phone at least once every 180 days).

Regular users can buy a bundle from ASDA Mobile for better value usage. For instance, £7/month will get you 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet.

For £10/month, you’ll get 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of internet. This is probably the best value bundle currently available from a mainstream mobile network in the UK at present.

ASDA Mobile provides 2G, 3G and 4G coverage from EE. This gives them 99% population coverage.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Co-operative Mobile
0.6% of our readers choose to join Co-operative Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, 1000 texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 8p/minute, 4p/text and 10p/MB internet (avg. £1/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

The Co-operative Mobile charges 8p/minute, 4p/text and 10p/MB when you’re browsing the internet (this works out to be around £1/day if you’re using 10MB of data).

For regular users, it’s possible to buy an all-inclusive bundle from £5/month. The most popular bundle from Co-op costs £10/month and gives you 500 minutes, 1000 texts and 1GB of 3G internet.

As the Co-operative Mobile is owned by its members, customers will receive an annual dividend payment. In the most recent financial year (2015-2016), the dividend payment was equal to 1.5% of your VAT-exclusive spend (this is equivalent to a £1.50 dividend if you were to spend £10 every month). In previous years, members earned a dividend of 1.5% (2014-2015), 1.5% (2013-2014) and 2.5% (2012-2013).

Order Co-operative Mobile SIM card (Free) »

giffgaff
11% of our readers choose to join giffgaff*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 50p/day).
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

giffgaff is a low-cost mobile service running on the O2 network. They currently offer 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of 4G internet for £10/month. Heavy users can get 1000 minutes, unlimited texts and 5GB of 4G data for £15/month. For more information, please refer to the giffgaff website.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

iD Mobile
2% of our readers choose to join iD Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB for mobile internet (avg. 10p/day).
  • Uses the Three network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

iD Mobile is a Pay As You Go mobile network from the Carphone Warehouse. Available since December 2016, the iD Mobile Pay As You Go service makes use of coverage from Three.

Customers on iD Mobile Pay As You Go will pay 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. Alternatively, customers can convert their credit into a one-month bundle such as 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data for £10/month.

Order iD Mobile SIM card (Free with £5 top-up) »

Lebara Mobile
1.3% of our readers choose to join Lebara Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 1000 minutes, 100 texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 19p/text and 9p/MB internet (avg. 90p/day).
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 98% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

Lebara Mobile is a specialist provider of international calling. For a top-up of £10/month, you can get 100 international minutes, 1000 UK minutes, 100 UK text messages and 2GB of UK data. Alternatively, you can use traditional Pay As You Go and call abroad from 1p/minute.

Lebara Mobile offers 2G and 3G coverage from Vodafone. Unfortunately, 4G coverage isn’t currently available on Lebara. For more information, please read our full review of Lebara Mobile.

Order Lebara Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Lycamobile
0.5% of our readers choose to join Lycamobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 1000 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Rates: 19p/minute, 19p/text and 12p/MB internet (avg. £1.20/day).
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Lycamobile is another specialist provider of international calling. They offer international calls from 1p/minute and international text messages for 19p each. Domestic calls to a UK mobile are 19p/minute and texts to a UK mobile are 19p each. You can read our full review of Lycamobile here.

Order Lycamobile SIM card (Free) »

Orange

As of February 2015, it’s no longer possible to order a SIM card from Orange. Customers are instead advised to join EE Pay As You Go. EE has 4G connectivity and allows you to browse the internet from £1/week. Alternatively, ASDA Mobile gives you coverage from EE but at a much lower cost (8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB).

Customers already on Orange Pay As You Go (e.g. on the Dolphin plan) can stay on the Orange network for as long as they like.

Order EE SIM card (Free) »

Talkmobile

As of April 2017, it’s no longer possible to order a Talkmobile SIM card. The service is due to close on the 31st August 2017. Existing customers have until the 30th June to top-up their account, and have until the 31st August to use up any remaining credit. Customers wanting coverage from Vodafone should now order a SIM card from either Lebara Mobile or directly from Vodafone.

Tello
2% of our readers choose to join Tello*

  • £10 top-up buys: 200 minutes, 100 texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 5p/minute, 5p/text and 2p/MB internet (avg. 20p/day).
  • Uses the Three network. 98% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Tello SIM CardTello is a low-cost mobile network using coverage from Three. They offer 4G coverage and allow you to build your own bundle from £4/month (you can choose how many minutes, how many texts and how much data you want on your plan).

Tello also has fairly competitive Pay As You Go rates both for calling inside the UK and for calling abroad. UK calls cost 5p/minute while international phone calls start from 1p/minute.

Order Tello SIM card (Free with £2 top-up) »

Tesco Mobile
1% of our readers choose to join Tesco Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, 5000 texts and 1GB internet.
  • Rates: 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB internet (avg. £1/day).
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Tesco Mobile Rocket Pack BundlesTesco Mobile offers a choice of two Pay As You Go tariffs: there’s Rocket Packs for frequent mobile users and Triple Your Credit for lighter users.

For regular mobile users, it’s possible to buy a Rocket Pack bundle from £5/month. The most popular Rocket Pack costs £10/month and gives you 500 minutes, 5000 texts and 1GB of 4G internet.

For lighter users not purchasing a Rocket Pack, Tesco Mobile has the Triple Credit tariff. Here, you’ll pay 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB. When you top-up your phone with £10, you’ll also get £20 of bonus free credit which will last for a month. For more information, please see our full review of Tesco Mobile Pay As You Go.

Order Tesco Mobile SIM card (Free) »

T-Mobile

As of February 2015, it’s no longer possible to order a T-Mobile SIM card. Customers wanting to join T-Mobile are instead advised to join EE. EE has 4G connectivity and offers Everything Pack bundles that are similar to the Smart Packs offered by T-Mobile.

Customers already on T-Mobile can stay on their existing plan for as long as they like.

Order EE SIM card (Free) »

Vectone Mobile
0.1% of our readers choose to join Vectone Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 52 minutes or 52 texts.
  • Rates: 19p/minute, 19p/text and 9p/MB internet (avg. 90p/day).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

Vectone Mobile is a specialist provider of international calling. See our international calls price comparison table to see how Vectone Mobile compares to rival networks.

Order Vectone Mobile SIM card (Free) »

Virgin Mobile
1% of our readers choose to join Virgin Mobile*

  • £10 top-up buys: £10 airtime (equiv. 28 minutes), 3000 texts and 1GB internet (Big Data & Texts)
    or 120 minutes, unlimited landline calls and £10 airtime (equiv. 83 texts) (Big Talk)
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 12p/text and £2/day internet (up to 200MB).
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G internet only, check coverage here.

Virgin Mobile offers a choice of two Pay As You Go tariffs. The ‘Big Data & Texts’ tariff will give you 3000 texts and 1GB of internet lasting for a month when you top-up by £10. You’ll also be able to keep your £10 of credit. The ‘Big Talk’ tariff gives you 120 mobile minutes and unlimited landline calls for the next 30 days.

You’ll have access to 3G coverage from EE (4G coverage is not available to Virgin Pay As You Go customers).

Order Virgin Mobile SIM card (Free) »

For more information about any of the tariffs listed on this page, please click through to the mobile network’s website. Our recommended deals are currently to order a free SIM card from ASDA Mobile or to order a free SIM card from giffgaff.

If you’re asked to specify the size of SIM card required in your phone (e.g. Standard SIM, Micro SIM or Nano SIM), please see our guide to smartphone SIM card sizes.

The “£10 top-up buys” calculation is based on a user who tops up by £10 every month. If you top up less regularly than once every month, your allowances may run out before the next top-up.

* Statistics on mobile network chosen by readers of this article. Based on the number of Free SIM click-throughs from the 22nd May 2017 to the 21st August 2017.

** Mobile internet charges. For networks that charge on a per-megabyte basis, we have given the average daily data cost for a smartphone user consuming 10MB of data. If you’d like to create a custom comparison using a different estimate, you can enter your own estimated data figure on our interactive Pay As You Go price comparison table.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 241 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Peter Lovatt said:

    The best site I have seen for information on pay as you go tarrifs.Thank you.

  2. J said:

    Ken – thanks for these: great references as always. Now that there is mandatory free roaming across Europe, three had upped their number of countries to ~60, so it probably deserves an update.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi J,
      Great feedback indeed – many thanks for the heads up about this. I’m currently working on a full update of this article so will ensure everything is updated over the coming few days.
      Thanks again for the support and taking the time to let me know!
      Ken

  3. Ramesh Vasnani said:

    Hi Ken,

    My child is coming to London and will be going down to Sussex to do his studies there. I am looking for a good plan which allows for the following :-

    1. HUGE DATA – AT LEAST 6 GB or more
    2. INTERNATIONAL CALLING
    3. UNLIMITED LOCAL CALLING
    4. TEXTING – MAX 1,000

    I am not sure of what to get, whether to get a 12 months plan or a PAYG plan?

    I don’t need a mobile phone as I have my own device.

    What would you recommend?

    Thanks / RLV

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Ramesh,
      Many thanks for your comment. Before continuing, I recommend having a look at my guide for people visiting or moving to the UK. In short, one of the key things is your son won’t be able to pass a UK credit check immediately, so he should restrict his choice to Pay As You Go deals. As discussed in that article, giffgaff is probably the best option (no UK credit check, flexible goodybags, low-cost international calls, etc). You can pay £18/month for 2000 minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB of 4G internet.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Ramesh Vasnani replied:

        Hi Ken,

        Your reply very well appreciated.

        A final question. Which is the best PAYG card which also allows for reasonable/cheap International calls & has good data as well?

        I have seen THREE & GIFFGAFF SIMCARDS & the service seems to be good. Its it better to go for a 12 month contract or to go for monthly basis?

        Thanks / Ramesh

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi Ramesh,
          Because of the issue with credit checking, it unfortunately wouldn’t be possible to get a 12-month contract straight away. Therefore, the only option available at present will be 1-month rolling deals on a pre-paid basis (e.g. giffgaff or Three Pay As You Go). To be honest, I think both giffgaff and Three are good networks but I’d probably have a slight preference for giffgaff in your situation (due to the lower-cost international calls, the ability to top-up using non-UK cards, better UK coverage, and potentially a lower monthly price for the amount of data you require).
          Hope this helps!
          Ken

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