Get a free SIM card for your mobile phone: Pay As You Go offerings compared from 16 UK networks.

Pay As You Go SIM CardWhether you’re a smartphone fanatic or someone who only uses their phone on an occasional basis, 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 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 required and no need to set up a direct debit: simply top-up your SIM card when you need credit to pay for your usage.

In the table below, we’ve reviewed free SIM card offers from 16 of the UK’s most popular Pay As You Go networks. We’ve included mainstream providers as well as lower-cost alternatives. 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 unlock your phone. See our guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy phone.
  2. Coverage is identical on lots of mobile networks. Lots of mobile networks share the same coverage provider so you’ll get the same coverage when using any of these networks. To give an example, giffgaff uses coverage from O2. See our list of mobile networks that use coverage from EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
  3. Keeping your mobile number. If you’re changing mobile networks, it’s super easy to keep your current phone number. After you order your new Pay As You Go SIM card, get a PAC Code from your old mobile network. You can get one online or by text message. You can then pass this PAC Code 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.

Best Pay As You Go SIM Card Offers

At present, giffgaff is our top pick amongst the UK’s Pay As You Go offerings. They offer flexible Pay As You Go bundles, with 99% population coverage from O2.

46% of our readers choose to join giffgaff

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 20GB data.
  • Rates: 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB for mobile data.
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

giffgaff offers a highly popular Pay As You Go SIM card. You can either buy their regular one-month goodybag plans or you can use it as a traditional Pay As You Go SIM card with no need to top-up every month. giffgaff is a fully-owned subsidiary of O2 so members will get the same coverage as customers on O2.

Most giffgaff members choose to buy a goodybag bundle. The most popular bundles are 5GB data for £8, 20GB data for £10 and 35GB data for £15. You can also get 100GB data for £20 per month and Always On data from £25 per month. All of giffgaff’s goodybag bundles come with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and access to O2’s 5G network. You’ll also benefit from fixed UK prices until the end of 2023.

If you’re using giffgaff on a pure Pay As You Go basis, just choose the ‘free SIM’ option when you place your order. With this option, there’s no need to top-up your phone every month. Your credit also won’t expire providing you use your SIM card at least once every six months. On pure Pay As You Go, you’ll pay 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB. You’ll also get free calls and texts to other giffgaff members as long as you’ve topped up in the past 3 months.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) →

Another popular choice amongst readers of our website is 1pMobile. On 1pMobile, you can get a classic Pay As You Go plan with rates of just 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB.

11% 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 for mobile data.
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

1pMobile offers a Pay As You Go SIM card with rates of 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB. The network, which is operated by the sister company of Utility Warehouse, offers 4G & 5G coverage from EE. It’s also possible to buy a one-month bundle such as 10GB data for £10 per month.

On 1pMobile, you’ll need to top-up your phone with £30 of credit to get going. After the first year, you’ll then need to top-up your SIM card with at least £10 of credit every 120 days. This is equivalent to adding £2.50 of Pay As You Go credit each month. For this reason, we’d only recommend choosing 1pMobile if your average spend will exceed £2.50 per month (otherwise, a non-refundable balance would build up over time on your account).

Order 1pMobile SIM card (Free with £30 top-up) →

As a special offer for readers of this website, you can get a 4GB Data Boost for free when you activate a new 1pMobile SIM card. Simply order your SIM card through this link and enter VAKTT4GB as your voucher code at the checkout.

Other major Pay As You Go providers include:

5% of our readers choose to join EE

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 8GB data.
  • Rates: 40p/minute and 20p/text. Internet access requires a bundle.
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, 4G speeds, check coverage here.

If you’re using an EE Pay As You Go SIM card, you’ll pay £10 per month for 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 8GB of data.

EE’s Pay As You Go service is capped at a maximum download speed of 25Mbps. Your Pay As You Go pack will last for 30 days but you can roll over any unused data within 7 days of your previous pack expiring.

For light users who opt out of buying a Pay As You Go pack, calls will cost 40p/minute and texts will cost 20p each. You’ll need to buy a one-month pack if you want to use mobile data on your phone.

Order EE SIM card (Free) →

For more information, read our EE Pay As You Go review.

4% of our readers choose to join O2

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 10GB data.
  • Rates: 55p/minute, 30p/text and £2/day for mobile data.
  • Coverage: 99% population coverage, 4G speeds, check coverage here.

On O2’s Pay As You Go service, you’ll currently get up to 10GB data for £10 per month. You’ll also get unlimited UK minutes and unlimited UK texts included.

One of the key benefits of joining O2 as a Pay As You Go customer is the fact you’ll get access to discounts and offers through O2 Priority. This includes a range of freebies every week including coffee, drinks and sausage rolls.

If you join O2 on the Big Bundles plans, you can get £10 of free credit when you order your SIM card through this link. Once you’ve activated your SIM, you’ll need to text FREE10 to 21500.

Order O2 SIM card (Free) →

For more information, see our O2 Pay As You Go review.

2% of our readers choose to join Three

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 10GB data.
  • Rates: 35p/minute, 15p/text and 10p/MB for mobile data.
  • Coverage: 98% population coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

Three offers a Pay As You Go service with Data Pack bundles from £10. A monthly top-up of £10 on Three will give you 10GB of data, along with unlimited UK minutes and unlimited UK texts. You can use the allowances from your bundle inside the UK and when you travel abroad in 71 Go Roam destinations.

For customers not buying a Pay As You Go bundle, Three charges 35p/minute, 15p/text and 10p/MB.

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

For more information, you can read our Three Pay As You Go review. Three also operates a low-cost Pay As You Go sub-brand called SMARTY Mobile that offers one-month rolling plans from £5 per month.

3% of our readers choose to join Vodafone

Vodafone offers a choice of two plans on their Pay As You Go SIM card.

Regular mobile users can buy a 30-day Big Value Bundle. For instance, a £10 monthly top-up will give you 7GB of data along with unlimited UK minutes and unlimited UK texts. You can rollover unused allowances when you automatically renew your bundle.

Light mobile users can choose Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1 plan instead. On Pay As You Go 1, you’ll pay £1/day for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 50MB of data. This is only charged on the days that you use your mobile phone.

Order Vodafone SIM card (Free) →

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

11% 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 for mobile data.
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

On 1pMobile, you’ll pay 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB. There’s no monthly charge for using your 1pMobile SIM card but you’ll need to add £10 of new credit every 120 days (equivalent to adding £30 of new credit each year).

If you don’t top-up your SIM with at least £10 of credit every 120 days, your account will be closed and your phone number will be lost. For this reason, 1pMobile is not suitable for very light users only wanting a SIM card for emergency usage.

You’ll get 4G & 5G coverage from EE when you use a 1pMobile SIM card inside your mobile phone.

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

ASDA Mobile
6% of our readers choose to join ASDA Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 12GB data.
  • Rates: 15p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

ASDA Mobile offers Pay As You Go bundles with 99% population coverage from the Vodafone network.

For just £4 per month, you can get an ASDA Mobile bundle with unlimited UK minutes and texts. You can upgrade this with 3GB data for £5, 5GB data for £7 or 12GB data for £10.

You’ll get access to Vodafone’s 4G network on all ASDA Mobile plans. In addition, bundles costing £10/month or more will give you access to Vodafone’s 5G network.

Order ASDA Mobile SIM card (Free) →

2% of our readers choose to join CMLink

  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 10GB data.
  • Rates: 8p/minute and 6p/text. Internet access requires a bundle.
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

CMLink is a Pay As You Go provider that’s designed for customers with a connection to China. You can buy a one-month bundle such as 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 10GB data for £9/month. This also includes an allowance of international minutes, along with an allowance of roaming data for use in the EU, Mainland China and Hong Kong.

In the UK, customers on CMLink will get access to 4G and 5G coverage on EE.

Order CMLink SIM card (Free) →

46% of our readers choose to join giffgaff

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 20GB data.
  • Rates: 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB for mobile data.
    giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls, texts and video calls are free.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

giffgaff is a low-cost mobile network with coverage from O2. They currently offer 5GB data on their £8 golden goodybag and 20GB data on their £10 golden goodybag. You’ll also get unlimited minutes and unlimited texts included on your plan.

Heavy data users can get 35GB of data for £15/month or 100GB of data for £20/month. Always On data is available from £25/month, with fully unlimited data available from £35/month. For more information, see the giffgaff website.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) →

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

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB data.
  • Rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the Three network. 99% coverage, 4G speeds, check coverage here.

iD Mobile is the own-brand mobile network from the Carphone Warehouse. They offer 3G & 4G coverage from Three.

Customers on iD Mobile Pay As You Go can buy a bundle such as unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB data for £10/month. Usage outside of your bundle will cost 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.

Order iD Mobile SIM card (Free with £6 top-up) →

Lebara Mobile
2% of our readers choose to join Lebara Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: 100 intl minutes, unlimited UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 15GB data.
  • Rates: 25p/minute, 19p/text and 9p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

In the UK, Lebara Mobile offers Pay As You Go bundles from £5 per month. Alongside the usual allowance of UK minutes, texts and mobile data, you’ll get an allowance of international minutes for calling 42 other countries.

As a special offer for readers of this website in May 2023, you can get 3 months half price when you enter KEN3 as your voucher code at checkout. This makes it possible to get 5GB data for £2.50 and 8GB data for £3.50. You can also get a Lebara Mobile unlimited data plan from £12.50 per month.

Lebara Mobile offers 4G & 5G coverage from Vodafone. For more information, see our Lebara Mobile review.

Order Lebara Mobile SIM card (Free) →

Lyca Mobile
1% of our readers choose to join Lyca Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: 100 intl minutes, unlimited UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 20GB data.
  • Rates: 23p/minute, 23p/text and 15p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

Lyca Mobile is a low-cost Pay As You Go mobile network, offering access to 4G & 5G coverage from O2. At present, they offer a range of introductory deals such as 3GB data for £0.99, 20GB data for £5, and 100GB data for £7. You can benefit from these discounted prices for up to six months. You’ll also get an inclusive allowance of international minutes.

For more information, see our Lycamobile review.

Order Lycamobile SIM card (Free) →

RWG Mobile
5% of our readers choose to join RWG Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: Equivalent of 200 minutes, 200 texts or 1GB data.
  • Rates: 5p/minute, 5p/text and 1p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 4G speeds, check coverage here.

RWG Mobile calls itself “the mobile network for Wales”. They offer coverage from the EE network, along with bilingual customer support in both English and Welsh.

Order RWG Mobile SIM card (Free) →

Talk Home Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 20GB data.
  • Rates: 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the EE network. 99% population coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

In the UK, Talk Home Mobile offers Pay As You Go plans with access to 4G & 5G coverage from EE.

Talk Home offers Pay As You Go bundles from £5 per month. For instance, you’ll get unlimited UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 20GB data for £10.

Alternatively, you can choose their ‘Penny Pro’ plan which has no regular monthly fees. On the ‘Penny Pro’ plan, you’ll pay just 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB. You’ll need to manually opt-in again every 30 days to benefit from this plan.

Order Talk Home SIM card (Free with £5 top-up) →

Tesco Mobile
3% of our readers choose to join Tesco Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: 5000 minutes, 5000 texts and 10GB data.
  • Rates: 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 4G speeds, check coverage here.

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

Regular mobile users can buy a Rocket Pack bundle from £7.50/month. However, the most popular Rocket Pack bundle costs £10/month and gives you 5000 minutes, 5000 texts and 10GB of data.

For light users not wanting to buy a Rocket Pack, it’s possible to switch to the Triple Credit plan. Here, you’ll pay 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB. Whenever you top-up your SIM card by £10 per month, you’ll get £20 of bonus credit that lasts for one month. This essentially triples the amount of credit you have to use in that month.

For more information, read our Tesco Mobile Pay As You Go review.

Order Tesco Mobile SIM card (Free) →

Vectone Mobile
2% of our readers choose to join Vectone Mobile

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 5GB data.
  • Rates: 19p/minute, 19p/text and 9p/MB for mobile data.
  • Uses the EE network. 99% coverage, 3G speeds, 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) →

6% of our readers choose to join VOXI

  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 15GB data.
  • Rates: 30p/minute and 14p/text. Internet access requires a bundle.
  • Uses the Vodafone network. 99% coverage, 4G & 5G speeds, check coverage here.

VOXI is Vodafone’s low-cost Pay As You Go sub-brand. They currently offer a free Pay As You Go SIM card, giving you access to 99% population coverage on the Vodafone network. You’ll also get access to Vodafone’s 5G network if you have a 5G-ready phone.

All of VOXI’s Pay As You Go plans come with unlimited social media data. This means you’re able to use Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook Messenger without it eating into your data allowance.

For unlimited video, you can choose one of VOXI’s unlimited video plans from £15/month. With unlimited video, you can use TikTok, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, My5, TV Player, UKTV Play and more without it eating into your data plan.

Most VOXI customers decide to convert their Pay As You Go credit into a one-month bundle. However, if you decide not to do this, you can use VOXI on a traditional Pay As You Go basis at 30p/minute and 14p/text. You’ll need to buy a bundle from VOXI to access the internet. For more information, see our VOXI review.

Order VOXI SIM card (Free) →

For more information about any of the SIM cards listed on this page, please click through to the mobile network’s website. Our recommended deal is currently 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), see our guide to smartphone SIM card sizes. Alternatively, if you need an eSIM, see our guide to eSIM on UK mobile networks and the best eSIM plans.

The “£10 top-up buys” calculation is based on a user who tops up by £10 every month. If you top up less than once per 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 23rd February 2023 to 22nd May 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best Pay As You Go SIM cards currently available?
There are numerous Pay As You Go SIM card offers currently available. The following SIM cards are currently the most popular:
  • giffgaff (uses O2 coverage) offers one-month goodybag bundles such as 20GB data, unlimited minutes and unlimited texts for £10/month. You can also use it on a Pay As You Go basis without the need to top up every month (at 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB).
  • 1pMobile (uses EE coverage) has eye-catching Pay As You Go rates of 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB. You’ll need to top-up with at least £10 of credit every 120 days.
How does coverage compare across different Pay As You Go SIMs?
In the UK, all Pay As You Go networks use one of the four following network coverage providers:
Which Pay As You Go SIM cards offer 5G coverage?
At present, 5G coverage is available on the following Pay As You Go SIM cards:

For more information, see our guide to 5G SIM-only deals and 5G Pay As You Go SIM cards.

What are the best Pay As You Go SIM cards for light usage?
There are a number of important considerations for light mobile users which are discussed in more detail here. However, for most people, we think the following Pay As You Go networks are worth considering:
  • 1pMobile
  • giffgaff
  • Vodafone Pay As You Go 1
  • ASDA Mobile
Are there any Pay As You Go SIM cards that don’t expire?
Yes. If you choose a traditional Pay As You Go plan, there’s no need to top-up your phone every month. You’ll just need to keep your SIM card active. This normally means using it for a chargeable activity at least once every 180 days.
Will I need to undergo a credit check for Pay As You Go SIM cards?
No. You can get a free Pay As You Go SIM card without the need for a credit check.
Can I keep my current phone number when changing network?
Yes. It’s easy keeping your current phone number when moving to a new Pay As You Go network. Simply get a PAC Code from your current network, and give it to your new mobile network once you’ve signed up.

More Information

For more information, see our guide to Pay As You Go deals in the UK. You can also read our in-depth mobile network reviews and our guide to the best SIM-only deals.

Your Comments 388 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 388 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • An interesting and Informative but I had hoped that the comparison would show which sims supported wifi calling, which is needed when living in the sticks.

    • Hi Gary,
      Thanks for your comment. Most mobile networks impose a condition on the free calls and texts (e.g. you’ll need to have topped up in the last 3 months to get the free calls and texts to other customers on the same network).
      Hope this helps,

  • William Hodgson said:

    ASDA Mobile are increasing their PAYG prices from 16 September:
    calls 15p per minute (currently 4p)
    texts 10p (currently 4p)
    data 10p per MB (currently 4p)

  • Hi Ken, I have used RWG for a few months now and can confirm that their “free 50m/50txt/250mb” plan is renewed every month with no additional payment or deduction from my balance. It’s certainly an interesting option for very low usage users. I’m going to try their “free 100m/100txt/750mb” plan next. Email me if you would like more details or want to collaborate on a review.

  • This is a great website, Ken. Well done!
    I want to find a better PAYG deal for my wife. She has been with Three Mobile for a few years and has what I believe is called “traditional” Pay as You Go. So she may top up her account with £5 and then that credit will gradually reduce when she occasionally makes calls or send texts. Three has become too expensive, so I am looking around bu I did d it confusing because some of PAYG deals I see (Lebara, for example) expect you to renew every month, which we don’t want. My wife doesn’t want to spend more than about £15 to £20 per YEAR. Can you suggest anything please?

    • Hi Clive,
      Thanks for your comment. Take a look at my guide on the best Pay As You Go SIM for light users. There are a number of plans which could be suitable for her, depending on her average usage. For instance, ASDA Mobile charges 4p/minute, 4p/text and 4p/MB without no regular monthly charges.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,
    Where is Smarty in your review and comparison, it has disappeared, please add Smarty to your comparison.
    Many thanks,

  • Hi Ken.
    I received a message from Co-op Mobile on 30/11/2021 that they are discontinuing their PAYG service on 28/2/2022. You may wish to update your pages.

  • Simon Moyles said:

    Hi Ken, thanks for your latest PAYG review.
    I am interested in the Three Data Reward SIM you mentioned, but when I go to Three’s website it states it’s only for mifi, tablets and dongles and no mention of 3p, 2p, 1p. Would I be breaking their rules if I were to put it in my phone and make call and send SMS?

    • Hi Simon,
      Thanks for your comment. There’s nothing to stop you from using a Data Reward SIM card in your mobile phone (especially so since Ofcom’s net neutrality regulations).
      Three doesn’t normally advertise this SIM for mobile phone users as the normal plan usually provides better value for mobile users (as you get unlimited minutes included on all of the bundles from £10). However, you can still use the SIM card in your mobile phone if you like, and I know many others readers here have been using it in that way.
      Hope this helps,

    • Naseem khan replied:

      Three does not offer 321 tariff anymore.
      If you want pay as you go with them than it’s 10 pence per minute.
      They changed 321 tariff this year….2021.

  • Stewart Saunders said:

    Currently, even allowing for my enjoyable part-time work (I’m in my 70s), I’m a very light user of a feature phone on Giffgaff PAYG, with typical monthly usage of 30-40 mins of calls plus half a dozen text messages, and typically auto-topping-up by £10 every month, ie £120/year. Giffgaff’s monthly usage statements generally confirm that my usage levels don’t justify a goody-bag.

    My current phone’s now on its last legs, so I’ll have to replace it. More importantly, I’m a little puzzled by your advice to only go for 1pMobile PAYG if you expect a monthly spend of at least £2.50, to avoid building up a non-refundable balance.

    If I switched to 1pMobile my monthly charges (at current usage levels) would probably only be about 60-70p/month maximum. It seems to me that I’d be happy to accumulate a non-refundable balance by paying the equivalent of £2.50/month. In the worst-case scenario, my call/text charges would simply drop from about £120 to £30. Alternatively I could afford to be less watchful of call duration. I could even consider dipping my toes in the world of smartphones, knowing that there’d probably be plenty of “spare” balance to fund my mobile internet-surfing.

    Have I perhaps misunderstood the point that you were trying to make?

    • Hi Stewart,
      Thanks a lot for your feedback. Yes, in your case, I think it does make sense to consider 1pMobile as I think they could well be the best value option for you. I guess the point I was trying to make (though perhaps not very clearly), is that it only makes sense to switch to 1pMobile if you’d pay at least £2.50/month on a another network. In your case, your average monthly spend will drop from £10/month on giffgaff down to £2.50/month on 1pMobile. Therefore, you’d see a saving on your usage.
      In another case, someone might currently be spending £2/month on giffgaff (e.g. they top-up by £10 every 5 months). In this case, they might think they’re saving money by switching to 1pMobile (as they’re now only using only 20p of credit each month). However, the minimum top-up requirement means they’re now actually spending £2.50/month (i.e. they’re not really saving money in this situation as a non-refundable balance is building up over time on their account).
      Hope this is a little clearer? If so, I’ll have a look at how I can make this clearer above!

  • Hello

    What is the best pay as u go option for someone who lives oversees but wants to keep a uk number
    So i am talking maybe the odd sms for otp

  • No mention of Smarty here! They are on the Three network. They have all plans with unlimited calls and texts starting at just £6. I get the tenner pack as I get 30gb of data! Check them out !

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks for your comment. ASDA provide a three-in-one SIM, allowing you to pop out the size of SIM card you require (e.g. you can simply pop-out the Nano SIM from the middle).
      Hope this helps,

  • Angela wells said:

    I have a contract with BT for pay as you Go mobile. It cost £10 a month but I just pay £5 as I have BT Broadband. Am I getting free minutes and texts with this.

  • Avoid Vectone as they are taking orders (and your money) during the CoVid19 outbreak but not posting out Sim Cards – so you just seem to pay money out and receive nothing.

  • Shaun McDonald said:

    There’s also Zevvle who have tiered pay as you go data with option of either pay as you go calls and texts or unlimited. Very useful if you have spiky data usage from month to month as you don’t need to worry about the out of bundle charges or coping and changing which bundle you are on.

    A new mobile network, Zevvle, is launching and giving away 1 million shares. You can sign up at 🚀

  • Now retired and looking for the cheapest of cheap PAYG for the odd phone call when I am out. Don’t want a monthly contract of any sort as I won’t get value for money. Just want to keep in touch with friends.

  • Betty Martland said:

    I will be visiting the UK in February for 10 days & again in May for several weeks then on a regular basis for short periods over the next 12 months Am I better getting a cheap contract or pay as you go.i use whatsap on a regular basis
    I’ll need uk calls, text & minimum wifi. I am not resident in UK & have a local SIM for calls abroad
    Hope you can advise.

  • Hi,

    Looking for a sim that doesnt expire?

    So if I spend 10 today buying th PAYG simcard etc, i dont have to keep worrying about having to top up every month?

  • Dale Fairbairn said:

    Can you recommend which sim would be best for tablet use on holidays in Turkey, data and text usage are main priority not calls.

  • I am leaving virgin PAYG as the tariff is increasing to £2 per call / text.

    HELP ME !! (and others) I am a light user on the mobile phone, which is the best provider to move to. Consider price for calls / texts, how many days of inactivity, and must you keep topping up in a set period of time. Another thing I will miss from virgin mobile is free voicemail, are there any mobile providers that provide free voicemail.

  • Hi,
    Most providers on pay-as-you go [T & C] says one must top up every 30-120 days regardless of whether the phone is active or not. The existing top-up must be used up- no provision whereby you only top up when your credit is low.. If you don`t automatically top up, your line will be de-activated and you will loose any credit on your card. There is no refund.
    The only exception is You top up when your credit is. No 30-120 days cut-off point.

    Can you tell me of “any other providers” which operates like and also offers real savings on overseas calls. Thank you.

    • Hi Kim,
      Thanks for your comment. The information in your comment is actually incorrect. On most mobile networks, as long as you don’t buy a Pay As You Go bundle, your Pay As You Go credit will last indefinitely providing your account remains active (which normally means using it at least once every 180 days). There are a couple of exceptions to this, which are detailed in my guide to Pay As You Go inactivity.
      Hope this helps,

      • “We received your inquiry regarding the duration of top up.

        We would like to clarify you that you need to top up your account at least once in every 120 days. When you do not top up at least once every 120 days your Vectone Mobile SIM will be disconnected from the Network automatically.”

        There are a few other companies with the same T & C. Light users-please beware. Are Lebara, Lyca, Vectone own by the same people/company?

        • Hi Kim,
          Sadly, lots of the ethnic operators (Delight, Lycamobile, Lebara & Vectone) implement a top-up expiry. They’re run by different companies (except Delight and Vectone are which both part of the same company), but they have similar policies. If you follow the guide here, however, you can choose a mobile network where your top-up doesn’t expire.
          Hope this helps,

    • Hi there,
      Great question! Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the red top up vouchers, so this question is probably best directed to Virgin themselves.
      With regards to the changes they’re making to Pay As You Go, it is rather unfortunate they’ve decided to do this. In my opinion, Pay As You Go has actually been neglected by Virgin for a number of years already (with their expensive rates and the 3G-only coverage). They actually stopped selling Pay As You Go to new customers in August 2019. I think it’s now about trying to gradually “push” customers off to other mobile networks or onto Pay Monthly plans, so they can fully wind down the Pay As You Go service longer-term.
      I’d definitely recommend using up your credit, and switching to an alternative Pay As You Go network when you get a chance.

  • Hi Ken,

    Brilliant advice on your webpages, especially for a subject/s that are constantly changing.

    I have a variety of old 2G handsets, just before I discard them all, are there any networks that still provide any UK coverage mobile coverage for occasional use please.

  • Dear Ken,
    can you advise about PAYG sim suppliers who still allow you to top up using cash or at a bank hole in the wall – using a debit card. I would prefer not to have to lodge banking information with the phone network or SIM supplier
    thank you

    • Hi Ross,
      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I wrote a blog post about this in 2016. Parts of it might be a little out-of-date now, as believe ATM/cashpoint top-ups were withdrawn on the 31st May 2019. However, the information about topping up in cash should still be correct as you can buy a top-up voucher or use an electronic top up card at most supermarkets, paying for your top-up in cash.
      Hope this helps,

      • Thank you! I was hoping I could get cheaper rates but then giffgaff it is. Maybe I’ll change it after I got my UK bank account.
        Your page is super helpful so thanks for that too!

  • Hi Ken, I was looking for keeping a UK mobile number and found your website. Thanks for the great page! I was a UK resident but now I live in Taiwan. I may not visit UK in a short time, so I need a PAYG sim card to receive text messages from bank of NatWest. Could you please give me some suggestions? I need a sim card which wouldn’t expire and stay active for a long time, cost less, and can receive texts in Taiwan. Thank you!

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your comment. It might be worth checking with NatWest to see if you’re able to use a Taiwanese phone number. If not, then I agree you’ll need a provider that allows you to keep your UK phone number active. I’ve prepared a full guide on this topic here, but in short, you’ll normally need to use your SIM card for a chargeable activity at least once every 6 months. Usage in Taiwan should be fine for this (e.g. you could send a text message at least once every six months to keep your SIM card active).

  • Hi Ken, I am UK citizen but live in Shanghai – will be in UK for a week and a week in portugal. First was recommend CM link by a wechat group in CHina. But then i found your site. Very informative.

    Which pay as you go would you recommend? just for using google maps and data – not really need many phone calls…..i use Wechat ;-))

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, it probably won’t make a huge difference which SIM card you decide to use for a 2 week trip! I often recommend giffgaff for people who are new to the UK as they allow you to top-up using a non-UK card and also offer international delivery (e.g. to China). However, these benefits might not be applicable for you if you have a UK bank account/card. A SIM card from CMLink UK will also do the job fine (they also offer international delivery to China, and the ability to top-up using WeChat, etc).
      Hope this helps,

      • mark jones replied:

        Perfect thanks Ken! Much appreciated. I was worried CM Link would restrict google etc – but i saw on your previous posts that this is no problem.

        I will send the sim cards to a uk address and i have wechat pay and uk bank card so i am all set.

        I suppose last question:
        I will be in Portugal for a week and need Data then for navigation etc – so i guess CM link will be the best? as i will use in Europe? Or does giffgaff also include cheap data even in europe?

        • Hi Mark,
          Both giffgaff and CMLink UK should allow you to use your phone in Portugal as well 🙂 This is because the EU mandates “roam like home”, so your UK bundle allowances can be used anywhere in Europe 🙂
          Hope this helps,

  • Mike Dalgelish said:

    Ken, I think its worth while considering adding to each provider: 1) Whether 2G also used (for voice) since in buildings and in rural areas that gives better coverage. e.g. would help compare O2 to EE, and 2) whether itemised billing is available online. Many thanks, Mike

  • Hello Ken. Thanks for your great website. I would like to tell you that Lycamobile changes its plans available and it will no longer offer pay-as-you-go service without monthly payment.

    • Hi Frank,
      Thanks for your comment. Do you have any further information on the changes that you mention Lycamobile is making to their plans? I’ve just had a quick look on their website and I think you can still get a Pay As You Go service without paying every month?

  • Hi Ken
    I didn’t know where to put my comment, but I just wanted to thank you for ther entire website. You must spend ages trawling through small print to come up with all the comparison information you present on the website. I’ve had a couple of providers over the years, and trying to figure out how much it will cost me to make different kinds of phone calls has almost made me give up on owning a mobile. I don’t how you are able to do it. But thanks to you it is so very easy to make an informed decision.

    • Hi John,
      Thank you very much for the kind and generous words! I’m really pleased that you found the website to be useful. Do let me know if there are any other areas of mobile technology that we can help to demystify and make clearer for people to better understand 🙂

  • Hello Ken. Thanks for your great website – so helpful for people like me who’ve just bought their first Smartphone and don’t know which PAYG SIM to get. I work from home so I don’t usually need to use a mobile phone much, but next month I’ll be going to Australia for 17 days and will need to make short phone calls/send texts to various people in Australia while I’m there (but I don’t anticipate needing to contact anyone back home in the UK). What’s the best value SIM to get in that situation? Does the Asda one you’ve recommended work outside the UK? I’ve got a pretty packed programme when I arrive in Australia, so there will be no time to get a SIM there. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

    • Hi Nessa,
      Thanks for your comment. An ASDA Mobile SIM card will work outside the UK but you’ll pay a fairly hefty international roaming charge (87p/minute to make and receive calls, 40p to send a text message and £7.50/MB to access the internet). Instead, I would possibly suggest getting a Three Pay As You Go SIM card. Their Go Roam offer will allow you to use your mobile phone in Australia at no extra charge (including calls to UK-based numbers and mobile data whilst you’re there). Unfortunately, it doesn’t include calls to Australian phone numbers (if you need this as a feature, you’re probably best off getting a local SIM card whilst you’re there).

      • Thanks a lot, Ken. I really appreciate your speedy and helpful reply. Maybe I’ll get the Three SIM in the short term and switch to the Asda one when I’m back. Thanks again for your wonderful website – I’ll be recommending it to all my friends.

  • I’m from Canada and will be travelling in France and Italy next September. I will need a Sim card that will give me talking time and some data. I will only need it for a 20 day period. I’m wondering if any of the Pay As You Go sim cards listed above would be an appropriate choice for such a short period of time?

    • Hi Jean,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the SIM cards on this page are really designed for people who are coming to the UK. If you’re visiting Europe, I’d typically recommend getting a SIM card in your country of arrival.
      Hope this helps,

  • I’m been using cuniq (China Unicom) for several months. Their £10 PAYG bundle comes with texts, 500 mins and 3 gig data, but there is also a free additional data allowance of 40 gig, which rises to 100 gig on the £12 bundle. The deal might expire end of June but at the last expiry date they simply extended the deal for 6 months. Cuniq runs on O2. Does Ken, or anyone else, have any feedback on this company?

  • Hi Ken,
    Great information thank you.
    Have recently tried plusnet alongside EE same location and phone, plusnet poor in comparison ie indoors no service at all whilst EE is stil 4G capable. I’m told this is because plusnet does not have use of the 800mh band.
    So you know if Asda mobile is the same or does Asda have the 800 band and will work as EE?

    • Hi Robin,
      Thanks for your comment. I know that EE have certain restrictions on things like the maximum download speed their MVNOs are able to access. However, I’m afraid I don’t know all the details about 800MHz (band 20) coverage and which MVNOs are able to access it (e.g. I’m unsure if this relates to 4G Calling, which is only available on EE and BT Mobile at present). Sorry about that!

  • I’ve been using O2 PAYG for over a year and have only topped up once (£10 when I started with them). I still have about £3 left. So it is untrue that you have to top up by at least £10 every 6 months. When I asked O2 why they hadn’t enforced the 6 monthly £10 top up they said it was because the SIM they gave me is not subject to the top ups and that O2 have changed the rules since I subscribed and now they do charge and that providing I keep using their SIM every so often they will not cut me off or charge me more. I’m not sure about that because from what I have read on their website over the years there has always been a minimum £10/six monthly top up rule with O2.

  • Seems that you have to pay much more if you use a mobile phone rarely nobody is keen on you doing this the providers want us all to be phone zombies so they make it “seem ” cheaper to reel you in! No wonder the younger folk spend all their time on phones, wanting to get their money’s worth!
    I am just looking for a payg sim for smartphone that will accept £10 and keep going until it runs out even if you have to use it once a month! Is there one?

    • Hi Dave,
      Many thanks for your comment. There shouldn’t normally be a problem sending text messages to Spain – have you checked to make sure you have the right phone number (including the +34 dialling prefix for Spain)? You’ll also need to make sure you have some credit on your account as international text messages will not be included in your bundle.

    • Hey John,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe the giffgaff website is sometimes a little bit glitchy. If you’re not able to order a SIM card from outside the UK, try visiting the homepage and then ordering a SIM card from there. I think that normally solves it.

      • Ken,
        Yes, the GiffGaff website is glitchy ordering from the homepage also fails due to an error message requiring that a U.K. valid phone no. beginning with 07 be used in the email box. That would seem to qualify as a GLITCH (Glitch Gaff) and not encouraging!

  • When a PAYG tariff quotes, for example 3p per minute for calls, does that cover call to phones using other networks as well as your own network? Does it include calls to landlines? I’m only asking about calls within the UK.
    I’m trying to help a disabled person on limited income. She needs a large key handset and I’ve found the one for her but calculating the cost of using it is difficult.

    • Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. Typically, most networks charge the same rate for calling UK landlines and mobiles. In our price comparison table here, the headline rate listed is the cost for calling mobiles on another network. However, some of them also provide free same-network calls & very rarely, a slightly lower rate when you’re calling landlines.
      Hope this helps,

    • Francis Caves replied:

      IF she has a 3G phone then a “3” PAYG SIM is cheap at 3p/ min, 2p/ text and 1p/MB.
      Otherwise O2 has the same, but you don’t need a 3G phone. CHECK the coverage first.

  • Hi,

    Are you aware of any PAYG data bundle/add-on/package that lasts for more than 30 days or a month? I can”t find one and the only long lasting alternative is 1p per Mb (e.g. Three PAYG) which is a bit expensive (i.e. £10 per Gb of data).

    Thank you.

    • Hi Eddy,
      Thanks for your comment. Out of interest, could you explain the reason for wanting to have a bundle that lasts for more than one month? If it’s because you use data infrequently, but you typically need a lot of data when you need it, you could have a look at Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1 (£1/day on the days when you use your phone for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of internet). In theory, this would allow you to use up to 5GB of data for £10, but you’re restricted to only 10 days of usage. Alternatively, if you’re a fairly light user, you could go for a slightly cheaper deal where unused data allowances roll over.
      If you do actually want a Pay As You Go bundle lasting for more than 30 days, I believe there are a number of mobile broadband tariffs offering this (e.g. lasting for up to 12 or 24 months). For instance, Three offers 24GB of data for £60 within up to 24 months validity (works out at around £2.50/month for 1GB of data).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi would love a review of CTRL Mobile as seems relative new small SIM only provider with cheap no contract deal on monthly £5 with unlimited calls and texts and 500 MB data. Have you used or reviewed this? Thanks. Ling

    • Hi Ling,
      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m afraid I haven’t heard of CTRL Mobile before! I’ll take a look into it, and will bear this in mind for future reviews!

  • I’m wanting to buy a iPhone se on a payg basis. I text, but don’t use calls or internet because too expensive but would like to. As you can tell I’m clueless about how to get the cheapest deal. Can you help?

  • Hey Ken,

    A question on O2 PAYG, having looked at their site at the bottom it says this: ‘ 20MB block of data usage’ do you know what it means? Is that a good or a bad thing?

    And I am a fairly light user so do you think this would be the best network to use?


    • Hi Hon,
      Many thanks for your comment. I’m not quite sure what this means to be honest – can anyone else reading this article shed a little more light? I don’t believe it really affects the total amount you pay – it’s just how O2 calculates their charges in the background. As such, you may find the balance on your account lagging your actual data consumption (i.e. they won’t necessarily deduct a penny from your balance as soon as you use 1MB).

      • Thanks for your reply Ken,

        I think I know what you mean, but all in all it is not something to worry about it.


  • Hi
    I am looking for a big button mobile phone for an elderly lady. She has free landline calls on her landline package and 10ppm for mobiles so needs a cheap PAYG for max 60 mins of mobile calls per month (her family are on mobiles). I thought of Three but it seems incompatible with all the big button mobiles I have seen as they appear to work on 2G only and giffgaff who are compatible with 2G phones are 15ppm. She is not interested in texting or using her mobile for anything other than calls. Any suggestions?

  • Hi Ken I wonder if you can help please, I’m looking for a data only card for my MIFI thing that doesn’t have a monthly payment of any kind and lasts until I finish with it>

    • Hi David,
      Many thanks for your comment. Have you had a look into Three’s Data Reward SIM Card? It’ll give you 200MB of free data per month, and you’ll pay 1p/MB for anything over that. You can top-up your account from £2, and the credit remains until you actually use it.

      • Thanks Ken
        That looks just what I’m looking for and shall order one

        Thanks again and keep up the good work.


    • Hi James,
      Many thanks for your comment. I believe it’s sometimes possible to use an ASDA Mobile SIM card in an EE-locked handset, but you’ll probably need to order a SIM card and put it in to make sure. Alternatively, if you’re able to unlock your handset from EE at low or minimal cost, it might be worthwhile doing this for future peace of mind.

  • Peter Clack said:

    I am a light user & are looking for sim only pay as you go scheme. I spend about 4 months in the UK, 2 months of which are spent in France. I am looking for calls & text in the UK & calls & data in France. Do you have any advise.

  • Hello Ken,
    I’m Italian and I currently live in Italy but I need an English mobile number both for work and for some periods in the UK. I’m not going to use the phone very much, so I thought the ideal sim card could be a pay-as-you-go, in order to avoide monthly costs.
    Which one would you suggest to me and how could I get it? I will be in the UK on 30th May, so I think it will be quicker to buy one there.
    For this new number I’m going to buy a refurbished mobile phone.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Valentina,
      Many thanks for your comment. I agree that it makes a lot of sense for you to choose Pay As You Go. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know which network will work best for you without knowing your usage – e.g. you’ll need to make the choice between traditional Pay As You Go and a Pay As You Go bundle. One good option is to get a SIM card from giffgaff (£10 will give you unlimited minutes, unlimited texts & 3GB data, but you may find this slightly overkill if you’re a very light user).

      • Hi Ken,
        Cracking blog post, I’ve got quite a specific use case in that I’m looking for a SIM for a bicycle computer (like a SAT NAV for a push bike). What I really need is a SIM where I can buy a data bundle and keep it indefinitely. The problem is every network seems to cancel any outstanding data after 30 days. Do you know if there are any where you can buy a data add on and keep it?

        I’m wondering if 3 would be the best option on PAYG with data @ 1p per MB, which works out at £10 per GB, which is quite expensive… but if I only use 50mb.. or 100mb a month, it would be the best option. Part of the problem is I don’t know how much I’ll use. Any pearls of wisdom would be appreciated! Cheers, Alex.

        • Hi Alex,
          Many thanks for your comment. I’d probably have a look at Three’s Data Reward SIM card. It’s similar to Three’s 321 tariff but has two key differences: (i) you’ll get 200MB of free data every month and (ii) the terms and conditions don’t restrict you to only using the SIM card in a smartphone. As with Three’s 321 tariff, this works on a traditional Pay As You Go basis so your allowance/credit won’t expire every month.
          Hope this helps,

  • Vicki Newton said:

    Hi Ken,
    We are travelling from Australia to the UK and Ireland in May and June for 9 weeks. We will need to buy 2 SIM cards for iPhone 6 & 8 (one for main use, one for light use). We would need to be able to tether our iPad to the main phone, make international calls to Australia & to/from Ireland & the UK. We!re thinking 1- 3GB data. As we are leaving soon, we would like to purchase the SIM cards from a shop when we reach the UK, rather than mail ordering. What would you recommend?

    • Hi Vicki,
      Many thanks for your comment. Your best bet would probably be to get a SIM card from giffgaff – the reasons being they offer a 3GB bundle for £10 along with fairly low-cost international calling, inclusive roaming in the EU (including Ireland) and the ability to top-up using a non-UK credit card. If you have a UK address you’re able to send the SIM card to (e.g. to a hotel or friend’s home), you can order a free SIM card online here. If you’re unable to do this (e.g. because the trip is too close), you can buy the SIM card from most supermarkets in the UK.
      Hope this helps,

      • Vicki Newton replied:

        Thanks for the prompt reply Ken. We had been looking at Giff Gaff after reading your article, but weren’t sure about ordering one by post so close to our trip. Great to know they are available in supermarkets in the UK. Do you happen to know whether it works on a cruise ship?

        • Hi Vicki,
          No problem! I think they do support limited roaming (mainly calling & texting) on some cruise ships – see here for more information. More generally, however, I’d probably recommend against using your mobile on a cruise ship as the cost of doing this is normally extortionate!

          • Vicki Newton replied:

            Thanks, that’s what we found a few years ago when cruising, I was just hoping the situation might have improved!

  • Frank Mitchell said:

    Hello Ken,
    Just found your excellent site, and now looking for some help. Wife and I will be in the UK (from Australia) in May,June 2018 and we require 2 UK sim cards for 7 weeks. We both have iphones 5s and generally need phone calls and data for maps as we travel from London-Cornwall-Wales and Scotland 4 weeks (mainly Central belt.). We have wifi at night but need day time data. Probably 2/3Gb each per month would do.
    Would you please advise us what the best options might be for our trip.
    Regards Frank

    • Hi Frank,
      I think your best bet would be to get a SIM card from giffgaff. There are multiple reasons for this, discussed in my guide for visitors to the UK (namely, they offer international SIM card delivery and allow you to top-up with a non-UK credit card). You’ll also get coverage from O2, and 3GB of data is available for just £10/month (approx 17.8AUD).
      Hope this helps,

      • Frank Mitchell replied:

        Thank you Ken, your guide is very clear, I must have overlooked it earlier.

        Giffgaff sounds perfect for our trip.


  • Ken.,
    Great to have an RSS feed from you.
    With so many now taking cruises there could be a very useful article on use of SIM cards from the UK. For example the USA corp Carnival Cruises use, when at sea, Telenor Maritime. But this only allows use of SIMs from certain telecos. P&O via TM exclude Virgin Media and others using the big telecos. Apart from the huge expense, the whole business is very confusing.

  • Richard Bulmer said:

    Hi Ken
    We only use mobile phone occasionally whilst in UK. However, we have a motorhome and go to the continent for two 60 day trips a year. Makes mobile essential to contact family back in UK. Are we better off with 1p mobile or a 321 deal?

    • Hi Richard,
      Many thanks for your comment. 1pMobile could certainly be a good option, providing you’re happy to meet the minimum top-up requirement of £10 every 120 days.
      If you’re a very light user (i.e. if you’d spend less than £30 per year), I’d probably go for O2 Classic Pay As You Go. From the 18th January, they’ll charge 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB (which is the same rate as Three’s 321 deal but probably with much better coverage in rural areas).
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken

    I am in the process of deciding whether to buy a Smartphone with a contract or get PAYG. Your advice would be appreciated.

    In brief, I go to Gran Canaria for 2 months of the year, then return to the UK, then go back to Gran Canaria and so on. In brief I spend 6 months in Gran Canaria and 6 months in the UK.

    I am not a heavy usage user (no film downloads etc) but use Facebook and will need to download a few short videos, as well as using text messages and phone calls.

    What do you suggest I should buy? I am tending to sway towards a straightforward PSYG SIM when in the UK, and will buy a SIM when in GC, but am concerned about the different phone numbers. I am sorry to sound ignorant, but will my phone number constantly change?

    Thanks for your advice

    • Hi Alyson,
      Given that you’ll be using your phone in each country for about 6 months per year, it is likely you’ll be better off getting two Pay As You Go SIMs (one in the UK and another one in Spain). This will be cheaper than getting a Pay Monthly contract as that has a lot less flexibility (e.g. you’ll need to pay every month).
      There is a third alternative, which is to choose either your UK or Spanish SIM card and to use it in the other country at no extra cost. This is possible as a result of recent Roam Like Home legislation, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on the fair usage policies of different network. Also, you’ll need to choose either a UK-based or Spain-based number, which means people calling you from one of those countries will need to pay international roaming rates.
      Finally, a great solution to the hassle of having two different SIM cards is to buy a dual-SIM handset (e.g. there are several dual-SIM handsets in the Moto G family). This will allow you to have two SIM cards (and two phone numbers) on your phone at the same time, so you can use both a UK SIM card and a Spain SIM card at the same time.
      Hope this helps!

      • Hello Ken

        Thank you for your prompt response. I will definitely take your advice and will get two PAYG SIMs.

        Just a quick question – sorry to take advantage! How long do PAYG SIMs last? Will I be able to top up after a few months non usage?

        Thank you very much for taking the time to help me out.

        • Hi Alyson,
          No worries at all, and happy to be able to help out! You can read more about Pay As You Go inactivity in the UK here, but in short: the answer is they will normally last indefinitely with most mobile networks requiring you to use the SIM card for a chargeable activity once every 6 months. The policy, however, does differ on a network-by-network basis so I would recommend checking before you choose a mobile network. The policy may be different for mobile networks in Spain, so I would also double-check with them directly.
          Hope this helps!

          • Once again Ken, your advice has been invaluable.

            I must commend you for running such a great site. It is easy to understand and it is great that it is so up to date!

            Finally, thank you again for your help. You have not blinded me with science and I actually know what I am doing!!

            All the best.

  • Ken, I am visiting the UK, and require the ability to Text and Call back to US phone numbers (in addition to data while in UK). I don’t see information specific to that need. I assume this is technically possible, with some kind of extra charge for those calls/texts.
    Can you confirm this is the case? If so, are there any providers that don’t allow that, and I should choose another?

    Thank you,

  • Hi,
    I changed from Orange (Animal-Racoon) to pay as you go ASDA.
    It was about 2 weeks ago. Got ASDA SIM by post. I transferred my number with use of code from Orange. Calling ASDA cust. serv. havre been told that it is done. I do have on display “ASDA MOBILE”.
    Have got message from Asda that my balance is £0. And that in my Starter for 10 bundle I have 10 min and 10 texts and 10 MB. And second message from them on the same day that I am given 10 minutes, 10 texts and 10 MB FREEto use in my first 30 days. Those 2 sms I have got on 7/11., on the day of transfer. I needed to call yesterday and today, tried to send message today but I am getting answer: “The system is busy and try later.” (I did not try to call or send sms after 7/11/, there was no need; I am lighter user).
    I tried today also to call 2732 – cust. serv., but getting same answer. I sent sms for “BAL” to 2732 – the message went but I have got no answer if I really do have 30 days for free as stated in their message.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Louise,
      Unfortunately, this is something you’ll need to check directly with ASDA Mobile – if you can’t reach them on 2732, you can also call them on 0800 079 2732.
      With ASDA, you should get a ‘Starter for 10’ bundle for free which lasts for up to 30 days. However, this is different from Pay As You Go credit, as they give you a time-limited allowance rather than some free credit with the SIM card.
      Hope this helps,

      • Thank you Ken for help.
        Having problem with cust. service Asda mobile, I looked into Three.
        They provide good price for PAYG. I am light user.
        I chatted with them online, one day (2 days ago, waititng for SIM) they told me that my mobile phone-
        Sony Ericsson T280i – is all right for Three. Today, after inserting their SIM card (for the first time) and getting message “Inactive SIM”, joing them online again, been told that my phone does not support 3G/4G.

        Before Asda mobile I was with Orange, both on Sony Ericsson T280i.
        Thank you for your opinion.
        Many thanks.


  • I just wanted to say thanks for the most comprehensive waffle-free summary of the tariffs available. I’m a fairly recent convert to 1p Mobile and I’m really happy with their service. The bonus that I didn’t appreciate is that you don’t lose unused credit every 3 months as I’d mistakenly expected – I had £3 credit when the automatic £10 topup was paid for after 3 months and my balance was then £13. So if I use it more this quarter then I can still use the money I paid last quarter. I decided to use the £3 to enter a TV premium rate competition a couple of times. I didn’t win, but perhaps next time!

    • Hi Sean,
      Many thanks for the feedback and really happy to know you found the website to be useful! Yes, 1p Mobile’s top-up requirement is fairly different to anything else on the market: as you say, the good news it rolls up rather than expiring every 120 days. If for some reason, you end up with lots of extra credit you want to get rid of, you can also try some of the options listed here (e.g. donating it to charity).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,
    For many years I have been using my daughter’s old Nokia phone. It is a PAYG. I use top-up vouchers with Virgin.
    I have been given an iPhone 4 and want to use this iPhone on a new network provider.
    My daughter cannot remember her password. As I want to keep my current mobile number could this pose a problem in getting the PAC code from Virgin to Asda mobile ?

    Many thanks,


    PS. Awesome website!


    • Hi Elaine,
      Many thanks for your comment. As part of the PAC Code/number transfer process, either you or your daughter will need to prove you’re the Virgin Mobile Pay As You Go account holder. If it’s a non-registered account, you might be able to do this by answering a few questions (e.g. about how you normally top-up your phone). If the account is registered, there should be a few other ways of proving identity (e.g. by providing some form of documentation to Virgin).
      Hope this helps,

  • Ken,

    I’m in Australia and I have an O2 classic pay as you go sim for when I come over to the UK.

    In order to keep the sim and number active I have to connect the phone at least once every 6 months. If I send a text message to my O2 UK number from my Australian mobile every few months, would that satisfy the 6 monthly usage requirement?



    • Hi Steve,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, you’ll need to make a chargeable activity on your O2 Pay As You Go SIM card every 6 months. This must be something that affects the balance on your account, so receiving an incoming text message won’t count towards this. However, you can send an outgoing text message from that SIM card which will then count towards the minimum activity requirement.
      Hope this helps,

      • Ken,

        I ended up doing what you suggested and sent an outgoing SMS message from here in Australia and then logged in and checked my account balance. It had gone down 50p so I guess that meets the chargeable activity requirement.



  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the article. Are there any drawbacks to the 1p Mobile pay as you go tariff? I’m looking for a suitable tariff for my mum who’s a light user.
    Any advice appreciated.

    • Hi Marc,
      Thanks for your comment. You can see my full review of 1pMobile for more information, but I think the main one is you need to top-up at least £10 every 120 days. Therefore, it isn’t ideal for very light users who’d expect to spend less than £30 per year.
      Hope this helps!

  • Awesome website! Always coming back to it!

    Ken, I am looking for the best 4G Sim only deal which will support tethering. I would prefer one of the major mobile providers. Not too worried about the amount of mins (calls and txt), but need some good amount of data. Of course unlimited is always desirable.



  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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
    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

    • 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,

      • 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

        • 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!

  • Aayush Ganesh said:

    Just wanted to mention that 500 minutes, unlimited texts 1GB is now £12 on Tello :(. I had to leave because it was too expensive for me after the price rise. I’m eagerly awaiting Smarty and their launch. The product looks excellent and I can’t wait for it 🙂

    • Hi Aayush,
      Many thanks for the heads up about this! Yes, it’s a real shame regarding the Tello price rises – and as you say, Smarty is definitely one to keep an eye on! I’ve just amended the information about Tello in the article above, and will review the entire article again very shortly.
      Thanks again,

  • I have been looking at your review which have come in very handy, so thanks for that.

    I have a couple of quick questions, I have recently been stung by not putting a chargeable transaction on PAYG sims via O2 that I use for work I thought that sending txts out on the sim would of done this but obviously not..

    We do not use them for calling out on only for sending txt messages fairly infrequently. I noticed that you have recommended Asda mobile, having had a quick look I can see that the coverage is decent for what I need it for in my area but I cannot find the PAYG deal. Only the bundle deal which I do not need.

    Does the credit sit on the account until one uses it or until 6-9 month period if you have not used the sim it gets cancelled? Is sending txts a chargeable transaction as I don’t want to go ahead a put credit on the sims to find out I loose them if we haven’t used them within a certain time period.

    Also do you have a link to the PAYG sim i am looking for?


    • Hi James,
      Many thanks for your comment. There’s more information here about the conditions for keeping your SIM card active. I’m unsure why O2 closed your account if you made a chargeable text message (their T&Cs simply require you to “carry out any chargeable activity at least once in any 6 month period”).
      With regards to ASDA Mobile, you can order a free SIM card here. ASDA has a traditional Pay As You Go product where you pay 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB (more info here or see the list of rates on the official ASDA website). If you’re a regular mobile user, you can buy a 30-day bundle but this is optional and is only recommended if you regularly use your handset.
      On ASDA, you’ll need to make a chargeable activity at least once every 270 days to keep your SIM card active (outgoing phone calls will be suspended after 180 days to remind you to keep the SIM card fully active). As long as you make a chargeable activity once every 270 days, your credit will not expire.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    Do you happen to know if there is a network on which you don`t need to top-up the sim card in order to activate it? If not, which network offers the cheapest sim activation top-up? I am really just looking to have a uk sim card so I can receive calls/text on it.

    Thanks a lot,

    • Hi Adriana,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t have a full list of which mobile networks allow this, but I know for certain you should be fine to use the SIM card without an initial top-up on ASDA Mobile (they’ll even give you a free allowance of 10 minutes, 10 texts and 10MB to test out the SIM card). Longer term, you’ll need to use the SIM card at least once every 270 days in order to keep it active so you’ll eventually need to add some money to the SIM card (even if it’s just a fiver for the occasional call or text).
      Some other mobile networks also allow you to do this, whereas others will require you to top-up before the SIM card is activated.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken
    Thanks for such a useful site.
    I have just ordered an emergency only phone for when I’m out hiking and kayaking and Im look for a classic Pay as You go SIM card. I have just ordered a giffgaff SIM, but it seems to be only for pay monthly deals.
    What would be your advise for the best and cheapest SIM that will carry over every month until it runs out.

    As this is an emergency only phone it may not be used for months at a time and a pay monthly deal would be a waste of money.

    Best regards

    • Hi Neil,
      Many thanks for your comment. My recommendation would be to order a free SIM card from ASDA Mobile. You can use it with no regular charges (you’d just Pay As You Go at 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB). The only requirement is you use the SIM card at least once every 270 days (ideally once every 180 days) so in theory, you can get away with sending just two texts per year (costing you a grand total of 8p per year!).
      On giffgaff, it is also possible to use Pay As You Go without buying regular 30-day bundles. You’ll pay 15p/minute, 5p/text and 5p/MB.
      Hope this helps,

  • I will be in the UK next week as a tourist, so I can’t order a SIM card. How do I get it? Do I just go to a store and they set it up for me? I am 65 and have age-related computer/mobile telephone ignorance.


    • Hi Linda,
      Many thanks for your comment. You just need to pop in to a mobile phone store to ask for a Pay As You Go SIM card. Normally, the staff should be able to set this up for you. However, the only thing I’d probably do in advance is to make sure your handset is unlocked (otherwise, it won’t accept a different SIM card when you’re in the UK).
      Hope this helps and have a great trip!

  • Carol Blake said:

    Advice please for my son in Vietnam who will be visiting me in the uk in August and needs a temporary payg phone card with the minimum spend on it. Trying to find one with only £5 but they all seem to require £10 which he will not need.
    Thank you.

      • Carol Blake replied:

        Thanks so much for your quick response……….an extra question. Will he have to get his Vietnamese phone unlocked in order to use a free UK Sim card, or is there a card he could use automatically giving him a UK number. Thanks again.

          • Thank you again Ken for your very clear rep!y…. I did suspect this and will forward your advice to him.
            Yes the weather is glorious and I am loving it.
            Regards, Carol 🙂

  • Hi Ken,

    Great Website.

    I have been trying in vain to order a free vodafone payg sim card but everytime i try it applies a bundle. Reason being i want the free sim to test the covergage at my home before commiting to a top up. Any ideas or is there no way to get a vodafone free sim now without buying a bundle?

    • Hi Daniel,
      Many thanks for your comment. You used to be able to order a SIM card without actually topping up at the same time. Unfortunately, like yourself, I can’t seem to find this option any more on their website so I suspect you’ll need to top-up to order a SIM card online. It might be worth checking in at your local Vodafone store to see if they can give you a new Pay As You Go SIM card, without the need to top-up at the same time.

  • tesco mobile do a light tariff ,which matches asda ,s 8p and 4p good to me as both have poor service in scottish low lands.
    since sainsburys and now talkmobile have ended,there is a need for a cheap provider,using the vodafone network without the Vodafone prices..
    Let me me know if you hear anyone is starting this.
    YOU will have seen the 4g kevin bacon ee adverts,my phone wont do a thing on EE network not even on 2g..keep up the good work.

  • Arnold Mooney said:

    I have to find a new supplier for my non smart phone as Talkmobile is closing down. I see that you recommend Asda Mobile to most people, although 1p Mobile seems to offer much cheaper calls, and I just wondered why? I am a very low user, just a few texts and the odd call now and then.

    • Hi Arnold,
      Many thanks for your comment. It’s important to be aware of 1pMobile’s minimum top-up requirement: you’ll need to top-up your phone by at least £10 every 120 days. This effectively means a minimum spend of £30 per year (equivalent to about £2.50/month).
      ASDA Mobile doesn’t have the same minimum top-up requirement. Therefore, if you’re a very light user, you’ll possibly be much better off using ASDA Mobile at 8p/minute and 4p/text. For instance, someone using 10 minutes and 10 texts on average each month would pay just £1.20 using ASDA Mobile. There are no minimum spend or top-up requirements on ASDA Mobile: you just need to just use your phone at least once every 270 days (and ideally, at once every 180 days).
      For regular & frequent mobile users, ASDA Mobile has a range of bundles starting from £5/month. In general, they work out to be better value than using 1pMobile e.g. for £10/month, you can get 600 minutes, unlimited texts & 1.5GB of internet. On 1pMobile, this would cost you substantially more.
      I think there’s a bit of a “sweet spot” where 1pMobile wins, and that’s for users who’ll typically spend between £2.50 and £7 per month.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    I am traveling to U.K. in July for 15 days. Which Network Sim is easily available at Gatwick airport or at any Supermarket?


    • Hi Pinak,
      Many thanks for your comment. I’d strongly recommend against buying a SIM card at the airport as you will normally be paying well over the odds for it. Instead, you’re much better off picking up a SIM card at the supermarket. You can easily get a SIM card there from most of the major mobile networks (including EE, giffgaff, O2, Three and Vodafone).
      Hope this helps,

  • I have just got a car with a SIM slot.

    I’d like to use the functionality this provides.
    I’m looking for a PAYG deal that charges me for what I use. I am not interested in bundles or data allowances that expire. I want true PAYG. I estimate I’ll use about 10 minutes of outgoing calls per month and perhaps up to 2GB of data. (Mostly for access to Google maps and live traffic.)
    What would you recommend?

    Just to say as well – congratulations on your site. Very comprehensive and the most useful and clear site I’ve found on SIM deals.



    • Hi Mike,
      Many thanks for your comment. The problem with traditional Pay As You Go is that data inevitably ends up fairly expensive on it. At the moment, the cheapest networks for data on a Pay As You Go basis are Three, iD Mobile and 1p Mobile (see comparison table here). They’ll each charge you 1p/MB for data, so 2GB of usage would cost a whopping £20. Meanwhile, you can easily pick up a bundle for £10 or £12 per month that has 2GB of data and a substantial number of minutes included (e.g. giffgaff’s £10 goodybag).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken, many thanks for your reviews and guidance here. For my upcoming travels to UK and Europe, what’s your view on UK prepaid SIM card? It’s sold by an Australian company and offers 12GB of data at USD49.95. It can be used over in European countries. I’ve checked and checked online and don’t seem to find any other similar SIM card which offers large data usage for UK and EU. What do you think?

    Many thanks again. John

    • Hi John,
      Many thanks for your comment. In my opinion, there’s no need to purchase a SIM card in Australia before you arrive in the UK. Here, you can get 12GB of data for £20 on Three Pay As You Go (approx 25USD) and it’s super easy to pick up a SIM card on arrival. You can also use the allowances abroad in other European countries at no extra charge. For more information, see my guide to Pay As You Go bundles in the UK.
      Hope this helps,

  • Noel Kelly said:

    I am a light user on a Talk Mobile pay as you go which is due to expire. You have suggested that Asda have a good deal but under Talk Mobile heading you suggest that only Vodafone and Lebara Mobile are available. Can you please clarify the position.

    • Hi Noel,
      Many thanks for your comment. For all-round usage, I think an ASDA Mobile SIM card is a great choice. However, ASDA Mobile uses coverage from EE instead of coverage from Vodafone. As long as you’re able to receive coverage from EE in your area, ASDA is probably my recommended alternative. However, some customers are only able to get Vodafone coverage in their home (in this case, the only two options would then be Vodafone and Lebara). More information here on coverage providers.
      Hope this helps,

  • Steve Ellis said:

    Hi Ken

    My wife has a Samsung phone, only used for emergencies. So, we are looking for a PAYG sim that does not require a monthly top.

    Can you help, please?

    • Hi Steve,
      Many thanks for your comment. My recommendation would probably be to order a SIM card from ASDA Mobile. You’ll get 2G, 3G & 4G coverage from EE with no need to top-up your phone every month. Phone calls will cost 8p/minute and texts will cost 4p each, with the only condition being you use your phone at least once every 270 days (ideally, once every 180 days if you’re able to do this).
      Hope this helps,

  • Dear Ken.

    I have been reading your review on Asda mobile traditional pay as you go. You, mentioned that for £10.00 You would get an extra 600 minuets of calls. £10 top-up buys: 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 3.5GB internet†. Can I use the 600 minuets whenever I want, or is it for only 30 days?



    • Hi Ray,
      Many thanks for your comment. With traditional Pay As You Go on ASDA Mobile, you can pay 8p/minute for all of your usage, and your credit won’t expire providing you use your SIM card once every 270 days.
      The £10 package with 600 minutes is a 30-day bundle, so if you buy that, you’ll have just 30 days to use the 600 minutes. At the end of the 30 days, any unused minutes will expire along with the bundle.
      Hope this helps,

      • Thanks Ken.

        Many thanks for getting back to me. As a complete beginner with mobile phones and all the various tariffs, I have found this site very useful for navigating myself through a complex minefield of charges and options. I have decided to go with Asda mobile as the phone I want has 2G only, and their prices are competitive.



  • I am going to the UK in June and would like to have (ideally 2) SIM cards in hand before I leave (for me and my wife) I don’t see that the vendors will ship outside the UK. Do I have to wait and find an ASDA store when I get there? We are coming into the Glasgow airport.

    • Hi Robert,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t believe ASDA will ship their SIM cards outside the UK, so it’s likely you’ll need to pick one up from a store when you arrive in the UK. Alternatively, you might be able to send a SIM card to your hotel or B&B address in the UK.
      Occasionally, some mobile networks (e.g. giffgaff) will ship their SIM cards abroad. Alternatively, if you’re not fussy about which mobile network you use, you can also pick up a Pay As You Go SIM card from almost any supermarket or mobile phone store when you arrive.
      Hope this helps!

  • Ken, for those who have accumulated quite a bit of credit on Virgin PAYG, do you know what kind of bundles they can buy with that credit?

    • Hi Khairul,
      Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any bundles you can buy on Virgin PAYG to efficiently use up the credit. However, there are two things possibly worth exploring:
      1) You could call Virgin Media on 789 and enquire about moving to one of their SIM-only deals. They might offer to transfer your Pay As You Go credit to your Pay Monthly account (hence, probably giving you a couple of months of free line rental).
      2) You can donate it to charity following the instructions here. Obviously, this would be a lot better productive than trying to spend it frivolously or leaving it in Virgin Mobile’s coffers.
      Hope this helps,

  • Netta Kettell said:

    Hi I am looking for a cheap sim to use with a Ltl Acorn 6210MC and I wonder if you know which sim would be compatible with it. Its my understanding their not all compatible.

    • Hi Netta,
      Thanks for your comment. Do you have any further information about which technologies and bands are supported on the device? The information here should help you to identify network compatibility (although it is a little out-of-date at the moment as it lacks information on 4G).

  • Hi Ken,

    Need your help. I purchased iPhone 7 plus 128 gigs on 26th Dec from Carphone warehouse. Checked the phone day before yesterday from inserting Lycamobile sim from my iphone 5. I did not accept so I went back to the store and told them about the problem. What they advised is the phone is sim free and unlocked but you need to get a UK sim other than Lyca and get the phone activated and then call up the career to unlock from their network. So I took EE PAYG sim today and activated my phone. I also intend to call the customer care to get it unlocked asap since I’ll be leaving UK and heading for India in early Feb. Now my concerns are –
    1. Say the career has unlocked my phone, would I be under the same situation again whereby I need another UK sim back in India which is insane.
    2.Will my phone continue to work with any other major careers across globe once I unlock it from EE?
    3. Can I try and check if Lyca sim works before my departure once I am unlocked from EE?

    Appreciate your sincere help.


    • Hi Ranajoy,
      Thanks for your comment. I recommend having a look at my in-depth guide to unlocking SIM-free iPhones (e.g. from the Carphone Warehouse). Hopefully, you’ll find the information there and also the comments below to be useful to your query. To answer your questions briefly:
      1&2. No, once your iPhone has been unlocked from EE, it will be permanently unlocked for use on any network (either in the UK or abroad in other countries). I don’t believe it will lock itself again in the future.
      3. Yes, it shouldn’t be a problem to test out a Lycamobile SIM card before your departure.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi,

    I want to get a basic SIM only deal for my wife’s basic phone (not a smartphone). I doubt she will even use £5 per month so am trying to find a SIM card that does not require a regular payment – she may only make a couple of calls every few months. It is more so others can contact her.

    Most of the deals seem to be for 3G only. I assume non-smartphones, even the new ones, are 2G, in which case how do I find a suitable basic SIM?

    Please help! I look forward to your response.

    Many thanks

    • Hi JD,
      Thanks for your comment. I’d recommend ordering a free SIM card from ASDA Mobile. They charge 8p/minute and 4p/text with no regular monthly charge (they have 30-day bundles but these are totally optional). They provide you with 2G & 3G coverage from EE so the service will work even on non-smartphones. They also have a really good inactivity policy: you only need to use your phone at least once every 270 days in order to keep it active.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken and J-D,
        I’m a bit late coming in on this, but I can confirm that the information is absolutely correct! I received my Asda sim card today and inserted it in my ancient Samsung E250 mobile (released 2006) and it works perfectly. I topped up with £5 straight away and gave my PAC code to the lovely, friendly gentleman at customer services as I want to keep my old vodafone number I’ve had for years, no problems at all.
        I too think Asda have the best deal for a light user, especially one with a basic ‘non singing and dancing’ phone!

    • Hi there,
      You can buy the Mega Christmas Bundle up until the 31st December (and if you were to do so, it would last you until the 30th January 2017). Therefore you can benefit from the offer for about two months. After that, you’ll need to revert to the normal £10 bundle. Alternatively, if ASDA has an offer on their bundles in the new year (like they have previously), you’d also be able to take advantage of that.
      Hope this helps,

  • I have been with giffgaff for some time and recently visited Portugal and was unable to join any networks to join the Internet

    Ian thinking of joining Vodaphone to correct this situation when I go again to Portugal, is this a good way or do you recommend another


    • Hi Jerry,
      Thanks for your comment. There shouldn’t be any problems using giffgaff in Portugal. However, many people are caught out by the need to have Pay As You Go credit in addition to the normal giffgaff goodybag (this is because your giffgaff goodybag doesn’t include out-of-UK usage, and data in the EU will cost an extra 4p/MB).
      If you join Vodafone, you may also experience the same issue (in fact, it’ll be similar with any network where you buy a Pay As You Go bundle).
      Hope this helps,

  • John sheridan said:

    I am resident in the States but have a home in the UK, I would love to keep a phone just for the UK on PAYGo however cannot guarantee I will not be outwith the UK for less than six months. Is there a provider that will allow me to keep a Paygo plan that may be dormant for over six months which would then work right away if I return say after eight months?


    John S

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. There’s more information here on credit expiry in case you haven’t yet seen it, but as you say you’ll normally need to use your phone at least once every 6 months in order to keep it active.
      Note however, there’s no requirement to actually use your phone inside the UK. This means you can possibly keep it active just by using the phone to send a text message in the US (typical cost on most mobile networks is about 40p-50p). Typically, I’d recommend ASDA Mobile for their friendly inactivity policy (270 days of inactivity before the SIM card is blocked, and you have the possibility of recovering your phone number up to 360 days).
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,
    I have a Dual SIM phone so I can use the same phone for business and personal. However, after lot’s of playing about and searching the net. only one SIM can be on 4g and the other needs to be on 2g for some reason. Both my contracts are 4g, so to test this I want a cheap pay as you go SIM on 2g and then if it works, is it still possible to get a contract on 2g – or have I just bought a useless phone!?

    • Hi Scotty,
      Thanks for your comment. In my opinion, it isn’t too much of a problem that the second SIM card only supports 2G. After all, you can’t make phone calls on a 4G connection (it will normally drop to 2G & 3G). Also, you can only use the internet on one SIM card at a time (so the main thing is that your primary SIM slot supports 4G).
      With regards to your question, most UK mobile networks will give you 2G coverage – the only ones that don’t will use coverage from Three (so you’ll need to avoid iD Mobile, Tello, Three and TPO). All of the other SIM cards listed on this page will work on 2G – my personal recommendations would probably be either ASDA Mobile or giffgaff.
      Hope this helps,

      • Thanks for the reply Ken,
        I bought a 50p Pay as you Go ASDA SIM and it works like a charm. Sod’s Law one contract is on 3 and the other, ID. I’m keeping the 3 account (as I can use it abroad for no extra cost) and I shall terminate my ID contract and PAC-Code the number onto another provider.

        Thanks again.

  • hi ken
    im so confused!
    i have given my 10 year old an old iphone 4s and is currently on 3 network with the 321 sim.
    he hardly ever uses it as it is just for contact when he is at friends but tends to use wifi when ever he can but lately he has been playing pokemon go when we are out and about which seems to be hammering the data.
    any advice on the best sim?
    i have been trying to read the comments but there are so many!
    thanks for reading.

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Do you know how much data your son has been using on his iPhone? If you aren’t sure, the info here will help you to find out. Once you have that information, it’s worth having a look at my guide to Pay As You Go bundles as that will help you to find the best value deal.
      If he’s using less than 1.5GB of data per month, I’d probably suggest getting a free ASDA Mobile SIM card. They have some great bundles (e.g. 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 1.5GB of data for £10/month).

      • His there I’m on 3 myself and I buy a 25 pound top up the convert that into text,minutes and unlimited data. There are cheaper bundles if you didn’t want to spend that much go on there website and see for yourself 😆

    • Hi Julie,
      For more information on credit expiry and account inactivity, I recommend reading my in-depth article here. To answer your question, ASDA Mobile has one of the best inactivity policies of any UK network – they’ll only close your account if the SIM card hasn’t been used for a period of 270 days.
      Hope this helps,

  • Tello have had a great proposition for PAYG, where data cost 1p per MB. Very shortly, you’ll need to have a monthly plan as they are withdrawing PAYG. Three appears competitive as an alternative.

  • Hi Ken, My 10 year old son has just gotten an iphone 5c he hardly uses the mobile he has for calls and text but does like his apps can you suggest the best payg sim that would give him plenty off data time but also doesnt cost me the earth.. Thanks

  • Just wondering if anyone is experiencing issues with getting hold of a Asda sim card at the moment. I ordered one a few weeks ago and it didn’t turn up so I ordered another. That didn’t turn up either.
    Just been into an Asda and they’ve been waiting four weeks for some to come in.
    Any worthwhile alternatives? Needs to be able to use 2G , be on the EE network and have credit that doesn’t expire. Obviously there’s EE but I’d prefer cheaper call rates!
    Just a bit concerned that Asda Mobile could be going the way of Post Office Mobile.

  • Hi Ken,
    Thank you so much for all the helpful information you have provided in this helpful website.
    I am coming to the U.K to spend 15 days between Edinburgh and London. We have rented places in both Edinburgh and London through Airbnb and i asked permission from the owner in Edinburgh a-if i could receive post in their flat and he agreed.
    I have an unlocked iPhone 6S and I want to get a nano sim to use mostly for GPS, maps, facebook so I am looking for a good network with great 4G coverage throughout the U.K. I understand that EE has the best coverage. So, in order for me to get a sim card sent through post, do I need to be a U.K resident or have a U.K credit card?
    Can I just but the sim card directly from the physical store using cash or credit cards? I tried to order one using EE website but they were asking for a U.K billing address since you must but the top_up on their website. If I order from other networks like Gifgaf, do you recommend them? Does Gifgaf have a good 4G coverage overall?
    I am looking for at least a 4 Gigabytes of data. I am also going to France afterwards so maybe one that works there for no extra fees would be a better option.
    I thank you so much for your time dear Ken and I appreciate your time.

    • Hi Atef,
      Thanks for your comment and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK!
      Yes – you can just buy a SIM card on arrival in the UK from pretty much any phone store or supermarket (if you don’t mind which mobile network, there should be plenty of shops selling SIM cards in Edinburgh). I’d strongly recommend *against* buying your SIM card at the airport, as they’ll charge you a lot more for doing this!
      With regards to topping up, you’ll normally need a UK-registered credit or debit card if you try to top-up on the internet or over the phone. Therefore, you’ll probably find it easier to top-up in person at a store in the UK (e.g. at the local supermarket or phone store). See my article here for more information.
      Finally, with regards to my recommended network, do take a look at ASDA Mobile as well. You get coverage from EE at a very reasonable price (e.g. 3GB of data for £15/month or 6GB of data for £20/month). You can also use your phone in France at no extra charge this summer, but it’s 3G only (you won’t get access to 4G). If you’re willing to make this trade-off, it will probably work out much cheaper than both EE and giffgaff. For ASDA Mobile, however, I’d strongly recommend ordering a free SIM card online (if you want to pick it up in person, it’s 50p and you’ll need to go to an ASDA retail store).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken
    Your articles have been very informative and helpful while I’ve been researching pay as you go deals.
    I’m looking for a pay as you go sim for my mother in law, we have an old iphone4 that I’m going to give her which was my old 02 contract phone which I have now upgraded – she’s only going to use the phone for very few texts, hardly any calls and mainly for photos we send her – were gonna download whatsapp so she can use it on her wifi at home…..which deal would you recommend? The phone is not unlocked but I can do this if it is better, also what happens if you don’t top up the £10 (or whatever a month) do you lose your money and is it just standard charges or does the sim stop working?
    Thanks in advance for any information!

    • Hi Rachel,
      Thank you for the kind words and so sorry for the delay in getting back to you!
      There are several articles I’ve written in the past which should hopefully make things a little bit clearer:
      1. My comparison of Pay As You Go rates. You can filter this e.g. for the lowest-price text messages. If you want to use an O2-locked iPhone, you would probably need to choose either giffgaff or O2 (giffgaff is cheaper as they charge just 5p/text).
      2. My article on Pay As You Go credit expiry. On most mainstream mobile networks, your credit won’t expire providing you use the SIM card at least once every 6 months. There is no need to top up your phone by £10 every month (this is only necessary if you buy a monthly Pay As You Go bundle).
      3. If you’d like to unlock your iPhone, see the instructions here. It will cost you £15 to unlock an iPhone from O2. This will allow you to benefit from a wider range of details e.g. you could choose ASDA Mobile at 8p/minute and 4p/text (coverage from EE).
      Hope this helps,

  • Can I get a payg sim card for someone who would only use the phone 3-4 times a month, so would not want a monthly charge?

  • I am looking for a basic mobile phone with NO CAMERA for use in a Children’s Day Nursery. There must be a small market for such a device – I have found the Nokia 105/106 and the Samsung E1200i. However these are not 3G or 4G compatible devices so I require an occasional use, probably PAYG SIM for use on 2G networks (in the UK only). Your analysis makes no reference to 2G compatibility however I suspect that, for example, Vodafone operates a 2G as well as 3/4G network whereas Three, for example, does not. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Chrish,
      Thanks for your comment. You’ll have 2G coverage on all of the networks listed above, with the key exception of on the SIM card from Three. If you’d like a bit more background, I’ve got a table on this page discussing the types of coverage available on each network. For a 2G tariff that allows you to call and text, my recommendation would probably be the SIM card from ASDA Mobile. They charge 8p/minute and 4p/text and you’ll get coverage from the EE network.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken

    I have found your articles very interesting and hope you can answer a question for me.

    My wife and I are travelling to UK in May and June and have 2 smart phones. One is an iPhone 4S and the other a generic ‘Android’ phone branded as a Telstra T816. (Telstra is our leading Mobile phone network in Australia.)

    We want to buy a prepaid sim card for one of the phones for use while in UK. Can we simply insert a sim card bought from an outlet like ASDA (it will not matter if it is a different number) and will it work straight away? We do not want to change the phone number on the phone so that we have problems when we return to Australia!!

    I hope yo0u will have a moment to reply in due course, thanks,


    • Hi Roger,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes: your phone should work straight away in the UK, but you’ll need to double-check to make sure it’s unlocked (otherwise it might not accept a non-Telstra SIM card).
      With regards to your second question: phone numbers are actually associated with a SIM card rather than a physical handset, so there’s no need to worry about complications later on (just change your UK SIM card back for your Australian SIM card when the trip is over and you’ll still have the same phone number as before).
      Hope this helps!

      • Rogerbid replied:

        Hi, Sorry for the delay in responding, been away in Sydney and off line

        Thanks so much for taking the time to reply, your advice is invaluable,

        best regards,


  • Hi Ken
    I live in Australia, and am coming to Britain for 5 weeks in July, I’m looking for the best prepaid option for the 5 week period, where the majority of the time will be in and around Southampton the ASDA or GiffGaff options look very good, however which is the best network provider for coverage, 02 or EE? can I purchase now and have it delivered to my family’s home ( to get that job organised & out of the way)or should I wait until closer to arrival?

    • Hi Tony,
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, there’s pretty good nationwide coverage on both O2 and EE. This does vary on a regional basis however, so I’d probably ask someone local who will know a bit better e.g. your family in Southampton. For instance, something like the level of coverage you receive at the home in Southampton will make a big difference (in case you’ll be staying in a black spot on one of the networks). There’s no problem ordering a free SIM card now and getting it delivered to your family’s home (they can just hold it for you and you can top it up closer to the date).
      Hope this helps!

  • Hello Ken,
    Thanks a lot for this great article. It is really helpful for my situation because I bought an iphone 5s for pay as you go with a vodafone sim with it. And my old sim (lycamobile) won’t work in it and I really don’t want to use vodafone sim. I really didn’t know what to do until I read this article. However, I would like to ask that after transfering networks or numbers with the PAC Code so I could use my old lyca number in a vodafone Sim, would my number still be know as lycamobile number or Vodafone number? Which topup would I get if I was to buy a voucher?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Rita,
      Thanks for your comment. If you were to move your Lycamobile phone number over to Vodafone, you’ll be using your phone number but on the SIM card from Vodafone. The SIM card is recognised as being on Vodafone and you’ll also need to buy Vodafone top-ups. So it’s not so much that your turning your Lycamobile SIM card into a Vodafone SIM card – it’s more you’re moving the phone number to Vodafone instead.
      Hope this helps,

  • I have been using a Three SIM (321) for a while and everything has been fine until now. I needed a SIM that would be economic to use in Spain and the UK (I spend 50/50 time in each country) – wonderful Three have their “Feel at Home” where the price is the same in Spain as the UK. This all worked fine until I had been in Spain for two months. They then cut me off because I had overstayed in Spain. There is no option to change to another scheme – and this was with one day of warning by text message. So now I can’t use my usual phone number until I reappear in the UK (so much for no descriminatory barriers across the EU). So my warning is, if you plan on staying in a EU country for more than two months, don’t use Three – they will cut you off with little warning.

  • Hi Ken,

    Great website, thanks. The amount of information and clarity is brilliant, I couldn’t find anything else like it. Thank you very much.

    As an occasional visitor to the UK from the Channel Islands, I was using a payg O2 big bundle on and off for a few years. I found the few gb’s of data a month invaluable when using google maps etc for navigation and and other resources for findin my way around.

    It’s been just over a year since my last visit, and it would appear my O2 sim is now dead. We are in London next month as my other half needs an operation that quite specialised. I really need a pre-activated sim as I need to hit the ground running. I like the look of gifgaff, but I can’t seem to find out if they can be activated online from outside the UK, and the customer service doesn’t seem to be great. I really need it to be reliable for the week I’m in London.
    I’ve been looking at EE as it seems their sims are pre activated, and I could put the sim in my phone on arrival at the airport and be ready to go.

    I would be looking at the 2gb-4gb plans just to play it safe, and I don’t mind paying the extra for the contactability and piece of mind. What do you think would be the best choice please?

    • Hi Colin,
      Thanks for your kind feedback! I think the reason your old O2 SIM card is no longer working is due to their account termination policy which is described here.
      With regards to the best value SIM cards, it’s worth knowing pretty much every SIM card is pre-activated (you can just turn it on as soon as you land in London and start using it without any problems). The in-depth guide I’ve written here takes you through the best value bundles currently available. Do be aware, however, many networks will only send the SIM card to a UK address (I don’t believe the Channel Islands is included in this). If you aren’t able to find a network that will send a SIM card over to the Channel Islands, you might need to pick up a SIM card in-person when you arrive in the UK.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken,

        Thanks for the reply and sorry about the delay. I know what you’ve said is right, but the strange thing is I was using the O2 payg sim intermittently over around four years, as a friend of mine lived in London for some time. I frequently went over six months without using the card and it was always fine, at one point it was almost a year. Odd!

        The op has been delayed till next month now, but I have a gifgaff sim already here and waiting to go. I think the face geographically we’re part of the U.K. helped with the delivery! Thanks again for all the help, absolutely invaluable.


  • Ken

    I am pretty much fuming about a Christmas present I bought ny wife. I replaced her old iphone 4s with an iphone 6splus. She had an orange payg sim and when she was not using the phone much her credit remained there , unexpired . Now I had to order a different sim for the 6s , she appears to be on a deal where the £10 credit will expire monthly.

    I wish I hadn’t bothered .

    I need to find which PAYG sims will be unexpiring every 30 days, do you have any ideas ??


    • Hi Charlie,
      Thanks for your comment. It looks like you currently have a SIM card where a monthly bundle is loaded on it. This is why your credit gets used up every 30 days automatically. Which mobile network are you on at the moment? If you’re on EE Pay As You Go, text STOP PACK to 150 (this will remove the bundle from your account). Alternatively, you just need to choose a tariff without a monthly bundle. I’d probably recommend ordering a free SIM card from ASDA Mobile (it’s 8p/minute and 4p/text, and there’s no credit expiry providing you use the SIM card at least once every 180 days). For more information, you can see my article on PAYG credit expiry.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,

    I am planning to use a Giffgaff Pay As You Go Sim card on my new phone. Is it possible to change the number on the new Giffgaff sim to my old Pay As You Go Sim with EE giving that they are both Pay As You Go Sim cards and from different networks?

    I was just looking at Giffgaff website and noticed that they don’t have a contact number for their customer services so if I have any problems, the only way to contact them is via email?

    Does any one ever have any problem contacting Giffgaff and are their customer services helpful?

    • Hi Katherine,
      Thanks for your comment. To answer your two questions in turn:
      1. Yes, it’s straightforward to transfer your phone number from EE to giffgaff. You’ll need to get a PAC Code from EE which must then be provided to giffgaff through their website. You can see my step-by-step guide on how to do this.
      2. giffgaff doesn’t have any telephone support: you can only get support through their website. There’s an online forum for general queries and there’s ‘Ask an Agent’ for account-specific queries. Take a look at my review here if you’d like more information regarding their customer service.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hello Ken,

    I just topped up my Vodafone Payo freebie data plan(£10) for which it will be ended on 10 Nov. But after I have completed the credit card details and waiting for confirmation, the internet suddenly disconnected, so I presumed the transaction is not completed. Therefore I tried for the 2 nd time payment and it was ok. But later I found my bank acct has deducted £20. Now I just want to know will the additional £10 be deducted as a monthly fee for the month after next expiry date( 10 Dec) ? Or will they presume I topped up £20 for that month?

    • Hi Iris,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, with the Freebie Data plan, your top-ups will only count towards that month (hence, it will come out as you having topped up £20 in November). It might be worth calling Vodafone Customer Services to see if there’s anything they can do about giving you free data in December.

  • Hey Ken,
    Im looking for a pay as you go sim card that allows the minutes to remain on your phone longer than 1 month.

    It seems all the new payg sims make you buy a bundle that only lasts 1 month then you lose whatever minutes/credit you had left, this means you have to top up for each month (more like a contract tbh).

    I have a old style payg sim that i top up maybe twice a year and i dont lose any of the credit and was looking for something similar on a different network.
    Thanks in advance

  • Hi Ken, Have you ever used O2 Star Trader? I just stumbled upon it online. It seems that you can order sim cards for free from here and then each one that you can get someone to top up earns you £5.

    So have you tried it? Is it worthwhile? Have any of your readers ever given you feedback on it?


  • Excellent website. On the Three 321 deal, it’s worth mentioning that there is no 30-day deadline and then your credit disappears like most others. Cheap rates will stay until you used up all your credit whenever that may be. A good thing if your a light user.

  • Ken,
    Can you tell me where to buy payg sim cards in retail outlets?
    I am going for vacation to the uk and had no chance to purchase a sim over the internet.
    so…i need a “face to face” shop.
    Any recommendation?

    • Hi Thomas,
      In the UK, you can buy a Pay As You Go SIM card in most newsagents, supermarkets and phone shops. You can pretty much walk down any high street and find one of these stores. Do note: there’ll often be a small charge of around £1 when buying your SIM card in person (you’ll need to order it online if you want the SIM card to actually be free).
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,

    I’m moving to the UK soon, and would like to ask you a few basic questions regarding PAYG packages:

    1. Ordering a PAYG (online) sim-only card from O2 will not act as a contract, right? With a PAYG, you can just simply stop using that sim card at anytime and get a new one, is this correct?

    2. In terms of customer service, which two of all operators would be more helpful?

    3. With a PAYG sim-only card, if I decide to change carrier by requesting the PAC, will there be a charge for it?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment and welcome to the UK! 🙂 To answer your questions:
      1) Yep – this is purely a pre-paid product. There’s no contract and no obligation to actually use the SIM card. You can stop using the SIM card at any time (you can even transfer your number between networks).
      2) I’m afraid there’s probably not much difference in terms of customer service! According to the latest Ofcom statistics, O2 has the highest customer satisfaction (but it’s only marginally better compared to the other networks).
      3) It’s always free to request and use a PAC Code. The only thing is any unused credit remaining on your old account will be lost on the day of the number transfer.
      Hope this helps,

  • I have an unlocked phone. I will visit London and would like to buy a SIM card that enables me to: (1) make local calls; (2) receive overseas calls; and (3) make overseas calls. What SIM card would you recommend and also let me know if the card will expire after a period of time? Also, I would like to know the rate/cost of receiving local and also overseas calls?

    • Hi MC,
      Thanks for your comment. Any Pay As You Go SIM card in the UK should allow you to do all three things. The main things that will vary are local calling costs and international calling costs. It’s always free to receive an incoming phone call (whether the phone call is coming from the UK or from an international number). Generally, I’d probably recommend choosing giffgaff – they have some great all-round rates for calling the UK and for calling other countries. Unfortunately, however, they’re an online-only operator (you’ll need to get the SIM card sent to a UK address). If you aren’t able to do this, Three is probably the best value alternative. By prefixing an international phone number with 3 extra digits, you can sometimes call abroad for a fairly low cost. A Pay As You Go bundle typically last for 30 days whereas Pay As You Go credit lasts indefinitely (this is providing you keep your SIM card active by using it at least once every 6 months).
      Hope this helps,

  • Good Afternoon, Ken,

    Do you have any information on the best (cheapest) account for a Blackberry phone? I use it mostly to receive and send e-mails and occasionally to receive and make phone calls ( but not many). At present I am with O2 on a £10.40/month account.

    • Hi Mikhail,
      Thanks for your comment. Have you taken a look at giffgaff? You can order a free SIM card via this link. With giffgaff goodybags, you get the BlackBerry Internet Service added for free. The cheapest suitable tariff costs £5/month and includes 100 minutes, 300 texts, 100MB of data and the BlackBerry Internet Service. To enable the BlackBerry Internet Service in your giffgaff account, log in via their website and check the box under My Profile and Settings.

  • Hi Ken

    Your website is really good !!

    I have a question for you; do you know any operators that do a PAYG sim but does not have a time out? In other words as long as you turn the phone on from time to time; say a few times a month you don’t loose your credit?

    EE do a £1 a week deal where your credit is docked accordingly; however this is no good as I want to give my mum a old smart phone (don’t really need data) it’s just incase she needs a emergency phone or if she is away and I / she does not need to worry about having credit on the phone apart from periodic top ups


  • Hi Ken,
    I am a bit confused as to the best PAYG sim for me.
    I need a second phone number for work purposes, that I can give to people who I do not want to know my main number. I will use the number mainly to receive calls, but will occasionally need to make them and to send a few texts. I won’t use the phone enough to top up on a monthly basis.
    I was hoping to be able to but £10 of credit and use it until the credit ran out. It seems that the deals listed only last for a months and then you have to renew to bundle each month.
    I would really welcome your advice,
    best wishes

    • Hi Justine,
      Thanks for your comment. On most mobile networks, your Pay As You Go Credit actually has no expiry (the only condition is you keep the SIM card active – normally by making a phone call at least once every 6 months). The deals you’re talking about where the airtime will last for only one month are Pay As You Go bundles with a 30-day expiry (just be sure not to choose one of these tariffs). At present, my recommended deal is a giffgaff Pay As You Go SIM card. It’s 10p/minute and 6p/text – the credit doesn’t expire providing you use the SIM card at least once every 6 months.
      Hope this helps,

      • Three is much better value (3p/min,2p/text , 1p/MB). Assuming you split equally,, £10 gets you 111 mins, 167 texts and 333 MB.
        But no one splits equally, so decide which you’ll use most and see which is most important to you.

  • Nigel Mills said:

    Hello Ken,

    We’re about to bring a `elder-care` product to market with an embedded GSM phone module in it, and I’ve been researching what PAYG network to consider recommending to our prospective users. Your site has answered some of my questions, but you may have further information that could help, and as they say “if you don’t ask…..”

    Flying in the face of convention, our `gadget` uses text messages to send alerts and receive instructions. We have no current interest in voice calls or data. Our biggest problem is the differing way each network seems to use to check credit. Our `Gadget` needs to check it’s own credit and send a message to the user to top-up when the credit gets low….

    1) Are you aware of a standardised process across various networks for getting the credit either on-screen or preferably as an incoming text message ?

    `On-screen` is kind of academic as our device has no screen, but I’m going to presume our gadget would see it as some sort of output from the GSM chip. It maybe that the on-screen balance once requested comes back as a text and is intercepted by the phone and put on-screen ? Don’t know that yet.

    2) Part of the income stream to support the low price comes from a monthly premium rate *text* message. Can all PAYG SIMs support premium rate texts ?

    Can the user put the SIM into a phone, disable the premium rate availability on the SIM (as you might do with a child’s phone for example), and then put it back into our device ?

    Did all our initial testing with O2 and Vodafone SIMs, then put in an EE one only to find you can’t request the time from the EE network 🙁 Damn those network inconsistencies !

    That’s kind of it for our current queries. Your site is a a fantastic resource and I hope you make yourself some revenue from it !

    Best regards,


    • Hi Nigel,
      Thanks for your comment and for all the kind feedback! To answer your questions:
      1) Unfortunately, nope, I’m not aware of any standard way to check the remaining credit on a Pay As You Go SIM card (it’s different for each network). You also can’t rely on the format of the messages coming back from the network (they often change e.g. when the networks want to promote a service).
      2) I believe most mobile networks do allow this (though I’m not sure it’s 100% of all networks). Some mobile networks do allow the bill payer to block premium-rate text messages on the account (e.g. for under 18s). You’ll need to follow the PhonepayPlus code of practice when running your premium-rate service – check to see whether this is possible if the user isn’t able to easily unsubscribe.
      Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the terms & conditions of almost every UK mobile network don’t allow you to place a normal Pay As You Go SIM card into a non-smartphone device. Hence, people using their normal SIM card in an elder-care device can potentially see their service being disabled for violation of the TOC. Technically, I believe you’re supposed to get a M2M SIM card for use in the device – it should work much more reliably than a standard smartphone SIM card though it obviously introduces a lot of other complications (it might still be worth contacting a few companies to see whether they’re able to offer anything suitable).
      Hope this helps!

  • Steve from Norfolk said:

    I have been looking for a free PAYG sim card which allows me to top up with a minimum of £5 and has lower call rates. It seemed that the TalkMobile Essentials tariff would be ideal but I have now been advised by them that the sim card is £15 plus top-up so have ruled that option out. As far as I can see the only networks offering £5 top ups are Orange and Vodaphone. I have had an Orange ‘phone for many years but have noticed in recent years that I cannot get a signal where I live or in other rural places, it is only strong in towns. I decided to buy a sim-free handset (Samsung E-GT1270) and obtained a free 02 sim with £20 free credit which expires after a month. The 02 signal is excellent so I now have to decide what to do after the first month. I can stay with 02 but sign up with Giffgaff or Tesco Lite to get the lower call rates but pay £10 to top up (which would last longer) or switch to Vodaphone and pay higher call rates. Have you any thoughts on this ?
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m currently aware of three networks offering an option for £5 top-ups: EE, Three and Vodafone. For £5 top-ups and lower rates on calling, it might be worth having a look at Three’s 321 tariff (3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB). The initial top-up must be £10 or more but you can subsequently top-up by £5 online.
      Otherwise, I generally think it’s a good option to consider giffgaff or Tesco Lite. Although they have a £10 minimum top-up, the top-up will still be there for you to use and it would last you twice as long as a hypothetical £5 top-up. In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to pay more for your calls simply so you’re able to top-up a smaller amount every time.
      Thanks and hope this helps,

  • hey ken,

    great advices! i just moved to the uk. now i need a new sim card… what would you suggest is the best to have in addition cheap calls within the eu?

    thanks in advance!

  • Carlo marson said:

    Which PAYG sim doesn’t lose top up credit? Need one to put in my house alarm so want to top up a tenner and then be safe in the knowledge I won’t have to top up again for a while. Thanks

    • Hi Carlo,
      This question is answered fully in my article on Pay As You Go credit expiry & account termination. To summarise, unfortunately all Pay As You Go networks here in the UK will disable your SIM card if you don’t use it for more than a certain amount of time (normally 6 months but it can vary depending on the network). As a further consideration, please be aware that many Pay As You Go SIM cards are only designed to work in a smartphone (it might be against your network operator’s terms & conditions to use the SIM card in an alarm so please double check before ordering a SIM card).

  • Hi Ken, thanks for the useful site. Before I started using data on a smartphone I loved the convenience of topping up my PAYG credit at a cash point as and when I needed to. Once I got my smartphone I found I had to buy bundles to get the data I need and that meant no more cash point top-ups, and my current provider’s bundles expire after 30 days. Is there a mobile provider with whom I can top up at a cash point, get data, and not have to do so on the same day each month? I’m a pretty average user of calls, texts and data. Cheers.

  • Stuart Hodgson said:

    Hi Ken,
    I spend 6 months of the year (Summer – I’m retired) in Greece, and the remainder in the UK. I’m a very light voice and text user and currently run separate PAYG accounts in each country but without Internet access on my stream-age non-smart phone. I’m now looking to get a smart phone, and am bombarded with offers of a free phone if I take up a monthly subscription, but all companies go quiet when I tell them I’ll be out of the country for 6 months. Is a PAYG in Greece and a PAYG in the UK still my best option? Or do you have a better solution?

    • Hi Stuart,
      Thanks for your comment. For the time being, your best bet probably would be to continue using Pay As You Go in both countries (do make sure however you’re getting the best deal in both of the countries). I would probably recommend a Pay As You Go bundle (e.g. £10/month on giffgaff will give you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet)… you only need to pay for a bundle for the months you spend here in the UK.
      Going forward, the EU is proposing to abolish roaming charges in Europe on the 15th December 2015. Hence, it’s probably worth waiting until later this year to see whether any new deals are available at that point (this will save you the hassle of having to change SIM card).
      By the way, as you’ll frequently be using your phone on two networks, it’s probably best to buy it SIM-free & unlocked (if you buy your phone on Pay As You Go, it’ll normally be locked for use on that network only). The Moto G is highly popular with readers of this site so it may be worth having a look at that option 🙂
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken, i am looking to buy a pre-paid SIM to use in a security device in my car. It uses data to upload its GPS coordinates to a webserver. I guess my best option is to find the cheapest per MB provider. My only concern is whether the allowances can expire before they are used up. Other than that it seems 3 is my best oprion. Could you please advise?

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. If your car is regularly uploading data to a server, there shouldn’t be any problem with SIM card expiry (on most networks, you simply need to have a chargeable event at least once every six months).
      As you mention in your comment, Three currently has the lowest per-megabyte rates but I would recommend a little bit of caution: the 321 SIM card is only designed to work in a smartphone (it’ll be against their terms & conditions to use the SIM card in another device e.g. in your car security device).

  • Hello ken if I am on EE pay as you go phone my family is on O2 pay as you go what is the charge to keep in touch tex and to call thanks Damian

  • Hi there, I am getting a BlackBerry Curve 8520 and I will be using a T-Mobile Pay As You Go Sim Card for BBM, BlackBerry Services etc. How can i use BBM over wifi? Do I need a special type of plan? Since the BlackBerry Curve 8520 uses an older version of the BlackBerry OS which is BlackBerry 5, will I still be able to use BBM over wifi? Can you help me and fill me in which all the information I would need. I will be very thankful.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Johear,
      Thanks for your comment. To use BlackBerry Messenger on a BlackBerry 5 device (either over 3G or Wi-Fi networks), you’ll need a mobile tariff with the BlackBerry Internet Service included (the BlackBerry Smart Packs from T-Mobile are one good example). You still need the BlackBerry Internet Service even if you only use the handset over Wi-Fi (this is because all internet traffic goes via BlackBerry servers which require a subscription).
      Hope this helps to answer your question!

  • This is a really useful blog, thank-you very much. I am looking for a new SIM for my daughter, she doesn’t talk much on the phone but averages about 50 texts per day(!) It looks like she’ll be best on the £7.50 GiffGaff (rather than a contract). She’s got a dual SIM phone so she can keep her existing White Mobile SIM for phoning us from Uni as well (we only get T-Mobile based operators signal at home).

    I see that there are some comments about White Mobile in this Q&A section. This is the network that everyone in our family has had for the last couple of years. We find it’s great as it’s made our mobile bills extremely cheap because of the free White to White calls, cheap “other network” calls and really cheap mobile internet. Their (telephone) customer services leaves a lot to be desired though.

    White Mobile might be worth adding to your list?

    • Hi Howard,
      Thanks for the feedback! As you say, giffgaff sounds like a pretty good choice at £7.50/month… another one you could also consider is ASDA Mobile (£5/month for 100 minutes, 2000 texts and 100MB of internet). The 2000 texts per month should suit her pretty well: another major benefit is they use the EE/T-Mobile network (hence she’d still be able to get coverage when she comes home). The downsides of course are only half as many minutes and half as much data so the giffgaff option may still prove to be better value.
      I appreciate you getting in touch about White Mobile as well: I’ll have a look at including them on the list when the article is next updated 🙂
      Many thanks and have a great Christmas!

      • Hi Ken,

        A very useful site – thank you. I just wanted to echo Howard’s comments – my wife and I must have saved a lot of money using White Mobile (aka White Calling) with the free same-network calls and texts, and the other-network charges are still pretty reasonable, even if they’re not quite as cheap as Three or O2’s classic PAYG tariffs. The customer service does indeed leave a lot to be desired, and the online top-up website is a bit ropey, but thankfully it’s rare that we need either (easy to top up via phone anyway) – for a good number of years we’ve found it to be an affordable and generally reliable (via EE) network, so maybe worth highlighting next time you do an update.


  • Hi Ken,

    I’ve recently unlocked my iPhone 5 in order to upgrade my mums old phone. She is a very light PAYG customer with EE (or orange Dolphin as it was called when she initially got the SIM). Now that we need to get her a nano sim for the iPhone 5 I’m slightly confused by the PAYG offers.

    If she only uses the phone very sparingly and doesn’t top up very often which nano SIM provider would be best? I visited the EE store and the packages on offer mean that she has to top up every month. I don’t want her committed to topping up in this fashion – I only want her to top up when her credit is low. The Carphone Warehouse staff member recommended Lebera as a SIM but she will not benefit with the domestic call charges. Could you please help as this is for Christmas and I thought this would be much more straight forward.

    Also do you know if there is any way of transporting a PAYG number to a new SIM card?



    • Hi Andrea,
      Thanks for your comment. First of all, it’s not necessary for your mum to change her tariff only because she’s upgrading to an iPhone 5. She could simply ask Orange to replace her current SIM card with a smaller nano-SIM: it’s totally free of charge and she’ll be able to keep the tariff she’s on. If you are thinking of shopping around, take a look at my Pay As You Go price comparison table. She could potentially save money by changing to another network (e.g. Three only charges 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB with no minimum monthly top-up). Alternatively, giffgaff is another great choice: they charge 10p/minute, 6p/text and 20p/day for up to 20MB of internet.
      With regards to transferring your phone number, it is indeed possible to do this. If you’re changing network, you’ll need to go through the PAC Code transfer process. If you’re simply replacing your current SIM card with a smaller nano-SIM, Orange should do this automatically for you.
      Hope this helps,

      • If they don’t you can also cut the sim card down to nano size yourself. Have to be very careful but it can be done. I downloaded a template by doing a google search and used that. Works like a charm.

  • Hi Ken,

    I’ve just got an ipad mini 🙂 and although it will be rare I will sometimes need it to browse the internet, check emails etc.. when I’m out and about and cant find a free wifi connection, can you recommend a good data only sim that wont tie me into any contract and has good UK coverage? Is the GG one still the best ?

    Thanks in advance for your help,


    • Hi James,
      Unfortunately it’s now very difficult to find a tablet or mobile broadband SIM card where the credit doesn’t expire and where you’re not tied in to a monthly contract. As you say, giffgaff is still one remaining option – it’s 20p/day for up to 20MB of internet. Alternatively, you could try tethering from your smartphone. With tethering, you can make use of any data already on your smartphone contract (most tariffs now allow this but you should double-check just to be sure).

  • Hi Ken

    I am aware of a Tesco Pay as you go “Lite User service”, which seems to be very competitive but cannot find any information that fully describes the service, not even on the Tesco web site.

    Can you help on this ?

    Many thanks.

    Chris King

  • Hi Ken,

    What would you recommend in needing a payg sim for a phone we keep in the car just in the event of a breakdown. We have contract phones (which we often forget to take out with us on short journeys) so have always thought of having a cheap phone (again which we have plenty of on renewing contracts) but thought that having a working phone we may need to use on the odd occasion. I have noticed ASDA offer a free sim and calls are only 8p /Minute. Am I right in assuming we don’t need to top up every month? This sounds like what we need.
    Lastly, do we need to make a call every so often just to keep the sim alive?

    • Hi Stuart,
      That’s right: there’s no need to top-up every month on the ASDA Free SIM (the same is true for most other networks – simply make sure you avoid buying a monthly bundle). On ASDA, you’ll need to use your phone at least once every 180 days (otherwise your account will be closed and your number will be lost). Take a look at my article on Pay As You Go inactivity for more information.

      • Thanks Ken, have read the articles mentioned and now know where I’m heading. Keep up the great advice, I have certainly benefited from it. Thanks again.

  • Which sim card is best for a Blackberry phone? I want a pay as you go sim that is best for BlackBerry. I’m thinking T-Mobile at the moment.

    • Hi,
      Are you using a phone with BlackBerry OS 10 or an earlier version (e.g. BlackBerry 7 or even earlier versions).
      On BlackBerry 10 handsets, it’s no longer necessary to have a special plan (the BlackBerry Internet Service is only required on BlackBerry 7 and earlier versions). You could hence choose any of the deals on this page.
      For BlackBerry 7, you’ll need a special BlackBerry tariff. As you mention, T-Mobile offers BlackBerry-compatible tariffs from £10/month (though you’ll need to text a special shortcode). Other tariffs which might be worth considering area ASDA’s BlackBerry bundle (£5/month) or giffgaff’s BlackBerry add-on (£2.50/month on top of your normal goodybag).
      Hope this helps,

  • Dear Ken,

    I found & read your Blog today but didn’t see anyone ask about White PAYG.

    I am retired in the UK & wish occasional mobile calling use with some internet access when away from WiFi contact.

    I ordered an unlocked cheap mobile off the internet to replace my 4 year old press button Nokia and to get away from expensive 29p/minute Virgin PAYG. At the same time I sent off via White’s rather information-less web page for a ‘free’ SIM card, after a good review on its low 2p per minute PAYG rate (?) & access to a small quantity of internet (20MB/day for 20p.

    The SIM pack arrived this morning, unfortunately there’s still no info. on their inland PAYG rates, or how frequently one must use it to keep it alive. I’m a little suspicious of their marketing ploys & as you are independent & knowledgeable would like to hear your opinion please.


    mike hallam (Sussex GB).

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience of using White Mobile (I think this is a very small network with only a fraction of the users of other networks). I’ve just taken a look at the prices on their website: they seem to differ quite substantially from what you mention in your e-mail. UK calls are 6p/minute (discounted to 3p/minute if you’re calling a landline). Internet access is also 2.5p/MB (it’s not capped based on daily usage). Rather, the 20p/day for 20MB of internet sounds more like what you’d get on giffgaff.
      My personal recommendation would probably be to go with a more mainstream network (e.g. Three charges 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB). You could also consider a network such as giffgaff: calls are 10p/minute and internet costs 20p/day for up to 20MB of data.

  • I had a giffgaff gigabag for my tablet which I used via a Huawai mi-fi device. I only used it when no other Wi-Fi was available and it last me around a year. However, it seems I now have to top up with at least £5 every month, is that true?

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. giffgaff’s £5/month gigabag gives you 500MB of 3G data to use every month. If you’re using this gigabag, you’ll need to top-up by at least £5 every month.
      If you only use your mi-fi very occasionally, you might be better off on Pay As You Go rates. This is 20p/day for up to 20MB of internet. On PAYG rates, there’s no regular monthly spend – your credit could last for a year or even longer. Do be warned however: you’ll be charged 20p/MB if you go over the 20MB/day limit. For instance, if you were to use 50MB of data in one day, you’d be charged a mammoth £6.20 for that day’s usage.
      So really, the best value tariff will depend on two things: how often you use the mi-fi and how much data you would expect to use on those days.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken, can you advise me: I want to use an old phone as a back up phone and load £10 on it which would probably hardly ever be used… I’m tired of companies closing the account just because its not used (eg tmobile)… Is there a deal I can get where I don’t have to use the phone every few months but can keep it as a back up? Thnx

    • Hi Dominic,
      Unfortunately, pretty much every network requires you to use your phone at least once every 6 months. If it might be of interest, I recently wrote an article about this topic. If you want to maximise how long your credit is able to last, you could go with Family Mobile where you only need to use your phone once every 12 months. An easier solution would probably be to set yourself reminders to use the phone occasionally. I personally use Google Calendar to do this… Set up an e-mail or SMS reminder to use your phone at least once every 6 months (the cheapest way to do this is sending a text message – it’s 14p a go so you can keep your phone active for 28p/year).
      Hope this helps,

      • Gareth Price replied:

        Hello Ken,

        I’ve just clocked this detail with the mobile companies and “pay as you go” which actually is totally misleading and it should be raised with the advertising standards.

        I’m looking for a deal like Dominic for several months now, ie a backup phone for occasional use, covering UK and abroad for remote network access into UK. Now in the good old days I used the Orange network “pay as you go” which did just that, as & when it needed a top up it was done through the cash point.

        They all seem to have this horrendous 30 days (or some such nasty fixed day rate) automatic charge regardless of what’s been used, so actually a non comitted monthly contract, but still definitly NOT “pay as you go”.

        Why do they exist? It’s no different from a no commitment monthly charge that I currently have with O2?


  • Hi Ken

    I’m currently using the vodafone freebee data plan, just want to check if i don’t opt in the extra mins for local calls , can i still make calls by paying a higher rate(counted each time instead of using £5 to buy 100 mins)since i dont chat over the phone frequently. So i think it is not worth to the buy the add on, am i right?

    • Hi Iris,
      Yep – it’s still possible to pay for calls on a per minute basis… it’s 30p/minute so will work out cheaper if you use less than 17 minutes in any given month. Do be aware that Vodafone will round the length of your calls up to a full minute (so a call lasting 1 minute and 5 seconds will be charged as 2 full minutes).
      Hope this helps,

  • Ken,

    Would I be correct in saying that all mobile payg networks stipulate that you have to top up each month and any unused credit is not transferred to the following month’s allowance. I used to be on Asda mobile but never ported across when they swapped provider from Vodafone to EE. I hope I’m not being obtuse here but when I’ve investigated company websites (and user forums) for example such as GiffGaff it is very unclear whether you can stick a fiver on the SIM and use it once every six months without the credit being lost or the SIM expiring. Any help in putting me right would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi there,
      Nope! The major providers have been trying to move their Pay As You Go customers over a monthly bundle (this is where you top up every month and get a set allowance of calls, texts and internet). It’s still possible to use your phone on traditional Pay As You Go – your credit will remain until you actually use it and will last indefinitely providing you keep the SIM card active by using it occasionally. Most networks stipulate that you use your phone at least once every 6 months though it can be shorter on a couple of the networks.
      Hope this helps,

      • Mobilephobe replied:

        Thanks for putting me straight Ken. As suspected it appears that GiffGaff want to push you towards “bundles”. Will have to investigate which is the best option for me. Thanks again for your prompt reply. P.S. Your website is a great resource for info – keep up the good work!

  • Hi, Ken,

    I need a pay as you go data sim for my notebook, to which I can top-up when required, but which does not gobble up the money at the end of the month, or 90 day period. Like an Oyster card on London transport. I put in the money and use it any time. This exists abroad, but is it available in the UK?

    • Hi Mikhail,
      Thanks for your comment and apologies for the delay in replying! I’ve been searching around and unfortunately it’s very difficult to find a Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband SIM card where you don’t need to buy a 30 day bundle. The closest I’ve found is giffgaff Pay As You Go: you’d pay 20p/day for up to 20MB of data and then 20p/MB after. It’s good for light & occasional usage but the costs will quickly add up if you were to go over the 20MB/day limit. For occasions where you need to use a bit more data, you can of course upgrade to the £5 gigabag which gives you 500MB of internet or the £7.50 gigabag which gives you 1GB of internet. These will last for up to 1 month.

      • Many thanks, Ken, for the reply and suggested solution. One thing I am not clear about. Does one loose the 20p per day whether one uses the internet or not, or is it only on the days one actually uses the internet?

    • Hi Johear,
      Orange and T-Mobile merged their operations in 2009 to form a combined company known as “Everything Everywhere”. At present, the company has three sub-brands under which they offer a Pay As You Go service: the 3G-only Orange and T-Mobile brands and the 4G-enabled core EE brand. You’ll get the same 2G & 3G coverage on all three brands though 4G is only available on EE. Tariffs and pricing differ very slightly between the three networks.
      Hope this helps,

  • How can i be on EE pay as you go without having to buy the packs every 7-30days?
    I just want to have the freedom to be on EE pay as you go. I want to pay and go. I may buy add-ons from time to time with my credit.

    • Hi Johear,
      Thanks for your comment! It’s not necessary to buy one of the bundles (just make sure you don’t opt in to buying the packs or if you need to opt-out then text STOP PACK to 150). Without a pack on your account, you’ll pay 30p/minute and 12p/text. Internet access is only available if you choose to buy a pack (the £1/week pack with 100MB would probably be the cheapest option). For more information, please see my full review of EE’s Pay As You Go tariff.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi ken,

    Which network has the best 2g, 3g, and 4g network? And which network gives good minutes, texts and data? Thanks in advance.

  • Hi ken

    I can’t make my mind up. Please help me as you are the expert. I want to get a pay as you go sim that offers cheap rates and have good coverage. Is there any way you could guide me to the best sim for me? I will be really thankful. Thank you (:

    • Hi Johear,
      Thanks for your comment. The right network will depend on your usage: if you want more info take a look at my article on Pay As You Go rates and Pay As You Go monthly bundles. In general, giffgaff is the most popular network amongst our readers by a very long way. They have fairly good prices (£10/month for 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet or you can Pay As You Go at 10p/minute and 6p/text). They also use coverage from O2.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hey Ken can you help me?

    I don’t use phones. But I only need to make one call a week to the USA from a mobile to a landline; the call would last 60mins every week. I would not use the mobile for anything else.

    What is the best option for me and how much would I be looking to spend each week?

    Thanks mate.

    • Hi Shamir,
      If you’d like to call using your mobile phone, it’s worth having a look at giffgaff (you can order a free SIM card here). They charge 3p/minute for calls to the US so you can expect to pay £1.80 for a 60 minute phone call (approx £7.80/month). If you have a smartphone and wi-fi internet, it might be worth having a look at the Skype application. Skype has a £3.44/month subscription where you get 400 minutes for calling the US. This would work out cheaper than calling over a mobile network.

      • Thanks so much ken, that was really kind of you to reply. I think I’ll have to buy a smartphone and go for the skype option. 🙂 Thanks again.

  • Dear Ken,

    I will be arriving in London in October and will need a SIM card for 3G and GPS as I’m driving up north towards the Lake District. Currently I’m looking at Three because they seem to have the cheapest deal for unlimited data.

    Would you happen to know how good the coverage of Three’s network is outside of London, especially in the countryside? Also, would you know if Three has a booth at Heathrow airport? Thank you!

    • Hi diktat,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’re planning to visit a rural area such as the Lake District, I wouldn’t recommend choosing Three as your network. The main reason being they don’t provide a 2G mobile signal. In rural areas without 4G coverage, you’ll only have access to a 3G signal (in the UK, 3G has very limited range compared to 2G). O2 and Vodafone will probably give the best coverage when visiting a rural area. Have a look at my guide on UK mobile coverage for more information.
      With regards to Heathrow, I believe there are vending machines and SIM card retailers in some of the terminals. I’m not sure which networks they cover but it’s best to avoid them if possible (they’ll charge £10 for a SIM card you could otherwise obtain for free at the mobile networks’ own store). From memory, none of the UK networks have an official booth at Heathrow.
      Hope this helps,

  • Your compilation and the comments are really useful, thanks for them.

    If you have possibility to guide me on which PAYG is supporting call forwarding, MMS and has good international rates, that would be helpful.

    My “study” showed, that GiffGaff supports it, although Lebara ha s better international tariffs, although not supporting call forwarding.

    As for Lyca which is also good for international rates, I was not able to identify their call forwarding policy other than in the terms & conditions or customer code of practice: “you agree not to use the SIM Card or the Services and not to permit another person to use your SIM Card or the Services:” “• to support calls to call forwarding services, onward calling services or calls to telephone numbers which pay a revenue share or resell to others or commercially exploit our Services.

    I am not sure whether they provide call forwarding service beyond this limitation.

    Could you give me advice on that?

    Thank you in advance,


    • Hi Lotzi,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe very few networks support call forwarding on Pay As You Go – the main reason being it can very quickly your PAYG credit. giffgaff is one notable exception (aside from that, unfortunately, I don’t have a list of which networks support call forwarding/divert).

  • Handy review, but a bit light on details.

    In particular you’ve missed the point that BackBerry users (except on the latest versions) have to use BlackBerry Internet Services, and the companies are not very up front in pointing this out.

    I looked forward to my expensive virgin contract running out and had been eyeing up the GiffGaff offers for some time.

    Nearing the day for the switch over, I got to the check out on my £10 goodybag before realising that my BlackBerry Curve would not work without paying a premium on top. GiffGaff *will not let you add to, or cancel a bag that you’ve already paid for*, so my Curve was out of service for a month, until I could start a bag with the premium added. I could still have used it for calls only, but…

    I took the hint, and upgraded my phone to the latest BB Q10, which uses a different browser and doesn’t need BIS, so I could get through my month…but…

    With a mere 4 hr battery life and no cursor making text editing all but impossible, and a keyboard too wide to use one handed, the Q10 is an expensive, essentially non-mobile, toy; but, important to this discussion, is that, though one thinks not having to be tied to BIS is a good thing, actually, the BIS system compresses internet data, making it go further. I have to say, that, while on the virgin scheme, I often found myself downloading podcasts at the last minute, to use up my 500 meg a month: on the Q10, I got a BIG shock, when, after two weeks, I received a message telling me my 1 gig was nearly used up! Thus the deal I was getting, was far from twice as good as the virgin one: in practical terms it was half as good. (Also, as I had to get broadband as well, no sooner did I sign up for a year’s cheap Plusnet deal, than virgin sent me a new offer where I could have got the mobile thrown in for only £5 a month. It really is impossible to get the right deal with so much complication!)

    So, I’m waiting till Sept 9, when my next GoodyBag with the BIS premium included, kicks in, and then my sim is going back in the good old Curve, despite it’s tiny memory and browser that won’t load anything without turning off Java!

    Incidentally, GiffGaff is changing its charges for new customers at the end of Sept, and the unlimited £12 bag will only be continued for existing customers. So, if you have broadband at home, and link up to that instead of using the mobile network, you may be better off with the £10 bag, as opposed to the ‘unlimited’ ones, which will be more expensive from the end of Sept.

  • Giffgaff has appalling customer services – they exist only virtually. There is no way to call somebody. Answers to your questions come typically next day.

    In my case, I bought a monthly “goodybag” with “unlimited internet”. Used it for 2 days on iPad and got banned. The message stated: “SIM blocked due to unusual activity”.

    Apparently it is illegal to use mobile internet with this offer on non-phone devices. There was no such information on a page with the offer. There was no warning, just immediate ban.

    Now they say, that I could have my mobile data transfer re-activated after 12 weeks if I buy another monthly goodybag from them (sic!).

    Wasted 12 pounds and 5 days for useless emails. They claim, they would be happy to help, but cannot do a thing.

  • I’m surprised that your top pick is Giffgaff as it is one of the more expensive virtual networks. Unless you buy a bundle, the calls are 10p per minute and the texts are 6p and data 20p per day for up to 20mb (and 20p per mb thereafter). Ridiculously expensive for a virtual network!

    Many other virtual networks give you free calls within network (like GG) but have cheaper (non bundle) rates – for example White Mobile have unlimited free calls and texts within network, and calls to other networks are 3p/6p per minute for landlines/mobiles, texts 5p, and data 2.5p per mb. White Mobile also give you free voicemail, unlike GG which charges 8p per minute.

    Three 3 2 1 is cheaper still, and if you use a call-through number, calls to landlines in the UK and abroad (for many countries) are only 2 per minute.

    Even if you look at bundles, Lycamobile are similar value to Giffgaff (and both have unlimited free calls and texts within network)

    £5 bundle
    Giffgaff 60 minutes, 300 texts, 50mb
    Lycamobile 100 minutes, 100 texts 50mb

    £7.50 bundle
    Giffgaff 200 minutes, unlimited texts, 250mb
    Lycamobile 150 minutes, 150 texts, 500mb

    £10 bundle
    Giffgaff 500 minutes, unlimited texts, 1Gb
    Lycamobile 500 minutes, unlimited texts, 1Gb

    £15 bundle
    Giffgaff 500 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited data
    Lycamobile 500 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited data

    • Hi Penny,
      Thanks for the comment! giffgaff is our recommended choice for two main reasons:
      1) They offer great value goodybag packages and are ideal for the average smartphone user. On top of that, their goodybag line-up has been remarkably stable. In contrast to this, Lycamobile changes their bundle line-up at an incredibly high frequency (e.g. unlimited 4G data cost £12/month only in May – its now gone up to £15 already). For long term users who don’t want to change their network every month, a stable bundle line up provides a lot of certainty and value (it’s easier to plan for the future). Compared to other networks (Three in particular), the PAYG rates are slightly higher. Hence, light and occasional users should probably choose Three’s 321 tariff.
      2) From the 1st January 2014 to the 10th June 2014, 40% of readers on our website chose giffgaff as their network of choice.

  • Thank you very much for your review. I run a guesthouse in Cambridge and everyday I have to answer this question. My answer was “I’m so sorry, I really don’t know which one is the best”. Now I can tell them to read your review. I would be nice if I can share this on my facebook.

    • Hi Mena,
      Thanks for your comment and I’m really glad the page was useful! You are more than welcome to share our link on Facebook – I really appreciate all of the kind support!

  • Brian Mallalieu said:

    I come in the category I suppose of the unattractive network user?? I am an exceedingly low user that very occasionally wishes to make use of it for emergencies that might arise (e.g. car journeys, holidays) and so time can pass for many months without use! Hence, I am vulnerable to losing my top-up fee each time when the account is closed!! Is there any PAYG (or alternative) way of obtaining the best deal for me, please?

    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your comment! Take a look at my earlier article on the time it takes for your PAYG credit to expire & for your account to be closed by the network. My recommendation is to choose a network where your credit will last for the maximum amount of time (currently 6 months). To keep your account active, you’ll still need to make a note to use your phone at least every 6 months. Three would be a good value option: simply browse the internet or send a text message every twice every year and you’ll be able to keep your account active (with data costing 1p/MB, the minimum annual spend would be only 2p/year).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi again,

    You titled this page “Pay As You Go SIM cards”, but a lot of the information here applies to contract SIM cards, not PAYG. (Giffgaff is one example, I think Three is another.) Adds to the confusion that I’m struggling with.

    • Hi Gary,
      Thanks for your comment! All of the information shown on this page relates to Pay As You Go rather than Pay Monthly. The one thing which makes it a little complex is that most networks now promote their monthly PAYG bundles. With a bundle, you turn your airtime credit into a monthly allowance of calls, texts and internet. To give an example, giffgaff customers without a goodybag can choose to pay 10p/minute, 6p/text and 20p/day for 20MB of data. Most people choose to buy a goodybag as it provides better value: in this case £10/month gets you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. There’s no contract nor any obligation to renew the bundle after it expires.
      Hope this helps,

      • So tariffs quoted “per month” is not necessarily a contracted plan, but might be. Yikes, more muddy water! It seem for someone traveling in the UK for ten days, the monthly non-contract plans make sense: one avoids the 20 MB/day limit on data. Internet usage might be high for a tourist making plans, consulting websites, checking maps, using WhatsApp, etc.

      • Digging through the Giffgaff website, I find that international calls cannot be made on Goodybag plans. I’m still trying to determine what (if any) charges Giffgaff makes for *incoming* international, or even local, calls. Some SIM card vendor advertise that incoming calls are “free” in the sense that there are no charges to the SIM card. By now I think you can probably see how difficult this process is for foreign visitors. Information is spread out everywhere, and difficult to find.

        • Hi Gary,
          Thanks for your comment. In the UK, it’s always free to receive a phone call (whether it’s a call from the UK or from an international number). Like many other countries, we operate the “calling party pays” system (i.e. there’s never a charge to receive a call). I realise this is different from the US where the receiving party will also pay for the call.
          With regards to international calling, there’s no international minutes included on the goodybags. Instead, you need to pay on a per minute basis (e.g. 3p/minute to call the US). Take a look at this page for full details of giffgaff’s international calling rates.
          I hope this helps to clarify your query, though do drop me a comment if you have other questions!
          Many thanks,

  • I have purchased a TT Phone from QVC which is a basic phone with no Internet and wish to purchase a standard sim card pay-as-you-go that I can top up with no contract. I only use my phone in emergencies and family calls.
    What is the most reasonable charge per minute I can expect. I am 80+ and don’t need anything other than to make and receive calls to family.

    • Hi gogsie,

      For a full comparison of per-minute rates, please see the PAYG comparison table I produced earlier on this website. To sort networks by per-minute rates, please click the “calls” column title. To give a brief overview, the cheapest PAYG network for making phone calls is Three (3p/minute). The downside is you need to have a 3G-compatible handset (a simple handset might be 2G-only). Across the other networks, you’re looking to pay around 8p/minute on a low-cost network (giffgaff is 10p/minute but you also get free calls and texts to other giffgaff members). Another consideration should also be the amount of time before credit expires (important for people like yourself who mainly use their phone for emergencies).

      Hope this helps!


  • Phillip Dudd said:

    Hello Ken
    Thankyou in advance for your support, indeed for all your work on this informative site.
    My question is with regards to 0845 0870 numbers. etc…
    i was caught out a while ago when i used all my top up for a bundle and found that i needed separate credit for these type of numbers.
    specifically my question is with regards to:
    three 321 tariff, and orange (any animal pack)
    do you know how they stand with these numbers.
    To date i’ve only found vodafone support these unlimited for an extra payment of around

    • Hi Phil,

      Thanks for your comment!

      With regards to Three, you can check their special call prices via this link. For 0845 and 0870 numbers, it’s a rather hefty 35p/minute 🙁

      For Orange, the Pay As You Go price guide can be found via this link. On page 16, you’ll see it costs 12p/minute to call 0845 and 0870 numbers.

      With regards to cutting costs, it’s definitely good to find a non-geographic number (e.g. your bank might list a number you’re able to use when calling from outside the UK – you can often use this number within the UK too). There’s also websites such as SayNoTo0870. Finally, most government departs have switched to using 0345 – using the new number should save a ton in calling costs.

      Hope this helps!


  • Hi, I’m looking for a payg that offers a family subscription. I know Vodafone do but I’m not happy with the intermittent coverage where I live, it’s very rural. We do get Orange though. Do they do a family subscription? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Fiona,
      Thanks for your comment. By a family subscription, do you mean that everyone can call & text each other for no extra charge? One possible option could be to join giffgaff – whenever you top-up you’ll get free calls & texts to other giffgaff members for a period of three months. They’re using O2’s network so you’ll need to have O2 coverage where you live.
      T-Mobile could be another option: take a look at their £5/month Family Booster option (the person setting up the group will need to be on Pay Monthly).

  • Hi Ken, very useful info, thanks for the view.

    I am planning to visit UK for 2 weeks. Since my tablet do not support SIM card, are there any pay-as-you-go SIM which also include tethering? If not, is there any other alternatives?
    Thank you.


    • Hi Wallace,
      My recommendation is to get the giffgaff SIM card: you’ll get 1GB of internet on their £7.50 gigabag (fully tetherable). Alternatively, go for the £10 goodybag: 1GB of internet (tetherable) as well as 500 minutes and unlimited UK texts.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken, thank you for the info on your site.
    I am going to visit the UK for about 2 weeks and would like to go for a pay-as-you-go SIM, with about 10-20 MB data per day. I also will make quite a bit of international calls too. But then, I cannot order a free SIM now, as I do not have a UK address. Please advice. Thank you.

    • Hi Shun,
      If you aren’t able to get a SIM card sent in advance, my recommendation would be to get a SIM card on arrival. Look out for Lycamobile and Lebara Mobile: their SIM cards can often be found in the high street: both networks offer low cost international calling and they have some decent deals for smartphone data. As well as the high street, you can also find their SIM cards at major airports (I remember seeing a large store at Heathrow Terminal 1).
      If you’re able to get a SIM card in advance, my recommendation would be to order one from giffgaff. They’re pretty good for low data users: 20p/day for up to 20MB. Over a fortnight, you’ll only spend about £2.80 on data. International calls are also fairly cheap – you can see their rates here.
      Hope this helps!

  • Great site I have been using Tesco pay as you go for some time and swapping between Triple credit and Lite as a low user means one month free when you top up and then on Lite at the low rate of 8p for calls 4p for text means incredibly low payments overall.
    However ‘321’ have knocked this into the park and no need for all that swapping around.

  • Alex HUTCHINSON said:

    Hello Ken, great site. My typical week is 3 working days in UK and rest of the week in Switzerland, where I live. I already have an Orange subscription in Switzerland (which includes unlimited calls to Europe & USA), so I need a pay as you go in UK. My UK customers will always call the UK number even when I am in Switzerland. Could you please advise the best UK sim and deal to buy a new 5S iPhone. Appreciated Alex

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comment. Within Europe, you’ll pay up to 7p/minute to receive calls on your UK phone number (this has been capped by the EU). As Switzerland isn’t technically part the EU, mobile networks could differ in the charges they offer for customers in Switzerland. Assuming you receive 100 minutes of phone calls to your UK number whilst living in Switzerland, this might add an extra £7 to your monthly mobile bill.

      Something worth looking at would be EE’s roaming inclusive plans. You can make and receive calls using your UK allowance whilst being in Switzerland. Another possible deal could be Vodafone PAYG with the Passport add-on. It’s 75p to receive a call on your UK number whilst living in Switzerland (call can be up to 60 minutes).

      You can also look at getting a Skype Number (£3.35 per month, see my review for more info). You can set up a geographical number in the UK (e.g. 020) from which you can receive phone calls on a Skype-enabled smartphone.


  • Bill Van L said:

    I have for years been on T mobile pay as you go with very low use and no time limit on my credit. They now want to charge me £10 every month for the privilege of being on their network. Where should I move to in order to find a tariff with no time limit?

  • I hardly ever use my mobile and I thought I was already on the cheapest rate, at £10.50, with 02 unlimited. I phoned them and was never told about 02 simplicity.

    Whether I am a customer of 02 unlimited or 02 simplicity I am assuming I will still get same price reduction on 02 internet.

    • Hi Guest,

      As far as I'm aware, most of them require you to top-up at some point otherwise the business would be unsustainable. Giffgaff only require one top-up every 3 months so that may be a good option for you!


  • Hi Ken!

    Thanks for this interesting post!
    Just to let you know, a new operator arrived in the market, GTmobile, seems to be quit interesting for internationnal call!


  • Thank you Ken for this review.

    I found looking at some of the indvidual service provider websites quite confusing and were pushing pseudo-contracts a bit too hard.

    As a light user I chose Asda because of their clear and concise tarrif details (plus no hidden charges) and the ability to add cheap talk minutes as and when I need them.
    Other points I like about Asda are that they use Vodafone for their network and the call centre staff are really pleasant and super helpful.


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