Find out how to use up your remaining Pay As You Go credit when moving to another network.

In the UK, it isn’t possible to get a refund for unused Pay As You Go credit, nor is it possible to transfer your credit to another network. This can be an issue if you’re changing to another mobile network and if you have some leftover credit on your old Pay As You Go account.

For this reason, we typically recommend trying to use up your remaining Pay As You Go credit before moving your phone number to another mobile network. Alternatively, you could donate your credit to charity or you could keep your old SIM card as a backup.

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In this article, we’ll explore the four things you can do with remaining Pay As You Go credit.

Transfer Your Credit

With certain exceptions, it normally isn’t possible to transfer credit between mobile networks.

If you’re changing mobile networks, it normally won’t be possible to transfer Pay As You Go credit (though some mobile networks have a way for you to do this e.g. with Lebara Mobile and Lycamobile’s international credit transfer).

For customers staying on the same mobile network as before, it will sometimes be able to transfer your Pay As You Go credit (for instance, when you’re upgrading your handset, changing to another tariff, or upgrading to Pay Monthly). While mobile networks are under no obligation to move your credit to another account, they will normally do this as it’s a way to keep a loyal customer.

If you’re changing to another Pay As You Go account on the same network, you should contact your mobile network to ask them to transfer your credit to your new account.

Upgrading to Pay Monthly

If you’re upgrading from Pay As You Go to Pay Monthly on the same network, your credit can sometimes be applied to your new Pay Monthly account. Officially, this service is offered on EE, O2 and Vodafone. However, customers of other mobile networks should still enquire to see whether this is possible on their network.

Mobile Network Transfer your credit to Pay Monthly?
EE Yes, up to £100 of credit can be transferred to EE Pay Monthly
O2 Yes, up to £350 of credit can be transferred to O2 Pay Monthly
Three No
Vodafone Yes, credit can be transferred to Vodafone Pay Monthly (no limit specified)

For more information, please see our guide to the best value Pay Monthly SIM cards.

Spend Your Credit

On the major Pay As You Go networks, you can use your credit for purchases on some online stores.

If you’re moving to a different mobile network and would like to keep your existing phone number, it unfortunately won’t be possible to transfer your Pay As You Go credit. For this reason, we’d typically advise you try to use up any remaining Pay As You Go credit before transferring your phone number elsewhere.

While it’s possible to use your credit frivolously, we’d recommend against doing this if at all possible. Instead, there are two good ways of efficiently using up your credit: either buying a Pay As You Go bundle or using the credit for purchases elsewhere.

If you’d like to use your Pay As You Go credit for airtime, the most efficient way to do is probably to buy a Pay As You Go bundle. Most mobile networks will offer a Pay As You Go bundle, with the minimum purchase typically being either £5 or £10. You’ll get a 30-day allowance of minutes, texts and internet to use on your phone.

If you’d like to use your Pay As You Go credit for purchases elsewhere, the UK’s four largest mobile networks allow you to do this through either Boku or Payforit. You can use your Pay As You Go credit for purchases on the Google Play Store, PlayStation Store, Windows Store, Spotify and others (look for the “carrier billing” option when paying for your purchases).

You can donate unused credit to your favourite charity.

As an alternative to spending your Pay As You Go credit, it’s also possible to donate it to charity via text message. Charities you can donate to include Cancer Research, the Red Cross and Save the Children. You can also check with your favourite charity to see whether they can accept donations via text message.

Typically, the minimum donation by text message is around £3. Before donating, you should double-check to see how much money is actually received by the charity (on good campaigns, the charity should receive 100% of your donation). You should also check to see if it’s possible to add Gift Aid to your donation, as the charity could receive an additional 25%.

On some smaller mobile networks, it may not be possible to send SMS messages to a five-digit short-code. If this is the case for your network, it may not be possible to donate your credit to charity.

Keep Your Credit

You can also keep your old SIM card as a backup and therefore the credit that’s on it.

The final option is keeping your old account open, as well as the Pay As Your Go credit that’s on it. For instance, your old SIM card can be used as backup or it can be placed in a second handset.

If you choose to keep your old account open and therefore the credit that’s on it, there are two important things you need to be aware of:

  • You won’t be able to transfer your phone number to another network. If you move your phone number to another network, it will automatically close the account on your old mobile network. For this reason, it won’t be possible to transfer your phone number to a new mobile network whilst keeping the credit on your old account.
  • You’ll need to keep an eye on account inactivity and credit expiry. On most mobile networks, there’ll be no problem keeping your old account open as a backup. However, you should be aware of the account inactivity and credit expiry policies. Typically, you’ll need to use your SIM card for a chargeable activity at least once every 180 days to keep your account open.

Dual-SIM handsets like the Moto G and Honor 6X allow you to use two SIM cards at the same time in the handset. This can be a good way of dealing with two SIM cards, as you’ll be able to use both of them at the same time in the handset (and therefore receive phone calls on both numbers).

More Information

For more information, please see our full guide to the UK’s Pay As You Go deals. You can also see our detailed instructions on how to move your phone number from one mobile network to another.

Your Comments 17 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 17 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • I have ported a PAYG number from O2 to BT. I neglected to use the (approx.) £19 left on the O2 account before porting across. O2 say they cannot do anything about this.
    I am not bothered about the sum but I would like it to go to a charity rather than remain with O2.
    How can I get O2 to pass the sum to a nominated charity?

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. Sadly, there’s no way to do this once your account has been closed, unless you’re able to get O2 Customer Services to agree to reinstate the credit for you to a different account. Normally, once a Pay As You Go account is closed (e.g. because the number has been ported out), all of the credit will be forfeited at that point.

  • Hi, I’m trying to transfer my mobile number(pay as you go)keeping my old number from my old ee phone onto my other phone on3. I am successful putting information on the form from 3, until I get to the activation date. What ever date I enter comes up with a message saying “Incorrect Date” Why?

    • Hi Carol,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’m not sure why this is happening – it might be best to contact Three Customer Services on 333 so they can have a look into it for you.

  • I have £20 extra credit on my phone credit(paygo)..Can I use this to pay an online site?(philosophy-astrology).The site says it’s acceptable,but when tried to check/rang O2 Cust service he didn’t seem to know,but said it can’t be done in South Africa??.Not a very clear answer to the q.!
    p.s. I live in U.K

    • Hi Moira,
      Thanks for our comment. Typically, it isn’t possible to use your Pay As You Go credit to pay for services online. There are sometimes a couple of exceptions to this (e.g. at partners like the Google Play Store).
      Hope this helps,

  • I was told by an Orange person that there was a way to transfer my PAY AS YOU GO balance to charity which I wanted to do. Unfortunately when I found your website my no. Had already been transfer to new phone. Perhaps you could work out a way that would give this negative info sooner?

    • Hi there,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, this isn’t really something that Orange publicise themselves, as they obviously want to keep all of your unused credit! I’ve collated the information on this page to try and help people out but unfortunately there aren’t many ways of getting the word out there (except from by word of mouth and by people searching for this topic).

  • It’s rather convenient for the network providers that anything under £3 can’t be text donated to charity. They must make a fortune on left over balances sub 3 quid as unless you make unnecessary calls just to use it up (what’s the point?) it is pure profit for them. It’d be nice if we could clear the credit in full (albeit small amounts) in anyway we wish without restriction.

    • Very true Mark! Millions that amounts to no doubt. There should be a way to have a refund of your credit. I am surprised Ofcom etc has not enacted that to the Telcos. What is stopping that? Surely thats a Consumer right to have your credit back. The power companies are required of course to give you back your credit balance so why should the Telco companies not?

  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the comprehensive suggestions! With regard to donating leftover PAYG credit, I’ve set up a dedicated JustGiving page with active text donation code for Oxfam UK –

    My aim is to keep the page updated with feedback on which networks allow you to donate your balance through the text donation service, and whether or not they charge for the shortcode text itself.

    Hope this helps, Rob

  • Cedric Wenger said:

    Dear Ken,

    First, thanks a lot for all your hard work putting this site together and collecting all this information and presenting it in an easy-to-read and understandable way – very helpful for those of us trying to navigate the mobile sim waters!

    Second, thanks a lot for reminding me that I can donate my remaining credit to worthy charities. I totally didn’t think of doing that, duh!

    Thanks a gain for a really helpful site.


  • I have a PAYG from EE and want to spend some of my credit to buy some EE accessories. ( Unfortunately there is no option to do this, just Paypal and credit cards and EE vouchers. I asked Kondor, the company that operates the EE accessories site, but they wouldn’t help. Is there a way to change some of my credit from EE PAYG to EE vouchers, as Kondor accept these? Thanks for any help.

    • Hi JPAC,
      I don’t believe it’s possible to convert your EE Pay As You Go credit into an EE gift voucher. Obviously, they make huge margins when you use your PAYG credit for calling, texting and browsing (while accessories and handsets typically have a much smaller margin). For this reason, I think they’re unlikely to offer any way for you to be able to do this!

      • That’s shame. Thanks for the reply though Ken. EE accessories are about four times the price of a regular shop. I bought the credit for my backup phone when travelling but it never got used. I would have liked to use most of the credit up and move the number to another network as a second SIM on a dual SIM phone.

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