With Pay As You Go, there’s no need to sign any contracts. Find out how to get a free SIM card and which PAYG networks offer the lowest prices.

Instead of getting a Pay Monthly contract, many consumers prefer to use their phone on a Pay As You Go basis. Compared to Pay Monthly, Pay As You Go offers better flexibility: there’s no need to sign any 24-month contracts and you have the ability to change networks or tariffs at any time you like. There’s also no need to undergo a credit check and there’s no chance of spending more than your top-up. With better spend control, Pay As You Go can often be the perfect product for younger mobile users.

In the UK, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Pay As You Go. There are more than 20 networks offering a Pay As You Go service. Frequent smartphone users can take advantage of a bundle for even better rates. In this section, read more about the UK’s Pay As You Go tariffs.

Free Pay As You Go SIM Cards: Review & Comparison 2019

Get a free SIM card for your mobile phone: Pay As You Go offerings compared from 20 UK networks.

Best Pay As You Go SIM For Light Users: No Monthly Top-Up & No Expiry

If you're a light mobile user, it's best to choose a low-cost Pay As You Go plan with no monthly subscription or credit expiry.

Compare Pay As You Go Networks: Prices & Coverage Comparison Table

Looking for the cheapest Pay As You Go tariff in the UK? Our interactive comparison table allows you to compare Pay As You Go mobile networks by price and coverage.

Best Pay As You Go Bundles: UK's Cheapest Prepaid Mobile Plans

With a Pay As You Go bundle, you convert your credit into a one-month allowance of calls, texts and mobile data. We compare the UK’s best value Pay As You Go bundles.

PAYG Inactivity: Time For Credit Expiry & SIM Card Cancellation

If your Pay As You Go SIM card isn't used for a certain amount of time, your credit can expire and your account can be closed.

Topping-Up on PAYG: Minimum Top-Up & Available Methods

Find out the minimum top-up on each UK network and the available methods for topping up your handset.

PAYG Calling: Minimum Charge, Per-Minute & Per-Second Bills

Pay As You Go mobile networks differ in the method they use to charge customers for a call. Techniques such a minimum call charge and per-minute billing can add substantially to the cost of your service.

Your Comments 15 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 15 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • NEIL WILLIAMS said:

    Thank you very much for your excellent information. I am in the U.S. and travel to Britain occasionally and the last phone I had has expired (several years old). I use my U.S. phone in Britain on WIFI and use Google Hangouts Dialer. But I would like another U.K. phone for standby. It also seems like to get access to the hotspots from networks like O2 you have to have a U.K. mobile number.
    I like the O2 Classic Plan and will enroll in it…but was wondering if you have a recommendation for a very cheap handset..I looked at O2 s Alcatle and the Alcatel Pixie 4 or the ZTE BLade..is this the best way to go?
    Again, thank you so much for all of your fine work and excellent writing/presentation. It is much appreciated.

    • Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m afraid I don’t have a specific handset to recommended amongst this price range, though if you’re just looking for a basic phone that can make phone calls and do some basic browsing, all of the handsets you’ve mentioned should probably be fine! If you’re willing to spend a little bit more, I do rather like the Moto G, but I don’t think it’s worth it if you only want to use it on your trips here (more an option if you want a GSM handset that you can continue to use when you go back home as well).
      Ken

  • Rakesh Dharamsi said:

    Hi Ken
    I am from New Zealand and planing to travel to UK and Europe and need a sim to cover, I plan to use more data then calling what do you recommend.

    • Hi Cleveland,
      To the best of my knowledge, I don’t believe Lycamobile has cruise ship roaming. However, you might be able to pick up a land-based network when close to the shore which would allow you to use Lycamobile. If you’d like a definitive answer to this question, it’s probably worth contacting Lycamobile directly.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    Fantastic site you run here. You deserve a knighthood!

    I’m moving outside the UK/EU soon but going to need a low-user PAYG SIM for when I visit UK. That bit s simple. But what about when I go to the EU?

    Ignoring the Brexit implications, when free roaming starts, will I pay just the same ppm on a PAYG in the EU as if I was in the UK, as long as I am calling a UK number? Or does the free roaming only apply to contracts?

    • Hi Graham,
      That’s very kind of you – thanks very much 😉
      Since the change to EU roaming legislation on June 15th, you can indeed now use a Pay As You Go SIM card at no extra cost when travelling in Europe (including the normal ppm on Pay As You Go). There are a number of fair usage limits (which are described in this article) but I shouldn’t have thought you’d have any problems running into them.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • I purchased a phone in the USA from AT&T (just for holiday use)
    The agreement states that I buy air time to keep the phone active but this means that I build
    up a lot of $ credit.

    Can you advise be on a better way to go.

    • Hi Ian,
      The phone number for finding out your balance will differ on each network, so that might explain why the shortcode you mentioned doesn’t work. Which mobile network are you trying to find out the PAYG balance on?
      Thanks,
      Ken

  • Not sure if this has been mentioned before on this site but here is some info on a new PAYG sim.

    3 now do a sim called “PAYG Data Reward” and it’s the same rates as the standard 3-2-1 sim except it’s a Broadband sim and you get 200Mb of data free every month and top-up’s start at £2.

    Being a BroadBand sim has the advantage of being used in any device be it phone, dongle, Mifi, tablet or anything that uses data and can be used in a normal phone for calls and text.

    When ordering this sim it makes out you need to buy the sim for £10 and it comes with 1 Gb of data and this expires after 30 days however disregard the £10 offer and just go for the free sim. When the sim arrives just go on their site and register the number and you will get your free 200Mb there and then and every month thereafter.

    If you want to top up to make calls and text you can do this from as little as £2 with no expiry of credit though the 180 day rule may apply. When looking for the means of topping up on their site you will find they call them “International Cash” top-ups and this is confusing as it makes it look like an expiring bundle but the credit is bog standard credit and can be used for the 3p pm calls, 2p pt or 1p pmb if you use up your free 200Mb but I assume they are calling them international to make a point the sim can be used in their “Feel at Home” countries for no extra cost.

    So summing up the sim is the same as the standard 3-2-1 sim but can be use in ANY device or tethered to a phone + you get 200Mb free every month and while the standard 3-2-1 sim can be tethered to a phone it’s against 3’s T&C.

  • I always come to your site Ken when I need info on sim cards etc.

    I have an original PAYG from O2 (calls and texts) where I have to use it once every 90 days to keep it active – so just phone my home number, answer and its done. I’ve always been near a landline so only need it whilst out and about in case of emergencies etc. I also have a PAYG from EE which I got last year when going on holiday as it was far cheaper to buy a bundle to use when a grandson needed to tether to it to play FIFA!

    I now have bought a new dual sim smart phone and, whilst I can use both the sim cards above in it, I think its about time to give up on the O2 as the costs of the calls are high compared to others. Have been looking at the comparisons done here (and getting more confused by the minute!) but then recalled seeing that the Post Office did mobile plans. As I moved to them for my home phone and broadband package earlier this year I had a look at their mobile deals. They pretty much stack up to some of the cheapest deals from the major players for PAYG. Just wondered if you had a look at them and what you think of their deals?

    • Hi Gill,
      Thanks for your comment! Unfortunately, I haven’t look at the Post Office Mobile in very much detail (you can however see a comparison of their rates in this table). Regarding the rates, they are cheaper than most of the major networks. However, there are some cheaper networks around (e.g. Three at only 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB of data).
      Ken

      • Thanks for the reply Ken. Sadly, where I live Three is a nono! Tried a couple of years ago with them and couldn’t get a signal at all. o2 is the strongest signal in the house, EE is a bit iffy but if I go to a friend’s half a mile away, there is no o2 signal but EE is strong. Oh the joy of living in the countryside. Will have a look at the table now – once again, thanks for this site as it is a great help.

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