Topping Up on Pay As You Go: Minimum Top-Up & Available Top-Up Methods

March 13th, 2016

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

Top Up LogoIn the UK, when you get a Pay As You Go SIM card, the top-up policy might differ depending on your mobile network. For instance, while most mobile networks allow you to top-up £5 each time, some mobile networks will require you to top-up a minimum of £10. On different mobile networks, the available methods for topping up your phone can also differ: for instance, only some mobile networks will allow you to top-up at a cashpoint.

In this article, we’ll review and compare the top-up policy on Pay As You Go networks in the UK. We’ll look at the minimum top-up amount on each UK network and we’ll discuss the available methods for actually topping up your handset. You can use this article in conjunction with our guide to the best value Pay As You Go SIM cards. You may also find it useful to see our price comparison of Pay As You Go networks and our in-depth guide to Pay As You Go inactivity and credit expiry.

Overview of Minimum Top-Up & Available Top-Up Methods

The following table gives a quick overview of the minimum top-up on each UK mobile network. We’ve also listed the available methods for topping up your handset:

Pay As You Go Network Minimum Top-Up Available Top-Up Methods
By Phone By Text Online E-top up card Voucher Cashpoint
1p Mobile £10
ASDA Mobile £5
EE £5
giffgaff £10
iD Mobile £5
Lebara Mobile £5
Lycamobile £5
O2 £10
Talkmobile £5
Tello £2
Tesco Mobile £10
The People’s Operator £10
Three £5
Virgin Mobile £5
Vodafone £5

For more information, please click the name of the mobile network for further details on how to top up your handset.

  • If you’re topping up either by phone, by text or online, you’ll normally need a UK-registered credit card or debit card. Mastercard and Visa are universally accepted, with support for American Express being limited to some networks. Some, but not all, mobile networks will allow you to top-up using a card that’s registered outside the UK.
  • If you’re topping up with an electronic top-up card or top-up voucher, you can normally go to any retailer displaying the green top-up logo. This will include most UK supermarkets and convenience stores. You can also top-up at mobile phone stores and at your nearest branch of the Post Office. This is the best way of topping-up if you’d like to top-up with cash.
  • If you’re topping up at a cashpoint (ATM), you’ll need a UK-registered debit card or cash card. You should check to see whether your mobile network will accept a card from your bank (some mobile networks will only accept a card from certain banks).

Pay As You Go: Top-Up Policy By Network

1pMobile

On 1pMobile, the minimum top-up is £10 each time. Importantly, there is also a minimum requirement for you to top-up at least once every 120 days (if you don’t do this, your account will be closed).

  • Online: At present, the only way to top-up on 1pMobile is online through the 1pMobile website. It’s possible also to set up an “automatic top-up” for each time your balance drops below £2 or each time your account hasn’t been topped up for 120 days. Unfortunately, there are no other top-up methods currently available on 1pMobile.

Source: 1p Mobile Help Pages: Top-Ups
Tariff Information: 1pMobile Website

ASDA Mobile

On ASDA Mobile, you can make a minimum top-up of £5 each time.

  • By phone: You can top up by calling 2732, and registering your credit card or debit card details.
  • By text: You can top up by SMS text message once a credit card or debit card has been registered to your account. To do so, text TOP UP to 2732 and follow the instructions.
  • Electronic top-up card: You can order a free electronic top-up card from the ASDA Mobile website. Once you have this, you can top up in any shop where you see the top-up logo.
  • Top-up voucher: If you don’t have an electronic top-up card, you can buy a voucher code at ASDA or anywhere where you see the top-up logo.

For more information, please see the ASDA Mobile website. You can also read their FAQs about topping up your handset.

Source: ASDA Mobile: Topping Up
Tariff Information: ASDA Mobile Website

EE

On EE, there is a minimum top-up of £5 each time.

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 150 and choosing the option to top-up.
  • By text: You can top up by SMS text message once a credit card or debit card has been registered to your account. To do so, send a text message to 150 with CR followed by the last four digits of your registered card number and then the amount you want to top-up by.
  • Online: You can top-up through the My EE website (registration required). You can also top-up through the My EE app.
  • Electronic top-up card: You’ll normally be given an electronic top-up card along with your Pay As You Go handset or SIM card. You can use this to top-up anywhere you see the green top-up logo.
  • Top-up voucher: If you can’t find your electronic top-up card, you can also buy an EE voucher code.
  • Cashpoint (ATM): You can top up at most ATMs and cashpoints supporting this feature. You can either choose the EE/Orange or EE/T-Mobile options (both will work for an EE Pay As You Go customer).

Source: EE Help Article: Ways To Top-Up
Tariff Information: EE Website

giffgaff

On giffgaff, there’s a minimum top-up of £10 each time.

  • Online: The recommended way of topping up on giffgaff is through their official website. You’ll need to log in to your giffgaff account (if you can’t remember the details, you can follow the instructions here to recover your username and password).
  • Top-up voucher: giffgaff doesn’t offer electronic top-up cards. For this reason, if you aren’t able to top-up online, the only other option is buying a giffgaff top-up voucher. You can do this anywhere you see the green top-up logo (if you aren’t able to find a giffgaff option, you can also use a voucher code for O2).

Source: giffgaff Knowledge Base: Guide to Top-Up
Tariff Information: giffgaff Website

iD Mobile

On iD Mobile, you can make a minimum top-up of £5 each time:

Source: iD Mobile: Pay As You Go FAQs
Tariff Information: iD Mobile Website

Lebara Mobile

On Lebara Mobile, you can make a minimum top-up of £5:

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 5588 and selecting option 1 followed by option 1.
  • Online: You can top-up online through the Lebara Mobile website.
  • Top-up voucher: You can buy a Lebara Mobile top-up voucher anywhere you see the green top-up logo.
  • Cashpoint (ATM): Customers with a HSBC UK debit card can top-up at a HSBC cash machine. The minimum top-up is £10 through a cash machine.

Source: Lebara Mobile: How to Top-Up
Tariff Information: Lebara Mobile Website

Lycamobile

Lycamobile has a minimum top-up of £5 each time. There are three ways to top-up your SIM card:

  • By phone: You can top-up your Lycamobile handset by calling 07404 000 321.
  • Online: You can top-up your account online through the Lycamobile website.
  • Top-up voucher: You can also buy a Lycamobile top-up voucher wherever you see the green top-up logo.

Source: Lycamobile: Users Guide
Tariff Information: Lycamobile Website

O2

On O2, there’s a minimum top-up of £10. You can top-up your handset in one of five ways:

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 4444 and by following the voice prompt instructions.
  • Online: You can top-up through O2’s web top-up service. There’s no need to register for an account (all you need to enter is the mobile number and the amount you want to top-up by).
  • Electronic top-up card: You’ll normally receive an electronic top-up card along with your O2 Pay As You Go handset or SIM card. You can use this card to top-up your account anywhere you see the green top-up logo.
  • Top-up voucher: If you don’t have your electronic top-up card, you can buy an O2 top-up voucher code.
  • Cashpoint (ATM): You can top up at any UK cash machine with the green top-up logo.

Source: O2 Top-up
Tariff Information: O2 Website

Talkmobile

Talkmobile offers a minimum top-up amount of £5.

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 5588 on your Talkmobile handset.
  • Online: You can top-up online through the Talkmobile website (registration required).
  • Electronic top-up card: If you have a Talkmobile swipe card, you can use this to top-up anywhere you see the green top-up logo. Unfortunately, Talkmobile swipe cards are no longer being distributed to new customers.
  • Top-up voucher: If you don’t have a Talkmobile swipe card, you can top-up by buying a Talkmobile voucher code anywhere you see the green top-up logo.

Source: Talkmobile Help: Topping Up Your Phone
Tariff Information: Talkmobile Website

Tello

Tello has the smallest minimum top-up of any UK mobile network: you can top-up your handset by as little as £2 each time.

  • Online: The only way to top-up your Tello handset is by logging in and topping up through the Tello website. Unfortunately, there are no other top-up methods currently available.

Source: Tello Help Centre
Tariff Information: Tello Website

Tesco Mobile

On Tesco Mobile, there’s a minimum top-up of £10 each time.

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 4444 and by following the instructions.
  • Online: You can top-up online at topup.tescomobile.com. You’ll need to register for an account before topping up online.
  • Electronic top-up card: You should normally receive an electronic top-up card along with your Tesco Mobile handset or SIM card. You can use this top-up card to top-up your account anywhere you see the green top-up logo.
  • Top-up voucher: You can buy a Tesco Mobile top-up voucher code from Tesco stores in the UK.
  • Cashpoint (ATM): You can top up at any UK cash machine showing the green top-up logo.

Source: Tesco Mobile Help: Topping-Up
Tariff Information: Tesco Mobile Website

The People’s Operator

On The People’s Operator, you can top-up any amount from £10. Unfortunately, the choice of top-up options is a little more restricted compared to other networks:

  • Online: The recommended way of topping up your SIM card is on The People’s Operator website.
  • Top-up voucher: You can also top-up your SIM card by buying a voucher from convenience stores showing the Payzone or PayPoint logos.

Source: The People’s Operator: Top-Up Page
Tariff Information: The People’s Operator Website

Three

On Three, there is a minimum top-up of £5 but this is only available for online top-ups. For all other methods of topping up on Three, a minimum top-up of £10 will apply.

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 4444.
  • Online: You can top-up via Three’s web top-up service. There’s no need to register for this service. To save time in the future, you can alternatively top-up through your My3 account (registration required but this will allow you to save your card details for the future)
  • Top-up voucher: You can buy a Three top-up voucher code anywhere you see the green top-up logo.
  • Cashpoint (ATM): You can top-up at a Barclays or HSBC cash machine if you have a debit card that’s been issued from one of six UK banks (Barclays, HSBC, Nationwide, Coventry, Yorkshire and Clydesdale).

Source: Three Pay As You Go: How to Top-Up
Tariff Information: Three Website

Virgin Mobile

On Virgin Mobile Pay As You Go, you can top-up a minimum of £5 each time. Top-ups can be made through any one of the six following methods:

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 789 from your Virgin Mobile handset.
  • By text: You can top up by SMS text message if a credit card or debit card has been registered to your account. To top-up, send a text message to 789222 with the amount you’d like to top-up by followed by the last four digits of your registered card number and then the three-digit security code of the back of your card.
  • Online: You can top-up through the Virgin Mobile website (registration required).
  • Electronic top-up card: You should have been given an electronic top-up card with your Virgin Mobile handset or SIM card. You can use this to top-up anywhere you see the green top-up logo.
  • Top-up voucher: If you can’t find your electronic top-up card, you can buy a Virgin Mobile top-up voucher code at any location where you see the green top-up logo.
  • Cashpoint (ATM): You can top up at UK cash machines supporting the feature providing you have a bank card from one of the following institutions: Natwest, RBS, Lloyds TSB, Allied Irish Bank, Nationwide, Co-op Bank, HSBC or Barclays.

Source: Virgin Media: Top up your Pay As You Go mobile
Tariff Information: Virgin Media Website

Vodafone

On Vodafone, you can make a minimum top-up of £5 each time on a Pay As You Go account.

  • By phone: You can top-up by calling 2345 on your Vodafone handset.
  • By text: If you have a registered credit card or debit card, you can also top up by SMS text message. To do this, send a text message to 2345 saying TOPUP followed by the the amount you’d like to top-up by and then the last four digits of your registered card number.
  • Online: You can top-up through the Vodafone website (no registration is required for this service). You can also top-up your account through the My Vodafone app.
  • Electronic top-up card: You can pick up a Vodafone electronic top-up card from larger Vodafone stores. You can then use this card at any location with the green top-up logo to easily top-up your handset.
  • Top-up voucher: You can buy a Vodafone top-up voucher code at any location showing the green top-up logo.
  • Cashpoint (ATM): You can top up at any UK cash machine supporting the feature.

Source: Vodafone Support: How can I top-up my phone?
Tariff Information: Vodafone Website

More Information

For more information on the best Pay As You Go deals, see our guide to the UK’s free Pay As You Go SIM card offers. When choosing a network, you may also find it useful to see our Pay As You Go price comparison article. Occasional users should also see our guide to Pay As You Go inactivity and credit expiry.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

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

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

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 6 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Kevin said:

    Hi Ken,

    Love the website, so informative.

    Are retailers that accept E-top up cards/Top-up vouchers supposed to accept payment for rival networks if they are displaying the top-up logo? For example, Asda and Tesco refuse top-ups to the other’s network, but do top-up ‘mainstream’ providers like O2.

    You would think these retailers would be glad of the sale, not to mention the great opportunity to bring in new mobile customers. Perhaps special mobile deals printed on their receipts.
    What are your thoughts?

    Regards, K

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Kevin,
      Many thanks for your comment, and this is a very good question. I don’t believe there is any requirement for retailers to offer a top-up from rival supermarket mobile networks (so ASDA are under no obligation to allow you to top-up a Tesco Mobile account, and vice versa with Tesco allowing you to top-up an ASDA Mobile account). From my research into this issue, it seems to have been like this for at least a decade and I don’t believe the green top-up logo imposes any requirements on the retailer to offer top-ups for all networks.
      As you say, however, I think it’s a little bit petty. If I were a Tesco Mobile customer and ASDA refused to top-up my Tesco Mobile handset, then that would only give me an additional reason to shop at Tesco instead. So yes, I also don’t agree with the approach the main supermarkets are taking, but unfortunately it will probably be tricky to change the mind of the people making the decisions in the supermarket.
      Ken

  2. Stephen said:

    Ken,

    would you happen to know if O2 allow you to top-up a pay-as-you-go service with a non-UK credit card?

    Cheers,

    Steve

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, lots of UK mobile networks block the use of non-UK credit cards and debit cards. The reason for this is because mobile phone top-ups are seen as “high fraud risk”
      Unfortunately, I don’t think the major mobile networks make it public information on whether they accept non-UK cards. So I’m not sure whether O2 allows this, though I believe giffgaff does allow the use of non-UK cards. giffgaff is a low-cost subsidiary of O2, so I’m not sure whether they share the same payments processor as O2.
      Of course, if you’re in the UK, you can side-step this by topping up your phone in-person at a retail store. You can either top-up using cash or credit card, and there shouldn’t be any problems using an international credit card here.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Stephen replied:

        Ken,

        thanks for the response.

        Certainly EE allow me to use an overseas VISA card but in planning on switching over to O2 I was hoping I could find out.

        I guess I’ll have to wait & see how it goes and if they don’t accept my “foreign” card then I’ll have to think of alternate measures.

        Cheers,

        Steve

  3. Jason Bourne said:

    Hello Ken.
    It’s been about two years since I wrote in about the farce of the new sim cards their incompatibility with the Nokia N8 and my battle with Asda Mobile.
    I admitted defeat, bought a brand new Nokia Lumia 1020, gritted my teeth and stayed with Asda, good job too, as their latest offer is £10.00 / month 600 mins 1+ gb data and unlimited texts, suits me fine.
    Anyway the new sims will definitely not work properly in the N8 because the gold contact pad on the card is TOO SHORT when inserted and locked in place with a “click”, the outer spring loaded phone contacts barely make contact with the gold pad and cause a shorting effect which corrupts the phones operating system, this caused my N8 to constantly be connected to the internet without my knowledge, refuse to send emails and send and receive texts when it felt like it.
    I observed the idea on the internet of sticking a piece of sellotape to the back of a multi sim and not pushing the card in all the way in and trapping it with the cover, I didn’t try it, I don’t like bodges.
    Does anyone know of a sim which will work properly in the N8 with out bodgery?

    Regards JB

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