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Best Pay-as-you-go Sim Deals

£7.50/mth for unltd mins, unltd texts & 2GB of 4G data

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Nick | Edited by Steve N

Updated Weekly

Best Cheap Pay as you go deals PAYGWhen you hear 'pay-as-you-go' (PAYG), you might think of the early days of mobiles, when it was common to pay upfront for each pricey call and text. But now it's possible to get great value pay-as-you-go 'bundles', giving a better value allowance and tighter control over your bill.

If that's what you're after – or even if you just want a back-up Sim for occasional use – then here you'll find all you need to know about pay-as-you-go, including where to find the best deals and our own top picks.

Is pay-as-you-go right for you? Before reading this guide...

  • Concerned about a credit check or want a tighter control over your bill? A pay-as-you-go bundle is probably a good bet. Read on...
  • Happy to commit to a contract? Sim only generally offers better value.
  • Want a new phone but can't afford to buy it upfront? Traditional mobile contracts usually cost more – for other options, see Buying a new mobile.

    Need-to-knows

    Before you take out a pay-as-you-go deal, here are the key things to consider:

  • 'Traditional' PAYG or bundled PAYG?

  • You'll need to have an unlocked phone – it's usually free to get it done

  • Get the allowance you actually need

  • Signal strength can vary – check it in advance at home and work

  • Switching from a contract? Serve your notice to leave ASAP

  • You can keep your number – here's how

Pay-as-you-go top-pick Sims

Once you know which network(s) you're happy to go with and what allowance you need, find the best deal you can that fits with this.

Below we've listed our top-pick pay-as-you-go deals for different categories - occasional use, best PAYG bundles, and best for roaming. Because for some signal is the overriding factor, we've also listed the top alternatives for each of the other three main networks (or a network that piggybacks on it).

In all but the occasional use category, we've listed PAYG bundles rather than traditional PAYG tariffs, which tend to be more expensive – see Traditional vs bundled PAYG for more. If you can't find one of our top picks that matches your criteria, try using a comparison site such as MobilePhoneChecker*, HandsetExpert or Ctrlio.

Occasional/back-up use

It can be useful to keep a spare Sim for emergency use in case you lose your phone, or perhaps for entering competitions or listing adverts where you're not comfortable giving your main number. This is where traditional PAYG deals rather than bundles can win.

O2

'True' pay-as-you-go: 3p/min, 2p/text, 1p/MB*

BEST FOR INFREQUENT OR EMERGENCY USE

The Classic Pay As You Go tariff from O2* does what it says on the tin – it's a simple and cheap tariff, charging on a purely pay-as-you-go basis - it's a good deal for occasional mobile users.

This tariff has the same rates as Three for UK minutes, UK texts and per MB data, however the O2 Sim can also be used in 2G-compatible phones - so the most basic of phones.

O2 also gives 5% credit per top-up back for the first three months, increasing to 10% after six months via its Rewards scheme - but you must opt in.

How much is it? Top up online with £10 minimum and it costs 3p/min for calls, 2p/text and 1p/MB for data (Plus 5-10% credit back after each top-up).

You'll lose credit after six months if you don't use it – but use your phone occasionally and it'll stay on permanently.

If you can't get O2 signal where you live...

These are the best of the rest:

  • 1pMobile (piggybacks on EE): 1p/min, 1p/text, 1p/MB. However you must top up at least £10 every four months or you will be disconnected, so this is only suited if you'll top up by a minimum of £30/year.
  • Three*: 3p/min, 2p/text, 1p/MB. It'll only work in 3G-compatible or later handsets, so older non-smartphones are a no-no.
  • Lebara Mobile* (piggybacks on Vodafone): 12p/min, 19p/min mobiles, 19p/text, 9p/MB, 3G-only.

Best PAYG bundles

These deals still have no contract but come loaded with a bundle of minutes, texts and data with your credit each month. These are our current top picks...

SMARTY Logo

Unltd mins, texts: £5/mth + data at £1.25/GB*

CREDIT FOR UNUSED DATA

These pay-upfront deals from Smarty* (owned by and uses the Three network) gives you unlimited minutes and texts for £5/mth and charges £1.25 per GB on top. It has three plans which you can move between, plus you can add more you're refunded for any data you haven't used at the end of the month anyway, so you'll never pay for more than you use. It's applied as a credit to discount your next plan - paid at 1p per 8MB/ £1.25 per 1GB.

For example, use no data this month and your next month would cost £5, use 1GB and it's £6.25. Equally if you want to buy more data, it again charges the same rates - so £1.25 per GB - which you can add on via your online account.

- 2GB, unlimited mins & texts: £7.50*
- 4GB, unlimited mins & texts: £10*
- 8GB, unlimited mins & texts: £15*

Need-to-knows
  • Runs off the Three network.
  • Bundles last 30-days.
  • Out-of-bundle charges are £1.25/GB - you can add this on via your online account.
  • No credit check.
  • Tethering is permitted.
  • Calls to UK mobiles, landlines and 0800/0808 are included – 09 numbers are blocked.
  • You'll need to buy a cash add-on (from £5) for roaming, calling international numbers or those starting 084, 087, 118 and 101.
  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to Smarty.

If you can't get Three signal where you live...

These are some other cheap tariffs on other networks:

Up to 2GB

  • Asda Mobile*: (piggybacks on EE) 300 mins, unltd texts, 1GB - £7/mth.
  • Giffgaff* (piggybacks on O2): 250 mins, unltd texts, 2GB – £7.50/mth.
  • Lebara Mobile* (piggybacks on Vodafone): 1,000 mins, 100 texts, 2GB (3G) – £10/mth.

Up to 4GB

  • Giffgaff* (piggybacks off O2): 500 mins, unltd texts, 3GB - £10/mth.
  • Asda Mobile*: (piggybacks on EE) 800 mins, unltd texts, 3GB - £12/mth.
  • Lebara Mobile* (piggybacks on Vodafone): Unltd mins, 100 texts, 4GB (3G) – £15/mth.

Up to 8GB

  • Giffgaff*: (Piggybacks on O2) 1000 mins, unltd texts, 8GB - £15/mth.
  • Vodafone*: 1,000 mins, unltd texts, 6GB – £20/mth.
  • Asda Mobile* (Piggybacks on EE): 1,000 mins, unltd texts, 5GB – £15/mth.

Unlimited social streaming for U30s

If you're always streaming or downloading on the go, Voxi's plans won't drain your usual monthly data allowance.

O2

Unltd mins, texts and 6GB: £10/mth*

UNDER 30 ONLY

Until Sat 17 Nov, this deal for new customers to Voxi* (owned by and uses Vodafone's network) gives unlimited minutes, texts and 6GB of general use data for £10/mth - for anyone 30 or under.

All Voxi plans also offer unlimited data for social and chat apps as standard - so any data used by apps such as Instagram or Facebook won't be taken from your allowance.

You can add on a video pass for an additional £7/mth and/or a music pass for £5/mth. This gives you unlimited data to stream or download using additional apps such as Netflix, Spotify and Apple Music. Full list of included apps here. Note: Only the data is covered for each app - you still need to pay to access any apps where a subscription is required, i.e Netflix.

Warning: There is a big catch though - the unlimited data is only available when you have general use data left.

Need-to-knows
  • Read our full analysis here.
  • Runs off the Vodafone network.
  • Out-of-bundle charges are 30p/min, 14p/text. If you run out of data you can pay £3 for 1GB.
  • No credit check.
  • Tethering is permitted on some devices - full info here.
  • Use up your monthly allowance and the endless data ends.
  • At the end of the 30 days you will lose any unused allowances.

Roaming abroad- inc US, Australia & Europe

Those on Three's 'Advanced' contracts get to use their allowance for free in 71 countries and territories including the US, Australia and most of Europe. However, pay-as-you-go users who convert their credit into a bundle can get the same benefit.

This is the perfect trick for the occasional trip abroad, if you're heading to one of the covered countries. Alternatively, if you go away often enough it might be worth getting a more generous bundle and paying for it every month.

EE

Roam for free in 71 destinations*

FOR THE ODD TRIP ABROAD

Here's how to get yourself free roaming in 71 countries and territories without tying yourself into a contract with Three:

  1. Order a free PAYG Sim from the Three* website – it'll work in any unlocked 3G or 4G phone. You can also buy one in store – it normally costs £1, but the fee's waived if you top up at the same time (£10 minimum).

  2. You'll then need to use your credit to buy a Three add-on* bundle of calls, texts and data. To do this, log in to your 'My 3' account or call 333 using your new Sim. Bundles range from £5 to £25 – here are a few examples:

    • 3,000 'Three to Three' mins only OR 3,000 texts only OR 500MB data only, for £5/mth
    • 3,000 mins, 3,000 texts, 1GB data for £10/mth
    • 3,000 mins, 3,000 texts, 12GB data for £20/mth
  3. Your Sim should already be activated for international roaming, so Feel At Home should work automatically when you arrive in any of the countries covered. You'll be able to use the allowance in your add-on in the same way as in the UK.

Add-ons and their allowances last 30 days. Any leftover credit not used towards a bundle expires after six months if you don't use it.

For more information about Feel At Home and how it works, including its restrictions, see Cheap Mobile Roaming.

Other roaming Sim deals

It's possible to get Sims with other networks that include roaming allowances, but they're generally not very competitive. For more tips on how to cut the cost of using your mobile abroad, see our Cheap Mobile and Data Roaming guide.

How to complain about your network

The mobile industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include limited network coverage, slow data speeds, unexpected charges and more. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Ombudsman Services (or CISAS if you're complaining about Virgin Mobile).

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead let us know by emailing voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that's usually quicker.

Get Our Free Money Tips Email!

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 12m who get it. Don't miss out