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Best Pay As You Go Plans - Which network offers the best value?

22nd August 2019

Pay As You Go

While many people are dumping big bucks on contracts, you can potentially save a lot of money by opting to Pay As You Go instead.

As you typically only pay for what you use (and aren’t covering the cost of a handset), this is often a great, affordable choice for light users or those who use varied amounts of minutes, texts and data each month. But even if you’re a heavy user, there are many excellent value Pay As You Go bundles.

What’s more, as you’re not locked into a contract you’re free to move plans or even networks whenever you want. As long as you’re happy with your current handset, this all makes Pay As You Go a great option.

That said, there are a lot of options within Pay As You Go, with many networks offering their own takes on it. But we’ve taken the hard work out of choosing the right Pay As You Go plan by summarising your options below, and highlighting the best of them.

Things to consider in a Pay As You Go plan

There’s a lot to factor in when choosing a Pay As You Go plan. It’s not just about the pricing and allowances - though those are certainly important too.

You’ll also want to consider where you can roam for free, whether you can tether, what – if any – extras the plan includes, coverage, and even the data type – as while most PAYG plans offer 4G, some may soon start offering 5G.

We’ve taken a closer look at the key considerations below.

Pricing

Pay As You Go Prices

Network

Standard PAYG pricing

Bundles

Top up expiry

EE

35p per minute, 15p per text, data is limited to bundles

30-day bundles with up to 20GB of data (for £30) plus data rollover and free boosts

180 days of inactivity

Three

3p per minute, 2p per text, 1p per megabyte

30-day bundles with up to unlimited data (for £35)

6 months of inactivity

O2

3p per minute, 2p per text, 1p per megabyte

30-day bundles with up to 20GB of data (for £30) plus data rollover

6 months of inactivity

Vodafone

20p per minute, text or 5MB of data until £1 is spent, then unlimited mins/texts and 500MB for the rest of the day

30-day bundles with up to 40GB of data (for £30), plus roll over of data, mins and texts

180 days of inactivity

iD Mobile

3p per minute, 2p per text, 1p per megabyte

30-day bundles with up to 4GB of data (for £15)

120 days of inactivity or 365 days without a purchase

Giffgaff

15p per minute, 5p per text, 5p per megabyte

30-day SIM-Only bundles with up to unlimited data (40GB at full speed) (for £25)

6 months of inactivity

Lycamobile

12p per minute to landlines, 19p to mobiles, 19p per text, 12p per megabyte

30-day SIM-Only bundles with up to unlimited data (9GB at full speed) (for £20)

90 days without a purchase

Tesco Mobile

25p per minute, 10p per text, 10p per megabyte, plus triple your credit when topping up £10, £15 or £20

30-day bundles with up to 8GB of data (for £20)

6 months of inactivity

Lebara Mobile

19p per minute, 19p per text, 9p per megabyte

30-day bundles with up to 20GB of data (for £25)

84 days of inactivity

Asda Mobile

8p per minute, 4p per text, 5p per megabyte

30-day bundles with up to 15GB of data (for £25)

180 days of inactivity

The table above highlights most UK Pay As You Go options, along with prices. As you can see, you’re choosing not just a network, but whether to truly Pay As You Go, or whether to purchase a bundle.

Based purely on the data above (not factoring in other things which we’ll get to below), highlights include Three, O2 and iD Mobile, for offering the lowest standard rates of 3p per minute, 2p per text and 1p per megabyte.

However, on that front Vodafone and Tesco Mobile are also worth a look, with the former capping daily charges at £1, and the latter tripling credit in many cases. Depending on how much you use your phone, these options might work out well.

Looking at bundles, highlights include Three for offering truly unlimited data, and EE for offering data rollover and boosts – these give you extra minutes, data or texts every three months (assuming you buy a bundle every month), and the amount you get in the boost also grows each time you get it.

Three, O2 and Tesco additionally give you 6 months of inactivity before your credit expires, which is a generous amount of time.

Roaming, tethering and extras

Pay As You Go Extras

Network

Roaming

Tethering

Extras

EE

Free/standard rates in 48 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

 

Three

Free/standard rates in 71 destinations in the EU and beyond

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

PAYG Rewards

O2

Free/standard rates in 48 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

O2 Rewards

Vodafone

Free/standard rates in 48 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

 

iD Mobile

Free/standard rates in 50 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

 

Giffgaff

Free/standard rates in 37 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

 

Lycamobile

Free/standard rates in 31 European destinations

No

Some bundles include international mins

Tesco Mobile

Free/standard rates in 48 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

Collect Clubcard points when you top up

Lebara Mobile

Free/standard rates in 41 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

Some bundles include international mins

Asda Mobile

Free/standard rates in 50 European destinations

Yes – use your bundled data, or pay standard rates

 

When it comes to roaming, tethering and extras, the key highlight is Three, which allows users to roam in Europe and beyond – some other networks also allow extensive roaming on some plans, but they’re typically limited just to Europe on Pay As You Go.

Three additionally offers a rewards scheme exclusive to Pay As You Go customers, making it even more notable. The reward scheme offers you free subscriptions to services including Xbox Game Pass, Tinder, Deliveroo and more.

Other highlights include O2, which has its own reward scheme, Lycamobile and Lebara, which are good for international calling, and Tesco Mobile, which gives you Clubcard points when you top up.

There’s not much to choose when it comes to tethering terms, except in the case of Lycamobile, as this network doesn’t allow you to tether. Three also stands out here though for allowing you to use unlimited data for tethering (if you have a bundle with unlimited data).

Conclusion

Considering all of the above, Three is a clear winner, offering some of the lowest rates around if you truly Pay As You Go, and bundles with up to unlimited data if you buy a bundle, coupled with widespread roaming, unlimited tethering (if you have unlimited data), a rewards scheme, and a long period of time before your credit expires.

We also think Tesco Mobile is worth highlighting, as with its triple credit plan your money can go a long way (though this still doesn’t work at as good as Three’s standard rates), and it gives you Clubcard points, and your credit doesn’t expire for a long time. Though its bundles are less tempting as they top out at 8GB of data.

EE, O2 and Vodafone deserve an honourable mention as well, as their bundles include data rollover, which gives you a second chance to use it if there’s some left over at the end of the month.

FAQs

What SIM card size will I need?

Most networks now provide a three-in-one SIM card that contains all possible SIM sizes (those being standard, micro or nano), so simply request a card and then compare the sizes to the card or slot in your phone.

That said, the vast majority of recent handsets use nano SIM cards (that being the smallest size), so this is likely what you’ll need.

How do I change network?

If you’re not locked into a contract you simply need to sign up with the new network, then get your PAC code (which you can get by texting the word ‘PAC’ to 65075 from the number you want to move, or by calling your old network), and give this to your new network, usually by filling in an online number porting form. They’ll then transfer your number for you, usually the next working day.

For more details, check out how to get a PAC code from your network.

How do I change plan?

If you want to change plan on your current network then simply give them a call and assuming you’re not locked into a contract they’ll be able to help you with that.

If you simply want to change from topping up to buying a Pay As You Go bundle then in most cases you won’t even need to call – many networks allow this from their website or app.

How do I top up?

The simplest way is to set up automatic card payments so your phone is always kept topped up, but failing that most networks allow you to top up online, or by text or using their app. You can also usually top up from a network’s store, so there are lots of options.

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