Lebara and giffgaff are both excellent choices if you’re on a budget and want a straightforward SIM-only plan that won’t tie you down.
Read on to find out more about these two networks.
Overall Winner in snapshot
With both networks offering flexible SIM-only plans at very affordable prices, it’s a tie between the two.
Each one has a good range of plans to choose from. Giffgaff’s offering is very simple – you get a generous amount of data for cheap. In comparison, Lebara gives you slightly less data, but throws in free international minutes for making calls to numbers abroad at no extra cost.
By piggybacking on Vodafone and O2, Lebara and giffgaff use their strong 4G networks to deliver excellent coverage across the UK. What’s more, they’re both 5G-ready too.
Overall, giffgaff’s plans generally give you more data for the price you pay. But you might be swayed by Lebara’s inclusion of international calls. It depends on what you’re looking for – whichever network you choose, you’ll be getting good value for money.
Lebara vs giffgaff: Plans and pricing
Both networks shine when it comes to simple SIM-only plans at low prices.
giffgaff is as straightforward as you can get. Known as goodybags, its regular pay-as-you-go plans range from 1GB to unlimited data a month – and they’re all priced very competitively.
You’re not tied to a contract, so you’re free to change or cancel your goodybag when the month is up. And all plans come with unlimited calls and texts in the UK.
Similarly, Lebara offers flexible 30-day plans, as well as 12-month contracts where you can get 10% off your monthly payments. Plans start out at 2GB a month, and they’re affordably priced.
Most importantly, Lebara’s plans come with international minutes – meaning you can call internationally to 41 countries for no extra charge. This is really handy if you’re looking to keep in touch with friends or family living abroad. And in case you run out of minutes, you can buy a very reasonably priced add-on to your plan.
Lebara vs giffgaff: Mobile phone contracts
While Lebara and giffgaff do have mobile phone contracts, they’re not quite the same as the inclusive deals you’d find at the major networks.
With Lebara, you can choose to either buy a device upfront or spread the cost over three months. Likewise, giffgaff gives you the option to buy outright or pay it off over 24 months.
However, if you want to pay it off in instalments, this isn’t actually done through Lebara or giffgaff. Instead, you pay through third-party credit company Klarna.
Whether you decide to pay it all upfront or spread the cost, bear in mind that you’re only getting the handset. You’ll need to buy a SIM-only plan on top of the phone.
So, while you can buy phones with Lebara and giffgaff, there aren’t really any incentives for doing so. For better deals that come with a handset and phone plan bundled together, as well as other perks, you should check out major networks like Three, EE, Vodafone and O2.
Lebara vs giffgaff: Coverage
Lebara and giffgaff use Vodafone and O2’s networks respectively, meaning their coverage is excellent.
Both have fast and reliable 4G networks that cover almost the whole of the UK – just run your postcode through their coverage checkers.
Lebara vs giffgaff: 5G coverage
If you have a 5G compatible device, you’ll be pleased to know that both networks have 5G coverage.
It’s worth mentioning that as of now (January 2022), giffgaff has slightly better 5G coverage than Lebara. Parent company O2 currently has 5G in 150 UK locations, compared with Vodafone’s 124 locations.
But that number is changing all the time, as both networks continue to expand their 5G networks – so it’s best to check what you can get where you live.
Lebara vs giffgaff: Customer service
Both networks have been commended for good customer service, although they go about it in different ways.
Instead of a call centre, giffgaff’s customer support is 100% online. It has a 24/7 online community where you can ask expert community members and agents any questions. They’re happy to help, and you usually get a reply within a few minutes.
And with giffgaff coming out top in Ofcom’s 2021 report about mobile customer satisfaction, its members certainly seem content.
Although Lebara’s customer service is not covered in Ofcom’s report, it’s rated highly on online review forums like Trustpilot.Unlike giffgaff, it has a helpline you can call for support. You can also get in touch via email and an online live chat service. Customers report fast response times and good service.
So, if you prefer speaking to a person on the phone, Lebara is the best choice. On the other hand, if you like the sound of an online community, giffgaff may be the one for you.
Lebara vs giffgaff: Wi-Fi hotspots
As giffgaff is powered by O2, giffgaff customers can enjoy free access to O2’s thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK.
With around 8000 Wi-Fi hotspots, it’s one of the largest free wireless networks. If you’re commuting in London, you can also connect to WiFi extra on the TfL network – a really handy bonus when you’re travelling underground.
On the flip side, Lebara doesn’t provide any access to public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Lebara vs giffgaff: Roaming
Unlike many of the major networks, both Lebara and giffgaff still offer free EU roaming across their plans. You can call, text and go online at no extra cost.
Fair use limits do apply when you’re abroad, even if you’re on an unlimited data plan. Lebara’s limits depend on the plan you have, while giffgaff gives you 20GB. But even with fair use limits in mind, you should have enough data to cover your holiday.
Lebara also extends its free roaming to India, where you can use up to 10GB of data and 200 minutes and texts for no extra charge. For other countries outside the EU, different rates and roaming arrangements apply for different locations.
However, giffgaff doesn’t offer roaming outside Europe. If you’re travelling to another continent, you’ll need to pay more. Costs depends on the country you’re visiting, so check before you go.
Lebara vs giffgaff: Bonuses and rewards
As budget networks, Lebara and giffgaff don’t quite have the same level of perks you’d get with major networks like O2.
Nevertheless, both operate a ‘refer-a-friend’ scheme. Here, Lebara may be more generous – for every friend you refer, they’ll get 50% off their plan for three months, while you get a cash reward.
Meanwhile, if you refer a friend to giffgaff, they’ll get £5 worth of credit and you’ll get £5 Payback.
Also, watch out for potential deals during particular seasons – for example, both networks sometimes run promotional events during Black Friday or Christmas.
At the time of writing (January 2022), Lebara also runs a student discount scheme with Student Beans. Students can get the cheapest £5 SIM plan for 99p for the first three months.
How do other networks compare against each other?
Take a look at our other comparison guides, where we weigh up which network works best for you: