Pay as you go SIM cards are perfect for users who don’t want to commit to a contract or would prefer not to have to pass a credit check.
What is a Pay As You Go SIM Card?
A Pay As You Go (PAYG) SIM card is a flexible deal that allows you to transfer your SIM card between compatible handsets. You can either top up your PAYG SIM with credit or buy a bundle of minutes, texts and data. Once you’ve used up your allowance or it’s expired, you’ll need to top up your SIM again.
Many Pay As You Go SIM Only deals are available with free SIM cards, or with a small upfront cost to cover the bundled tariff of minutes, texts and data.
Benefits of a Pay As You Go SIM Only Deal
With a PAYG SIM Only Deal, users can keep their existing number and handset, and simply transfer the SIM card across. And if you’re often changing devices, you won’t need to keep getting a new SIM.
It’s flexible, as you aren’t tied to any long-term contract or commitment. Instead, you pay upfront for credit or a set amount of minutes, texts and data, and you can top this up once you’ve used up your allowances.
Almost all Pay As You Go deals require no credit checks prior to purchase, meaning these are a quick, simple and risk-free way of getting yourself a SIM deal – particularly if you have a poor credit score.
Most of the UK’s major networks offer these flexible deals, with costs starting from as little as £5 per top up.
What to be aware of
With a Pay As You Go SIM card, you may not get the best call, data or messaging rates, meaning you would pay more for each minute of your call than you would if you were signed up to a contract.
You’ll also need an unlocked phone to use a PAYG SIM. So, if your phone was originally bought on a mobile contract deal, it may be locked to the network you bought it from – just pop in another network’s SIM card to check.
If it’s indeed locked, you’ll need to get in touch with your old network to unlock your phone.
How to find the best pay as you go SIMs
The best PAYG deal for you depends on your phone usage.
If you don’t use your phone too heavily, you may be fine with a traditional PAYG deal. This is when you top up with a certain amount of credit, and then you’re charged for every minute, text and MB of data used until your credit runs out.
But this works out as more expensive per minute, text and MB when compared to getting a bundle.
Most people will be better off with a PAYG bundle – where you pay upfront for a set amount of minutes, texts and data, which usually lasts for a month. Once the month is up, you can buy another bundle, or set it to automatically recur every month (like a one-month rolling contract).
Not sure how much data you need? Read our guide.
Which networks offer SIM-only deals?
Many networks offer Pay as you go SIM-only deals. We take a look at a few of the most popular ones:
EE's keeps things nice and simple with a choice of four PAYG SIMs:
- £10 pack – unlimited texts, 500 minutes and 5GB of data
- £15 pack – unlimited texts and minutes, 15GB of data
- £20 pack – unlimited texts and minutes, 30GB of data
- £30 pack – unlimited texts and minutes, 100GB of data
All of them last for 30 days, without a contract.
Plus, you can order a free EE SIM and top it up later if you don’t need it straightaway.
One of the more budget-friendly networks out there, Tesco Mobile offers plenty of PAYG options with its SIMs.
It has four ‘Rocket Packs’ to choose from:
- £10 Rocket Pack SIM – 5000 texts, 5000 minutes and 5GB of data
- £15 Rocket Pack SIM – 5000 texts, 5000 minutes and 25GB of data
- £20 Rocket Pack SIM – 5000 texts, 5000 minutes and 50GB of data
- £30 Rocket Pack SIM – 5000 texts, 5000 minutes and 100GB of data
What’s more, if you have a Tesco Clubcard, you can get a good discount on the two more expensive packs.
There’s also a selection of PAYG bundles: Call and text bundles, Data bundles and Triple credit bundles.
Like EE, O2 has four PAYG SIM-only deals to choose from:
- £10 for unlimited texts and minutes and 7GB of data
- £15 for unlimited texts and minutes and 15GB of data
- £20 for unlimited texts and minutes and 30GB of data
- £30 for unlimited texts and minutes and 100GB of data
So, price-wise, it’s identical to EE. And its SIM card is also free to order.
You can compare SIM-only deals from different networks on our page – just remember to sort by contract length, as that’ll show the deals on one-month contracts:
One Month SIM Only Deals
These are perfect for users who want a short-term SIM Only deal with a monthly allowance of minutes, texts and data for a fixed cost amount, without the need to top up once the allowance has been exhausted.
What is a one-month SIM Only deal?
A one month SIM Only deal is a short-term contract, generally lasting for 30 days, which includes a set amount of minutes, texts and data.
If you use up all your allowance before the month is over, you may need to pay the additional charges through the contract’s terms and conditions, or buy another one-month deal early.
Benefits of a one-month SIM Only deal
They’re very popular, too – all the leading UK networks offer a wide variety of one-month deals, starting from as little as £5 a month (or even less, if you happen to snag a time-limited discount deal).
Once your first month has ended, you’re free to cancel the contract at any time. You can also usually set it to refresh automatically like a one-month rolling contract, if you don’t want to think about buying it every month.
What to be aware of
Some one-month SIM only deals offer an introductory price for the first month or two, which will increase after the promotional period is up. Usually it won’t be a drastic increase – for example, a £6 plan that’s half-price for the first three months goes back to the normal price – but it’s always good to be aware of the terms and conditions of the deal before signing up.
Some deals may also require a credit check before you sign up.
Can I get an unlimited data SIM only deal?
They’ll probably be the most expensive plan on offer, but it means that you’ll never have to pay extra for accidentally going over your data allowance. Do bear in mind that many unlimited data plans only last for a month – you’ll need to top up again once your month is up.
Visit our page for more on unlimited data SIMs.
Can I get a data-only SIM?
Yes – several major networks offer data only SIMs.
As the name suggests, it’s a SIM plan that only comes with data. It’s useful for tablets, laptops and other mobile broadband devices, where you won’t need to use any minutes or texts.
Plus, you can often get data-only SIM deals on one-month, 12-month and 24-month plans.