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Pay-as-you-go SIM card deals

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Exclusive
33GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£7.00/mth monthly cost
  • EU roaming included
  • Unrestricted tethering in the UK
  • Free delivery
50GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£8.00/mth monthly cost
  • Free EU Roaming
  • Bill Capping
  • Free delivery
Unltd 4G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£42.00/mth monthly cost

(Prices may change during contract) Price could rise by CPI + 3.9% in April

  • VeryMe Rewards
  • Free delivery
Exclusive
5GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£1.00/mth Months 1-3
£4.50/mth monthly cost
Avg monthly cost
£3.63/mth
  • eSIM Available
  • EU roaming included
  • Free delivery
120GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£11.95/mth monthly cost
  • Free EU Roaming
  • Bill Capping
  • Free delivery
100GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£20.00/mth monthly cost
  • Unlimited social media, music & video
  • Free delivery
50GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£8.00/mth monthly cost
  • EU roaming included
  • Unrestricted tethering in the UK
  • Free delivery
200GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£12.00/mth monthly cost
  • No annual price rise
  • Free Roaming up to 30GB
  • Free delivery
1GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£2.90/mth monthly cost
  • eSIM Available
  • EU roaming included
  • Free delivery
Exclusive
1GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
250 minutes
£0.49/mth Months 1-3
£3.99/mth monthly cost
Avg monthly cost
£3.12/mth
  • Discounted price for 3 months
  • EU roaming included
  • Free delivery
Exclusive
5GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£1.59/mth Months 1-6
£4.90/mth monthly cost
Avg monthly cost
£3.25/mth
  • Discounted price for 6 months
  • EU roaming included
  • Free delivery
5GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£5.00/mth monthly cost
  • EU roaming included
  • Unrestricted tethering in the UK
  • Free delivery
5GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£5.00/mth monthly cost
  • Free EU Roaming
  • Bill Capping
  • Free delivery
4GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£5.00/mth monthly cost
  • EU roaming included
  • Powered by EE
  • Free delivery
3GB of 5G data
1 month contract
1000 texts
1000 minutes
£5.00/mth monthly cost
  • EU roaming included
  • Powered by EE
  • Free delivery
3GB of 4G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£5.00/mth monthly cost
  • WiFi calling
  • Roam like you're home
  • Free delivery
Exclusive
15GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£1.49/mth Months 1-3
£6.99/mth monthly cost
Avg monthly cost
£5.62/mth
  • Discounted price for 3 months
  • EU roaming included
  • Free delivery
6GB of 5G data
1 month contract
Unltd texts
Unltd minutes
£5.95/mth monthly cost
  • Free EU Roaming
  • Bill Capping
  • Free delivery

Data last updated: Wednesday 19 June 2024 at 11:09

Everything you want to know about pay-as-you-go SIM cards

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.

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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 mobile 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 30-day pay-as-you-go 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 PAYG SIM-only deals?

These days, only very few mobile networks offer ‘true’ pay-as-you-go SIMs, in which you top up your account and pay by the minute, text, or MB of data.

Those networks include the following…

(Costs correct at the time of writing, March 2023)

Asda Mobile

Asda Mobile’s PAYG plan is competitive, and you always have the option to buy one of its 30-day bundles from your credit.

Calls (UK mobiles and landlines)

15p per min

Texts

10p

Data

10p per MB

Lebara Mobile

Lebara Mobile specialises in great international calling rates, and those are even baked into its PAYG. If you have any particular location(s) in mind that you want to call, remember to check the rates for the individual country before signing up.

And again, you can switch to a 30-day or even 12-month plan any time you wish.

Calls (UK mobiles and landlines)

25p per min

Texts

19p

Data

9p per MB

International calls

From 1p per min

International texts

From 6p

Lyca Mobile

Whatever plan you sign up for with Lyca Mobile, you’ll get free calls and texts to other Lyca Mobile numbers. Rates to other numbers, however, are on the expensive side with PAYG.

Calls - UK landlines

15p per min

Calls - UK mobiles

23p per min (free to other Lyca Mobiles)

Texts

23p (free to other Lyca Mobiles)

Data

15p per MB

O2

O2 is a great option if you want a PAYG deal from a major network. Its Simply PAYG plans come with ample minutes and texts, plus a little data to get you going. Once that allowance has gone, rates are as follows:

Calls

30p per min

Texts

15p

Data

£1 for 50MB per day

Three

Three gives PAYG SIM customers a free 150MB of data that lasts 48 hours every time they top up. Once topped up, costs are as follows:

Calls (UK landlines and mobiles)

35p per min

Texts

15p

Data

10p per MB

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

One month SIM-only deals are a flexible and cost-effective way to operate a mobile phone contract.

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.

Is it cheaper to go pay-as-you-go?

While PAYG makes sense for casual users and those concerned about credit checks, often it isn’t the cheapest option.

Pay monthly SIM plans, on both one-month rolling and 12-month deals, almost always offer better value, especially when it comes to data. If you use data a lot, this is usually a better bet. Some network do not check credit scores for one month deals, as these are seen as one off payments rather than contracts. This includes giffgaff and SMARTY.

What is the best pay-as-you-go network in the UK?

EE has the best coverage when it comes to 5G in the UK, while Three has the fastest. The latter is worth bearing in mind as it offers decent PAYG deals. O2 also has excellent, widespread 4G and 5G and its Simply PAYG plans are impressive.

Be aware that smaller networks use the larger networks services. Asda Mobile uses Vodafone, as does Lebara, while Lyca uses O2.

Read more about the best networks in the UK.

Alternative cheap SIMS

Here is a selection of networks that offer cheap SIM only deals and what they've got to offer:

Frequently asked questions

Can I get an unlimited data SIM only deal?

Yes, you can. Plenty of networks, including iD Mobile, VOXI and giffgaff, offer unlimited data SIM only deals.

They’ll probably be the most expensive plans 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.

The only thing to be aware of is that not all networks allow you to use them in mobile phones – they may be designed only for basic internet-connected devices, and unable to make calls.

Are pay-as-you-go SIM cards being phased out?

While PAYG SIM cards aren’t being phased out, a lot of networks have stopped offering them. That’s because monthly and yearly SIM only deals offer better value and can be easily swapped between devices.

Is there a pay-as-you-go SIM that doesn't expire?

The short answer is no.

But as long as your PAYG SIM card remains active, it should not expire. Three makes a big play of the fact its PAYG allowance is there for as long as you need it.

Some networks require you to top up regularly in order to prevent your SIM from expiring. Be sure to check directly before you top up.

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