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Best Pay As You Go SIM Deals

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 15th October 2021

Pay as you go SIM deals are perfect for those lighter mobile users who don’t want to be tied into a lengthy contract. At Latest Deals we’ve compiled the best and cheapest pay as you go deals going.

The best Pay As You Go deals

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We’ve done our research and found the very best pay as you go deals.

Cheapest pay as you go bundles

Traditional Pay As You Go bundles offer an allowance of calls, texts and data that you use up. When your credit is finished, you must top-up.

However, this traditional type of Pay As You Go bundle is decreasing in availability. Providers are switching to a monthly allowance instead:

You are given an allowance of calls, texts and data that expire at the end of the month. If you wish to continue, you need to pay again the following month.

There isn't much difference between this and a rolling 1-month contract bundle which you can cancel at any time.

For this reason, in our table of cheapest pay as you go SIMs below, we have included all types together.

You will need to check whether you have to pay via direct debit, or via manual top-up on the provider's website.

Most Pay As You Go (PAYG) bundles do not require a credit check.

We have selected the cheapest SIMs with a minimum 1GB of data:

ProviderContract lengthDataCostCost £ per GB
(GB)(£)(£)
LebaraPAYG2£5£2.50
AsdaPAYG1£5£5.00
iD MobilePAYG1£6£6.00
Smarty1 month1£6£6.00
Smarty1 month4£6£1.50
Smarty1 month2£7£3.50
Smarty1 month8£7£0.88
AsdaPAYG3£7£2.33
iD MobilePAYG4£8£2.00
Smarty1 month3£8£2.67
Smarty1 month12£8£0.67
EE1 month5£10£2.00
O21 month7£10£1.43
ThreePAYG12£10£0.83
VodafonePAYG5£10£2.00
Virgin MobilePAYG2£10£5.00
Tesco MobilePAYG8£10£1.25
iD MobilePAYG6£10£1.67
Smarty1 month30£10£0.33

Best Value Pay As You Go SIM for Data

The cheapest SIM by total price may not be the best value. Just like in the supermarket how buying something in bulk can often provide a discount, the same can be true for SIMs.

In the comparison table below, we show Pay As You Go SIMs (together with rolling 1-month SIMs) in order of Price per GB of data:

ProviderContract lengthDataCostCost £ per GB
(GB)(£)(£)
iD MobilePAYGUnlimited£20£0.20
Smarty1 monthUnlimited£20£0.20
AsdaPAYGUnlimited£20£0.20
LebaraPAYGUnlimited£25£0.25
AsdaPAYGUnlimited£25£0.25
EE1 month100£30£0.30
O21 month100£30£0.30
Tesco MobilePAYG100£30£0.30
Smarty1 month50£15£0.30
LebaraPAYGUnlimited£30£0.30
AsdaPAYGUnlimited£30£0.30
Smarty1 month30£10£0.33
ThreePAYGUnlimited£35£0.35
VoxiPAYGUnlimited£35£0.35
ThreePAYG50£20£0.40
VodafonePAYGUnlimited£40£0.40
Tesco MobilePAYG50£20£0.40
VoxiPAYG45£20£0.44
ThreePAYG30£15£0.50

Which networks offer the best PAYG deals?

With so many mobile networks to choose from, it can be hard picking the right pay as you go (PAYG) deal for you. We’ve selected the main pay as you go providers and highlighted their selling points:

Three pay as you go

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Three PAYG customers can enjoy the fastest UK 5G network. A study by Ookla in October 2020 found that Three was the fastest UK 5G operator, meaning you can benefit from reliable speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G.

O2 pay as you go

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O2 pay as you go customers have exclusive access to offers from O2 Priority. Every three months, PAYG customers at O2 get 10% off their top-up. 

O2 has always been generous with its rewards including early ticket booking for concerts and great offers from brands. 

EE pay as you go

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EE PAYG SIMs allow you to roll over any unused data from the previous month. This is great as you’ll avoid ever wasting money by not using all the data you purchase. 

Every third top-up with EE PAYG SIMs will reward you with extra data, calls or texts.

Vodafone pay as you go 

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Vodafone pay as you go deals are very rewarding. VeryMe rewards offer customers freebies and money off popular food companies such as Costa and Greggs. There’s also great entertainment perks such as priority event booking.

Smarty & giffgaff pay as you go

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Smarty is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that utilities Three’s mobile network. It offers extremely competitively priced pay as you go deals without compromising on the network quality. 

The main difference is that Smarty is entirely virtual. This means that customer service might not be as efficient as other companies. 

The same applies to giffgaff pay as you go except that giffgaff utilities O2’s network. 

Plusnet pay as you go

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Plusnet pay as you go customers can benefit from roaming in 40 different countries, so you can use your UK allowance abroad. 

Plusnet broadband customers can get 2GB extra data per month for the same price.

Tesco Mobile pay as you go

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If you have a Clubcard, you can earn points with a Tesco pay as you go deal. You can also use your allowance in 48 different European countries.

Asda Mobile pay as you go

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Asda offers no-frills pay as you go service but it is cheap! You can also enjoy roaming in 50 European destinations.

iD Mobile pay as you go 

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iD Mobile is another MVNO that runs on the Three network. Its pay as you go deals requires you to top-up £10 every two months minimum. All of the deals include data rollover, bill capping and inclusive roaming in 50 European destinations.

What is a Pay As You Go deal?

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Pay as you go (PAYG) mobile deals don’t tie you down to any contract, you simply top-up your phone before using it. You won’t be able to make any calls or texts or use data until you’ve topped up. 

You’ll need to have your own handset to put the PAYG SIM into which means you’ll have to buy a smartphone upfront.

How do Pay As You Go deals work?

Anyone can get a pay as you go SIM as there’s no credit check involved. This is because you must pay for your calls, texts and data before you use them, meaning you can’t get into any debt or owe money. 

There are two different types of PAYG deals that work slightly differently:

Classic pay as you go

Classic PAYG is the most old-school and flexible way of using a mobile phone. You can top-up your SIM with £10, for example, every month and you’ll be charged a preset amount for every minute, text and megabyte (MB) of data you use.

Classic pay as you go deals are for people who don’t use their phone much at all. This means that all other packages are offering too many calls, texts and data that you’ll never get through each month. Therefore, it’s cheaper for you to choose how much money you top-up each month. 

Be careful though, if you don’t use the credit you’ve topped up your mobile with for a long time, it might expire. Double-check how long topped up credit lasts.

Pay as you go bundles

If you’re happy to commit more, a pay as you go bundle can offer better value for money than the classic PAYG deals. 

PAYG bundles work by giving you an allowance of calls, texts and data each month after you’ve topped it up with some credit. Your allowance will be predetermined depending on the amount you top-up each month. 

Before choosing a pay as you go bundle, you’ll need to be sure that you’ll use all of the allowance each month. If not, you should choose a classic PAYG deal instead.

Some PAYG bundles automatically renew at the end of the month, making them very similar to short-term SIM only contracts. However, the level of commitment is much smaller, you can cancel a PAYG bundle at any time without notice. If you don’t pay one month, you simply won’t receive your allowance but there’ll be no punishment.

What are the typical rates on PAYG SIMs?

The cost per minute, test and MB of data varies dramatically from one network provider to another. It can be as low as 1p to 25p. 

In regards to pay as you go bundles, the allowances can range from 50 minutes to unlimited. 250 texts to unlimited and 150MB to unlimited data.

PAYG deals do tend to be more limited in comparison to SIM only or contract phone deals. We will discuss whether they are worth it later on in this guide.

How to compare PAYG deals

Are you still confused about which pay as you go deal to go for? Here are some key questions to ask yourself before picking your PAYG deal.

1. What’s the cheapest pay as you go deal?

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Look for the cheapest bundle that gives you the most calls, texts and data for your money. Or, if you’re looking for a classic PAYG deal, look for a network that charges the least per minute, text and MB of data.

Cheap isn’t always the best option if you’re looking for extra perks or good customer service. Make sure you compare our other points too!

2. Is it easy to top-up?

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You’ll want a network that makes it convenient and easy to top-up your pay as you go SIM. The question you want to ask is: Can I easily top-up at 3am on a Sunday morning?!

You might be able to buy a top-up card instore, add more credit online, call a number or text for more credit. Always check how easy this is before choosing a PAYG deal.

3. Does the network have good coverage in my area?

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Before picking the best PAYG deal, you want to make sure that the provider offers good coverage in your area. You can check your postcode coverage online. All you need to do is enter your postcode to see how good that mobile provider’s coverage is in your area.

Here are the coverage checkers for all of the major mobile networks:

4. Is there an expiry date on PAYG credit?

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Most networks have an expiry date on the credit you top-up your pay as you go SIM card with. This means that if you don’t use the credit on your phone within a certain time period, it’ll disappear and you’ll lose your money. 

Find out what these limits are in advance! 

5. Are there any freebies or rewards on offer?

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Most of the popular network providers will sweeten their pay as you go deals with free gifts, perks and earning points for rewards.

For example, Vodafone’s VeryMe rewards scheme can get you money off everyday spending at Costa. 

Smarty even takes money off your next top-up if you have any unused data left, meaning you never waste money. 

Looking at the perks can be a great final way to pick the best deal. 

What’s the difference between Pay As You Go and SIM only?

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With both pay as you go and SIM only deals, you must own your handset outright.

However, there are some key differences. Pay as you go SIMs are designed for people who don’t use many calls, texts or data each month. You only top-up your phone when you need more allowance and must pay for this allowance in advance. 

The catch with PAYG deals is that you pay a higher rate for each minute, text and MB of data you use. 

Thankfully, pay as you go bundles are now also available for those who might require slightly larger allowances each month. You still must pay for your calls, texts and data upfront but you receive a set allowance for your money. You can stop paying whenever you want.

SIM only deals are slightly different. These deals usually tie you into a contract and require you to pass a credit check. Usually, you get a higher allowance as these deals are designed for regular mobile users.

You must give notice before leaving a SIM only contract and they can last anything from 30 days to 12 months.

Is Pay As You Go cheaper than SIM only?

It depends on your mobile usage. If you rarely use your mobile phone, then topping up your SIM when you need it will likely be the cheapest option.

However, if you’re an average user, then SIM only will always be cheaper. This is because the deals are much more affordable due to the commitment required to sign a contract. You aren’t paying for every individual minute, text or MB of data. Instead, you’re paying for a monthly allowance.

For example, the cheapest pay as you go deal charges 1p per MB of data. Some of the cheapest SIM only deals charge £4.95 per month for 2GB of data. This would cost £20 with pay as you go. Having said this, pay as you go bundles would be cheaper. 

In general, SIM only is always cheaper as pay as you go becomes more and more unpopular with mobile users.

Is Pay As You Go cheaper than contract phones?

Just like SIM only deals, pay as you go is usually cheaper than taking out a phone contract. However, you do need to own a phone outright first which can be costly. 

Another thing to consider is that when you get a handset through a contract, your provider will often replace the phone if it goes faulty. If you buy your phone outright, you’ll be responsible for any repairs.

However, if you look after your phone and don’t want an upgrade, pay as you go or SIM only is usually cheaper. 

Why should I choose a Pay As You Go deal?

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Still on the fence about getting a pay as you go deal? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons…

Pros of pay as you go

  • Flexible - you aren’t committed to a contract and can stop paying or switch providers whenever you want.
  • No monthly bill - you must top up your phone if you want to use calls, texts or data. This means that you can’t spend more than you can afford. 
  • No credit check - if you’ve got bad credit you can still get a PAYG deal.
  • Cheap for light users - if you only use your mobile phone very sparingly, then PAYG is cheaper. 
  • Simple - pay as you go is great for kids and for people who like to pay for what they use straight away. It’s easy to do and is impossible to run up debt

Cons of pay as you go

  • Inconvenient - if you run out of credit then you can’t make any calls, texts or use the internet until you top-up again. This can be very inconvenient.
  • Expensive - prices are higher per minute, text and MB of data than SIM only contracts.
  • Stuck with the same phone - you can’t upgrade your phone when it becomes outdated like you can with traditional phone contracts.

Traditional Pay As You Go vs Bundles

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If you’ve decided you want pay as you go but aren’t sure whether traditional top-ups or bundles are better, here’s our rundown:

Traditional pay as you go is best for light users who don’t require mobile data OR for use as an emergency backup SIM.

You can expect higher rates for minutes, texts and data. But your credit won’t expire if you don’t use it within a month. If you don’t require data (the most expensive allowance) then this could be the SIM for you.

Traditional PAYG SIMs can be great to have as a backup or emergency SIM rather than using every month. 

Pay as you go bundles are for regular smartphone users.

You can get a 30-day bundle with calls, texts and data included. You pay a fixed monthly amount but allowances expire after 30-days. You have to buy a new bundle after the 30 days are up. 

£10 spent on a PAYG bundle will get you a lot more than a traditional £10 PAYG top-up.

Overall, SIM only 30-day deals are often cheaper than pay as you go 30-day bundles. However, you do need to agree to a contract with SIM only and pass a credit check.

Pay As You Go golden rules

If you decide to choose a pay as you go deal, there are a few golden rules you can follow to get the most out of it!

Rule #1 - Pay as you go bundles are cheaper

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If you regularly use your mobile phone daily, pay as you go bundles are much cheaper than traditional PAYG. 

This is because you get an allowance of calls, texts and data with a bundle rather than topping up and paying for everything individually at a higher rate. 

Bundles are perfect if you don’t want to be tied into a contract or have a credit check like you would with a SIM only deal.

Rule #2 - You need to have an unlocked phone

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To make the most of the best pay as you go deals, you’ll want to have access to every provider. If your phone is locked, it means that you’ll only be able to use SIMs from your current provider.

Thankfully, if you’re out of contract, your provider must unlock your phone for free when you ask. If not, you might be charged a fee of around £15. 

Rule #3 - Get the right allowance for you

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You don’t want to pick a pricey pay as you go bundle that offers an unlimited monthly allowance if you’ll never use it. Pick a bundle that gives you enough calls, texts and data for the month, no more and no less.

Billmonitor is an Ofcom approved tool that analyses your mobile bills and suggests what monthly allowance you need.

If you hardly use your phone and require a tiny allowance, a typical PAYG SIM might be sufficient. 

How do I get a Pay As You Go deal?

Getting a pay as you go deal is a very similar process to switching mobile providers.

You can get PAYG by using a comparison website online or checking out our tables at the start of this guide for the best deals.

The next step is to purchase your favourite deal either online, over the phone or in-store. You’ll receive your new SIM in a few days. You can then plug-in and go! 

Remember to choose wisely between traditional or bundles depending on your usage. 

PAYG deals don’t require you to sign a contract or undergo a credit check, meaning anyone can get one.

FAQs

What do you think of this?
davidstockport
davidstockport7 months ago

A PAYG sim provider not mentioned above is https://www.1pmobile.com/

Not ideal for everyone (none are) but for those who use little or no data probably ideal. I've been with them for a few years, paying £30 a year (£10 every four months). Any unused minutes are rolled over. (at the moment my unused allowance is over £66 pounds). I make all outgoing calls from my mobile - so don't pay for a call package on landline.

They do sell data too (although low users might find it unnecessary) but £15 for 50gb a month beats most (any such unused data is not rolled over).

It might be worthwhile anyone "doing their sums" to consider them.

It might also be worthwhile Latest Deals checking them out - their affiliate scheme seems very good.

Personally I can't fault them.

(other than being a very satisfied customer - I have no connection with them).

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