Not everybody desires to get tied right into a long-term cellphone or SIM-only contract, notably in case your utilization tends to wax and wane via sure months otherwise you’re nervous about ongoing prices and potential worth rises. If you happen to’re on the lookout for one thing extra versatile, PAYG SIM offers could possibly be simply the factor. You’re not locked right into a contract, you should purchase extra knowledge in the event you want it, and you may change or cancel your plan at a second’s discover with none exit charges or wrangling.
What’s extra, old school PAYG plans at the moment are being added to – and even changed – by a brand new breed of versatile, contract-free SIM-only packages. Pioneered by Giffgaff and iD Cell, these at the moment are being taken up by different suppliers, and competitors available in the market signifies that these can provide you higher worth than some low-cost, pay-monthly contracts. Even these sticking to the standard PAYG mannequin are throwing in some unbelievable packages of information, calls and texts, so it at all times pays to buy round.
Struggling to decide on the correct cellular community for you? Take a look at our annual Cell Community Awards to seek out out who the perfect supplier is, as voted by our readers.
Greatest pay as you go SIM offers: At a look
- Best choice for mild customers: iD Cell
- Best choice for knowledge hungry customers: Giffgaff
- Greatest community protection: EE
- Greatest for perks and extras: O2
READ NEXT: The most effective finances smartphones you should purchase
The most effective pay as you go SIM offers in September
1. iD Cell: The most effective PAYG SIM for mild customers
Value: From £6/mth (1GB) to £20/mth (limitless) | Purchase now from iD Cell
iD Cell has among the greatest PAYG offers for mild knowledge customers, beginning with a £6 month-to-month bundle with limitless minutes, limitless texts and 1GB of information, or the identical bundle with 4GB of information for simply £2 extra. Out-of-bundle costs have now risen, so that you’re paying 10.24p per MB for knowledge, however you may swap to a brand new bundle when your previous bundle ends or prepay for it beforehand. What’s extra iD Cell nonetheless doesn’t cost any further for EU roaming, the place different suppliers have reintroduced prices.
iD Cell is a digital community that runs on prime of Three, and whereas Three’s obtain speeds fall behind these of EE and Vodafone, they’re bettering – particularly in the event you dwell in a 5G space and have a 5G succesful cellphone. General, iD Cell’s packages ship nice worth all through the vary, as much as and together with its £20 limitless knowledge deal. If you happen to solely want a couple of GB per 30 days, although, it’s in a category of its personal.
Key particulars – iD Cell
|Community supplier||Three||Necessary top-up interval||2 months|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||Inclusive minutes|
|Base tariff||40p per minute; limitless texts, 10.4p per MB|
Purchase now from iD Cell
2. Tesco Cell: The most effective PAYG SIM for average customers
Value: From £10/mth (10GB) to £30/mth (100GB) | Purchase now from Tesco Cell
Whereas Tesco has some plans for lighter customers, it really works higher as a PAYG choice for these wanting slightly extra knowledge via its well-priced Rocket Packs. The £10 Rocket Pack, as an example, will get you 20GB of information, 5,000 name minutes and 5,000 texts at a worth level the place many of the competitors is supplying you with 5GB to 8GB. Step as much as the £15 Rocket Pack and also you’re a decent 25GB. Tesco presents even cheaper costs to its Clubcard customers – though these presents come and go – and you may swap Rocket Packs each thirty days by textual content or via the Tesco Cell app. Rocket Packs routinely renew from a recurring fee methodology or credit score on the SIM, and also you’re free to cancel out everytime you need.
Tesco Cell runs on prime of O2’s cellular community, which nonetheless comes fourth out of the 4 main networks for pace and protection, regardless of important enhancements over the previous few years. Nonetheless, 4G and 5G efficiency is getting stronger in some areas, whereas Tesco Cell has among the greatest outcomes for customer support and satisfaction, each in our final Cell Community Awards Survey and in Ofcom’s 2022 analysis. We gave it a Extremely Recommended for Buyer Service, whereas Tesco scored higher for total buyer satisfaction than another supplier. If you happen to’re extra involved with total worth than with the quickest speeds, put Tesco Cell excessive in your shortlist.
|Key particulars – Tesco Cell|
|Community supplier||O2||Necessary top-up interval||180 days|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||15p per name|
|Base tariff||25p per minute; 10p per textual content, 10p per MB|
Purchase now from Tesco Cell
3. Smarty: The most effective one-month offers for lots of low-cost knowledge
Value: From £6/mth (4GB) to £18/mth (limitless) | Purchase now from Smarty
New child on the block Smarty’s 30-day plans are extremely good worth – and also you’re free to cancel anytime. The present entry-level plan, with 4GB of information and limitless calls and texts for simply £6, is difficult to beat, however Smarty goes on to do exactly that with its 12GB for £8, 50GB for £10 and limitless knowledge for £20 bundles. There are not any pace caps or restrictions on tethering, and EU roaming comes free, though with a 12GB honest use restriction to cease you streaming Netflix on the seaside. If you happen to want a SIM for a laptop computer or pill, Smarty additionally does cheaper data-only plans, plus barely dearer knowledge low cost plans that offer you as much as £3 of the month-to-month payment again in the event you don’t use your entire knowledge allowance.
Smarty is owned and operated by Three’s guardian firm on Three’s personal community, so you may count on first rate speeds and protection, though EE and Vodafone win on attain and efficiency. 5G assist comes bundled in, enabling you to benefit from Three’s rising 5G community. There’s no knowledge but on customer support, and Smarty has adopted an analogous community-led strategy to assist as Giffgaff, which gained’t be all people’s cup of tea. All the identical, in the event you can handle issues your self, Smarty is as irresistible as it’s low cost.
|Key particulars – Smarty|
|Community supplier||Three||Necessary top-up interval||220 days|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||Inclusive minutes|
|Base tariff||10p per minute; 10p per textual content, Information add-ons accessible from £1 per GB|
Purchase now from Smarty
4. Giffgaff: The most effective PAYG SIM for data-hungry customers
Value: From £6/mth (1GB) to £35/mth (limitless) | Purchase now from Giffgaff
Giffgaff doesn’t concentrate on PAYG SIMs, however was the pioneer in low-cost, no-contract month-to-month plans. Its no-commitment goody baggage are constantly good worth, whether or not you’re trying on the low-end £6/1GB choice or the £10/15GB mid-range plan. And because the knowledge allowances go up, issues solely get higher. £20 will nab you 100GB of information to make use of throughout 30 days, whereas £25 offers you All the time On knowledge, albeit with pace restrictions after you’ve used the primary 80GB.
All plans embody EU roaming and limitless UK calls and texts and in addition come freed from any contracts or commitments. You’ll be able to swap goody baggage from month to month as your wants change or go for one of many further worth golden goody baggage with added knowledge in the event you arrange recurring funds first.
As Giffgaff runs on prime of O2’s community you’re not going to get best-in-class efficiency in all places, however its 4G speeds are nonetheless strong in most areas and O2 is posting some spectacular 5G ends in the newest RootMetrics analysis. What’s extra, Giffgaff did fantastically in our final Cell Community Awards survey – to not point out Ofcom’s most up-to-date customer support and satisfaction analysis. What’s to not like?
|Key particulars – Giffgaff|
|Community supplier||O2||Necessary top-up interval||3 months|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||8p per minute|
|Base tariff||25p per minute; 10p per textual content, 10p per MB|
Purchase now from Giffgaff
5. Vodafone: The most effective PAYG SIM for versatile knowledge
Value: From £10/mth (21GB) to £40/mth (limitless) | Purchase now from Vodafone
Vodafone’s primary Pay as you go 1 plan is just for probably the most occasional customers: you pay £1 day by day you employ your cellphone and get limitless minutes, limitless texts and a moderately stingy 50MB of information. Fortunately, higher offers can be found in the event you tackle one in every of its 30-day bundles. Not solely has Vodafone upped its knowledge allowances throughout its vary, which means you may have 40GB of information for £15 with limitless UK calls and texts – or 80GB for £20 – however these bundles all include inclusive roaming throughout 51 European locations and a knowledge rollover, the place any unused knowledge rolls into the following 30 days.
What’s extra, Vodafone has a tasty £40 bundle with limitless 5G knowledge. After all, in order for you limitless knowledge you might save by discovering a less expensive SIM solely contract, however in the event you wished to flex as much as limitless knowledge for only a month or two, then return to a less expensive bundle later, going PAYG nonetheless would possibly make extra sense.
In line with the newest figures from RootMetrics, Vodafone is second solely to EE for UK speeds and protection, and really forward on 5G speeds in some main cities and cities. Our final Cell Community Awards survey and Ofcom’s newest analysis pointed to points in customer support and assist, however in order for you a quick service with loads of knowledge, Vodafone is unquestionably value a glance.
|Key particulars – Vodafone|
|Community supplier||Vodafone||Necessary top-up interval||180 days|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||5p per minute|
|Base tariff||£1 per day for limitless calls, limitless texts, 50MB knowledge.|
Purchase now from Vodafone
6. Three: The most effective PAYG SIM for limitless knowledge
Value: From £10/mth (16GB) to £35/mth (limitless) | Purchase now from Three
Whereas it’s not fairly as low cost because it was once, Three remains to be one of many least costly choices for primary PAYG companies, with calls at 10p per minute, texts at 10p per message and knowledge at 5p per megabyte. Nonetheless, it makes much more sense with its Information Packs, notably the present Amazon-exclusive offers. These offer you a beneficiant 16GB for £10, 30GB for £15, 50GB for £20 and Limitless knowledge for £35 a month, and all come 5G-ready with limitless minutes and texts, and the pliability to maneuver from one pack to a different from month to month.
Three’s community isn’t fairly as quick as EE or Vodafone, though its 5G community is spreading and delivering improved speeds in lots of locations. Extra critically, Three trails EE, Giffgaff and Tesco Cell for customer support and satisfaction, each in final yr’s Knowledgeable Evaluations Cell Community Awards survey and in Ofcom’s 2022 report, the place solely Virgin Media had a worse rating. Nonetheless, it’s exhausting to grouse with the worth of Three’s PAYG offers, or with Three’s Go Roam roaming options, which offer you your knowledge, name and textual content allowances whenever you’re touring to over 70 totally different locations overseas. These embody Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Brazil and the US, making Three a superb choice for momentary use whilst you journey.
|Key particulars – Three|
|Community supplier||Three||Necessary top-up interval||6 months|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||3p per minute|
|Base tariff||10p per minute; 10p per textual content, 5p per megabyte|
Purchase now from Three
7. EE: The most effective PAYG SIM for high-speed connectivity and protection
Value: From £10/mth (5GB) to £30/mth (100GB) | Purchase now from EE
EE isn’t the highest community for cut price PAYG bundles. Even its least expensive £10 PAYG Pack offers you half the 10GB knowledge allowance you’d get from Giffgaff or Tesco Cell, to not point out lower than you’d get from Three, O2 or Vodafone. Nor do you get probably the most knowledge in your cash on the greater finish.
Nonetheless, EE doesn’t at all times must compete on worth, simply because it’s forward on speeds and 5G protection. The most recent analysis from RootMetrics nonetheless places EE properly in entrance of Vodafone, Three and O2, each on 4G and 5G efficiency. This makes EE a critical contender in order for you the pliability and freedom of a PAYG package deal whereas nonetheless getting the newest, biggest 4G and 5G speeds in most areas (though different networks are starting to catch up).
What’s extra, EE additionally has a superb observe report for buyer satisfaction and assist. It was simply behind the leaders in our final Cell Community Awards survey and did even higher in Ofcom’s final report, with fewer complaints per 100,000 subscribers than another main UK community besides Tesco Cell. You’ll need to pay further for the privilege, however you probably have the money to splash it could possibly be value it.
|Key particulars – EE|
|Community supplier||EE||Necessary top-up interval||180 days|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||35p per minute|
|Base tariff||35p per minute; 15p per textual content, knowledge requires pack or add-on|
Purchase now from EE
8. 1pMobile: The most effective low cost PAYG SIM
Value: 1p per minute, 1p per textual content, 1p per MB | Purchase now from 1pMobile
1pMobile’s proposition couldn’t be any extra easy. Purchase a SIM for £10 and also you get £10 of credit score, and after that every thing prices a penny. All unused credit score rolls over, however it’s worthwhile to prime up each 120 to 600 days, relying on how a lot cash you prime up with.
This makes 1pMobile a lovely choice for anybody who doesn’t plan to make use of lots of knowledge or make lots of calls, however the community has now added some further SIM offers, together with 1-year SIM offers that stretch your credit score throughout an entire yr, and a variety of boosts that offer you limitless calls and texts or 1GB to 50GB of information for 30 days. Whereas it’s the entire 1p fee that makes 1pMobile totally different, there’s scope to improve in the event you discover you’re needing extra.
As 1pMobile runs on EE’s community, speeds and protection gained’t be a problem, and also you’re good to go along with each 4G and 5G connections. We don’t have any knowledge to work with on customer support or satisfaction, however the community presents a 14-day a refund assure and UK buyer assist.
|Key particulars – 1pMobile|
|Community supplier||EE||Necessary top-up interval||120 days|
|Community varieties||2G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||1p per minute|
|Base tariff||1p per minute, 1p per textual content, 1p per megabyte|
Purchase now from 1pMobile
9. Lyca Cell: The most effective PAYG SIM for worldwide calls
Value: From £5/mth to £20/mth | Purchase now from Lyca Cell
If you happen to’re seeking to keep in contact with household and associates overseas, then Lyca Cell has lots to supply. Its PAYG plans bundle UK minutes, textual content and knowledge with cost-effective worldwide calls, which might normally value considerably extra on different networks. You possibly can nonetheless save by utilizing IP-based voice and video chat companies like Skype, Google Duo and FaceTime, however that’s not at all times attainable on the different finish.
Lyca Cell’s plans begin with the £5 UK Plan Good, with 3GB of information, 1,000 UK minutes and UK texts and 100 minutes of worldwide calls and go all the way in which as much as the £30 Go Limitless Plus plan, with limitless knowledge, UK texts and minutes and worldwide calls. These work throughout 50 international locations across the globe, or in case your chosen nation isn’t lined, you may have a look at a rustic or region-specific calling plan. It’s value checking for presents, as Lyca Cell generally has cut-price or half-price offers for brand spanking new clients.
Lyca Cell runs on prime of O2’s community, and all plans now assist 5G. Whereas O2 presently comes behind the opposite main UK networks in RootMetrics’ pace analysis, efficiency is bettering – and dramatically with 5G in some areas. Lyca Cell used to make sense as a PAYG choice for making worldwide calls, however not a lot for UK calls and knowledge. Now, because of data-rich bundles and aggressive pricing, it’s one other digital community that may do all of it.
|Key particulars – Lyca Cell|
|Community supplier||O2||Necessary top-up interval||90 days|
|Community varieties||3G to 5G companies||Voicemail name cost||Free|
|Base tariff||12p per minute, 19p per textual content, 12p per megabyte|
Purchase now from Lyca Cell
How to decide on the perfect pay as you go SIM deal for you
How do I purchase a PAYG SIM?
What differentiates the assorted SIMs on supply is how this credit score will get used. The standard strategy is to have a base tariff, setting out the usual value of creating calls, utilizing knowledge or sending texts, with further prices for calling premium numbers, utilizing premium SMS companies, retrieving voicemail messages or utilizing your cellphone overseas.
Nonetheless, most suppliers now push you towards a package deal or bundle, with a set knowledge allowance and included calls and texts. This normally lasts for 30 days, and you may both set the package deal to resume with a direct debit or bank card fee or purchase a brand new one. Typically the networks offer you higher offers on recurring packages – and you continue to have the correct to cancel at any time. With these packages the bottom tariff solely kicks in in the event you burst via your package deal’s allowance.
How a lot knowledge do you want?
The trick is to be lifelike. If you happen to spend nearly your entire time linked to a house or workplace Wi-Fi community, 2GB to 4GB of cellular knowledge might simply final you a month. Nonetheless, as extra apps place extra calls for in your cellular connection and web sites throw in additional movies and animations, it’s possible you’ll want slightly extra lately. If you happen to’re a heavy person of social media, use Google Maps or make voice and video calls, your utilization might go up lots – and that’s with out streaming video or music. If that’s the case, the bigger 20GB to 100GB offers look extra engaging, though you would possibly discover you get higher worth by going for a pay-monthly 12-month contract SIM deal as an alternative, or perhaps a SIM on a 30-day rolling contract.
Most networks now let you use your bundle’s knowledge for tethering, connecting a laptop computer or pill to the web via your smartphone. This could eat via your knowledge even quicker and, when you’ve exhausted your bundle, prices can rocket, with some networks charging 10p or extra per megabyte.
The important thing factor is to have a stability. Whereas it’s vital to purchase sufficient knowledge, there’s additionally no level spending cash on an enormous allowance you gained’t use, even when extra networks now let you roll unused knowledge over to the following month. The fantastic thing about PAYG is which you can follow a low-data bundle for many of the yr after which swap to a high-data bundle as wanted – for instance, whenever you’re travelling on enterprise or going away on vacation.
Do I want to fret about pace or community protection?
An inexpensive SIM deal isn’t a lot use if the connection is sluggish or flaky – and speeds and protection differ massively from community to community and site to location. The smaller operators usually piggyback on one of many main cellular networks, and every one has a protection checker so it’s value utilizing this to find the speeds anticipated in your instant space. It’s additionally value asking associates who dwell close by which networks have and haven’t labored for them.
One other good and completely impartial choice is RootMetrics’ protection map, which may also help you pinpoint protection and speeds in your space. Click on right here and take a look earlier than you seize a brand new PAYG SIM.
What about making worldwide calls or going overseas?
When you have family and friends abroad, it’s best to examine how a lot it prices to make worldwide calls. Many suppliers supply low cost calls to particular locations, however (for instance) the SIM that’s least expensive for calling the US could be costly for calling Brazil, and vice versa. In some instances, paying for an add-on can slash name prices.
It’s additionally a good suggestion to do some homework in the event you’re planning to take your individual cellphone overseas. Throughout the EU it’s best to be capable to use your cellphone on precisely the identical phrases as throughout the UK, though it stays to be seen whether or not that can nonetheless be true after Brexit.
Outdoors of the EU, issues may be way more costly. Sure networks supply decrease prices or free utilization in particular territories or add-ons that may reduce the price. Alternatively, it’d make sense to purchase an area PAYG SIM, moderately than roam in your UK SIM.