PAYG Tariffs

TL;DR cheapest rates are

Other cheap rates are

The plan which I use is Talkmobile Happy Hour3

These are the rates for true pay as you go tariffs only. Some other plans are labelled PAYG but require monthly top-ups, etc. Plans which are not open to new customers are also excluded.

Operator Plan Same / min Other / min Land / min Minimum Charge Bill per Same / text Other / text Voice mail / min 08x / min MMS 4G Tether Internet Network Checked
Key Good 10p 8p sec 10p 6p Free 20p Yes Yes 20p / day Internet grading assumes 10 MB / day
Okay 15p 11p min 11p 9p 12p 25p No No 60p / day
Poor 21p 16p 12p 16p 21p 31p £2 / day
Bad 26p 26p 20p 36p 30p 36p £5 / day
PAYG 30p 30p 30p 30p min 12p 12p 30p 44p 40p Yes Yes Add-ons start from £1 / 100 MB EE 2017-01-15
Classic PAYG 5p 5p 5p 5p min 5p 5p 5p / call 55p 35p Yes No 5p / MB O2 2017-01-15
PAYG 30p 30p 30p 30p min 14p 14p 30p 45p 36p Yes Yes £2 / day for 50 MB then 10p / MB Vodafone 2017-01-15
Pay As You Go on Three 3p 3p 3p 3p min 2p 2p 3p 45p 40p Yes No 1p / MB and each top up gives 150 MB free 3 2017-01-15
PAYG 8p 8p 8p 8p min 4p 4p 8p 8p 25p No Yes 5p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 10p 1p [1 min] min Free 10p Free 23p 16p [No] [No] 10p / MB O2 2017-01-15
PAYG 10p 10p 10p [1 min] [min] 10p 10p Free n/a 45p [No] [No] 15p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG 4p 8p 8p 1p sec 2p 4p 4p 21p 25p No Yes 10p / MB EE 2017-01-15
1 2 3 Free 3p 3p [1 min] [min] Free 2p 5p n/a 25p [No] No 1p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 15p 15p [1 min] sec Free 5p 8p / call 25p 16p Yes Yes 5p / MB O2 2017-01-15
PAYG 3p 3p 3p 3p sec 2p 2p 3p 45p 5p Yes No 1p / MB 3 2017-01-15
PAYG 4p 4p 4p [1 min] min 3p 3p 4p 5p 30p [No] No 2p / MB 3 2017-01-15
PAYG 5p 5p 2p [1 min] [min] 4.2p 4.2p ? n/a ? Yes [No] Bundles start from £3.99 / 500 MB 3 2017-01-15
Happy Hour 0p 0p 0p 10p min 4p 4p 8p 15p 30p No Yes 2p / MB Vodafone 2017-01-15
PAYG 25p 25p 25p 10p sec 10p 10p 15p 25p 25p Yes Yes 10p / MB O2 2017-01-15
PAYG Lite 8p 8p 8p 8p sec 4p 4p 8p 25p 25p Yes Yes 10p / MB O2 2017-01-15
Big Data & Texts 35p 35p 35p 1p sec 12p 12p 26p / call 36p 30p No No £1 / day for 100 MB then £1 / 100 MB EE 2017-01-15
Big Talk 35p 35p 35p 1p sec 12p 12p 26p / call 36p 30p No No £1 / day for 100 MB then £1 / 100 MB EE 2017-01-15
Starter 40p 40p 40p 1p sec 15p 15p 26p / call 36p 30p No No £1 / day for 100 MB then £1 / 100 MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 10p 5p [1 min] [min] Free 10p 10p n/a 40p [No] [No] 10p / MB 3 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 10p 5p [1 min] [min] Free 10p Free n/a 45p Yes [No] Bundles start from £5 / 500 MB O2 ? 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 8p 4p [1 min] [min] 10p 10p 8p 8p 45p [No] [No] 5p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 5p 5p [1 min] [min] Free 5p Free n/a n/a [No] [No] 2p / MB O2 2017-01-15
Saver Free 15p 9p [1 min] [min] Free 19p 15p 45p 45p No No 19p / MB Vodafone 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 7p 7p [1 min] [min] Free 5p Free n/a 25p [No] [No] 9p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 19p 12p [1 min] [min] Free 19p Free 23p ? Yes No 12p / MB O2 2017-01-15
Standard 5p 10p 5p [1 min] [min] 2p 10p Free n/a 25p [No] [No] 15p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG 14p 14p 9p [1 min] [min] 19p 19p 14p n/a 45p [No] [No] 19p / MB EE 2017-01-15
1-for-1 5p 10p 10p [1 min] [min] 2p 10p Free n/a 25p [No] [No] 15p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG 3p 6p 6p [1 min] [min] 8p 10p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 5p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 18p 10p [1 min] [min] Free 19p Free n/a 25p [No] [No] 8p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 4p 4p [1 min] [min] 8p 8p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 7p / MB 3 2017-01-15
PAYG 10p 10p 5p [1 min] [min] 20p 20p ? n/a ? [No] [No] Bundles start from £5 / 500 MB EE 2017-01-15
Mobile Free 19p 12p [1 min] [min] Free 19p 10p n/a 25p [No] No 9p / MB EE 2017-01-15
PAYG Free 7p 4p [1 min] [min] Free 6p Free 8p ? [No] [No] 2.5p / MB EE 2017-01-15
Mobile 6.6p 6.6p 6.6p 6.6p [min] 3.3p 3.3p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 3.3p / MB EE and O2 2017-01-15
Traveltalk 15p 15p 15p [1 min] [min] 5.2p 5.2p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 20p / MB EE, O2, Vodafone, 3 2017-01-15
Europe 33.2p 33.2p 33.2p [1 min] [min] 33.2p 33.2p 33.2p n/a ? [No] [No] 23.7p / MB EE, O2, Vodafone, 3 2017-01-15
International 33.2p 33.2p 33.2p [1 min] [min] 33.2p 33.2p 33.2p n/a ? [No] [No] 23.7p / MB EE, O2, Vodafone, 3 2017-01-15
Global SIM + UK 11p 11p 11p [1 min] [min] 4p 4p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 9p / MB EE and Vodafone 2017-01-15
PAYG 25p 25p 25p [1 min] [min] 15p 15p Free 25p ? [No] [No] 25p / MB O2 and Vodafone, EE 2017-01-15
mobile 7p 7p 7p 7p [min] 5p 5p Free 23p ? [No] [No] 18p / MB O2 2017-01-15
PAYG 6p 6p 6p [1 min] [min] 6p 6p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 6p / MB Vodafone 2017-01-15

Discounts are often available when committing to some usage (aka add-ons or bolt-ons). Many plans give free credits when a top-up is made but these tend to be valid for 30 days only. Extra services are available, some of which are free. Follow the links for individual plans to find out more. Some of the better hidden fine print can be found in the plan details links of the operators column.

01, 02 and 03 prefixed numbers are billed as landlines. Although 03 does not correspond to a geographic area it is guaranteed to be charged the same as 01 and 02.

Numbers starting 07 are mostly UK mobile and will be charged at the rate shown in the same or other column depending on whether the number shares your operator. There is no way of knowing that as the 5 digit prefix only indicates the original operator. Many numbers have been ported to different operators.

070 and 076 numbers are for personal numbers and pagers. They attract higher charges for PAYG customers and are not included in contracts or bundles.

There are more complicated exceptions. More than 40 prefixes are for Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man; they are not part of the United Kingdom. Again they cost more from PAYG and are excluded from contracts. There may be other exceptions for niche services. The exceptions are not standard, you have to look in the fine print of each operator to see exactly which prefixes are excluded.

Non-geographic numbers are now regulated by Ofcom. Numbers starting 0800, 0808 and 116 are free from mobiles, as they always have been from landlines. For numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118 there is a cleaner charge structure. Calls to them have an access charge plus a service charge. The access charge is set by the mobile operator and is listed here in the 08x column. The service charge is set by the company you are calling.

For example, if you call 118 118 from EE, the access charge is 44p per minute and the service charge is £2.75 to connect the call plus £2.99 per minute. So if your call is less than a minute it will cost £6.18.

The four main networks are EE, O2, Vodafone and 3. EE also runs the Orange and T-Mobile brands for old accounts. 3 and EE have a joint venture MBNL to combine their 3G networks. O2 and Vodafone have their own joint venture called Cornerstone (Beacon Programme) to share masts. This should lead to two coverage maps to consider rather than four or five. BT have taken over EE. 3 tried to merge with O2 but the regulators did not approve.

MVNOs are operators who do not run their own network. The ones who target UK usage are Asda, C4C Mobile, Call&Give, co-operative mobile, Delight Mobile, giffgaff, iD Mobile, Mobile by The People’s Operator, RWG, Talkmobile, Tesco and Virgin Mobile. Those geared towards international plans include AfriMobile, Champions, CTExcel, Fonome, Lebara, Lomo Mobile, Lycamobile, NordTelekom, Now Mobile, Smart World UK, Talk Home, Telfoni, U2i, Vectone and White Mobile.

Aether, Auracall, GO-SIM, Maxroam, Pebble, toggle and Truphone pitch themselves as roaming MVNOs. It is not possible to port numbers in and out, except for Pebble and toggle.

There are 38 operators listed here offering 43 PAYG plans. MVNO Dynamics (formerly Prepaid MVNO) reported that there were 92 MVNOs as of May 2013, and Telecompaper listed 54, though not all offer PAYG.

Coverage maps are available on the main network sites: EE, O2, Vodafone, 3. Ofcom and GSMA have coverage maps for most of the 2G, 3G and 4G networks. Several MVNOs do not provide access to 4G.

Free credit is given by many plans on each top-up. It generally lasts for 30 days, though often restricted to their own numbers. The footnotes show exceptions. Best is Tesco which offers triple credit. Tesco has a minimum top-up of £10 and the bonus credit expires after 1 month.

Minimum call charges are generally one minute. The exceptions are Co-op and Virgin who have no minimum charge and time by one second intervals. After the first minute some operators round up call lengths to the next full minute and others charge by the second. The former effectively have higher charges than at first glance. See the Bill Per column.

Inactivity will cause your account to be terminated and unused credit lost. To avoid that you must make a chargeable call, text or data access, or top up within a period set out in the terms and conditions. That period is usually 180 days. Exceptions include C4C (30 days), and Lebara, Lycamobile & The People’s Operator (90 days) and iD (4 months).

Regular credit is never lost if the activity criteria are met, except for Delight and Vectone whose call credits expire after 90 days and iD whose credits expire after 365 days. 1pMobile is even more restrictive with credit expiring after 30 days; for that reason this site does not consider it PAYG. (Other operators’ free or bonus credit tends to expire after 30 days but their top-ups last indefinitely, subject to inactivity.)

Tethering (aka hotspots) is using your phone to provide mobile internet access to other devices such as laptops. Not all operators allow this.

Defunct operators or those that no longer accept new customers include allpay Mobile, Alpha Mobile, Banana Mobile, bemilo, Boy Better Know, C Mobile, Dalya Mobile, DiDa Mobile, Dialog Vizz, DobryTel, Donate Mobile, easyMobile, Econet, Family Mobile, Free As You Go (aka As You Go), Freedom Talk, Fresh, GlobalCell, Globe UK, GT Mobile, iCard, IDT, Jadoo, Kingdom Mobile, Kite, Kontakt, LIFE Mobile (now Plusnet), Nomi, Orange (now EE), Ovivo, Post Office Mobile, Priyomobile, RSPCA, Sainsbury’s, SMART Pinoy (now Smart World UK), Shebang, Simfiniti, SimpleCall, Soccertel, talkxtra, T-Mobile (now EE), Utility Warehouse, Victory Mobile, Wolves Mobile and WWF Wildlife Mobile.

Contract only operators or those with minimum spends include 1pMobile (“PAYG” but minimum monthly), anywhere sim (“PAYG” but minimum monthly), Axis, BT Mobile, Candy Telecom, Ecotalk, JOi, Meem, Ownfone (Age UK), Plusnet Mobile (was LIFE Mobile), ROK Mobile (music bundled), Sky Mobile (coming soon) TalkTalk and Tello.

VoIP can offer a similar service to mobile phones but it does so using mobile data or Wi-Fi. It is not a completely seamless replacement yet. Best value is FreedomPop which offers plans starting from 200 min / 200 sms / 200 MB per month for free. I use that though primarily for data.


1 3 gives you 150 MB of data for free with each top-up. That lasts for 30 days.

2 giffgaff free calls and texts to giffgaff numbers lasts for 3 months from each top-up.

3 Talkmobile Happy Hour has a flat 10p connection charge but then the rest of the call is free for up to 60 min. It is 8p / min after the hour is up.

4 Lomo Mobile’s web site has been hacked. Their company accounts are overdue.

5 Aether, Auracall and GO-SIM have mobile numbers issued in the Isle of Man or Jersey. Those are not UK 07 numbers and most other operators charge extra to call them, the calls are not in most inclusive plans or contracts.

6 Aether and GO-SIM publish their rates in USD. You can buy credit in GBP but the effective call rates depend on the exchange rate.

7 Maxroam charges 4p / min for incoming calls. Incoming texts are free.

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Last modified: 2017-01-19T07:43:49+00:00