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Pay as you go SIM only deals

Find the best pay as you go SIM only deal for your needs.

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Pay as you go SIM only deals

Best pay as you go SIM only deals

In the early days of mobiles there only seemed to be two options – a SIM card deal where you would be locked into a contract or a ‘pay as you go’ deal when you paid upfront for your calls and texts. However, there is now the option of pay as you go (PAYG) SIM cards, which provide a flexible way to pay for your mobile use. PAYG SIM bundles are especially useful for those who already have a mobile phone, those who don’t want to be tied to a contract and those who don’t want to have a credit check before they purchase. Read our useful guide to find out more about pay as you go SIM deals.

What is a pay as you go SIM?

Traditional pay as you go deals require you to buy credit so that you pay for your calls, texts and mobile data as you use them. You aren’t tied to any contract or commitment and can therefore change your mobile deal whenever you like.

The other option, which is often better value, is to purchase a pay as you go SIM deal, also known as a pay as you go ‘bundle’. This is usually a one-month contract with a monthly allowance of calls, texts and data. You will then either use your allowance or it will expire at the end of the month and you can either change or renew your deal. Pas as you go SIMs are a flexible and cheap option for your mobile use.

How does a pay as you go SIM work?

When you sign up for a pay as you go SIM, it will most often come with an allowance of 30 days’ worth of calls, texts and data, ready to be activated. The SIM will renew every month, but you are only tied into the SIM deal for a single month, meaning that it is flexible and can be changed or cancelled at any time, at no extra cost. The allowance of calls, texts and data, as well as how much you pay for the SIM deal, will differ depending on which tariff and mobile network provider you choose.

A 30-day SIM works out much cheaper than a traditional PAYG deal, and also avoids the long contracts you are tied into for the usual mobile contracts.

Here are some useful tips that you should consider before you take out a pay as you go SIM:

  • Allowance amount – make sure you don’t buy an allowance that is overgenerous and has far more calls, texts and data than you would ever use in 30 days. It is likely you could get a cheaper tariff with the right allowance for your needs. Alternatively make sure you buy one that covers your usage effectively – it can be annoying to run out of call time or data allowance right when you’re in the middle of doing something.
  • Unlocked phones – if your existing mobile was bought with a traditional contract then it may be locked to the network provider. If the contract has ended it is easy and free to unlock the phone so you can use it with a different deal. Unlocking can take up to 10 days depending on your situation so keep this in mind.
  • Keeping your number – if you are switching deals then it is possible to keep the same mobile number. Just make sure that you request your PAC (porting authorisation code) from your old provider before you leave.  You can then give the PAC to your new provider within 30 days of your new deal and they will switch your number within one working days.
  • Read the terms and conditions – some SIM deals will offer an introductory price for your first month and then increase the monthly rate, so be sure to check the policy before you sign up.

What are the best pay as you go bundles?

The tariffs of each provider will regularly change, and often different providers will have deals for new customers so keep an eye out for limited time offers. 

All of the major network providers offer pay as you go SIM deals, but you may want to look at other providers who use the networks of the main providers but will often have cheaper deals available. These include, Lebara, Smarty, giffgaff, and VOXI. 

Best O2 PAYG SIM only deals

Provider Data Monthly cost
O2 200 GB £30 See deal
O2 60 GB £20 See deal
O2 40 GB £15 See deal
O2 14 GB £10 See deal

All of these deals comes with unlimited calls and texts.

Best Vodafone PAYG SIM only deals

Provider Data Monthly cost
Vodafone 24 GB £45 See deal
Vodafone 15 GB £25 See deal
Vodafone 8 GB £20 See deal
Vodafone 2 GB £10 See deal

All of these deals comes with unlimited calls and texts.

Best VOXI SIM only deals

Provider Data Monthly cost
VOXI Unlimited £30 See deal
VOXI 100 GB £20 See deal
VOXI 60 GB £15 See deal
VOXI 30 GB £10 See deal
VOXI 20 GB £12 See deal

All of these deals comes with unlimited calls and texts.

Best SIM deals for occasional use

It can be frustrating to lose your phone, or even to use your phone for things where you aren’t comfortable giving out your number. It can therefore be useful to have a backup SIM that you keep for emergency use, or for very occasional use.

In this case it is better to use a traditional PAYG plan instead of a 30-day SIM. This way you won’t be paying for an allowance that you don’t use. Some of the cheaper pay as you go providers are 1pMobile and ASDA (who both use EE’s network), and Three and Lebara Mobile (who use Vodafone’s network).

1pMobile are the cheapest of these providers as texts are only 1p, calls are 1p per minute and data is 1p per MB! The only stipulation of this deal is that you have to top up £10 every four months to stay connected.

Make sure to compare mobile phone deals in order to find the cheapest one for you.


What is the best pay as you go deal for roaming abroad?

In all European Union countries, you are allowed to use your UK SIM card's allowance of minutes, texts and data. However, some countries outside of the EU charge large amounts to use their networks so it can be important to plan ahead. Three has potentially the best pay as you go SIM deal when it comes to roaming, allowing you to use your allowance in 71 destinations, including the USA and Australia. You should also check the overseas bundle of your current network as sometimes there will be add-ons available to your deal.

Alternatively, you could consider getting an international SIM card at your destination to use for the duration of your trip.

Which networks offer pay as you go SIMs?

Networks that offer pay as you go SIM deals include but are not limited to:

Last reviewed: 06 July 2023

Next review: 06 August 2023