PAYG Tariffs

TL;DR cheapest rate is

Other cheap rates are

The plan which I use is O2 Classic but it no longer available to new customers.

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 Soon Soon 60p / day
Poor 21p 16p 12p 16p 21p 31p No No £2 / day
Bad 26p 26p 20p 36p 30p 36p £5 / day
PAYG 35p 35p 35p 35p min 15p 15p 35p 44p 40p Yes Yes Add-ons start from £1 / 100 MB EE 2018-11-19
Simply 30p 30p 30p 30p sec 14p 14p 30p 45p 45p Yes Yes £2 / day for 50 MB then 10p / MB Vodafone 2018-11-19
PAYG 1 1 20p 1 20p 1 20p 1 20p min 20p 1 20p 1 20p 1 45p 20p 1 Yes Yes 20p / 5MB 1 Vodafone 2018-11-19
New Pay As You Go 10p 10p 10p 10p min 10p 10p 10p 45p 40p Yes No 5p / MB 3 2020-03-15
Data Reward 3p 3p 3p 3p min 2p 2p 3p 45p 55p Yes No 200 MB / month free then 1p / MB 3 2020-03-15
2 PAYG 1p 1p 1p 1p min 1p 1p 1p 20p 30p Yes Yes 1p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG 8p 8p 8p 8p min 4p 4p 8p 8p 25p Yes Yes 5p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 10p 1p [1 min] min Free 10p Free 23p 16p [No] [No] 10p / MB O2 2018-11-19
PAYG 10p 10p 10p [1 min] [min] 10p 10p Free n/a 45p [No] [No] 15p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG 4p 8p 8p 1p sec 2p 4p 4p 21p 25p Yes Yes 10p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 3 15p 15p [1 min] sec Free 3 5p 8p / call 25p 16p Yes Yes 5p / MB O2 2018-11-19
PAYG 3p 3p 3p 3p sec 2p 2p 3p 45p 5p Yes No 1p / MB 3 2018-11-19
PAYG 5p 5p 5p [1 min] [min] 10p 10p ? n/a ? Yes [No] 5p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG 25p 25p 25p 10p sec 10p 10p 15p 25p 25p Yes Yes 10p / MB O2 2018-11-19
PAYG Lite 8p 8p 8p 8p sec 4p 4p 8p 25p 25p Yes Yes 10p / MB O2 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 10p 5p [1 min] [min] Free 10p 10p n/a 40p [No] [No] 10p / MB 3 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 8p 8p [1 min] [min] Free 8p ? 8p ? Yes Yes 5p / MB EE 2018-12-30
PAYG Free 8p 4p [1 min] [min] 10p 10p 8p 8p 45p [No] [No] 5p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 19p 19p [1 min] min Free 19p 19p 45p 45p No No 19p / MB (1 MB free / day) Vodafone 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 19p 12p [1 min] [min] Free 19p Free 23p ? Yes No 12p / MB O2 2018-11-19
PAYG 14p 14p 9p [1 min] [min] 19p 19p 14p n/a 45p [No] [No] 19p / MB EE 2018-11-19
Standard 5p 15p 5p [1 min] [min] 2p 10p Free n/a 25p Yes [No] 15p / MB EE 2018-11-19
1-for-1 5p 10p 10p [1 min] [min] 2p 10p Free n/a 25p Yes [No] 15p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 15p 10p [1 min] [min] Free 5p Free n/a 25p Yes [No] 5p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 4p 4p [1 min] [min] 8p 8p ? n/a ? Yes [No] 7p / MB 3 2018-11-19
Mobile 19p 19p 12p [1 min] [min] 19p 19p 10p n/a 25p [No] No 9p / MB EE 2018-11-19
PAYG Free 7p 4p [1 min] [min] Free 6p Free 8p ? [No] [No] 2.5p / MB EE 2018-11-19
4 Traveltalk 15p 15p 15p [1 min] [min] 5.2p 5.2p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 20p / MB EE, O2, Vodafone, 3 2018-11-19
4 5 Europe 30.4p 30.4p 30.4p [1 min] [min] 30.4p 30.4p 30.4p n/a ? [No] [No] 19.5p / MB EE, O2, Vodafone, 3 2018-11-19
4 5 International 30.4p 30.4p 30.4p [1 min] [min] 30.4p 30.4p 30.4p n/a ? [No] [No] 19.5p / MB EE, O2, Vodafone, 3 2018-11-19
5 Universal 19.5p 30.4p 30.4p [1 min] [min] 7.8p 19.5p 22.6p n/a ? [No] [No] 15.6p / MB O2 and EE 2018-11-19
5 Expedition 19.5p 38.2p 38.2p [1 min] [min] 7.8p 11.7p 22.6p n/a ? [No] [No] 19.5p / MB EE, Vodafone and 3 2018-11-19
5 Europe & More 19.5p 38.2p 38.2p [1 min] [min] 7.8p 19.5p 22.6p n/a ? [No] [No] 15.6p / MB EE, Vodafone and 3 2018-11-19
PAYG 25p 25p 25p [1 min] [min] 15p 15p Free 25p ? [No] [No] 25p / MB O2 and Vodafone, EE 2018-11-19
PAYG 6p 6p 6p [1 min] [min] 6p 6p ? n/a ? [No] [No] 6p / MB Vodafone 2018-11-19

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 £4.49 to connect the call plus £4.49 per minute. So if your call is less than a minute it will cost £9.42.

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. O2 stopped offering PAYG on 2019-11-07.

MVNOs are operators who do not run their own network. The ones who target UK usage are 1pMobile, Asda, C4C Mobile, Call&Give, co-operative mobile, giffgaff, iD Mobile, RWG and Tesco. Those geared towards international plans include AfriMobile, CMLink, CTExcel, Lebara, Lycamobile, NordTelekom, Now Mobile, Talk Home, Telfoni, U2i, Vectone and White Mobile.

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

There are 28 operators listed here offering 35 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, 4G and 5G networks. Several MVNOs do not provide access to 4G. 5G is being rolled out.

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 exception is Co-op 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), White (60 days), Lebara (84 days), Lycamobile (90 days) and 1pMobile & iD (120 days). 1pMobile require that you top up (minimum £10) every 120 days but that credit does not expire.

Regular credit is never lost if the activity criteria are met, except for Vectone whose call credits expire after 90 days and iD whose credits expire after 365 days. (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 Aether, allpay Mobile, Alpha Mobile, Banana Mobile, Believe Mobile UK, bemilo, Boy Better Know, C Mobile, Champions, Connect Mobile UK, Dalya Mobile, Delight Mobile, DiDa Mobile, Dialog Vizz, DobryTel, Donate Mobile, easyMobile, Econet, Economy Mobile, Family Mobile, Fonome, 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), MAXROAM (credit can go to OneSimCard), MobileK, Nomi, O2, Orange (now EE), Ovivo, Post Office Mobile, Priyomobile, RSPCA, Sainsbury’s, Smart World UK (aka SMART Pinoy), Shebang, Simfiniti, SimpleCall, Soccertel, Stan Mobile, Talkmobile, talkxtra, T-Mobile (now EE), toggle (customers moved to Lycamobile), U2i, Victory Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Wolves Mobile and WWF Wildlife Mobile.

Contract only operators or those with minimum spends include anywhere sim (“PAYG” but minimum monthly), Axis, BT Mobile, Ecotalk, IQ mobile (by Fonehouse), JOi, KCOM, Meem, O2, Plusnet Mobile (was LIFE Mobile), ROK Mobile (music bundled), SMARTY, Sky Mobile, Superdrug, TalkTalk, Utility Warehouse, Virgin Mobile and VOXI (social media bundled). Some of those operators offer better deals if you also use them for broadband.

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.

This page has been going for 11 years, since 2008-02-07. Back then there were 15 plans available from 5 main operators and 5 MVNOs. Here is my first snapshot. Others can be seen on the Wayback Machine.

2008 | | 2012 | | 2015 | | 2017 |


1 Vodafone PAYG 1 daily charge is capped at £1. The rates shown are probably only applicable on a low usage day. Once you go over the daily threshold your £1 is good for unlimited minutes, SMS and MMS and 500 MB of data. If you do not use your phone (outgoing) in a day then you pay nothing.

2 1pMobile requires you to top up a minimum of £10 every 120 days. That is similar to a £2.50 per month contract but your credit does not expire.

3 giffgaff free calls and SMSs to giffgaff numbers lasts for 3 months from each top-up. Most other operators limit free credit to 30 days.

4 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.

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

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Last modified: 2020-03-15T12:23:17+00:00