Pay-as-you-go SIM-only deals: All you need to know

PAYG SIM deals

Concerned about a credit check? Don't want to be tied to a long contract? Not interested in upgrading to a new phone? A pay as you SIM is just the ticket.

Best pay as you go SIM deals this week

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
ID sim only 9GB data 1 month £11.00 p/m
SMARTY sim only Unlimited data 1 month £18.75 p/m
GiffGaff sim only 40GB data 1 month £20.00 p/m
Best buy deals
  • ID sim only
    • Exclusive
    • 9GB of 4G data
    • 500 minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Free Data Rollover
    • £11.00 per month
    1 month contract From iD Mobile
  • SMARTY sim only
    • Unlimited 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • 25% off normal price
    • £18.75 per month
    1 month contract From SMARTY
  • GiffGaff sim only
    • 40GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £20.00 per month
    1 month contract From giffgaff

No time to trawl through thousands of pay as you go (PAYG) SIMs for a good deal? Good news: we've done the hard work for you.

You'll find what we consider all the standout PAYG SIMs on offer right now in the table above.

We've chosen them principally because we think they represent really good value for money.

And because they offer the sort of flexibility that's one of the main reasons you might want to choose to pay as you go over a longer-term SIM deal.

What is a PAYG SIM deal?

Mobile phone network logos

Pay as you go SIMs deals are one-month contracts that get you a bundle of calls, data and minutes to use up within a 30-day period.

They operate on a rolling-contract basis. So you're free to leave with 30-days' notice, if you see a deal you like the look of on another network.

Pay as you go SIM deals are flexible too.

If, for example, for one month you think you'll need more data you can simply sign up for a bundle with a higher allowance.

Then you can simply go back to your usual allowances the next month.

Prefer a longer-term SIM deal? Take a look at our pick of the best 12-month SIMs.

How does a PAYG SIM differ from traditional pay as you go?

Traditionally, the term 'pay as you go' meant you paid for a phone outright and then added phone credit in the form of a top-up card, as and when you needed it.

You only paid for what you used and were charged a set amount for each text you sent and each call you made.

The catch was that you'd pay much higher rates for your calls and texts than pay-monthly contract customers.

Pay as you go SIMs, where you pay for a set amount of calls, texts and data every month, are much better value for money.

But the good thing is that they still put you in control of your spending. And offer the same sort of flexibility as traditional pay as you go.

Pay as you go SIMs by network

Not sure which network to choose? To give you a helping hand, we've handpicked what we consider the best pay as you go SIMs on each network.

And we've outlined their key selling points, too. So you get a good idea of what you'll get for your money.

Best pay as you go SIMs on Three

Three pay as you go SIM customers get free rewards and offers through its Wuntu app.

They also accumulate points every time they top-up. Points can be used to claim rewards, such as a one-month Tinder Gold subscription or a month of free deliveries from Deliveroo.

Best pay as you go SIMs on O2

O2 offers pay as you go customers 10% off their top-ups every three months.

As with pay-monthly plans, customers also get free gifts and offers with the O2 Rewards scheme.

Best pay as you go SIMs on EE

Choose an EE Flex pay as you go SIM and you can roll over unused data from month to month.

EE offers extra data, calls or texts with every third top-up, too.

Best pay as you SIMS on Vodafone

Vodafone's VeryMe rewards scheme offers freebies and money-off promotions for the likes of Costa Coffee and Greggs, as well as priority booking for events.

Vodafone pay as you SIM-only customers accrue points every time they top-up and can use their UK data, calls and texts while roaming in 48 locations.

Best pay as you go iD Mobile SIMs

iD Mobile allows pay as you go SIM customers to use their allowances in 50 locations in the EU and further afield.

There's also the option to roll over unused data from month to month.

Best pay as you go Smarty SIMs

Smarty pay as you SIM only deals are some of the most keenly priced around. But still offer inclusive roaming in the EU.

In the event customers have any unused data at the end of the month, Smarty gives them money-off their next top-up

Best pay as you go giffgaff SIMs

giffgaff pay as you go SIMs are well priced. That's in part due to the fact that there's no customer support in the traditional sense.

Instead if customers need help, they can find it on giffgaff's customer forums. Where other customers provide advice and help out with problems.

giffgaff's inclusive-roaming area encompasses 38 locations, mostly in the EU.

Best pay as you go Plusnet Mobile SIMs

Pay as you go SIM plans on Plusnet Mobile feature inclusive roaming in 40 locations, where customers can use their UK allowances for no extra charge.

Existing Plusnet broadband customers get 2GB extra usage for month for the same price, when they add a pay as you go SIM to their package.

Which UK networks offer traditional pay-as-you-go?

Very few networks offer traditional PAYG SIMs, in which you top up your account and spend the credit as you use your phone.

If that's what you're after, your choices of provider are…

Some of them also let you use your credit to buy 30-day bundles of calls, texts, and data - which work out far better value than spending as you use.

What's the best traditional pay-as-you-go SIM card?

Per minute and per text, the cheapest pay-as-you-go SIMs come from O2 and Three. On both networks, PAYG costs 3p per minute, 2p per text, and 1p per MB of data.

However, although they're certainly the cheapest options by the minute, text, and megabyte, this still doesn't represent fantastic value.

500MB of internet use alone - which isn't that much - would cost you £5. With a pay-monthly SIM deal, on the other hand, £5 could get you 1GB of data, plus inclusive calling minutes and texts.

So, if you're going with pay-as-you-go, we reckon the best option is a SIM that also lets you buy 30-day bundles for heavier months.

Asda Mobile and giffgaff are great choices - all their SIMs are PAYG, but let you buy amazingly low priced bundles every month.

However, we also recommend looking into 30-day SIM-only plans instead…

What is a 30-day SIM deal?

A 30-day SIM deal is just another way of referring to a pay as you go SIM.

The term refers to a one-month contract which includes a monthly allowance of calls, texts and data. 30-day SIMs are often a far preferable option over pay-as-you-go plans.

They're much better value, whilst still being nice and flexible.

Here's how they work. You sign up to a SIM, and it comes loaded with 30 days' worth of minutes, texts, and data ready to be activated and used.

The exact amount you get depends on which tariff you pick.

Once those 30 days are over, your allowance will automatically renew for the next month.

However, you're only tied into this SIM deal for a single month. You can cancel it, change your allowance, or switch to a different network entirely whenever you like penalty-free.

We recommend 30-day SIMs over PAYG ones, because they work out much cheaper without tying you down to a long contract. Some are even available without a credit check.

Networks that offer these include:

Pay-as-you-go SIMs vs 30-day SIMs

Here's a quick breakdown of how the two options compare:

Pros of a pay-as-you-go SIM

  • The most flexible option - it keeps you in full control of how much you're spending
  • Great if you barely use your phone and don't use mobile internet
  • No need for a credit check
  • No contracts at all

Pros of a 30-day SIM

  • It's ultimately much cheaper than PAYG
  • Using mobile data in particular is far, far cheaper
  • No need to top up or keep checking your credit
  • You get more choice over which network you choose
  • It's still very flexible - you can change or cancel your plan at any point

What are the best networks for PAYG SIM deals and 30-day SIM deals?

UK mobile networks offer a range of 30-day SIM deals which include varying amounts of minutes, texts and data packaged up for a monthly fee.

A very basic package which, for example, includes 150 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB is probably the cheapest SIM-only deal you can get – it won’t give you much internet time, but it will keep you connected.

And even if you want unlimited minutes and around 2-3GB of data, there are still great value SIM-only deals available.

iD Mobile, giffgaff and Plusnet all offer good 30-day SIM-only deals, depending on your needs.