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 go SIM is just the ticket.
Best pay as you go SIM deals this week
|Provider||Data Amount||Contract Length||Monthly Costs|
|GiffGaff sim only||80GB data||1 month||£20.00|
|SMARTY sim only||30GB data||1 month||£10.00|
- 80GB of 4G data
- Unlimited minutes
- Unlimited texts
1 month contract From giffgaff
- £20.00 per month
- 30GB of 4G data
- Unlimited minutes
- Unlimited texts
1 month contract From SMARTY
- £10.00 per month
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 pay as you go SIM?
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 compared to old-fashioned, traditional pay-as-you-go plans, where you paid a set amount for each text, call or GB of data. They're much better value, whilst still being nice and flexible.
How does a PAYG SIM card work?
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.
Which networks offer pay as you go SIMs?
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.
We've outlined their key selling points, too. So you get a good idea of what you'll get for your money.
Three pay as you go SIMs
Three pay as you go SIM customers 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.
O2 pay as you go SIMs
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.
EE pay as you go SIMs
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.
Vodafone pay as you SIMs
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.
iD Mobile pay as you go 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.
Smarty pay as you go SIMs
Smarty pay as you go 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
giffgaff pay as you go 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.
Plusnet Mobile pay as you go 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.
Pros and cons of PAYG SIMs
- No commitment to a contract
- Good way of keeping costs down, if you're a light user
- No need to pass a credit check
- You're much more likely to run out of credit at inopportune moments
- You pay more for your allowances than you do on 12-month contract SIMs
What to look for in a PAYG SIM card
Not sure which pay as you go SIM to choose? Or how to make a good buying decision? We've picked out some key criteria below...
Cheap pay as you go SIM cards
The lowest priced pay as you go SIMs can be had about £3-£5 month. We'd recommend you take a good look at Asda Mobile, giffgaff, TalkMobile, iD Mobile and Smarty. All of which are great choices.
Generally you should expect to get about 1GB of data per month for that outlay, as well as unlimited calls and texts.
Pay as you go SIM cards with freebies
Most household-name networks that sell pay-as-you-go SIM cards incentivise customers with free gifts and value-adding sweeteners.
The type of sweeteners that are most appealing or most useful to you depends on your individual circumstances.
But given that most PAYG SIM customers are looking to keep their costs down, we'd highly recommend Smarty.
Unlike most other networks, Smarty actually takes money off your next top-up when you have unused data at the end of a month.
Vodafone's Very Me customer rewards scheme, which is included with PAYG SIMs and gets you money-off or freebies at a number of high-street chain restaurants, is also handy if you're on a budget.
What's the difference between PAYG SIMs and 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.
We also recommend looking into 30-day SIM-only plans as well.
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 is the cheapest pay as you go network?
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.
Alternatives to pay as you go SIMs
How long does pay as you go credit last?
As pay-as-you-go only charges you for what you use, each individual text or minute on the phone incurs its own charge, at a set tariff charged by your network.
On pay-as-you-go, you add money to your SIM, and some of that credit is then spent every time you make a call, send a text, or use mobile internet. When it runs out (or when you think it might run out soon), you can top it up. Bear in mind, though, your pay-as-you-go SIM could be cut off if it isn’t used for a certain amount of time.
Can I get a SIM-Only deal and keep my number?
Yes. Whether you go for a mobile contract or SIM-only deal, it’s easy to keep your number. Simply ask your current network for a PAC code and then send this code to your new network within 30 days.
If you're keeping the same mobile phone but changing networks, remember to check if your handset is locked to your existing network.
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.
Is there a pay as you go SIM that doesn't expire?
For the most part, if you sign up for a pay as you go SIM from a household-name network your credit won't expire as long as you keep the SIM card active. This generally necessitates making a chargeable call or sending a text message. And depending on the network you choose, they'll stipulate you have to do one of the above every six months or so.
However, less well known, smaller networks tend to be a bit less forgiving. Once again it depends on the network, but some will cancel any credit on your account unless you use it within 90 days of topping up.
Are pay as you go SIM cards free?
Yes, you can pretty much always pick up a free pay as you go SIM from a shop or by requesting one online from your network of choice. However, you'll need to top up with credit to be able to use it.