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

PAYG SIM deals

If you’d rather not be tied to a lengthy mobile contract, a Pay As You Go (PAYG) SIM deal is an excellent option – particularly if you want to keep your old handset. These deals are also useful for anyone concerned about a credit check.

Best buy deals
  • Lebara Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 1GB of 4G data
    • 500 minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • 100 international minutes to over 40 countries
    • £5.00 per month
    1 month contract From Lebara Mobile
  • ID sim only
    4G
    • Exclusive
    • 9GB of 4G data
    • 500 minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Includes capping + data rollover
    • £11.00 per month
    1 month contract From iD Mobile
  • VOXI sim only
    4G
    • 15GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Unlimited social data
    • £15.00 per month
    1 month contract From VOXI
  • SMARTY sim only
    4G
    • 4GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Discount on unused data
    • £10.00 per month
    1 month contract From SMARTY

What is a PAYG SIM deal?

A PAYG SIM card enables you to flexibly switch between handsets. You don’t sign up for a lengthy mobile contract (which includes a new handset); you simply purchase a bundle of minutes, texts and data on a SIM card. This means you can hang onto your old handset, and you can top up your bundle once it’s been used up or has expired.

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

Very few networks offer classic 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 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 a one-month contract which includes a monthly allowance of calls, texts and data. 30-day SIMs are often a far more 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.