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Pay as you go SIM only deals

Find and compare the best pay as you go SIM only deals with Confused.com

We've partnered with Uswitch to compare their best mobile phone deals available to you.

What is a SIM only deal on pay as you go?

With a SIM only pay as you go deal, you get a new SIM card without a new phone – just like with other SIM only deals But with this kind of deal, the SIM is pay as you go, which means there is no long contract. You just pay for the calls, texts and mobile data you use. 

On pay as you go, you buy credit upfront, rather than paying afterwards or on a monthly basis. When you’re out of credit you can buy a top-up or a bundle. This means you’re in control of your spending, and you never get an unexpectedly high bill at the end of the month.

How do pay as you go SIM cards work?

You can buy a pay as you go SIM card and use it with any unlocked handset. 

Your SIM card connects your phone number to your network so you can send and receive calls, texts and data. If you want to, you can change your number or transfer your old phone number to your new SIM.

Does a pay as you go SIM card come with no contract?

It does – the beauty of pay as you go is that you’re not tied into a long contract. You can change the amount you spend each month depending on your usage or your budget. 

There is a requirement to use your number and to buy credit a minimum number of times in order to keep your service active. Generally speaking, pay as you go is one of the most flexible, commitment-free ways to have a mobile phone.

How do I pay for pay as you go?

Before you can use your phone, you’ll need to add credit. You can do that by topping up or by buying a bundle of inclusive calls, texts and data.

  • Topping up 
    Traditional pay as you go SIMs work on a flat-rate basis. There is a set price for each minute of calls, each GB of data and each text message, and that amount is deducted from your credit. You buy more credit by topping up – which doesn’t have to be every month. Traditional pay as you go isn’t as common as it used to be, but iif yourf your network allows it, you can still use your pay as you go SIM this way. Some networks such as 1p Mobile specialise in affordable traditional pay as you go.
  • Buying a bundle or plan
    Most networks offer monthly pay as you go bundles that include data, minutes and texts for a set price. These are usually cheaper call-for-call andGB Mb-for-GBMb than the network’s standard pay as you go rates. However, you only have 30 days to use these allowances up before the credit expires. Different networks use different names for these monthly packages – you might see them called bundles, packs, plans, or in the case of giffgaff, goody bags. If you’re a light user and only want your phone for occasional use, you may be better off topping up your SIM card with credit. That way you’ll spend less than if you were buying a monthly bundle, even though you get fewer calls and texts for your money. Just remember to stick to the network’s minimum usage requirements to keep your phone line active.

What are the best SIM only deals on pay as you go?

Plenty of providers offer SIM only pay as you go deals, which means there are some competitive offers around. 

The best deal for you will depend on how much you use your phone and what you use it for. For example, if you’re online a lot, your best SIM only pay as you go deals will include unlimited data. 

You’ll also need to make sure you’re in an area with good coverage from the network, especially if you live somewhere remote. You can find out which networks offer your location the best coverage by putting your postcode into Ofcom's signal checker tool.

What is the cheapest SIM only pay as you go deal available?

Deals change frequently, so the best way to find the cheapest SIM only pay as you go deal will be to compare what’s available now. You can run a comparison on Uswitch for pay as you go SIMs from providers like Lebara, Honest Mobile, Lyca, VOXI and giffgaff.

Can I get a pay as you go SIM card with unlimited data?

Absolutely. You can add a 30-day bundle with unlimited data to your pay as you go SIM, which most providers offer. They tend to be at the more expensive end of a provider’s range of bundles, though. Before you buy, it’s worth checking whether a cheaper SIM with a generous data allowance could meet your needs. 

How do I activate a new pay as you go SIM card?

The process of activating a new SIM varies between providers. Follow the instructions on your new network’s website or app, bearing in mind a few tips:

  • If you’re not sure where the SIM tray is located on your phone and how to open it up, check the manual or search for help online. You may need a special SIM-removal tool.
  • Check that your phone’s battery is fully charged before you activate your SIM.
  • Some providers ‘piggyback’ on larger companies’ networks. So don’t be surprised if you see ‘EE’ or ‘Vodafone’ on your phone’s information screen, rather than the name of your new network.

How much are pay as you go SIM cards and where can I buy one?

You can often get a SIM card free of charge from the provider when you buy a pay as you go deal. Some retailers also sell pay as you go SIM cards – for example, Argos has a range. 

What is the difference between SIM-free and pay as you go?

A SIM-free phone is a mobile handset without a SIM card. Buying a phone SIM-free means you’ll need to order a SIM card and set up a SIM only plan to use with it. The phone’s unlocked, which gives you the flexibility to choose any SIM card from any network and change it when you want to.

Pay as you go is a way of paying for your mobile usage that doesn’t involve a contract. With pay as you go, you can choose how much to spend each month and buy credit upfront.

So although they’re quite different things, pay as you go and SIM-free often go together. A SIM-free phone can be used with a pay as you go SIM card.

Does pay as you go credit expire?

Pay as you go credit that isn’t part of a bundle will expire if you don’t use your phone often enough. Networks ask that you make a minimum amount of calls or texts in order to keep your credit and keep your phone number working. You’ll also need to top up a minimum amount of times each year. But it’s usually much longer than 30 days, and on some networks it can be as long as 6 months.

Can I get a pay as you go SIM only deal without a credit check?

Because you’re paying upfront instead of in arrears, there won’t usually be any requirement for a credit check. This means pay as you go deals are handy if your credit score would make it hard to get a monthly mobile contract. 

Do pay as you go deals include international roaming?

This depends on your bundle. Check with your provider to see if you’re on a bundle that includes international minutes and data. If you’re not, you can always buy one that meets your needs.
If you’re using your SIM for traditional pay as you go, it’s important to check the availability and cost of roaming before you travel. That’s because per-minute and per-MB roaming charges can be very expensive. It may be worth checking if you can get a local pay as you go SIM at your travel destination, though this will mean using a different phone number.