If you don’t want to be signed up to a long-term contract for your mobile phone, one solution is to opt for a ‘Pay as You Go’ or PAYG deal with a service provider. While in the past PAYG deals tended to be more expensive than contracts, with high costs for calls and texts, that is no longer the case and cellular companies are putting together some good deals – but how do you find the best?
Handset or SIM-Only
If you already have a handset, then all you need to do is pick up a SIM-only PAYG deal and put the new SIM into your phone. You can buy these from a variety of different shops including supermarkets as well as mobile phone specialists. If you don’t have a handset to use you will need to buy one. You can either purchase one that is locked to a particular network meaning that it can only be used with a SIM from that network or one that is ‘unlocked’ which gives you the freedom to change networks at any time.
Pros and Cons of PAYG deals
You are not tied to a contract, so can change your mobile network at any time
You don’t need to pass a credit check to get one, as you are paying upfront
It is easier to budget as you cannot overspend with a pre-paid phone
The price of calls, texts, and data can be higher than with a contract
Handsets tend to be basic, or very expensive as the price is not subsidised to attract you into a contract
If you use your phone a lot then this can be an expensive way to pay
How do People Use PAYG Phones?
PAYG contracts are great for people who don’t want a long-term contract, or who would have trouble with a credit check. They are also a good option for parents who want to give their child a mobile phone but want to have more control over the budget. Even when a mobile is out of credit, it can still be used to make emergency calls. People who have very light usage of their phones will also benefit, as many contracts provide more calls or data than they would ever use. You can use your mobile phone for roaming when abroad, but you should check the costs before doing so.
Which Network is Best?
In the UK we have four main mobile providers, EE (formerly known as Orange), O2, Three, and Vodaphone. Before you choose a network, it’s always worth looking at Ofcom’s coverage map https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/coverage to make sure that you will get the signal that you need in the places that you use your phone most.
This doesn’t mean that you need to go with one of the bigger providers, however. There are many smaller mobile networks which ‘piggyback’ off the big networks so you will get the big network coverage with a smaller (and often cheaper) company.
O2 provide the network for Tesco and Giffgaff
Vodaphone resells their service to TalkMobile and Lebara
EE supports Virgin Mobile and ASDA
It’s well worth looking at the offers these smaller companies have, as they are often keener in price than the bigger networks or will put together bundles that are attractive to certain kinds of phone user.
There are two ways to pay for your mobile usage with Pay as You Go. If you want to top up as and when you need to, then you can compare the price for data, texts, and calls directly. The cheapest deal available at the time of writing is with 1pmobile – they get their name because they charge 1p per MB of data, minute of calls, and per text using the EE Network.
Alternatively, you can pay a monthly fee for a bundle – a deal that includes different levels of inclusive calls, texts, and data to suit your needs. It helps if you know your current usage before you go looking, so you can make sure that you get a deal that will support you. Data is an important consideration these days to support mobile broadband internet and app usage while you’re out and about.
Lebara (Vodaphone) are currently offering 1GB of data, 500 minutes, and unlimited texts for just £3.90 a month, but if you are a heavier user of mobile broadband internet, then you will want to look for a bundle that includes a more generous data allowance. iDMobile (Three) are offering 5GB with unlimited calls and texts for £6 a month, for example.
One thing to pay attention to when choosing your provider is how often you are required to top up to keep your number. Some networks only want a top-up every three months, but others require you to add credit to your phone every month.
Keeping your phone topped up is a simple matter, which can often be done using the provider’s app on your phone. Alternatively, you can top up cards from newsagents or supermarkets, or top up online using the provider’s website.
Is Pay as You Go Mobile Broadband for You?
We hope that this article has helped you to understand what you need to keep in mind when choosing a Pay as You Go network. While there are a few things to think about, this remains one of the simplest ways to get yourself connected.
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