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Can I borrow credit on a pay-as-you-go plan?

Jaskiran Jutla
Friday, January 15th 2016

If you run out of credit on your pay-as-you-go phone it would be great if your provider would just lend you a small amount of money to make a crucial call or text. Some providers let you do this, but not all.

In a tight spot, being able to borrow those few pounds can be very helpful – the equivalent of being allowed a micro-overdraft at short notice. But does your provider allow this, and which provider is the most generous lender?

You can borrow credit from some providers

Allowing pay-as-you-go customers to borrow a few pounds is not something which every mobile provider embraces. Most of those that do offer this option will charge, and one provider only lets you borrow from a friend.

O2 will lend you a quid

If you are on an O2 pay-as-you-go plan and have less than 50p credit, don’t panic. With its Lend Us a Quid service O2 will let you borrow a pound to send a text or make a call. All you need to do is call O2 on 4444 free from your mobile.

The service is free if you pay it back within a week

This service is free as long as you top up £10 (the £1 you borrowed will be deducted from this) into your account within the next seven days. If you don’t pay during this time you’ll be charged 25p. O2 will give you a nudge by sending a reminder text.

To avoid this mishap you can set up an auto top-up service. You can top up your mobile automatically every month or when your balance hits a certain amount.

Tesco Mobile will help a friend ping you a pound

In comparison to other providers, Tesco’s Ping Me a Pound service lets you borrow credit from another Tesco Mobile customer. You’ll need to register as a funder via Tesco Mobile’s website or by calling 282 from your Tesco mobile. You can then add up to ten numbers as requestors.

No requirement to pay this back

Once registered, as a requestor you’ll have to call 2703 to get £1 credit from your funder. The best thing is you don’t have to pay it back and the service is free. You can only request a single £1 in a 24-hour period. If the funder doesn’t have enough credit you’ll be notified via a text message.

Vodafone allows you to take out an IOU

Vodafone is currently the only provider that lets you borrow more than a pound. You can get up to £3 with its IOU service. Once you have registered (by texting IOU to 468) you’ll automatically get £3 added to your account each time you run out of credit. You will be notified via text once you dip into your IOU allowance.

The service costs 45p

In order to use this service you’ll need to have been a Vodafone pay-as-you-go customer for seven days and have topped up at least once since joining Vodafone. The next time you top up you will have to pay back the borrowed credit, plus a 45p service charge. You don’t have to use up the full £3 credit.

IOU will remain active on your account until you opt out of the service. To remove this service, text ‘remove IOU’ to 468.

Orange gives you a Reserve Tank

Although EE doesn't offer Orange SIM plans anymore, existing pay-as-you-go Orange customers can make use of the Reserve Tank which gives you an extra £2.50. To make use of the Reserve Tank service you need to text TANK to 2002 to activate it so it's ready when you need it.

When you realise that you are running out of credit simply call 450 and select the top-up option and Orange will give you £2.50.

You pay this back next time you top up

Next time you top up you’ll have to pay back the money you borrowed. Bear in mind when using your Reserve Tank credit, calls and texts will cost 5p more per minute or text, but data is charged at the standard rate.

However, you can opt out by texting STOP to 1210 or by calling 450 from your Orange phone.

Other providers won’t lend credit

Although other providers don’t allow you to borrow credit, you can buy add-ons to get extra minutes, texts and data. These usually cost less than paying for the minimum top-up.

Other providers will reward top-ups or other actions, such as contributing to official forums, with rewards that equate to extra minutes, texts or data usage. Make sure you know what you’re entitled to and make the most of any freebies which come your way.

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