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PAYG SIMs with no monthly top-up and long expiry

Tuesday, October 3rd 2017

The flexibility of a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariff makes it ideal if you only use your phone occasionally.

However, because it can be used so infrequently, mobile providers enforce inactivity limits on PAYG SIMs, which means your connection will be cancelled if you don’t use it after a certain period of time. This could mean you lose any credit you had on the phone, or worse, lose your number. Here are five PAYG SIMs from providers that don’t require monthly top-ups, and have long expiry times.

1
ASDA mobile

ASDA Mobile

Which? recommended provider

  • Minutes
    8p per minute
  • Texts
    4p per text
  • Data
    5p per MB
  • 3G/4G
    4G
  • Inactivity period
    180 days (6 months)

Currently there are no PAYG SIMs that don’t expire. All providers offer roughly the same 180-day period before terminating an account.

ASDA Mobile is our number 1 choice as it's 4G, a Which? recommended provider and regularly has fantastic offers such as free data boosts. The standard price for calls and texts is cheap and you can order a free SIM for up to five family members. Definitely worthy of a look.

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2
Three

Three

Pay As You Go Free SIM

  • Minutes
    3p per minute
  • Texts
    2p per text
  • Data
    1p per MB
  • 3G/4G
    4G
  • Inactivity period
    6 months

Three has made a bit of a name for itself with its free PAYG SIMs, but that’s what happens when you offer a good quality service at a laughably low price. There’s no obligatory monthly top-up on Three’s PAYG SIM, and your account will become inactive after six months if it’s not used. Three is consistently the cheapest provider for PAYG SIMs.

Three runs its own network and, while it’s not the largest of the four that operate in the UK, it does cover 97% of the UK with its 3G coverage and 91% with its 4G. If you are covered by Three, and you’re looking to keep costs down, you will struggle to find a better value PAYG plan.

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3
Giffgaff

Giffgaff

Pay As You Go SIM

  • Minutes
    15p per minute
  • Texts
    5p per text
  • Data
    5p per MB
  • 3G/4G
    4G
  • Inactivity period
    6 months

Giffgaff’s PAYG customers have a six-month period of inactivity before the account is cancelled. Any remaining money on this account will disappear with the account if it goes unused.

Giffgaff is a bit diffferent to most other mobile providers. It is online-only, so all communications about technical problems are done through its online forum, with help from other giffgaff users (called giffgaffers). While it’s a relatively cheap service (one of the bonuses of not having a network of high-street shops or cavernous call centres), we would only recommend giffgaff to those comfortable with using online forums to find information.

It piggybacks on O2’s network, which covers 98% of the UK population, with its 3G signal and 97% with its 4G data coverage. Always check that a provider covers your area before signing up with it; most have coverage checkers on their websites.

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4
Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile

Pay As You Go SIM

  • Minutes
    8p per minute
  • Texts
    4p per text
  • Data
    10p per MB
  • 3G/4G
    4G
  • Inactivity period
    6 months

Tesco Mobile's Lite PAYG tariff for infrequent users allows customers a six-month period of inactivity before closing an account down. This falls in line with the rest of the pack, but is a climbdown from its earlier position of letting accounts remain open permanently. You just need to make 1 chargeable call or text in 6 months to keep your number and your credit active.

Tesco Mobile piggybacks on O2’s network, which covers 98% of the UK with its 3G signal and 97% with its 4G signal. Tesco’s PAYG SIMs are free and you can earn Clubcard Points on your top-ups.

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5
Vodafone

Vodafone

Pay As You Go SIM

  • Minutes
    30p per minute
  • Texts
    14p per text
  • Data
    £2 for 50MB, 10p per MB thereafter
  • 3G/4G
    4G
  • Inactivity period
    180 days

Vodafone is one of the most recognisable mobile providers in the UK. It operates its own network which covers 96% of the UK with its 3G signal and 95% with its 4G signal.

Vodafone PAYG SIMs are free and you can top up from as little as £5 whenever you want. Vodafone does offer attractive bundles if you top up a specific amount every month, some with free gifts and bonus credit. Vodafone will suspend your account if it is left inactive for 180 days.

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Frequently asked questions

How do I keep my account active?

What counts as ‘activity’ varies from provider to provider, but in general it’s anything that involves spending money, so just switching your phone on and playing about with the ringtone settings doesn’t count.

The best way to keep a phone activated is to send a text message to someone or call for more than ten seconds. Again, you have to make sure you spend money to keep the account active, so calling a freephone number may not work.

Will I lose my phone number if my account is deactivated?

Again, this depends on which provider you use, but chances are you will.

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