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EE pay as you go explained

By Dan Howdle
| Friday, September 20th 2019

In this guide

There are a lot of providers vying for your pounds when it comes to pay as you go (PAYG) mobile, here in the UK. But perhaps somewhat surprisingly, not all that many of them offer PAYG SIMs at all.

As one of the UK's four network providers, EE does, however. But PAYG doesn't work like it used to. Instead of simply topping up with credit and using it when you see fit, these days it's much better to buy a 'pack' which contains a certain amount of texts, minutes and data and expires after 30 days (though data does roll over). Let's take a look at the ins and outs.

Why choose an EE pay as you go SIM?

Initially, you can sign up to a pack, chosen from the list above and depending on your needs in terms of data, minutes and texts. Or alternatively, you can simply order a free SIM from EE and consider what you need later on. Let's take a quick look at the benefits of choosing a SIM, along with a pack, from EE.

  • Packs keep things simple – Within the 30 days for which the pack is valid, you won't have to worry about running out of data, minutes or texts – provided of course you chose the right one
  • Boosts every three months – If you buy a pack for three consecutive 30-day periods, you will receive bonus data. Data rolls over, so this is quite a nice reward for being consistent with your usage
  • 4G network speeds – All PAYG customers get to use EE's fast 4G data network when downloading, browsing or streaming on their mobile
  • Data rollover – If you don't use all your data one month, it will roll over to the following month, allowing you to purchase a smaller, and cheaper pack
  • Choose data or calling-focused packs – Packs usually have two versions at each pricing level – one with a focus on minutes, and one with a focus on data

Is EE a good network?

Despite there being a a very great many mobile providers in the UK, only four of them are network providers. That is to say, only four own and run their own physical network, whereas everyone else 'piggybacks' onto one of them. EE is one of the UK's four network providers, the others being Three, Vodafone and O2.

EE claims to offer the UK's most comprehensive coverage and best data speeds, thanks to its 19,000 '4G sites' – masts, basically. Independent sources such as OpenSignal agree with EE, though with 4G reaching nearly everyone now, are at pains to note that increases in coverage have slowed to a snails pace. This could be important if you live somewhere with poor coverage and are hoping for things to improve in the near future.

Cost and expiry

EE PAYG SIMs aren't the cheapest out there. Perhaps they occasionally occupy that top spot during special offer periods, but most of the time you will be able to find more data and more minutes for less money elsewhere.

It's worth remembering, though, that there is more to a service than simply how much it costs. Quality of service, coverage, data speeds and other factors and features all play a part in helping you determine if what you're paying your provider is worth the money.

There are four ways into getting set up with EE PAYG. Mostly the same rules apply to each, but let's take a brief look a them anyway to help you determine which method is right for you.

  • Free SIM – As it sounds: Get a SIM for nothing, then decide later what pack you want to add onto it
  • SIM with a pack – This is what you'll find listed on this page. The SIM itself, which comes pre-loaded with a 30-day pack containing your chosen amount of minutes and data
  • SIM with phone – EE does offer some handset deals on PAYG, but bear in mind that you will, to all intents and purposes, be purchasing the handset outright and as such the better the handset the more your upfront outlay
  • Switching to EE PAYG – You can switch to EE PAYG from any other service you might currently be on, provided your contract period is over with your existing provider. Switching, then, is the same as switching contract, where you can port your number across by obtaining a PAC code and contacting your new provider (EE)

Roaming and calling abroad on EE pay as you go

Not all pay as you go mobile deals feature roaming. Some cheaper options than those offered by EE eschew roaming to keep down costs. However, EE does allow you to use your packs abroad the same as you would at home, albeit only in certain countries.

Most of the countries where you can roam like home are in the EU, or are foreign territories of countries in the EU.

Calling abroad works somewhat differently on EE PAYG. You will need a special International PAYG SIM (or have this feature added to your existing SIM). With that, you can make free calls to landlines in 34 foreign countries. Be sure and check which countries are included on the EE website. Calls to other countries whether you have an International PAYG SIM or not will be charged at the standard for calling it.

Which providers offer good alternatives?

Not every provider in the UK offers pay as you go SIMs. Some that don't may surprise you – BT Mobile, for example. Instead, your choices boil down to the four main network providers (EE, Vodafone, Three and O2), along with a handful of others. Here are your alternatives when it comes to PAYG SIMs.

  • ASDA Mobile – Is a PAYG-only provider, offering 'bundles' that work similarly to EE's packs. ASDA is generally a bit cheaper than EE too
  • giffgaff – Is quite unique in that its customer service is run mostly by its community. The money it saves there is passed onto you in the form of low-low prices. Giffgaff's version of packs are called 'Goodybags'
  • O2 – Being another other the four network providers, O2 offers a plethora of mobile SIMs and services, including PAYG SIMs, 'Big Bundles' (packs), and PAYG handsets
  • SMARTY – Is owned and run by Three, offering budget versions of popular SIMs under its own brand. PAYG is available in the sense that its SIMs are contract free
  • Tesco Mobile – Similar set-up: Get SIM, add pack. Here they're called Rocket Packs. All the same thing, really
  • Three – Like EE, Three offers a range of PAYG SIMs. Its version of packs are called 'Add-ons'. Three also has a wide range of PAYG handsets
  • iD Mobile – Like all the others here, iD Mobile – the provider brand for The Carphone Warehouse – offers PAYG SIMs, with the option to purchase packs, though on iD they are called bundles
  • Vodafone – Is one of the UK mobile network providers and as such offers pretty much anything you could think of, including SIMs, 'Big Value Bundles' (packs) and PAY handsets

Frequently asked questions

How does EE pay as you go work?

Very simply, you can pick up either a free SIM from EE, or one that comes preloaded with a 30-day supply of minutes, texts and data. At the end of the 30 days you can buy another such 'pack' from your top-up amount, which can offer the same allowances, or different allowances, depending on your usage.

When does credit expire on EE PAYG?

Top up credit on EE will never expire so long as you use some of it at least every 270 days. Packs, which you buy with top-up, are bundles of data, minutes and texts you buy with your top-up – these will always expire in 30 days.

How do I top up on EE PAYG?

You just need to call 150 from your EE phone or 07953 966 250 from any phone, and either register a card or use a card that is already registered to add money to your top-up amount. Some retailers will let you top up in-store too, so long as you have the top up card you received with your SIM.

Is EE PAYG cheap?

Not the cheapest, no. But then EE does offer the fastest data speeds and good customer service. It's also very reliable and has the greatest network coverage. So you may pay a little more for EE PAYG than you would with one of its ultra-budget competitors, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

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