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O2 pay-as-you-go review

With a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) deal, you only pay for the calls you make, the texts you send and the data you use. There are no contracts or credit checks and you receive additional minutes, texts and data if you top up a certain amount a month.

O2 has both PAYG handsets and PAYG SIMs and you can choose one of six Big Bundles of minutes, texts and data.

Cable.co.uk overall rating

O2’s pay-as-you-go SIMs provide a flexible alternative to pay monthly plans. O2 coverage is some of the best in the UK according to Ofcom, and if you top up regularly, you'll get extra minutes, texts and data. There are cheaper PAYG SIMs out there from the likes of giffgaff and Three, but O2’s extra features set it apart from the crowd.

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Coverage & data speed



O2 has two different mobile signals, 3G and 4G. If your phone can connect to the 4G signal, webpages will load sooner and you’ll be able to download videos and music more quickly. Ofcom measured the speed of O2’s 3G and 4G signals, and found on average 3G is 5.6Mbps and 4G is 15.6Mbps, roughly the same as a standard broadband connection.

According to the most recent Ofcom report, O2’s 3G coverage reaches 91% of UK premises, while its 4G coverage reaches 51%. You can check what coverage is like in your area by using O2’s coverage checker. You’ll usually find the closer you live to the centre of a city or town, the better your signal is and the more chance you have of getting 4G.

3G coverage
4G coverage
Average 3G speed*
Average 4G speed*
Call allowance
100 – 3,000
Text allowance
1,000 – 4,000
Data allowance
500MB – 6GB
PAYG handsets
According to Ofcom.
Prices from
3G coverage 91%
4G coverage 51%
Average 3G speed* 5.6Mbps
Average 4G speed* 15.6Mbps
Call allowance 100 – 3,000
Text allowance 1,000 – 4,000
Data allowance 500MB – 6GB
PAYG handsets Yes
Prices from Free
According to Ofcom.

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Data usage



The standard charge for data usage on pay-as-you-go is £1 per 50MB of data. You can get bonus data if you top up by a certain amount on one of O2’s PAYG tariffs. O2's bundles start with 500MB of data for £10 and range up to 6GB of data for £30.

All O2's Big Bundles and top-ups give you access to O2’s 4G network. With six bundles to choose from, O2 offers something for everyone. If you don’t use your data within a month it will be reset to zero, and you can always change to a smaller bundle the following month.

Calls & texts



Calls and texts work a similar way to data usage. Standard calls cost 35p a minute and text messages cost 12p each. Again, you receive bonus minutes and texts if you top up on the Big Bundle or Simply Pay As You Go tariffs. Topping up £10 will give you an additional 3,000 free texts to O2 mobiles, while topping up £15 or more will give 3,000 free texts and minutes to O2 mobiles.

O2 also has an International SIM, which is essentially the same as the SImply Pay As You Go SIM, but means calls from the UK to international numbers are as low as 1p a minute, with texts being 12p.

The Big Bundles come with bonus texts and minutes for any phone, regardless of network. Topping up £10 gives you 100 minutes and 1,000 texts and topping up £15 gives you 200 minutes and 2,000 texts, and topping up £20 or more gives you 400 minutes and 4,000 texts.

Extra features



Being an O2 customer gives you access to Priority and O2 wi-fi. Priority entitles you to offers and deals from UK highstreet and online shops, the ability to get your hands on tickets for events and concerts before they go on sale, and enter exclusive prize draws.

O2 wi-fi is a network of mobile wi-fi hotspots situated in thousands of bars, restaurants and shops throughout the country. Connecting your phone to these hotspots will give you a faster, more stable internet connection that doesn’t eat into your PAYG credit.

Unlike mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), which only trade online and over the phone, O2 has a presence on the high street. This means if you want to test a handset, or you have a technical query, you can speak to one of O2’s in-store Gurus.

Value for money



Two of the major draws of a pay-as-you-go SIM is its flexibility and that there’s no credit check involved in the sign-up process. If you’re an occasional phone user looking for something cheap and simple, O2’s range of PAYG handsets and SIMs are unfussy and reasonably priced compared to similar providers, like EE and Vodafone.

To get the best value out of O2’s PAYG SIMs, top up with an O2 bundle to receive the bonus minutes, texts and data on top of your regular credit.

All of O2’s PAYG SIMs include the O2 Priority and O2 wi-fi perks, so while it may get fewer texts, minutes and less data for your top-ups, there are features on top that add value.

Overall Rating


O2’s PAYG SIMs are ideal for those that want a flexible way to talk, text and browse the internet on their mobile phone without a contract or a credit check. According to Ofcom, O2’s coverage and data speed is among the best in the country, especially in built-up areas, and all SIMs have access to its 4G signal. There are cheaper PAYG tariffs available from the likes of Three and Giffgaff, but if you make use of O2’s bundles, O2 Priority and O2 wi-fi, there is a good deal to be had.

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