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Tesco Mobile pay-as-you-go review

With the Tesco Mobile pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariff, you pay for calls, text messages, and mobile internet as and when required. Your PAYG credit lasts until it’s used up – it doesn't automatically expire. This makes Tesco PAYG a more flexible option than the provider’s SIM-only plans, which come with set bundles that you have to use or lose within 30 days.

Several packages of texts, minutes and data are available that offer better value for money than PAYG for those who use their phone more often. Whenever you add credit you will earn Clubcard points for spending in Tesco stores and online.

Cable.co.uk overall rating
2.8

Tesco Mobile is not as cheap as some providers, but the bundles do offer real flexibility. All plans are 4G, and coverage reaches around 97% of UK homes. The bundles automatically renew after 30 days, which may cause difficulties. Several pay-as-you-go handsets are available.

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Coverage & data speed

Rating

3

Tesco Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). This means Tesco does not have its own network and instead uses O2’s to carry its calls, texts, and mobile data. This means Tesco Mobile has coverage for 98% of UK homes and businesses with 3G, and coverage for 97% with 4G. Both 3G and 4G let you browse the internet on your smartphone, but of the two, 4G provides a faster connection.

Your data speed will affect how long it takes pages to load when browsing the internet on your phone. It will affect how long it takes apps to download, and it will determine the quality of any videos you watch online through services like YouTube. Tesco Mobile doesn’t give an official estimate of the speed you should expect, but you can get an idea by looking at O2’s average download speed, which is 5Mbps on 3G, and 18Mbps on 4G.

3G coverage
98%
4G coverage
97%
Average 3G speed*
5Mbps
Average 4G speed*
18Mbps
Call allowance
Bundles, or; 25p per minute
Text allowance
Bundles, or; 10p per text
Data allowance
Bundles, or; 10p per MB
PAYG handsets
Yes
According to Ofcom
Prices from
3G coverage 98%
4G coverage 97%
Average 3G speed* 5Mbps
Average 4G speed* 18Mbps
Call allowance Bundles, or; 25p per minute
Text allowance Bundles, or; 10p per text
Data allowance Bundles, or; 10p per MB
PAYG handsets Yes
Prices from Free
According to Ofcom
Info

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Data usage

Rating

3

You’re charged 10p for every megabyte (MB) of mobile data you use on the standard Tesco Mobile tariff. This can quickly become expensive. To get around this, several data bundles are available. These are tailored for regular mobile internet browsing; prices start at £5 for 500MB of data, and rise up to £20 for 8GB of data. If you burn through all the data in a bundle you can purchase another; you don’t have to wait until the month’s end to do so. All bundles automatically renew once 30 days have passed.

To purchase one, text the data amount you wish to buy (such as 1GB or 500MB) to 28948 from your Tesco Mobile phone. Text STOPDATA to the same number if you wish to cancel your bundle.

Calls & texts

Rating

3

Calls to UK landlines and mobiles cost 25p per minute. Texts cost 10p each. To send a picture message you’ll be charged 25p. Compared to some providers, such as Three or giffgaff, this is expensive.

If you plan on making a significant amount of calls or sending hundreds of text messages, you can purchase a Tesco Mobile call or text bundle. There’s a choice of two.

The call bundle comes with 150 inclusive minutes, and costs £5. This lowers the per minute cost of making a call from 25p to 3p. To get it, text VOICE150 to 28948 from your Tesco Mobile phone.

The text bundle comes with 5,000 inclusive text messages. It costs £5, and lowers the cost per text from 10p to 0.01p. You can get it by texting 5000TEXTS to 28948.

Both of these bundles will automatically renew after 30 days, unless you cancel them. If you want to add both, you can; but you can’t add two of the same (so you can’t have two call bundles on the go at once, for instance).

Extra features

Rating

3

You’ll receive Tesco Clubcard points for every £1 of credit you add to your pay-as-you-go plan. These points can be used to get money off groceries and products in Tesco supermarkets, or for holidays, days out, or for meals at certain restaurants. You need to register your pay-as-you-go SIM to gain Clubcard points.

Another extra feature is the Triple Credit tariff. This functions in a similar way to a bundle. If you don’t want to add a calls, texts, or data bundle (such as those described in the preceding sections), you can register for the Triple Credit tariff instead. This triples your credit when you top up. If you top up £20, for instance, you’ll receive £60 of credit for your minutes, texts, and mobile data. This extra credit lasts 30 days before expiring. However, bear in mind that calls, texts and data will be charged at standard Tesco Mobile PAYG rates.

Tesco also offers a unique approach to helping customers who have run out of credit unexpectedly. You can borrow a pound of credit from a friend, or lend them a pound, if you both sign up to Tesco Mobile's Ping Me a Pound service.

Value for money

Rating

2

Tesco Mobile isn’t as cheap as some providers. Its charges for calls per minute are higher than many other mobile providers, and the 10p per MB cost for mobile data will drain your allowance quickly if you’re a regular internet user.

However, the wide variety of bundles means there’s a degree of flexibility to what you’re paying for. If you want cheap calls one month, and cheap internet data the next, it’s quite possible for this to be arranged. But these bundles, while useful, do carry a small degree of risk. If you fail to cancel them, they automatically start again the next month, drawing from your credit. This means a certain amount of vigilance is required to make the most of your pay-as-you-go plan.

There are also several Tesco Mobile pay-as-you-go phones available. You have to buy these handsets outright – you can’t pay monthly as you can with a standard mobile contract.

Overall Rating

2.8

Tesco Mobile is firmly in the middle of the road when it comes to pay-as-you-go plans, and there are cheaper options available elsewhere. However, the flexibility of the bundles, and the advantage of Clubcard points for regular Tesco shoppers means these plans are certain to appeal to some.

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