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Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go review

Virgin Mobile offers two 4G pay-as-you-go (PAYG) mobile options to suit different types of customers. Regular phone users can choose monthly rewards with each top-up, whereas more occasional users can use credit to pay for individual calls and texts.

Virgin Mobile also offers free messaging with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but on the downside does not allow tethering.

Cable.co.uk overall rating
3.5

Virgin offers widespread 3G and 4G coverage on the EE network, enabling you to talk, text and get online in most parts of the UK. SIMs are supplied free of charge and once you’ve topped up, you can choose between the Big and Starter tariffs. However, the standard call and text rates are pretty expensive, and there’s no option to tether.

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Coverage & data speed

Rating

4

Virgin Mobile is one of several mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the UK, which means it uses another network to operate its mobile service. In Virgin’s case, this network is EE. Through EE’s 4G service, Virgin covers most of the UK's homes and businesses, which means you can call, text and get online in most parts of the country. The Virgin Mobile coverage map shows if you can access the network where you are and whether you can get a 2G, 3G or 4G signal.

Virgin claims to offer download speeds of 25Mbps on its 4G service – that's faster than many home broadband services.

3G coverage
99%
4G coverage
97%
Average 3G speed*
384Kbps
Average 4G speed*
25Mbps
Call allowance
Bundles, or 40p per minute
Text allowance
Bundles, or 15p per text
Data allowance
Bundles, or £1 per day for 100MB
PAYG handsets
Yes
According to Ofcom
Prices from
3G coverage 99%
4G coverage 97%
Average 3G speed* 384Kbps
Average 4G speed* 25Mbps
Call allowance Bundles, or 40p per minute
Text allowance Bundles, or 15p per text
Data allowance Bundles, or £1 per day for 100MB
PAYG handsets Yes
Prices from Free
According to Ofcom
Info

Scroll horizontally for more information.

Data usage

Rating

2

If you have an unlocked 4G-ready phone, you can use the internet with Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go deals. You’ll need to add credit to your phone and there are broadly two tariffs to choose from. On the Big Starter tariff, you’ll be charged each time you go online in the UK at a rate of £1 per day for 100MB. Any use above 100MB will be charged at £1 per 100MB thereafter. The other option is the Big Data and Text tariff, which offers better value in the form of rewards. Each time you top up you’ll get a free bundle of texts and data to use the following month. With a £10 top-up you’ll get 3,000 texts and 1GB of data, while £15 gives you 3,000 texts and 3GB data. The reward texts and data are applied on the first day of the calendar month following your top up and last throughout the month but don’t roll over. One downside of Virgin Media is that it doesn’t permit tethering, which means you can’t use your smartphone’s internet connection to get other devices online. Finally, Virgin does not allow customers to use PAYG SIMs for peer-to-peer file sharing, instant messaging or making internet phone calls (eg Skype).

Calls & texts

Rating

3

As outlined above, you can pay as you go with the Starter tariff or get a bundle of rewards with a Big tariff. Big Talk gives unlimited minutes to landlines and 120 minutes to UK mobiles when you top up £10, with the same allowance plus 3,000 text messages if you top up £15. If you plan to use your phone regularly, it makes sense to go for Big Talk, because otherwise calls are charged at 40p per minute and texts cost 15p each. The rewards don’t come out of your credit either, so you’ll still be able to get online without a Big Data tariff. Calls to 0800, 0870 and 0845 numbers are charged at 41p per minute. If you’re a Virgin TV or broadband customer, you can make free calls to other Virgin mobile customers.

Extra features

Rating

2

First up, the free WiFi Buddy app allows customers to automatically connect to thousands of public wi-fi hotspots while out and about. There’s no log-in or password required as it connects automatically to help protect your data allowance and save money. Virgin also offers free access to public wi-fi in 150 London Underground stations across the capital, in ticket halls, walkways, escalators and platforms, but not in tunnels between stations. Anyone switching to Virgin from another provider gets 100 free any-network minutes if you keep your number. The bonus minutes last 45 days.

Virgin customers can also use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger for free, meaning you can save your data to use on other things. This is available on all Pay Monthly phones and SIMs with Virgin Mobile.

Value for money

Rating

2

Virgin offers a choice of 30 pay-as-you-go phones across a wide range of prices if you need a new handset to accompany your new plan. All new phones come pre-loaded with £10 credit. For standard pay-by-usage, Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go tariffs are rather expensive compared to those of other PAYG providers. Virgin’s 40p-per-minute call charge for example, is a big jump from 3p per minute at Three and 10p per minute at giffgaff. The Big tariff rewards offer much better value, but frustratingly there’s no option to get calls, texts and data in one bundle.

Overall Rating

3.5

Virgin Media isn’t the best value pay-as-you-go provider around, but it’s not the worst either. The Big tariffs offer the most for your money with rewards of free calls, texts or data each time you top up £10 or £15. It’s a strange omission not to be able to get calls, texts and data in one reward however, and be forced to choose between them. The standard call and text rates are also high compared to rival providers.

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