PAYG phones

I used to carry a couple of simple phones with different providers so I would have a better chance of self-spotting. As I hardly ever use these (or my iPhone) otherwise I am rather upset to find that the only top-ups I can get appear to be immediately transferred to a Bundle (or whatever other providers call them) which appears to last for 30 days. At this point a further Bundle must be bought in order to carry on using the phone. I don’t mind this if on a 2 week SOTA holiday but it seems a bit of a rip-off if I wish to use the phone only once or twice during the Bundle’s life. The same situation seems to apply to O2, EE and Vodaphone.

Has anyone a solution to this? (Or have I misunderstood the terms offered?)


I use GifGaf, the “credit” on the phone does not expire.

If you get a SIM via a current customer then both you and the current customer get a £5 bonus.

so let me know if you want a SIM sent to you.

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Hi Rod,

Here’s another recommendation for 1p Mobile. You can either top up set amounts, or spend £30 which gives you the £30 credit of course but importantly, keeps the SIM live for a full year.

If you use this link, you’ll get £5 free when you join (and I’ll get the same for referring you :wink: ):

1pMobile PAYG SIM Card - 1p a Minute, 1p a Text, 1p a MB

Having tried using Asda Mobile, I’d advise not bothering with them. Their online top-up portal is very unreliable. I need a text-only SIM for tracking a vehicle, so tried Asda as it’s £4 per month. I’ve had issues with topping up ever since, so have ported the number across to 1p Mobile now.

The 1p Mobile SIM works abroad as well, so handy if travelling in Europe. I imagine others offer the same, but it’s worth checking. The cheapest Vodafone SIM deal didn’t include roaming when I checked last month; if UK only is your thing, then Voda offer a £5 per month option.


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Hi Rod,
Similar situation in Germany - the Network owners want you on their 24-month contracts but if you go to the smaller companies who on-sell the large network under their own name - these are the people who will let you put call/data credit on a Pre-Paid SIM and not nullify it at the end of a month or in some cases 28 days.
Shop around.
Be careful if you are thinking of travelling to Europe as roaming in the EU on a UK SIM (or vice-versa) can be very expensive (especially for Internet connectivity) since BREXIT.
73 Ed.

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Hi Rod

I have had exactly the same experience with Vodafone.

You need to transfer to their Pay-As-You-Go-One tariff and make the minimum top-up of £5.
This is valid for 6 months, your only obligation is to make one chargable call/text during that 6 month period.
It then continues for another 6 months, and so on.

The cost of that call is £1, but that is for the whole day regardless of how many calls/texts you make in that day.
So at some point in the far future you will need to make a further top-up (maybe in two and half years time!)

But they don’t make it easy for you. The option to transfer is way down in their menu structure.
You will be offered all sorts of incentives in the way of Bundles, BVBs (Big-Value-Bundles) and other crap.
These all require a top-up every month regardless of how much credit you have used.

I assume other providers have similar tariff.

Hope this makes sense.


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IIRC existing PAYG deals continue but the networks don’t make it easy to find the info.

With EE you can get EE PAYG SIM new and text STOP PACK before ever topping up to revert to original PAYG. This was Autumn 2020 so they may have cancelled it.

Three do an old-school PAYG SIM still. 10p/min, 10p/text. 5p/MB. They have no roaming charges still. Their bundled PAYG SIMs are good deals for people wanting cheap roaming but you cannot tether a device for cheap data, only use the device the SIM is fitted to.

EDIT: you can now tether on PAYG bundled roaming but capped at 15GB. This is new since I last dealt with them in Aug 2019.

Vodaphone PAYG bundles can expire and the PAYG rates become £1/day when you use the phone for unlimited mins/texts and 50MB data. If you don’t use the phone you don’t pay.

I couldn’t find anything for O2 on their website.

I only knew of this having been doing some research as it’s likely I’ll change provider when the current deal lockin I have expires this August.

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HI Rod

I went for 1p mobile for my backup phone - got a free SIM about 2 months ago and put £15 on it from my card. Used it a few times in Wales last month for SOTA spotting when Vodafone had no network coverage - but 1 p mobile (EE network) did. The £15 should last me a while for occasional use. I keep the phone in Airplane mode in the house and charge it up once a week. I only turn it on and carry it when I am out doing an activation.

73 Phil

PS I also got the £5 free when I signed up using a voucher code

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GiffGaff runs on the O2 network, so maybe they don’t see the need to run their own version


What a very helpful response :smiley:
Thank you all. Getting two distinct approaches in the first two replies led me to the two obvious contenders - and I then spent quite a lot of time reading about them. I particularly valued the fact that one was EE based and the other O2 based as these are the two networks we already use.

Colin, G8TMV - thank you for suggesting GifGaf - I will PM you on this kind offer of a way of by-passing the O2 “theft” of my top-ups. (EDIT here as I got the network links mixed up.) (I think they have had more than £40 off me in the past 18 months with very little in return.)

Ray, GM7NZI and Simon, G7WKX - thank you both for pointing me at 1pMobile. I would have dismissed it as some sort of scam but with two (now three) recommendations it has to be a good alternative to EE, especially for the phone that stays in the car and is almost never used.

Ed, DD5LP - thanks for the warning on Europe. If we do go there it will not be for SOTA, or not much as M6BWA gets excluded, and I will research when necessary.

Nick, G8VNW - I am still considering the Vodaphone £1 charge for retaining the service for 6 months - 15p per month is very reasonable compared with the others, but I think I have missed a trick with EE and

thank Andy, MM0FMF, for the idea of the STOP PACK message.

Also thanks to Phil, G4OBK - for confirming the value of 1pMobile.

I think the first one to go is the old iPhone which has an EE SIM and gives me the message “SIM not provisioned”. What a nice old-fashioned euphemism for “Pay us yet another £10 for doing nothing.”

I will report here if anything interesting turns up as I check the existing credit balances and change SIMs as necessary.
73 all,