For all the convenience and utility mobile phones provide, they don’t come cheap. Between phone costs and monthly service plans, you could spend more than £800 per year with ease.
Rates in recent years are on a downward trend. If you haven’t checked out the competition in the past few months—or don’t have service at all—there’s a good chance you can save money with the right choice.
We’ve researched the best prepaid mobile plans available in 2018 to bring you this guide. Should you need a little more or less than our picks provide, you’ll find similar deals sticking to the same network we recommend.
If you’re looking to compare options yourself or don’t see an choice that fits your needs, be sure to check our plan comparison tool. We scour the major network sites for the best deals and recent updates to make sure that the tool is always up-to-date and ready to help!
Let’s get started!
Choosing the best phone plan for your needs is tricky. Recommending them even more so. How I use my phone might not match up with how you use yours. We feel each of the plans listed here offer great value, but be sure that the specific features meet your needs.
We didn’t feel it was fair—or accurate—to break things up into price tiers or a single factor, such as bandwidth amounts. Instead, we’ve filtered through the best plans available and made suggestions based on common ways people use their phones.
From plans that let you use your phone like a mini-computer and photography studio or to budget-friendly basics with a handful of voice minutes for emergencies, we’ve got you covered!
Now on to the picks!
Best for Heavy Data Users and Media Lovers
Whether you get tons of email or spend lots of time on the road where Wi-Fi isn’t easy to find, you need a plan that won’t make you scream when you go to top-off for the month.
Ideal plan features include: High data caps, fast data speeds and low overage fees
Our pick for this category goes to Three. Offering 30GB of data, 3,000 minutes and 3,000 texts for £25 a month, their plan offers one of the largest data bundle caps available in the country. They also offer an "All-You-Can-Eat" PAYG bundle for $35 with no data caps. However, tethering is not included. If you're a heavy mobile data user, but don't need to use your phone's data to get online with your tablet or laptop, this might be worth the extra cost.
NOTE: If the speed of your data isn’t a concern, you can save more by going with giffgaff’s Goodybag . For £20 per month, you get unlimited talk, text and data. The first 9GB of data is at 4G speeds. Afterward, speeds drop to384kbps between 8AM and midnight.
While this isn’t suitable to stream movies or perform high-bandwidth tasks, it’s enough for basic browsing, email checking and social media. Music streaming or podcasts will depend on the quality of your streaming service.
Best for Travellers
Whether for work or play, you’re often away from home. You need a plan that will let you keep in touch with family and friends regardless of where you’re located today, tomorrow or next month.
Ideal plan features include: Unlocked phones, free or low-fee roaming
Roaming has been a hot topic for mobile networks in the UK in recent years. Thanks to recent regulations, roaming within the EU costs nothing more than using your phone at home.
This means if a plan is a good fit for your normal needs, it's likely a good fit for travel throughout the EU as well.
If you're planning to travel to the US, Australia, France, Spain, Brazil and more than 49 other popular destinations, Three's PAYG bundles are the best deal around.
Depending on your bundle, you'll enjoy up to 12GB of roaming data, 3000 texts and 3000 using your existing allotment at no extra charge.
Best for Those Calling Abroad
Keeping in touch with Uncle Anton is great until the tariff rolls in. You’ve used VoIP apps or calling cards, but they’re a pain. You need a plan that won’t leave you counting minutes while working on projects with work colleagues abroad or keeping in touch with family abroad.
Ideal plan features include: Affordable international calling with generous allotments
While they don’t offer the lowest rates to every country, Lebara beats the rates of most networks to many of the popular calling destinations around the world. Their £15 All in One 4 Bundle includes unlimited UK minutes, unlimited international calling to 42 countries, 1000 UK texts and 5GB of data for £15 per month. For countries not covered in the unlimited calling, you’ll enjoy some of the lowest per-minute rates available from a UK network.
Best for Emergency Use
You rarely pick up your mobile phone, but you need to know it’s there for you if you need it. A monthly plan seems like a waste, but you want to avoid the pitfalls of pay-as-you-go.
Ideal plan features include: No expiration on top-ups or access, low rates and good coverage
By far, the most flexible and affordable network for emergency mobile use is ASDA Mobile. As long as you top up once every 270 days, and place a call at least once every 180 days, you won’t have to worry about your top-up’s expiring. Better still, if you top up by phone, you can add as little as £1 to your account.
When it comes time to use your credits, you’ll enjoy 8p per minute calls, 4p texts and 5p for each MB of data used. All on the EE network for snappy 4G speeds and excellent coverage.
Best for Casual Use
You might play the occasional game or talk with friends. You’re not a heavy phone user. You prefer your TV shows on your TV and your music on discs or downloads. You want the convenience of a mobile phone when you want it, but it’s rare.
Ideal plan features include: Affordable rates, no worries about expiration, basic features
Offering 2GB of data, 600 minutes and unlimited texts for only £10, ASDA Mobile is our pick for best UK network for casual mobile users in 2017. They lease their coverage from EE , so you should get a great signal in most areas.
Best for Those with Regular Wi-Fi Access
You don’t understand all the fuss about mobile data. With the popularity of Wi-Fi connections, there’s little time when you don’t have a high-speed connection in range. If you could, you’d just Wi-Fi for your calls, but VoIP apps are annoying.
Ideal plan features include: Wi-Fi calling and messaging
Wi-Fi calling is only just catching on with many major networks. However, our recommendation built their entire service around maximising Wi-Fi usage.
FreedomPop offers Wi-Fi based mobile calling and messaging at affordable rates. Their starter plan is free. Trying it out only costs the price of a SIM.
We recommend their mid-tier plan . For £8.99 per month, you’ll get 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 1GB of data. Add-ons are also available if you need to customise your plan features.
What We Considered When Choosing Plans
A plan had to meet a few requirements to make our list. While we know not every factor matters to everyone, we thought these three things would offer value to anyone looking for a phone plan:
A Quick Note About Networks
You might not recognize some of our network picks. While there was a time when network choice was important and the experience you’d get differed drastically between choices, these days the deciding factors are cost and coverage.
Many of today’s smaller networks lease portions of their coverage area from the major networks. This means you get a better price on service without sacrificing the reliability, coverage and speed of a major network. For once, it’s a situation where getting more for less is a genuine deal!
If you don’t recognise a network listed in this piece, we offer comprehensive network summaries on our site! From plan breakdowns to reviews from other readers, you can research any names you don’t recognize. See how they stack up to your current network or those you’re considering in just a few clicks!
There you have it! A prepaid tariff to fit any need or intended use. We do our best to keep our guides up-to-date with the latest information. But, with phone plans, you never know when a network will change things.
If you notice something isn’t accurate in the guide, drop us a line in the comments below. If we helped you find the perfect phone plan for your needs, we’d love to hear about that too!
P.S. The phone selection at most prepaid networks isn’t ideal. Unlocked phones offer greater flexibility in choosing your network and—with newer models—are often more feature packed than the basic carrier offerings. Not sure what to look for? Check out our mobile phone summaries . We break down the highlights—and lowlights—of the best phones around and even offer links to where you can find the best prices!