Why should I choose a pay as you go deal?
Pay as you go mobile phone deals allow people to stay in touch on their terms – there are no lengthy contracts, no unexpected bills as a result of going over a monthly allowance, people need only pay for what they use, and they're available without a credit check. As there's no contract to be signed, they're also ideal for those aged under 18.
The lack of contract also means that should we get fed up with a provider – say the coverage and service isn't good enough – or we simply spot a better PAYG deal elsewhere, it's easy to stop paying them and move to another network. And as the table above shows, the reputation pay as you go deals had for coming with cheaper phones isn't entirely justified, as it's entirely possible to get the newest handsets as well as those more suited for tighter budgets.
How much does it cost to get started?
Setting up a pay as you go mobile phone deal can seem expensive at first, because while contract customers can spread the cost of their shiny new mobile phone over at least 18 months, PAYG users must buy them outright in their first payment. The flashier or more recently released the handset, the more this will be – well into the hundreds.
That said, people who just need a phone for emergency purposes can find a pay as you go handset for as little as £5, and it's possible to get a basic but well regarded smartphone for about £40 – or even less for a refurbished model. Remember to factor in the initial credit top up too – essential for those first calls and texts, and for setting up future top ups. Depending on the provider, the minimum this will cost is between £10 and £20.
How do I stay in credit?
Once a pay as you go mobile is up and running, there are numerous ways to keep it topped up, and we can add credit pretty much wherever and whenever. Everyone should be able to call or text their network to authorise a top up payment, while those who also have an online account can visit the website to add a top up using a credit or debit card.
Vouchers are also still very common, and popular. They can be bought from plenty of shops ranging from newsagents to supermarkets and petrol stations, and for various amounts ranging from the small to the generous. The buyer then calls a free number to enter the code on the voucher, and the credit is added to their account.
When adding credit to a pay as you go mobile phone, it's worth starting small. For one thing, it gives new users an idea of how much and how often they need to add credit, or what they can do for a certain cost. It also protects against loading the account with credit only to find that it's expired. How long a top up is valid after being applied varies from provider to provider: it can range from 30 days to indefinitely.
How do bundles work?
Bundles can be a really good way of making a pay as you go deal work even harder for us. They're ideal for people who know from previous experience how and when they use their phones, because they come with strict allowances for texts, calls, and data use. There'll be no bill shocks, but it's worth having a bit of extra credit on the account to cover any extra costs.
Just as with a pay monthly mobile contract, the size of the allowance we get depends on how much we're willing to pay, but there are usually options that cover different kinds of mobile phone use. Say there are two different bundles available for the same price: one could come with a good number of minutes but little or no data, the other will have fewer minutes but a larger data allowance.
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