Best free SIM card deals

19th December 2023

Free SIM Cards

You don’t have to spend money to get a SIM card. Many networks will give them away free, particularly on Pay As You Go plans, but not all free SIM card deals are equal.

With that in mind we’ve created this guide to the best free SIM card deals, factoring in any extras you get, the cost to use the card and the network they’re on.

Read on below for an overview of all the best options.

Which networks offer free SIM card deals?

Three, Vodafone, EE, Tesco Mobile, Asda Mobile, Giffgaff, Lebara, VOXI, and Lyca Mobile all offer free SIM cards. Note that in the case of EE you will have to select a paid pack when you order the card, but you won’t have to actually pay for the pack until your SIM card arrives and is activated. So receiving the SIM card is free. iD Mobile, O2, and 1pMobile also offer Pay As You Go services, but don’t currently seem to supply free SIM cards (you have to top up or buy a pack when you order).

So there are lots of options, but they all have different rates, as well as other pros and cons.

What should I look for when choosing a free SIM card deal?

The main thing to look for when choosing a free SIM deal is how much you’re likely to end up spending once you’ve got the SIM. Because while the SIM card itself might be free, using it won’t be. You’re going to want to either Pay As You Go (with rates varying from network to network), or buy a pack, giving you an allowance of minutes, texts and data, which typically lasts 30 days.

It’s also worth considering whether you can tether, where you can roam at no extra cost, and what if any other extras the network has.

You might want to consider coverage too, though there’s not a whole lot to choose at this point – all of the UK networks have at least 99% coverage with 4G. However, Three, Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, VOXI, Asda, Lebara, Lyca Mobile, and Giffgaff additionally offer free SIM card plans with 5G (many other networks also have 5G coverage, but don’t offer it on free SIM plans at the time of writing).

5G coverage is more variable, but it’s increasing at a rapid rate in any case.

More important than overall coverage though is making sure they have coverage where you need it, e.g. at your home and work. You can get an idea of this from their coverage maps, but these don’t account for buildings and other obstacles, so to be sure you’ll just have to try using their network. The good news there is that with a free SIM card deal you don’t necessarily need to spend anything to do that.

Speed is another possible consideration. On that front, EE has the lead on 4G according to most tests, along with 1pMobile and other networks which use its infrastructure. According to a September 2023 Opensignal report, Three is the second fastest of the main networks when using a combination of 5G, 4G, and 3G, but it’s very closely followed by Vodafone.

Of course, opt for a 5G plan and you’ll get even higher speeds where there’s 5G coverage. The same report as above puts Three in the lead for average 5G download speeds, followed by Vodafone, with EE third and O2 last. But any network should generally be fast enough for anything you’ll want to do on mobile.

Which networks have the best value free SIM card deals?

1pMobile would be the big winner here, as it offers very low Pay As You Go rates of just 1p per minute, 1p per text and 1p per megabyte of data. But you seemingly need to top up straight away to get a SIM card on this network, so it’s cheap but not free.

Asda Mobile is the cheapest of those with actual free SIM cards, charging 15p per minute, 10p per text and 10p per megabyte of data.

Vodafone is also worth highlighting for its unusual approach, which makes it expensive for very light users but cheap if you use a lot of minutes and texts, as you pay £1 per day for unlimited minutes and texts, plus 50MB of data – with no charge on days where you don’t use these things.

Tesco Mobile also has an unusual but potentially good approach, as while it charges a not-great 25p per minute, 10p per text and 10p per megabyte, if you switch to a ‘triple credit’ plan it will also triple your credit once a month when you top up by £10, £15 or £20.

Of course, that’s only good if you want to Pay As You Go. You can often save more in the long run by opting for a 30-day bundle or pack with your free SIM card.

In that case you might want to consider Three, as it both has competitive rates (with for example £10 getting you 10GB of data, unlimited minutes, and unlimited texts), and its plans go right up to offering unlimited data.

Other good value choices for packs include Giffgaff, Asda Mobile, Lebara, VOXI, and Lyca Mobile.

Which networks have the best extras?

The best extras are somewhat subjective, but there are some clear highlights. For example, Three lets you roam for free in 71 destinations, including some outside Europe, whereas most networks limit you to just free EU roaming on Pay As You Go.

Vodafone meanwhile lets you roll over unused data from one month to the next on many Pay As You Go plans, which is handy if you use an inconsistent amount of data each month. In fact, it goes one better and also lets you roll over unused minutes and texts.

Tesco Mobile is also worth highlighting, as it lets you collect Clubcard points when you top up.

Which networks and plans are the best overall when getting a free SIM card?

Three is our top pick here if you’re opting to Pay As You Go. Once you’ve got your free SIM card you can enjoy low rates, plus 5G support and extensive roaming.

But Vodafone gets an honourable mention, as its approach to Pay As You Go makes it a strong choice if you use a lot of minutes, texts and data each day. Asda Mobile is also worth a look based on its low rates, and Tesco Mobile based on its triple credit offer.

If you’re looking to grab a plan or bundle then Three still arguably comes out on top, thanks to competitive prices, high data limits and, again, its selection of extras. But Vodafone’s generous roll over feature is good too, while Giffgaff, Asda Mobile, Lebara, VOXI, and Lyca Mobile all have generally low bundle prices.

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