Monthly, pre-pay, pay-as-you-go, PAYG, credits, top-ups, add-ons, boosters?

After surveying UK mobile phone web sites it would be easy to conclude they have conspired to invent as baffling an array of options and terminology as possible, to prevent you from doing the one thing you want to do - to compare them. So here's our mini-guide through this maze of mobile marketing madness. Your main decision is whether to commit to a long-term (usually 2-year) monthly pre-pay contract, or to take the less committed pay-as-you-go (PAYG) route.


  • PAYG is cheaper but less straightforward (if not downright confusing). There are three stages to PAYG. Firstly, you buy a phone with a PAYG SIM. Secondly, you pay money into the phone, usually known as 'topping-up' with 'credit'. This is easy to do online using a credit or debit card. Thirdly, you use this credit to buy bundles of voice minutes (not required by MaxMon), text messages or MB of data. These bundles have lots of different names, there are lots of them and they vary considerably between mobile providers.
  • Look for PAYG bundles that include enough data or texts to satisfy MaxMon's data requirements. For example, a £10 PAYG bundle might include 100 minutes of voice calls (not required), 3000 texts and 500MB of data, but expire in 30 days. You don't want to use more than the bundle's allowance of texts or data, as the subsequent per-text or per-MB price will quickly gobble up any remaining credit. So select a PAYG bundle with a healthy cushion.
  • Bizarrely, most PAYG plans also add bonus data or text allowances when you top-up, without consuming the added credit. This is the key to very low cost PAYG mobile data!
  • For more information see Q: Should I go monthly or PAYG?


  • Monthly contracts are more straightforward but more expensive. Look for the lowest cost monthly plan that includes enough texts or data to satisfy MaxMon's data requirements. For example, a typical UK £10/month plan might include a monthly allowance of 50 minutes of voice calls (not required by MaxMon), 500 texts and 250MB of data, which is more than enough. You don't want to use more than the plan's monthly allowance of texts or data, as there will then be an eye watering per-text or per-MB price! So select a plan with a healthy cushion.
  • A benefit of a monthly contract is that the low-cost Android phones we recommend are included in the monthly price (and you may get a higher-end phone than is available on PAYG).

Return to Buying an Android phone.