If you often switch phones, you’ll probably have ended up with a drawer full of old SIM cards. Some of these may have credit on them. We recently conducted a SIM card audit in our Leeds office and found more than £30 of unused credit on various cards.
Mobile phone networks often bundle pay as you go phones with a compulsory credit purchase. The networks know that people buy PAYG handsets with the intention of unlocking them and using them on another network; naturally, the networks want to ensure they make something from the transaction before that happens.
So how do you make the best use of that credit? Simple: reclaim it, spend it or donate it. Here are 5 ways to do that.
1. o2 Charge Your Mobile: Google Play, iTunes, and More
Charge Your Mobile allows o2 customers to pay for music, apps, and ebooks using their PAYG balance. This also works if you have an o2 Pay Monthly account.
The Charge Your Mobile service works with an impressive array of services. You can use o2 credit to buy content from Google Play, iTunes, the Microsoft Store, and other digital content providers.
You’ll find usage instructions on the Charge Your Mobile homepage.
2. Transfer Your Credit
No UK mobile operator offers cash refunds for credit that’s already been purchased. But you may be able to transfer your credit to another account with the same operator.
We’ve done this with EE when we accidentally topped up a SIM that was lost. EE customer service will also transfer credit if you purchase a new PAYG SIM card from them, but you have credit on an old card that you will no longer need. This transfer may be conditional on deactivating the old SIM once the transfer is done.
Some networks will add your PAYG balance as a credit on your first contract bill. Three advertises this service on its website.
Policies change all the time, so it’s best to call your provider directly and ask them. Remember: if you want to transfer PAYG credit to a contract, they may require that you buy the contract directly from them, so ask before making the purchase.
3. Spend Credit On Games
Facebook allows O2, EE, Three, Vodafone, and Virgin Mobile customers to pay for in-game items using mobile credit. When you pay for an item, add a new payment method, and select Mobile Phone. This option isn’t available for all games, and Facebook doesn’t accept mobile phone credit for other services yet.
You can also use mobile credit to pay for Riot Points in League of Legends, or purchase games for PlayStation 4. Note that SEN wallet purchases are limited to £30 a day, or the limit set by your mobile provider, if it’s lower.
4. Load a gambling account
If you’re over 18, you can sign up for a betting or gaming account, and then load your phone credit onto that. AndroidSlots has put together a list of betting and gaming websites that accept deposits by phone.
5. Look for a Payforit Vendor
Payforit is a service run by major UK mobile networks, and it allows users to pay for premium content on their phones. This includes adult content, gambling sites (including MobileWins), and recurring subscriptions.
This option is best used with caution. Some users have reported mysterious recurring charges from Payforit, which are usually caused by premium rate texts, so be sure that you want to sign up before you click any subscription links.
6. Donate to Charity by Text
You can donate to many UK charities by sending a simple text message. The JustGiving website explains how this works.
You don’t have to pay for the text, and you can choose an amount between £1 and £10 each time you donate.
To donate, you need the VIC code for the charity, and the number. The Cancer Research UK Text to Donate page explains the donation process in more detail. Most major charities have a text donation number.
7. Pay for Spotify Premium or Family
Spotify allows you to purchase a monthly Premium subscription using the balance on a PAYG account. If you’re on a contract, the money will be added to your monthly bill.
Payment by mobile is available on EE, Vodafone, O2, and 3. The monthly subscription is £9.99, or you can opt for the Family subscription for £14.99. The service will continue to bill you monthly until you cancel, or your SIM card runs out of credit.
If you already pay for Spotify, you’ll need to revert to a Free plan, and then set up your subscription again.
Any More Ideas?
Short of selling your SIM card on an auction site, these are the five best solutions we found if you need to use up your PAYG SIM credit. Our favourite option is charity donation: it’s hassle-free and far better than letting your unused PAYG credit go to waste.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2013. It was completely rewritten in February 2017 to bring it up to date.
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