Giffgaff review: Simple plans, no commitments, easy win

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Giffgaff is a little different to most mobile providers. Think of it as a halfway house between a traditional pay monthly contract and a PAYG service with a monthly bundle. If you’re looking to avoid 12– or 24-month contracts, then it could be just what you’re looking for, and only iD Mobile offers a comparable service.

While you can buy a phone through Giffgaff, the cost isn’t rolled into your monthly tariff. Instead, you pay upfront or in separate monthly instalments, then splash out between £5 and £20 a month on a ‘goody bag’ of minutes, texts and data. Alternatively, you can skip the phone and have the goody bag as a SIM-only deal. The key benefit? There’s no ongoing contract and you’re free to cancel or change your service every month.

READ NEXT: We help you choose the best phone network

Giffgaff review: What do you get?

If you’re looking to spread your costs with a subsidised phone then Giffgaff probably isn’t your best option.

The prices for an iPhone XR or Samsung Galaxy S9are basically identical to what you’d pay at Amazon or another large online store, and the credit deals over 24 months aren’t particularly competitive either.

Factor in the cost of, say, a £10 goody bag and you could spend less on a comparable monthly deal elsewhere.

As a SIM-only plan, however, Giffgaff makes more sense. Prices start at just £6 for 500MB, 300 minutes and 500 texts then rise to £25 for an always-on data connection (subject to peak-time speed restrictions once you’ve burst through a 20GB monthly barrier).

READ NEXT: Our Tesco Mobile review

In direct GB per pound comparisons, Giffgaff competes with iD Mobile, Tesco and Three for 1GB to 4GB plans, although there is a pound or GB of data difference here and there.

Prices are pretty similar across the board at 8GB and 20GB, but GiffGaff is the cheapest network for All-You-Can-Eat data (just remember the 20GB restriction).

Monthly charge Data Texts Minutes
£6 Goody Bag £6 500MB 500 300
£8 Goody Bag £8 2GB Unlimited 500
£10 Goody Bag £10 3GB Unlimited Unlimited
£12 Goody Bag £12 4GB Unlimited Unlimited
£15 Goody Bag £15 8GB Unlimited Unlimited
£20 Goody Bag £20 20GB Unlimited Unlimited
£25 Goody Bag £25 Always On Unlimited Unlimited

Beyond the pricing, the real advantage lies in Giffgaff’s flexibility. Where other networks lock you into the same plan for 12 to 24 months, Giffgaff lets you switch goody bags from month to month.

Need more data while you’re going on a trip or working away from home? Just move to a more expensive bundle. Find you’re not really getting through your allowance? Just drop down to a smaller Goody Bag.

There’s something to be said for Giffgaff’s straightforward approach. There are no hidden price rises lurking and while there are some fair-use restrictions on the higher data plans, Giffgaff tells you what these are upfront, not in tiny type on page five of the terms and conditions.

On the downside, Giffgaff doesn’t go big on extras like free Wi-Fi hotspot access, so if that’s something you want to factor in, look elsewhere.

Order your free SIM from Giffgaff now

Giffgaff review: Coverage and Connection Speeds

Like Tesco Mobile, Giffgaff is a virtual network running on top of O2’s network. According to the latest RootMetrics scores (second half, 2018) O2 falls behind EE, Vodafone and Three for performance across the UK, coming fourth out of the big four networks for data speeds, although performance has improved over the last six months.

The network is stronger in Northern Ireland, however, where it rivals EE for overall performance, reliability, call performance and text speeds. This makes Giffgaff a good option if you live there.

RootMetrics also reports that O2 has improved its 4G coverage. There aren’t so many areas where you’re stuck with a 2G/3G signal or 3G instead of 4G/LTE, with just a few left in Scotland and the north of England.

EEis a safer bet in remote or rural areas, but with 99% outdoor 4G coverage, there’s no reason for most UK residents to avoid Giffgaff. What’s more, the network could see further improvements thanks to O2’s adoption of new 4G bandwidth, with 5G services rolling out later this year.

Giffgaff has yet to make any statement on when it expects to offer its own 5G plans.

Giffgaff review: Roaming

Like all UK networks, virtual or not, Giffgaff no longer charges you to use your calls, text and data allowance within the EU.

Better still, charges don’t reach horrifying levels in many countries outside the EU. In the US and Australia, for example, calls come in at £1 a minute to make or receive, texts are 30p to send and free to receive, while data costs a very reasonable 20p per MB.

Given that some other networks charge £5 per MB, that makes Giffgaff a good option if you’re travelling outside the EU. You just need to make sure that you top up your account with credit either before you go or while you’re out there.

Giffgaff review: Other services and spending caps

Because Giffgaff doesn’t work like a normal monthly service, there’s no option to set a spending cap as such. Instead, you can set up a plan to recur automatically, and should you run through your goody bag allowance you have the option of starting your next plan early.

This will mean losing any remaining calls or texts if, say, you need more data, but the alternative is a charge of 2p per MB of data or paying standard rates for any texts and calls.

If your plan isn’t set to recur, PAYG rates apply and you’ll need to top-up. This is a good option if you want to cap usage and avoid additional spending, but the downside is that, should you run out of anything, you’re effectively working with a PAYG phone.

Like most UK networks, Giffgaff now accepts tethering as acceptable use. You’re free to connect your laptop or tablet to your phone as a mobile hotspot and surf until your data allowance runs dry.

Giffgaff review: Customer satisfaction

Giffgaff rivals Three and Tesco Mobile for customer satisfaction, with impressive results in recent research from both Ofcom and Which? Giffgaff came away with the highest customer satisfaction score in Ofcom’s last mobile telecoms survey and the lowest number of customer complaints.

What’s more, 60% of those surveyed who had complained were satisfied with the way their complaint was handled, beating all the other networks on this score.

Giffgaff review: Verdict

Giffgaff isn’t the fastest or cheapest network, but it’s a strong option if you value flexibility more than performance – and particularly if you don’t want to be tied into an annual contract.

It’s especially good if you don’t usually need a lot of call time or data but want the option to switch to a more expensive, higher usage plan as and when you need one.

Giffgaff’s straightforward pricing and approach to international roaming also wins it points, even if the very similar iDMobile sometimes wins on value. In the end, though, Giffgaff’s own customers swing the verdict Giffgaff’s way.

When the network’s customers are this happy, it must be doing something right.

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