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28 August 201333 Comments by Jon M

PAYG showdown: 321 vs Giffgaff

About a month ago we covered Three Mobile’s new groundbreaking 321 tariff. They’ve really stepped up their game by bringing out what are easily the UK’s cheapest PAYG rates ever.

Previously, calls used to cost 26p per minute but now you’ll only have to pay a tiny 3p. Texts were also slashed from 11p each down to just 2p each. And data went down the most dramatically from 11p/MB to just 1p/MB.

Unsurprisingly, industry experts and consumers alike have been praising Three’s bold move. This is really set to shake up the mobile market and hopefully will make the existing big players rethink whether they can continue to rip off the British public.

However, although these are easily the best rates currently available, we had to ask whether it’s really the cheapest way to use your phone. Longtime readers are aware that our main mission is to save you, the user, as much cash as possible.

While you won’t do better on standard PAYG, lots of PAYG operators have been offering rolling monthly bundles recently which can offer phenomenal value for money. How much are Three really upping the ante when compared to these deals? In this article, we take a look at the biggest competitor to Three’s new 321 tariff, Giffgaff.

Giffgaff charges quite a bit more than Three on their standard PAYG with calls coming in at 10p/minute and texts costing a comparatively-pricey 8p each. Data is also 1p/MB but only if you use 20 MB per day – after that it explodes to an exorbitant 20p per MB However, they also offer a variety of monthly goodybags ranging from just £5 to £20.


The showdown

Hokey Cokey goodybag

Let’s start off with the cheapest, the £5 Hokey Cokey goodybag. this comes with 60 included minutes, 300 texts and 20MB of mobile data.

On 321, this would set you back a total of £8. And also bear in mind that you also get additional free minutes on the Hokey Cokey goodybag for every minute someone calls you and to all other Giffgaff customers.

Giffgaff wins



Next is the £7.50 goodybag which offers you 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 250 MB of data.

Even if we ignore the unlimited texts, this would cost more on 321 coming in at £8.50 for the same usage. If you use just 150 texts a month it would be £11.50 and if you went up to 300 a month your costs would be a whole £7 more at £14.50.

Giffgaff wins



Probably Giffgaff’s most popular goodybag is the £10 goodybag coming with a massive 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of tetherable data.

Taking an extreme example, if you only used half the allowances and didn’t send a single text you’d still have to pay more on 321 with your cost being £12.62 instead of £10. And if you just made 500 minutes of calls and didn’t use any data or SMS you’d have to pay £15 on Three instead. It gets worse – if you use up your full 500 minute and 1GB allowance as well as send about 150 texts, the price on 321 would be over 300% that of Giffgaff coming in at a massive £31.24.

Giffgaff wins



The next option is the £12 goodybag which offers 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data.

Again, 321 costs a lot more even if you only use a fraction of your allowance. For example, making 150 minutes of calls, 200 texts and using half a gig of data would be £13.62 on Three compared to £12 on Giffgaff. If you start to make the most of those unlimited allowances and still only make 150 minutes of calls but with 1.5 GB of mobile internet and 400 texts, it’s more than twice as much at £27.86 on 321.

Giffgaff wins



The £15 goodybag on Giffgaff gives you 400 minutes as well as the same unlimited texts and data.

Unsurprisingly, this also seems to beat the 321 tariff under reasonable usage conditions. If you manage to get through 300 of your minutes and send 300 texts as well as use half a GB of your data allowance you’ll still pay £15 on Giffgaff but over £20 on Three. If you use the full allowance of 400 minutes as well as send 300 texts and use 1GB of data, your costs on 321 would be almost twice as much as on Giffgaff!

However, to be fair we should also mention Three’s monthly bundle on PAYG which also costs £15. This offers 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB of data. So while it’s not as good value as Giffgaff, it’s certainly a better choice than the 321 tariff if you have this level of usage. In fact, if you used these full amounts on 321, it would set you back a massive £79.24!

Giffgaff and Three draw



Finally, we’ve got the £20 goodybag which still comes with unlimited texts and data as well as a massive 1200 minutes.

Even if you completely ignored your unlimited texts and internet access and just made 700 minutes of calls, it would still be more expensive to choose 321 over Giffgaff. And if you wanted to make 1200 minutes of calls and just 300 texts and 1GB of data you’d be looking at over £50 compared to just £20 with a goodybag.

Giffgaff wins



So there you have it. The final score is pretty obvious: in almost all our examples, Giffgaff turned out to be much cheaper than Three’s new 321 tariff. So make sure you run some calculations before you switch over! If you currently have monthly usage around any of the amounts offered by Giffgaff’s goodybags, you’ll almost certainly be better off than switching to a pure PAYG tariff like 321.

Of course, there are some important caveats to be aware of if you really want to save money. Firstly, it’s only worth getting a goodybag if you will normally use up a decent portion of it. If you spend £10 on a goodybag and only use a fifth of your minutes and, say, 100 texts and 250MB of data, you’ll still be paying but could have spent just £9.06 on Three (even though you could have saved money by going for the £7.50 goodybag instead).

If you are a very low user you will also do better with 321. For example, if you only make about 20 mins of calls and 20 texts a month and don’t user internet at all, your price on Three will be just £1 compared to £3.60 on Giffgaff. So make sure you’ve checked to make sure your choice is the best option for you.

And don’t forget that Giffgaff also has other ways to save money such as free calls, texts and video chats to all other Giffgaff users which can be a real money saver if you know lots of people who also use the network.

How much money can you save by switching PAYG provider? Let us know who you’re choosing and why.

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33 Responses to “PAYG showdown: 321 vs Giffgaff”

  1. Jimmy 30 March 2015 at 12:31 Permalink

    Was this article written by giffgaff? It looks like a stupid advertisement.

    I personally made one 2 min. long call and wrote 1 text last month, but used around 500 MB of data. This requires me a 10 GBP plan on giffgaff, while on Three it is only 5 GBP. Plus you get 150 MB on Three when you topup.

    I am on giffgaff currently, it was fine in London, but the 3G sucks in other parts of the country. Definitely I am switching over to Three.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 30 March 2015 at 16:17 Permalink

      No, it was written by us and we clearly explain each tariff works best for certain usage patterns.

      • Ronnie 30 March 2015 at 17:40 Permalink

        I joked with the MNC guys with this before Jimmy.
        I don’t think for a moment they are being paid to sweet talk people onto GG.
        It’s a case of “as you Find it”,at the time of writing.
        It’s not for me,for reasons already stated.
        But trust me Jimmy,its impartial.

  2. Ronnie 14 July 2014 at 20:45 Permalink

    I roughly use 30-40 mins a month,and 30 texts a month.
    I use wifi on the bus to and from work,so 200-300 Mb a month.
    As you can see,that aint a lot,and it could be lower than that!!.
    Data signal,as well as complete loss of calls and texts for minutes or even hours on end,were commonplace on giffgaffs O2 masts.
    This is how I think it works when it comes to O2 and it’s MVNO networks.
    They have a tier system,in which actual O2 customers get the best service obviously.Tier 2 consists of Tesco and quite possibly Lycamobile,get a slightly less consistant service,but it is still pretty good.Then you come to Tier 3,where Giffgaff and other MVNO networks which no one has heard of,and they get the dregs of the barrel.In short,low quality service for your coverage.You gets what you pay for basically.This is only a theory,and probably paranoia in my part.But it is not entirely hypothetical or unreasonable to suggest.
    Incidently,I get a 4G signal with 3(Free),where with Giffgaff,you had to pay for 4G Goodybags,which were totally wrongly priced.Example,the £10 Goodybag data was used up in a blink of an eye,rendering it useless for the most part of the month,because you can’t buy one until the present one expires.Hopeless situation.

  3. Ronnie 14 July 2014 at 18:29 Permalink

    I don’t doubt GG is a great money saver for many,including myself once.
    But 3 can offer you a better signal,and all round experience than GG.
    Or maybe I am talking as a predominate low user.

  4. Ronnie 14 July 2014 at 18:24 Permalink

    Got it in one my friend.
    “Ask an agent “is one of my personal favourites .doesn’tmatter what the question is,copy and paste ask an agent several times a month, and you have 20 quid.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 14 July 2014 at 19:26 Permalink

      The sad thing it’s been abundantly obvious for years that it’s hampering usefulness but they’re doing nothing to sort it out.

  5. Ronnie 14 July 2014 at 07:05 Permalink

    Just discovered that I have 150Mb free on my 321 tariff.Get in there :D.
    The 321 is working out just fine for me,and I’m glad I made the switch from giffgaff.
    Glad to see you agree with me on Giffgaff’s community issues.You should trawl through about 20 pages of their “Let’s talk in my shed ” thread.
    It is truly and mind numbingly shocking and to think these people are taking over the community :(.
    There were only so many “good morning”,”good night”,”I’ve ranked up”and “I love Giffgaff ” threads,I could take.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 14 July 2014 at 13:57 Permalink

      What’s that thread about? The sycophancy is bad but the thing we find worst about the forums is that people rush to make hundreds of copy paste answers to questions which are invariably wrong.

  6. Daniel 10 July 2014 at 22:31 Permalink

    Giffgaff’s goodybags are fantastic value if you happen to use those specific ratios of calls/texts/data. If you use a different ratio then 321 quickly becomes the better deal. For example a data heavy user with no calls and few texts would in almost every case be better off on 321.

    If you are using £15+ every month then I’m sure there must be some contracts around that would offer you better value for money, especially if you are looking for a new phone.

    Also in my experience the Giffgaff network is prone to outages. Not sure about the Three network.

    The best feature of Giffgaff by far is the free Giffgaff to Giffgaff calls and texts. My brother is on Giffgaff along with almost his entire network of friends, so he spends almost nothing.

  7. Ronnie 10 July 2014 at 06:56 Permalink

    I switched from Giffgaff to 3 this week as I am a very low user.I also use wifi to access the Internet, whilst using my bus route to and from work.I agree with Jim Orrell about the signal on Giffgaff.It really is absolute rubbish,and the GG agents make up all kinds of excuses.Fact is,they are not O2/Telefonica’s budget brand for nothing.They do offer a Payback scheme,but in reality,you have to spend half of your life on their forums to achieve a decent amount.Basically,the members are the cheap labour,as opposed to having call centres.Their community forums were becoming a joke anyway,resembling a creche with every passing week.And overrun by a super clique with affiliations with the educators. They used to report anyone who questioned the mentality of their “Lets talk in my shed” thread.Basically forcing long time members,like myself,to find other networks who don’t act like 5 year olds.I’m glad they did though,as now I have a better signal and cheaper rates.Sorry if I turned this into a personal rant,but many others are turning against GG in their droves.

  8. Tony Cotton 5 April 2014 at 16:36 Permalink

    There must be many 3G mobile phone users who are really low usage, whether calls, texts or data.
    Is Three PAYG 321 the best for them? It seems too good to be true.
    Pay £10, and wait until it expires. In my case it could take six months.

    • blossom 25 May 2014 at 19:15 Permalink

      I am one of those so payg 321 is great as I rarely use the phone – best thing is no time limit on credit and after initial joining can do £5 topups. Also if needed you can buy add ons. For example I was travelling and wanted to use google navigation so I bought £5 data add on. As others have said only caveat is you need to check coverage. Also, similarly to Joe Strong, I got a a dual sim phone to cover areas where 3 not good.

  9. Joe Strong 29 January 2014 at 17:57 Permalink

    The trouble is that you can’t really make a 2 options scenario realistic. Everybody is different. I live in rural Lincolnshire and if you want 3G to work you have to go with 3. none of the others work and in particular Vodafone is so poor that the 2G data is unusable. Hence the offering from Ovivo is best for me, as I can’t afford a home phone, coupled with a Samba Sim/or 3Gb lasting 3 Months from 3 in my second SIM slot.
    The point I’m making is that unless you know pretty much exactly what you need you can’t make the right choice. I see them flogging the latest fancy phones in the shop in town but the truth is that by the time you get half a mile down the road it won’t work ‘cos the network coverage just isn’t there.

  10. Kazim 28 January 2014 at 22:30 Permalink

    Hi, I’m currently on GiffGaff’s £7.50 package. I send out 40 texts, 300MB and 50 minutes, whats the best plan for me? (Any network!) 3,Orange, etc. Thanks for your help!

    • Mobile Network Comparison 30 January 2014 at 00:24 Permalink

      You’re looking at at least £10 a month with Orange Dolphin. Giffgaff is definitely one of the best options at just £7.50 and easily covers your usage (plus there’s the free calls and texts). But we calculate you might save the most with Three as with that monthly usage you’d be looking at just £5.30!

      It’s also worth looking at a free deal from OVIVO.

  11. miles 9 January 2014 at 23:35 Permalink

    I recently left giffgaff for 3 payg and it is proving far cheaper. If you are a low user like me the gg goodybags are effectively a monthly contract in disguise. I use around 75 mins 75 texts and very little data. 3 is way cheaper. The £5 Goodybag does not give enough mins and hardly any data.

  12. Tom 20 November 2013 at 11:20 Permalink

    These comparisons give a false view of the cheapest deal… you need to run an actual set of monthly usage data to get an accurate comparison. I use on average 200 minutes, 50 texts (I use Whatsapp mostly) and 250mb of data (wifi at home and work keeps this low), so the giff gaff goody bag looks good. However this is average usage and thus the actual usage varies month to month. If you go slightly below the giff gaff allowance Three is cheaper as you’re not paying for unwanted mins/data. Likewise if you go slightly above the giff gaff allowance then the high charges for additional mins/data quickly make it more expensive than Three…

    Taking the last 6 months of my usage shows some months above the average and some below, but overall coming back to 200 minutes, 50 texts and 250mb… in my case Three would average out at £8.20 a month and giff gaff £11.30, making giff gaff over £3 more expensive per month.

    I tested further scenarios and unless you are almost exactly hitting the giff gaff package each month then Three’s 321 deal was the cheaper tariff… I would really recommend looking back at the last 6 months or so of you actual usage and do a month by month comparison rather than using averages, you might just find a different answer to which is actually the best deal!

    NB also note the that the 321 deal includes 150mb of free data when you top up, which also helps keep the cost down…

    • Mobile Network Comparison 20 November 2013 at 11:29 Permalink

      You’re completely right but did we not make that clear in the article itself? We did mention some “important caveats” in our verdict.

      If your usage fluctuates a lot, Giffgaff does have the benefit of allowing you to change your goodybag on an ad hoc basis. However, if you regularly go significantly over or under your allowance, then it doesn’t offer optimal value.

      • Tom 20 November 2013 at 12:13 Permalink

        I think you do make it clear, but what surprised me when i did the analysis of my bills was just how small those monthly fluctuations are before Three becomes cheaper (just 15 to 20 mins either side of the 200 min call allowance). I’m a huge fan of giff gaff and was genuniley expecting this to the cheapest alternative to the insanely expensive contract i’m currently tied into.

        My hunch would be that the majority of mobile phone users looking at giff gaff would more likely benefit from changing to Three’s 321… but like you say, make sure you run the calculations to check!! And most importantly when doing this, don’t just add up a years usage, divide by 12 and think you need to find a package that is roughly in this area. Look at each month indiviually it may well change your cheapest provider…

  13. Les Gauntlett 24 September 2013 at 16:53 Permalink

    giffgaff can not make calls or send text from the Isle of Man also they do not have a customer services to sort it out just lost money

  14. Jim Orrell 17 September 2013 at 19:55 Permalink

    the above comparisons assume you would use up your full allowance on giffgaff. I bought an extra £10 goodybag on giffgaff for my trip to Scotland, only to discover that the 3G mobile data was almost none existent and that the G (2G?) was pathetically slow and most of the time did not work. So I ended up using just 200mb and, as I expected, only a fraction of the minutes and texts.

    Also, if you go over your allowance on giffgaff, you can’t renew until the end of the month and it then costs an awful lot for calls and data.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 30 September 2013 at 13:41 Permalink

      That’s completely correct. If you can predict accurately what your usage will be, there are big savings to be made. Otherwise you might lose out in comparison to other deals.

      The fact you can’t renew during the month is really annoying and we don’t understand why they don’t address this…

  15. Hannah 30 August 2013 at 15:39 Permalink

    I did a review of giffgaff as well if anyone wants a 2nd oppinion! It really is amazing.

  16. Hannah 28 August 2013 at 19:44 Permalink

    Yep I totally agree – giffgaff are definitely the best with their great value goodybags

    I would recommend giffgaff to anyone.

  17. Nigel R 27 July 2013 at 20:15 Permalink

    Ovivo would not be mentioned in a Giffgaff advertisement

    • Mobile Network Comparison 1 August 2013 at 18:02 Permalink

      Strangely enough Giffgaff have not paid us a penny for this article (nor has any other network). We didn’t even include a link to them!

  18. James 23 July 2013 at 06:26 Permalink

    What about Ovivo sims?

    • Mobile Network Comparison 1 August 2013 at 18:01 Permalink

      Unfortunately Ovivo aren’t really comparable as their plans are either more expensive or they include adverts. We’ve found that most people aren’t willing to put up with that on a daily basis. Of course, they are an amazing alternative if you don’t mind.

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