Tesco Mobile is a 50:50 joint venture between the supermarket Tesco and O2. It’s a virtual network but also sells Tesco Mobile branded services in Tesco stores and offers both pay monthly and PAYG deals.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates UK Mobile Telephone Customer Satisfaction Survey, Tesco Mobile was the number one pre-pay mobile telephone provider for customer satisfaction in 2008 and 2010. Tesco Mobile aims to give customers value, simplicity and choice. It markets cheap supermarket-style offers and gives away Clubcard points.
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Tesco Mobile review
Tesco Mobile offers some of the cheapest PAYG rates with their budget Tesco Lite price plan. With calls at only 8p/minute and texts just 4p each, you can easily save £100s every year compared to a normal mobile network. They even have an amazing text bundle that offers texts from just 1p as well as an amazing value £2/week data bundle.
Even the regular tariff is good value once you consider that you get triple credit with each top-up. You just have to be careful to make sure you don’t top-up too much as the credit expires and also can’t be used for certain items. Still, Tesco Mobile offers amazing value especially compared to the major UK networks. They even offer a great way to get up to £200 by recycling your old mobile. If you buy a new phone from Tesco, do remember that many of their handsets are double-locked so you can’t even use them on other virtual networks that use O2 such as Giffgaff. Check the model before you buy it.
Despite the low prices, Tesco Mobile runs on the strong O2 network and offers great call quality. The only thing you have to watch out for is their patchy 3G coverage if you’re a heavy data user. And if you are a heavy data user, make sure you get the £2/week unlimited data bundle because otherwise the charges are quite dear. Tesco Mobile’s customer service is also reasonable even if you have to pay to call it and a Tesco store is never far away in the UK.
Although it’s annoying that it’s hard to get on the better value Lite tariff, all Tesco Mobile’s offerings are great value and with a wide range of useful extra bundles, it’s a flexible as well as a cheap option. As long as you don’t get caught out by the details of the Triple credit offer, Tesco is a great network to choose and one of the best virtual networks.
At a glance
Tesco has two main rates – Tesco Mobile and Tesco Lite. The regular Tesco tariff offers calls at 25p per minute and texts at 10p each. This is comparable to standard mobile networks such as 3 but seems relatively high for a no-frills virtual network. However, a little digging around reveals more.
Tesco triple credit
All top-ups on Tesco Mobile qualify for free triple credit. This means that if you top-up £10 you’ll actually get £30 of credit and if you top-up £20 you’ll really get £60. While this seems like an incredible deal, if you remember that the pricing is comparatively high, you get a better idea of the true cost.
As all top-ups qualify for triple credit, we can effectively divide all the costs by three. This means that on the regular tariff, calls are actually about 8p/minute and texts are really costing you just over 3p. This also makes MMS only about 8p each while data which is already down from £4/MB to 60p/MB now effectively costs only 20p/MB.
However, something to bear in mind about the triple credit deal is that none of the “free” credit can be used for things like international calls or texts. It also can’t be used to make 0870 or 0800 calls or for roaming at all. Of course, this information is next-to-impossible to find out from the Tesco website as it means that many people won’t actually find the bonus credit that useful. You should also be aware that the “free” credit actually expires after a month so it’s only good value if you manage to use it all up. Just as important – you must also top-up at least once per month to qualify for the bonus credit.
Phew – sounds complicated, right? If you prefer things simpler, check out Tesco’s Lite PAYG plan. No messing about with free credit and expiry dates – just simple flat rates. And low flat rates too. In fact, along with virtual networks like Giffgaff and ASDA Mobile, this is the best value PAYG tariff going. Texts are only 4p each while calls are just 8p per minute. Much simpler than the regular Tesco tariff and much cheaper too!
Unfortunately, Tesco are trying to phase this out and you can’t order SIMs for the Lite tariff anymore. They might even tell you it’s no longer available. However, we’ve learned that by threatening to leave Tesco (ask to get your PAC code), they’ll happily switch you over rather than let you leave.
One of the best things about the Tesco tariffs is that they offer some great bundles. For example, you can get unlimited data for only £2/week which is about £8 a month. However, bear in mind this has a fair use limit. You can also get 5000 SMS for only £5 which makes them just 1p each – perfect for heavy texters. These offers are available to both Triple credit and Lite customers.
To compare Tesco’s latest pricing with that of other networks, please see our price comparison matrix.
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