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giffgaff review: what's the mobile network's appeal in 2022?

giffgaff logo, a SIM card and a phone iconVisit giffgaff.com

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

We rate everything you get when you join giffgaff on SIM only or a phone contract, including their 4G coverage, data speeds and added benefits. Last updated: 11th February 2022.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates giffgaff as an ok provider
 (2.5/5, ok)

"Now they’ve got 5G data, giffgaff are starting to catch up with some of their lower-cost rivals, although we’d still point out that not having WiFi calling or 4G calling puts them at a disadvantage vs most others these days.

We think a lot of people may be underwhelmed with the speeds you get on giffgaff though. It’s not a strength. And you’ll need to be happy self-serving if you have issues, as there’s no telephone customer service.

They’ve held onto inclusive EU roaming, which we like. But giffgaff are otherwise running a little short on exciting benefits to lure you in - they’re not even that cheap any more comparatively.

There’s plenty of people who will still be happy to bag a lower-cost deal on the O2 network. giffgaff’s SIMs are very flexible and their phone contracts are well-priced too. Overall, we look at giffgaff and think: ok."

The 3 best bits

1) Excellent coverage and 5G data
2) Ultra flexible phones and SIMs
3) Lower cost than O2 directly

The 3 worst bits

1) No WiFi calling / 4G calling
2) Online-only customer service
3) Slow data speeds

Which network does giffgaff use?

giffgaff uses the O2 network on 2G/3G/4G/5G.

Can you get WiFi calling on giffgaff?

No you can’t. This is one main disadvantage to joining them. Sky Mobile are the only virtual operator on the O2 network with WiFi calling.

Does giffgaff have 4G calling?

No. 4G calling or VoLTE is one of the missing network features on giffgaff.

Does giffgaff use 5G?

Yes, all their SIM only Goodybags come with 5G data as standard and all phone contracts where the model supports 5G as a feature.

Does giffgaff have an app?

Yes they do. And it’s pretty decent. Download for Android or iPhone.

Can I move my number to giffgaff?

Yes. You’ll need a PAC from your old provider. Text the word PAC to 65075 from your old SIM to get a code you can then give to giffgaff, which lets the move your number across.

giffgaff's mobile network

Coverage: giffgaff benefit from O2’s brilliant network

giffgaff's coverage checker

Check reception where you'll use your phoneUse network map

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

giffgaff were set up by O2 as a low-cost alternative with the unique quirk of being partially run by its customers. So, they get full access to the O2 network.

The main advantage of this is call signal (2G/3G) coverage. giffgaff’s hosts have the joint-largest amount of the UK’s physical landmass covered for calls, so you’ll struggle to find anywhere without signal short of being underground.

In terms of geographical 4G data coverage, O2 are a bit behind EE and Vodafone. This means you won’t be on 4G as often in rural areas as you would on those networks. In built-up areas there shouldn’t be much difference though.

In any case, we recommend checking your local signal on their official map before joining. Check everywhere you’ll use your phone, whether that be at work or at home.

Useful link: giffgaff's about us page

5G is now offered on giffgaff

giffgaff 5G announcement

Access O2’s 5G networkSee announcement

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

It took a little while for giffgaff to get 4G after it came out and it was the same story for 5G. But now you’ll get full access to O2’s expanding 5G network.

As of the time of writing, O2 offer 5G in 190+ towns and cities all over the UK. Since there’s no coverage difference between O2 and giffgaff, you’ll get 5G in the same areas on giffgaff as you would on O2.

Bear in mind, just because a location is covered for 5G doesn’t mean you’ll get it everywhere in that location. It’s still only on a street by street basis, and on the edges of 5G signal you can slow down to worse-than-4G speeds.

Still, O2’s coverage within their locations can be a bit better than most other networks. Also giffgaff now offer 5G as standard, so as long as you have a 5G-ready phone you should be able to get it.

Useful link: Check giffgaff 5G in your area

Overall coverage rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not as good as:
EE, BT Mobile

Better than:
Three

Data speeds: giffgaff have lower than average speeds

giffgaff branded globe with 4G

All plans have 4G as standardRead their 4G guide

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

While giffgaff are about as good as you can expect for coverage, data speeds are generally below average. This is the big disadvantage of giffgaff being on the O2 network.

Opensignal take millions of speed measurements form volunteer phones up and down the country. Their results show average 4G speeds on giffgaff’s hosts are around 17.1 Mbps, the slowest of all networks.

For 5G, they’re a lot better. Results from Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla put their speeds between 110.9 Mbps - 127.97 Mbps. They’ve actually gone down a little bit as more users access the network and slow it down.

If top speeds are important to you, we’d recommend looking elsewhere. Some users claim giffgaff is slower than O2, but we can’t confirm that. All we can say is, speeds aren’t a strength on giffgaff.

Useful link: Our guide to networks with the best 5G

Our speed rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
EE, Three, Vodafone

Same as:
O2, Tesco, Sky

Call technology: giffgaff still don’t have WiFi calling or 4G calling

WiFi calling substitutes signal diagram

We ranked each network on their WiFi callingRead our guide

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

While giffgaff’s call signal is pretty good at getting into buildings (read our indoor coverage guide here) you might still struggle with indoor coverage if you’re far from the mast. This is usually where WiFi calling is helpful.

But giffgaff offer neither WiFi nor 4G calling. This means your phone can’t connect to calls using WiFi or 4G signal like you can on most other networks. If you’ve got bad signal, bad luck.

You can still call via apps like Whatsapp and Skype on WiFi if your signal is poor, but that’s not always a solution. Maybe you don’t have the same app as someone, or you need to call a bank or a business.

If you want to stay on the O2 network but are put off by O2’s prices, then Sky Mobile is a good low-cost alternative with WiFi calling. They have market leading costs on phones and well priced SIM only plans too.

Useful link: Our guide to the networks with WiFi calling

Our WiFi calling rating:
☆☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Three, BT, EE, iD, Vodafone, O2, Sky, Virgin

Same as:
All others

Free hotspots: two ways to get WiFi hotspots on giffgaff

WiFi and TFL logos with a mobile phone

WiFi on the Underground and overgroundHow to connect

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

We like it when a network offers free WiFi hotspots, as it’s a great way of helping users save their data while on the go. It means you can potentially invest in a smaller data plan, saving you money.

You actually get two ways of getting free WiFi. One way is connecting on the Underground hotspots provided by Virgin Media. Follow these instructions to stay connected on the Underground as it’s a little finickity.

The other way to get free WiFi is to download the giffgaff app to get free access to 7000 of O2’s hotspots all over the country. While O2 have more overall hotspots, it’s nice that giffgaff get a share of them.

Overall it’s a pretty good scheme to help you save your data. It would pair well with WiFi calling if giffgaff had it as you’d be able to make calls on the Underground, but otherwise it’s good enough as it is.

Useful link: How to get free WiFi on giffgaff

Our free WiFi rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint 3rd

Not as good as:
BT, Virgin, O2

Better than:
Three, EE, Vodafone, Sky and all others

giffgaff benefits

The lack of contracts and flexibility are the main benefits of giffgaff

giffgaff benefits on a black background

The main reasons to join giffgaffRead About Us

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

When you take a SIM only plan from giffgaff you’re not signing up to a contract. Rather you’re paying up-front for one month’s worth of calls, texts and data that you can renew every month.

This is useful if you don’t want to pass a credit check or you want the choice to change plans each month. You also get the freedom to leave whenever you want without having to give notice.

While their phone contracts are based on finance you’ll also get a decent amount of flexibility with these when it comes to choosing your contract length and upfront cost. You can also stop your usage plan whenever you want.

In the end it puts giffgaff among the most flexible networks in the UK. If you’ve had to pay early exit fees in the past or if you want to keep yourself open to choose a plan that suits your needs per month.

Useful links: Compare phone contracts | Compare SIM only deals

Spending caps: plans are naturally capped on giffgaff

giffgaff's out of bundle costs screenshot

Avoid accidental overspendingSee extra costs

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

All mobile networks are now legally required to let you set a cap on extra spending so you don’t accidentally rack up a massive bill beyond your regular monthly payment.

The sorts of things that cost extra include international calls, non-inclusive roaming, premium rate numbers, picture messages, which are in the list of extra charges you can find on giffgaff here.

But, since giffgaff aren’t technically a pay monthly network you can’t actually spend more than what you buy in your Goodybag. You’ll just have to turn the auto top-up feature off, otherwise you could end up paying more than you want.

If you have some spare credit left over from your previous top-ups then you may inevitably end up spending it on extras. The only way to avoid this is by keeping on top of your usage.

Useful link: Why you can and can't cap spending

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
TBC

As good as:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

You get inclusive EU roaming on all plans

Flags of roaming destinations

They’ve kept their roaming scheme in placeSee all costs

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Many networks have either changed or pulled their inclusive roaming schemes, but giffgaff have kept theirs in place for all customers. You can check your destination here to see if it’s covered.

You can access your UK allowance for free on any plan, but you’ll be limited to 20GB if your plan is over that amount. You can also receive free calls and texts while abroad in the EU.

If you go beyond Europe then the roaming rates become very expensive, very fast (latest rates here). You can see which networks are good for worldwide roaming in our guide to the best roaming networks here.

For a no-frills network, giffgaff’s roaming is actually pretty good. We wouldn’t really expect them to offer worldwide roaming in the first place, and most networks don’t anyway. For short trips to the EU they’re a decent choice.

Useful link: Using your phone abroad help guide

Benefits you get exclusively on other networks

SMARTY's unused data

Unlimited data streaming on VOXIHow it works

at voxi.co.uk
(opens in new window)

To make an informed decision, you should know what you don’t get on giffgaff. You won’t get data rollover on giffgaff. SMARTY offer a great scheme that turns your unused data into a discount on your next month’s plan.

With giffgaff you’re also missing the free unlimited streaming data you get on Sky, who also use the O2 network. They let you stream their TV apps without using data. VOXI have a similar scheme (see our giffgaff vs VOXI review here).

Finally, you’re out of luck if you want a family plan on giffgaff. You can’t manage multiple plans from one account, nor do you get any sort of discount on additional plans, but you do get the £5 free credit.

Useful link: Our SMARTY vs giffgaff guide

giffgaff's pricing and deals

giffgaff’s SIM only plans

Networks

Providers:

Three logo
ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
SMARTY logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo

Plan

Data: (0MB+)

Minutes: (0+)

Contract

Maximum length: (Any)

Added features

Deals on offer at giffgaff

Take advantage of this joining deal

giffgaff’s pay as you go tariff

giffgaff's tariff is fairly decent value

giffgaff's topping up screenshot

How to top up

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Fewer networks offer what we’d call “traditional” pay as you go these days, but with giffgaff you can top up with credit and pay for what you use out of that. You don’t need to take a monthly bundle.

When looking at mobile providers that offer pay as you go using the O2 network, giffgaff's basic rates are the cheapest:

They’re not the cheapest pay as you go network in the UK by a stretch. 1pMobile with their 1p everything deal gets that title.

But you'll get free giffgaff to giffgaff calls if you top up with at least £10 every three months. And if you use your phone to make calls or anything else that’s chargeable at least every six months, your credit will never expire.

Useful link: All giffgaff payg rates

Phone contracts on giffgaff

giffgaff offer flexible phone contracts

Phone contract benefits listed

Read more

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

giffgaff base their phone contracts on one finance agreement for the cost of your phone that you pay back every month and another payment for the cost of your monthly Goodybags (these are the same as their SIM only deals).

What this means is you can change your Goodybag every month, or you can just straight up leave your SIM only plan once the month is up and go with a different network while still paying giffgaff for your phone.

You can also set a cost to pay upfront to lower your monthly payment and set a contract length that suits your budget. If you’re able to do so, you can pay lump sum amounts to shorten your contract too.

In the end it’s more expensive than buying from the manufacturer (they have to turn a profit after all) but giffgaff tend to be cheaper than other networks. You can get most new iPhone and Android models.

Useful link: giffgaff's latest phone range

Their credit checks are quite strict

Screenshot of our phone comparison tool

Compare phone deals

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

These sorts of phone contracts essentially work out like bank loans, so giffgaff have to show the government that they’re lending responsibly to people who can actually pay them back.

So, when you take a phone contract on giffgaff they’ll make you pass a credit check. We think they’re more strict on this than some networks (we don’t have insider info) so any blips in your credit history could get you rejected.

Also, if you miss a payment or you can no longer keep up with your monthly bill this could be terrible for your credit score. We really recommend making sure your contract suits your budget before buying.

The different combination of upfront costs and contract lengths can make it hard to compare them directly to other networks. But you can use our comparison tool to compare their range of models to other networks.

Useful link: Compare mobile phone contracts

Customer service

giffgaff only provide online customer service

Ofcom customer service rating table

giffgaff don't feature in the listsSee latest report

at ofcom.org.uk
(opens in new window)

While giffgaff have an estimated two million customers, they’re not technically a pay monthly network and so aren’t featured in Ofcom’s network complaints data.

This is our main way of seeing whether or not a network’s customer service is up to scratch, so the fact they’re not mentioned means we can’t say for certain whether or not they’re good at helping their customers.

In order to keep costs down, giffgaff don’t have call centres. If you’re someone who likes to call up a network when something goes wrong to get an answer directly, you’re unfortunately out of luck with giffgaff.

Instead you’ll have to go on their community forums and ask one of their agents there. They don’t actually have a live chat, meaning it could be a while before you get a response. It’s the trade off you get for lower prices.

Useful link: How to get help on giffgaff

More articles about giffgaff

Our other mobile network reviews