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giffgaff review: what's the mobile network's appeal in 2023?

giffgaff logo, a SIM card and a phone iconVisit

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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: 26th January 2023.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates giffgaff as safe pair of hands
 (3/5, good)

“giffgaff customers are amazingly loyal to the network. The way it's run like a community seems to appeal to many. But they also offer a reliable and steady network experience too.

No one beats them for call/texts coverage indoors and out, their 4G data coverage is excellent too. And they’re benefitting massively from O2’s rapid rollout of 5G technology, which you get as standard on giffgaff.

What’s holding them back is slow data and the lack of WiFi calling and 4G calling. These two features are becoming standard on giffgaff’s low-cost rivals. Online-only customer service is a drawback too.

Their prices are alright, not cheap, not expensive. Their SIMs are ultra-flexible and phone contracts too. giffgaff aren’t the world-beaters their customers think they are but they are a safe pair of hands on O2.”

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 get full access to O2’s great network

giffgaff's coverage checker

Use their signal checker in your areaUse network map

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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 best part about this is their excellent coverage for calls and texts (2G/3G). giffgaff’s hosts are the joint-largest network for call signal across the UK’s landmass, so total signal blackspots are hard to find.

In terms of covering the country with 4G signal, giffgaff's hosts O2 are just behind Vodafone and EE. While there isn’t much difference in urban areas, this does mean you’re less likely to get 4G in rural areas (see 5G below).

Overall, it builds into a good picture for giffgaff's coverage. But we'd still recommend checking your local signal on their official map before joining. Check everywhere you’ll use your phone, not just at home.

Useful link: Read differences between giffgaff and O2

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

Joint 2nd

Not as good as:

Better than:

Data speeds: giffgaff’s speeds can be a bit of a weakness

giffgaff branded globe with 4G

Identical 4G speeds to O2Read their 4G guide

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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.

According to independent network testers Opensignal, you can expect typical 4G speeds around 16.8 Mbps. That puts them in last place by quite a lot. giffgaff can feel a bit sluggish compared to other networks.

In real life we got speeds as high as 95 Mbps in the city centre. That’s still behind Vodafone and EE, but ahead of Three. However, in rural areas we went as low as 5 Mbps over 4G, so we can see how it averages out downwards.

If top speeds are important to you, we’d recommend looking elsewhere. Some users claim giffgaff is slower than O2, but we have never been able to replicate this in our own tests. We got identical speeds.

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

Our speed rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Joint last

Not as good as:
EE, Three, Vodafone

Same as:
O2, Tesco, Sky

5G data is now live on every giffgaff plan

giffgaff 5G announcement

Identical 5G coverage and speeds to O2See announcement

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giffgaff have offered access to O2’s rapidly expanding 5G network for a while now, meaning you’ll get 5G in the same 750+ UK towns and cities as you would on O2. This comes at no extra cost on every giffgaff plan.

Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla put typical 5G speeds on giffgaff's hosts between 90.61 Mbps - 92.3 Mbps. These speeds have gone down over time as more test data comes in. But they’re the slowest of all networks.

giffgaff offer 5G access on all of their plans. Here are their current best value deals:

And just because a location has 5G live 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, we've found you can slow down to worse-than-4G speeds.

Overall, we’d say giffgaff’s 5G is fairly strong in terms of coverage, but the speeds can be a bit of a letdown if you’re looking to use your SIM for data intensive activities.

Useful link: Check giffgaff 5G in your area

Call technology: giffgaff still don’t offer WiFi calling

WiFi calling substitutes signal diagram

We’ve ranked every WiFi calling schemeRead our guide

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giffgaff’s call signal is usually good at getting into buildings, but you can still find indoor blackspots especially if you’re far from the mast. WiFi calling is usually a good way around this.

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 WiFi calling and access to O2’s network but don’t like the look of O2’s deals, then Sky Mobile are a good alternative with WiFi calling. And Tesco Mobile are starting to roll out their WiFi calling too.

Useful link: Our guide to the networks with WiFi calling

Our WiFi calling rating:
☆☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Joint last

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

Same as:
All others

Extra network features: a fair few included on giffgaff

WiFi and TFL logos with a mobile phone

Access to some of O2’s WiFi hotspotsHow to connect

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It’s good to know about all the more obscure, but still very helpful features that you do or don’t get with each network. Despite being a smaller network, giffgaff include a fair few of these:

But they do offer free access to WiFi hotspots, which help you save data on the go. You get access to lots of these on the London Underground provided by Virgin Media (here’s how to connect).

And you also get access to around 8000 of O2’s hotspots up and down the country if you download the giffgaff app. While you can’t connect to all of O2’s hotspots, it is nice that you get access to some of them.

You can also tether without limits on giffgaff. So if you’ve got unlimited data and you want to stream video on your laptop on the go, you can do so without worrying about how much data you’re using.

giffgaff also allow call forwarding, which lets you automatically forward incoming calls to another number. They’re one of the few smaller networks to offer this.

Visual voicemail is not available on giffgaff. This usually lets you sort through your voicemails one by one, but you won’t be able to do this with your giffgaff SIM.

Finally, giffgaff don’t offer eSIMs. But this is something that is only offered by the biggest UK networks for now, and giffgaff will probably get access to these sometime in the future.

Useful link: How to get free WiFi on giffgaff

giffgaff benefits

No contracts and great flexibility on giffgaff’s plans

giffgaff benefits on a black background

The main benefit of joining giffgaffRead About Us

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Instead of signing up to a contract like you would on a lot of other networks, you buy your monthly allowance of mins, texts and data up-front on giffgaff. You then renew this each month.

This is useful if you don’t want to pass a credit check on SIM only 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.

They do base their phone contracts around finance agreements, meaning a tight credit check but even these give you the flexibility to choose your up-front payment, contract length and let you leave your usage plan whenever you like.

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: avoid accidental overspending on giffgaff

giffgaff's out of bundle costs screenshot

You can only use what you’ve paid forSee extra costs

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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 with giffgaff’s plans you only get what you’ve already paid for and you can’t use any extras unless you top up with credit. Just make sure to turn auto-top up off, or you may end up spending more than you like.

Bear in mind if you’ve got leftover credit from topping up then there’s no way to avoid using this up on extras, other than keeping an eye on what you use.

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

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)


As good as:

Better than:

Inclusive EU roaming but with some restrictions

Flags of roaming destinations

Data usage abroad is limitedSee all costs

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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.

giffgaff let you use your calls and texts in the EU like at home on all of their plans, but your data is limited to 5GB while there. It’s easy to go over that amount and end up paying at their standard UK rates.

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.

Their roaming is worse than it used to be. If you don’t use much data while abroad then it won’t matter too much, but you’ll want to keep an eye on how much you use to avoid spending a lot on data.

Useful link: Using your phone abroad help guide

Benefits you won’t get on giffgaff

SMARTY's unused data

VOXI offer unlimited data streamingHow it works

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It’s worth knowing what you don’t get on giffgaff that other networks offer. First you don’t get data rollover. Fellow O2-users Virgin Mobile let you keep your unused data for a month on all their 1-month deals.

Here is Virgin Mobile’s best deal at the moment that includes data rollover:

Sky Mobile are another provider on O2 and include unlimited data to stream their TV apps on every plan, meaning you can stream without eating into your data. Low-cost rivals VOXI also offer something similar.

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 Sky Mobile vs giffgaff review

giffgaff's pricing and deals

giffgaff’s SIM only plans



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giffgaff’s Pay As You Go rates

giffgaff’s tariffs are fairly steep now

giffgaff's topping up screenshot

How to top up

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Only a handful of networks still offer what we call “traditional” Pay As You Go schemes, but giffgaff still let you top up and pay for your mins, texts and data out of credit. No need to buy a monthly bundle.

The issue is that giffgaff’s rates have steadily gone up over time, making paying as you go much worse value than just taking a monthly bundle:

They’re fairly middle of the road in our list of the cheapest Pay As You Go networks, behind 1pMobile with their 1p per min, text and MB rate. giffgaff don’t even come close to touching that.

Calls to other giffgaff numbers are free if you top up with £10 every three months. And your credit won’t expire if you make a chargeable action every six months. But we prefer their monthly deals for sheer value.

Useful link: All giffgaff payg rates

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giffgaff’s phone contracts are flexible

Phone contract benefits listed

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giffgaff’s phone contracts are based on finance agreements that are split between the cost of your device and your monthly Goodybag (identical to their SIM only plans), which are made as separate payments.

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.

They also let you set an upfront cost. The higher you set it the lower your monthly payment. And you can set your contract length to your budget and pay lump sum amounts to reduce the length of your contract.

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

Passing a credit check can be quite difficult

Screenshot of our phone comparison tool

Compare phone deals

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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.

To get a giffgaff phone contract you have to pass a credit check. While we don’t have any insider info, we think theirs are stricter than other networks. Any marks on your credit history may mean you fail the check.

And if you’re unable to keep up with your monthly bills then this could be very bad for your credit score. We’d say it’s best to properly suit your contract to your budget before taking one out.

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’s customer service is online only

Ofcom customer service rating table

giffgaff don’t appear in Ofcom’s reportSee latest report

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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.

That makes it a bit harder to say whether giffgaff are good at resolving their customers’ issues, since Ofcom’s report is the easiest way of seeing whether a networks’ customer service is helpful or not.

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.

giffgaff also don’t have an online chat. Instead you’ll have to ask an agent or other giffgaff users in their community forums, which can be slow. So it’s a trade off of low prices for less robust customer service.

Useful link: How to get help on giffgaff

More articles about giffgaff

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