Three pay-as-you-go mobile users will see the cost of calls, texts and data sky-rocket from next, with the price of sending a text outside Europe increasing by an eye-watering 1,650 per cent.

Below, Martin Lewis' Money Saving Experts explain exactly what's happening and how to beat the price increases. 

How are prices changing?

From February 16, Three's existing pay-as-you-go (PAYG) customers will see standard prices rise both in the UK and when using Three's 'Go Roam' service in European countries:

  • The cost of making a phone call will rise to 10p/minute, from 3p/minute ( a 7p/minute or 233 per cent increase) 
  • It will cost 10p to send a text, up from 2p at the moment (an 8p/text or 400 per cent increase)
  • Data costs will also shoot up to 5p/MB, from 1p/MB at the moment (a 4p/MB or 400 per cent increase) 

If these customers use their phone elsewhere around the world, excluding the UK and Europe, costs will also rocket by the following:

  • It will cost 35p to send a text, up from 2p at the moment (a 33p/text or 1,650 per cent increase) 
  • Data costs will also shoot up to 5p/MB, from 1p/MB at the moment (a 4p/MB or 400 per cent increase)

Three believes its new rates "remain extremely competitive" and adds that the increases to international roaming rates are to keep prices in line with its new standard rates for using your phone at home, and aren't linked to Brexit.

It was one of the major mobile providers that committed to continuing free EU roaming following the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1.

Which customers will see prices rise? 

February's increase affects Three's existing pay-as-you-go (PAYG) customers who joined the network before March 2020 and who pay standard rates, rather than paying for a package.

The mobile provider refused to tell MSE how many people would be impacted but said everyone affected wpuld be contacted.

A 2019 financial report from Three reveals that it has a total of 10.2 million UK customers across its network.  

New PAYG customers who signed up from March 2020 are already being charged these higher prices. 

Three's PAYG add-ons and data packages, which the firm says provide better value than its standard rates, won't be changing, and neither will its pay-monthly prices. 

I mostly use my phone in the UK. What can I do to beat the hikes?

As the price increase only affects PAYG customers - who aren't tied into any contract or commitment - if your costs are going up and you're not happy about it, you can simply leave at any point without paying a penalty.

But Martin Lewis' Money Saving Experts have advised to do your research first to make sure you're actually switching to a cheaper deal.

Here are some top deals to consider that you can use in the UK: 

  • If you're an occasional phone user, a PAYG Sim can charge as little as 1p for each minute, text and MB of data you use. The absolute cheapest for low usage mobile users is 1pMobile, which piggybacks off EE's network - though you have to top up at least £10 every four months in order to keep it active, so if you only use your phone very rarely, it's probably not for you. Alternatively, Asda (which also piggybacks off EE) has the same data cost as Three at 5p/MB, but beats it on text and call costs - charging 8p/minute for calls and 4p for each text. Bear in mind though that call time is limited to two hours, at which point you'll need to hang up and re-dial. 
  • If you're a more regular phone user, you can get a PAYG bundle from £5/month. With a bundle, you'll have an allowance to use each month - but you're still not tied into a contract. For example, the Lebara bundle, which uses Vodafone's network, gives you unlimited minutes and texts and 2GB of data a month for £5. Or if you need more data, you can get 30GB, plus unlimited calls and texts, for £10/month from Smarty, Three's no-frills provider.

I want to use my phone abroad. How can I escape the hikes?

Free mobile roaming in European Union countries is no longer guaranteed as the Brexit transition period has now ended.

Under the 'Roam Like At Home' rules introduced by the EU, you could use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data without paying any extra charges in the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, subject to 'fair usage' rules.

The major mobile providers Money Saving Expert spoke to, including Three, have said they are committed to continuing this for now, but it's worth checking this with providers before you switch - also compare costs outside Europe if you plan on travelling further afield.

If you're a frequent traveller you may also want to consider a local PAYG or prepaid Sim or a global prepaid Sim.