I just moved to the UK from the USA. In the USA I only used Tracfones. They were cheap and easy to use. There was no fuss.

After arriving in the UK I purchased a Nokia 105 pay-as-you-go phone.

In the phone store I also purchased an 'O2 PP BIG Bundle 20 pound COMBI SIM', which I guess is a SIM card on the O2 network. The salesman asked if I wanted to 'top-up' which I assume means 'add minutes to the phone' which I did. I think this top-up charge is included as part of the 20 pound charge mentioned above.

Having now tried to use the Nokia phone for the first time I thought I saw that I have 400 minutes.

Someone called me from within the same room and I was able to hear that person on the phone. I also tried to call that person from within the same room and their phone rang. So far, everything went as I expected.

However, that same person also called my phone and left a voice message. I cannot figure out how to access the message. The manual that came with the phone says nothing about voice messages. Nor does a separate manual I found online.

Someone suggested I need to dial 901 to access voice messages. Apparently I also need to 'top-up', which I thought I already did. Apparently I need a separate 'top-up' to access voice messages, separate from the 'top-up' I paid to make phone calls.

I tried to call the store from which I bought the phone to ask how to make this second 'top-up', since I do not yet have a UK bank debit card and cannot seem to make this second 'top-up' using my US debit or credit cards. However, when I tried to call the store, which is 3.5 miles away, my call was 'diverted' and a recorded message told me that I need to 'top-up'!

Does this mean I need three top-ups to use this phone?

  1. one top-up to call somebody in the same room
  2. a second top-up to access voice-mail messages
  3. a third top-up to call a store 3.5 miles away

How many top-ups do I need to use a mobile phone in the UK? And how do I pay these top-ups with a US credit card or debit card?

  • It sounds like a trip to the O2 store is in order. If you don't use a phone much £5 of credit a month should get you voice mail, a handful of texts, an a few minutes on any of the major carriers.
    – StrongBad
    Jul 30, 2014 at 20:34
  • I have no idea how this question can be off topic. One of the first questions everyone asks me, in a professional or government sitting, is for my cell phone number. I am still looking for a good solution. Sep 14, 2014 at 9:41

2 Answers 2


I can understand your confusion, because I have been to the US once and felt the same, from the opposite side.

The pay as you go SIM plan you bought has

£20 Big Bundle: 400 minutes, 4000 texts and 2GB 3G or 4G data

Voicemail calls are chargeable on O2 pay as you go (ref) but they are covered from the very same top-up, no need to top-up again. No clue why your calls to 901 were not possible. Lastly, here are the charges for special numbers. You can use a special search engine to find alternative numbers, not to get charged as much.

If you change your mind, don't despair. If you want to keep your O2 number, you may transfer it to another supplier by requesting a PAC code. Then, you can get a free SIM card from your new supplier, activate it and request to transfer your old number in. Otherwise, you can just stop using your O2 sim card and throw it away and move on to a another supplier. Hope that helps.


So far I have learned that I need to pay extra to access voice messages.

I have also learned that the store phone number I tried to call was a 'special number' because it began with 08 instead of 01, 02 or 03.

I will need a UK bank debit card to pay the top-up charge to access voice messages. I cannot use a US debit or credit card.

Apparently, I will also have to pay a 20-pound charge every month to make phone calls. In other words, apparently unused minutes expire after a month. Although, I am not 100% certain about that.

  • 1
    Expiry will depend entirely on the plan you pick. Needing to top up 20 quid a month sounds high though, I fear there's a chance you've been sold an unsuitable plan...
    – Gagravarr
    Jul 30, 2014 at 18:49

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