What’s the cheapest way to enter text competitions?
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SMS or Text-to-win (TTW) competitions are popular with promoters and entrants as they’re so quick to enter. They are advertised in supermarkets, magazines, TV and radio. Winners are usually chosen at random and either texted or called back – but sometimes text comps can be automated instant wins, or even judged by radio station staff!
There are lots of text and phone entry competitions around, but which phone network offers the best deal for a comper who wants to enter text-to-win competitions? With help from the members of my Lucky Learners Facebook group, I’ve come up with a list of what the major providers offer, and our top recommendations for the cheapest text entries!
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What are shortcodes?
Most UK text entries are sent to shortcode numbers, which are 5 digits long. These texts vary in cost depending on the promotion format and mobile phone network. Not every phone company allows texts to shortcodes, and some will require you to add credit, change your bill spend cap or remove a premium rate block in order to send messages to these numbers.
Here are some of the common UK shortcodes you might text to enter a competition (SNR = standard rate)
- 66766 – ITV text to wins advertised on TV (£2 +SNR)
- 81215 – Absolute Radio text to wins (cost can vary – some sponsored comps are 50p + SNR, some are £2 + SNR)
- 82122 – Heart FM (costs can vary – sponsored comps are SNR, or Make Me A Millionaire is £2 + SNR)
- 83958 – Capital Radio (costs can vary – some sponsored comps are SNR, or Capital Give Me the Cash is £2 + SNR)
- 60110 – Tesco text to wins advertised in store (SNR)
- 60777 – Various text to wins advertised in supermarkets (SNR)
- 88802 – Various text to wins advertised in shops (SNR)
How much does it cost to enter a text competition?
The cost depends on the type of text-to-win competition it is: a standard network rate, premium rate or charity promotion.
Standard network rate text-to-win promotions
Standard network rate varies but is usually between 12p and 15p per text. Generally, most text to win competitions sent to a 5-digit shortcode will cost you standard network rate, and they will NOT be included in any inclusive text allowance bundle you might have with your phone company.
On the radio, text-to-win competitions where the prize is donated by a brand such as Sky or Jet2 are generally charged at standard network rate. You will send a keyword to a shortcode, and you won’t usually receive a reply. The radio stations don’t need to generate revenue from these competitions as the sponsor will have paid for the on-air advertising and for the prizes.
Premium rate text-to-win promotions
Premium rate messages are where you receive a reply to your standard rate text message which is charged at a higher cost (premium rate). These are also known as reverse billed messages as the recipient (you!) is charged, rather than the sender. If you text to Absolute Radio on 81215, they tell you on air that it will cost 50p. The text you send to them costs standard network rate, but the automated reply you get from Absolute costs you 50p – so entering one of their comps will cost around 65p in total.
The Heart ‘Make me a Millionaire’, Capital “Give me the Cash’ and other big cash radio competitions are run by Global or Bauer with no brand sponsor. Texts cost around £2 plus standard network rate, and the revenue raised from these text messages funds the prizes. Don’t forget you can enter selected Bauer big money prize draws for free online to save yourself some money – find out more in my post Win cash prizes online in free competitions.
Some phone companies have a Premium Rate block set as standard, and you won’t be able to access any shortcode or premium rate numbers until you contact your phone company to remove the block. You may be able to remove the block yourself by logging in to the company’s website or app. Premium Rate services will not work if you are texting from outside of the UK.
Charity donation text-to-win promotions
Text messages to enter charity prize draws generally include a donation of £5 or £10. When you have sent your standard rate text entry to donate, you will receive a free of charge reply letting you know that you have a set amount of time (usually 60 minutes) to text CANCEL. If you do this, you will be entered into the prize draw, but the donation will not be taken. If you don’t cancel, you’ll receive a text to confirm your donation and that reverse billed text will cost you £5 or £10. There will be a limit on the number of entries/cancellations you can send – usually up to 4 or 10 entries. Global Make Some Noise and Comic Relief charity prize draws use this format. You can find this type of charity text comp in my list of current UK text competitions.
Choosing a network and contract
Remember to check coverage in your local area before choosing your deal! Use the Ofcom checker at checker.ofcom.org.uk – put in your postcode to see which of the 4 networks offer coverage in your area. Other cheaper providers ‘piggy back’ on the 4 networks (note that although they use the same network, you don’t get the member benefits, freebies and apps of the big 4 if you opt for the cheaper providers!)
Here’s the four networks, and the companies that ‘piggy back’ (info from MSE):
- EE (BT, Plusnet, Utility Warehouse, 1pMobile, Your Co-op, Ecotalk, IQ Mobile, Zevvle, RWG, MobileToTheMoon)
- O2 (Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile, Virgin Mobile, LycaMobile)
- Three (iD Mobile, Smarty, FreedomPop, Honest Mobile, Superdrug)
- Vodafone (Voxi, Asda Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Talkmobile)
There are several options you can choose – several compers have a pay monthly contract for their main phone, and use PAYG for a second comping phone.
Pay Monthly Contract
The benefit of signing up to a monthly contract is that you’re able to get a new handset without having to pay the full cost upfront. You pay a set amount of money every month for a phone with a monthly allowance of minutes, texts and data. Contracts are usually 24 months, but there are 18, 12 and even 1 month deals available with some providers. A pay monthly contract is the best option for your main phone, and suits people who don’t want to worry about topping up.
SIM only contract
A SIM only deal is the same as a normal monthly phone contract, except the deal doesn’t include a phone. All you get is a SIM card which is ready to give you a certain amount of minutes, data, and texts every month (sometimes described as a bundle). There will usually be a minimum amount you need to top up, so if you’re only using the handset for a few texts here and there it won’t be good value to choose this option.
Pay As You Go
With PAYG, you need an existing handset and pay to ‘top up’ your phone when you need it. There are no monthly bills or contracts. PAYG is a good option if you want an extra handset, as it’s a good way to keep track of how much you spend. Not all pay as you go deals are as good as contracts, because you’re paying more for the flexibility – and many providers have stopped doing PAYG deals now!
If you’re looking to change network for your main phone handset, then as well as cheaper shortcode texts, you should also consider the amount of data you require – the extensive information available on Kens Tech Tips website is helpful, where he has compared full details of free SIMs available from most major phone companies!
Recommended deals and providers
The deals below should be seen as recommendations for compers who specifically want to enter text to win competitions and are looking for the cheapest shortcode texts – this could be a good option for a second phone handset if you want to keep track of your spending on comps. The cheapest texts and the classic PAYG options are prioritised in the list, rather than bundles – but if you’re looking to switch provider for your main handset and will use lots of data, a bundle is the best option.
If you decide to switch provider for your handset, it’s easy to keep your existing number. You’ll need to request a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from your old provider and then give the code to your new provider so they can schedule the switch.
1. ASDA Mobile
ASDA Mobile is a great option for compers. For most shortcodes they only charge 4p per text! You must top-up (£5 minimum) at least once every 6 months to ensure your account stays active – so it will cost you £10 a year, which would cover a whopping 250 x 4p comp entries. I’ve had several people contact me to point out that the ASDA shortcode text cost should be 10p according to their website, but I can assure you as of March 2023 it’s definitely 4p, as I switched to an ASDA SIM myself to enter supermarket and radio text competitions.
Order your free ASDA Mobile SIM at mobile.asda.com* (click on Order Free Sim, then No Thanks, I just want a free SIM under the advertised bundles)
2. 1p Mobile
The cheapest shortcode texts are with 1pMobile, who charge just 1p for each minute, every text and for each MB of data you use – this includes shortcode texts that are usually 15p! This is a great deal – BUT you have to top up at least £10 every four months in order to keep it active, so if you’re looking for a SIM for a second comping phone rather than your main phone, this probably isn’t the best deal for you unless you will use the annual £30 credit for mobile data, premium rate calls and texts, etc. However, there are often TTW comps at the Co-op or Tesco where you can text every day, so using 1p Mobile for 3 weeks of daily text entries would cost you 21p rather than £3.15, a big saving.
Order your 1p Mobile SIM at 1pmobile.com* (click on CLASSIC PAYG at the bottom of the page)
GiffGaff charge 15p for a shortcode text.
Order a free PAYGSIM at www.giffgaff.com/freesim-goodybag (there’s no requirement to get a bundle)
Three charge 15p per shortcode text – members can find discounts, offers and competitions on the Three+ app. Three encourage you to purchase a data pack, but you don’t need to do this, and can simply top up when you need to.
Order a SIM at www.three.co.uk/Support/Free_SIM/Order
On Voxi SNR is 14p. Voxi users get some shortcode texts (eg. 60163 and 60777) included in their inclusive text allowance, but for others such as 60110 (Tesco) users have to top up their regular bundle payment in order to have credit for these texts. There’s no PAYG option, and you must choose one of their bundles which start at £10 per month.
Order a SIM at www.voxi.co.uk/sim-only-plans
On O2 it’s around 15p per text (13p + VAT) and you get lots of freebies and chances to win via the Priority app. Unfortunately O2 no longer do the classic PAYG and you must sign up for a contract/bundle deal.
Order your free SIM at www.o2.co.uk/shop/sim-cards/pay-as-you-go.
7. Tesco Mobile
On TescoMobile SNR is 15p (although one Lucky Learner said she had been charged 10p for some shortcodes) and you’ll collect 1 Clubcard point for every £1 you spend.
Order a SIM at www.tescomobile.com/no-contract-sim – they only offer bundles.
Vodafone charge 15p for SNR texts. The benefits of choosing Vodafone include VeryMe Rewards, with freebies and chances to win prizes for members. But Vodafone won’t let you text shortcodes on their Basics plan, so that’s not a great choice for compers.
Order your free SIM at freesim.vodafone.co.uk
EE charge 20p for an SNR text if you use their regular PAYG SIM card without buying their ‘data pack’ bundles, so it’s not a good deal for compers.
Order your free SIM at shop.ee.co.uk/price-plans/free-sim
Providers not recommended for compers
- Lebara charge 19p per shortcode text and you need to use an additional app to text to shortcodes
- ID Mobile charge 15p per shortcode, but not all shortcodes work (60163 and 60777 do not work)
- Smarty, Plusnet and Lycamobile do not allow any shortcode texts at all.
- Sky Mobile won’t send to 85100.
- TalkMobile don’t allow shortcodes when you first join, but will add it later after you’ve made three direct debit payments
Use Airtime Rewards to save money on your mobile phone bill
Use the free Airtime Rewards app, and you can earn cashback off your phone bill! Download at www.airtimerewards.co.uk and use my referral code 39UBWG7A for your 50p cash bonus – and if you spend within a week, we both get an extra £1 too!
Find out more about Airtime Rewards at superlucky.me/airtime-rewards – currently you can only use Airtime Rewards to redeem cashback off your phone bill if you’re on O2, Vodafone, 3, EE, giffgaff, Lebara, Lycamobile or Now PAYG. If you use an alternative provider you can still use Airtime Rewards to earn money – then switch networks in future to redeem the money off your bill!
Hopefully this has been helpful! Please let me know in the comments if any information in this post needs updating, or share your own recommendations and tips – you can also join the conversation in Lucky Learners on Facebook.
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