Alternative way to buy a Three 500MB prepay data add-on

Buy a Three 500MB data add-on problemThree’s Irish All You Can Eat prepay plan sounds great – Just top €20 every 4 weeks and stream away to your heart’s content.  But what if you don’t need all that data for a few weeks?  Without an active AYCE or 500MB data bundle, Three gobbles credit at a rate of €1.01 per Megabyte!

At a first glance, the solution should be simple – Just buy a 500MB bundle.  Just try doing this in My3 and chances the user will be greeted with “Sorry, there’s been a problem. We know about it and are working hard to fix it.”  Yet that error has been ongoing for months at a time.

Three provides a top-up voice service by dialling 1744.  In addition to various top-up methods, one option it provides is to purchase a 500MB data add-on.  This works even when the website’s “Buy add-ons” page is down.

To purchase a 500MB bundle

  1. Dial 1744, wait for the voice menu, then dial ‘1’.
  2. Wait for it to speak the cash balance.  When it starts speaking the options, dial ‘4’.
  3. It will ask to confirm the 500MB purchase.  Dial ‘#’ to confirm or ‘0’ to back out.

I strongly recommend purchasing the 500MB add-on before letting the AYCE bundle expire.  Just note that the 28-day count down starts on the day of purchase.  However, data usage will not eat into the bundle until the AYCE bundle expires.

Set a reminder to purchase it on the last day of the AYCE bundle or before heading outside the EU.  The last thing one wants is to return home, only to accidentally switch on data and wipe their credit balance!

Additional 500MB bundle notes

If there is an active 500MB bundle, the new 500MB bundle will queue.  In this case, the bundle will become active once the earlier bundle runs out or expires.

To return to an AYCE bundle, just top up by €20 and wait for the AYCE bundle to appear in My3.  Data usage will continue to consume the remainder of the 500MB bundle, so expect a “You’ve used your allowance” like message soon.  When this occurs, it will automatically switch to the AYCE bundle.

Update 14th August 2017: While it is possible to queue multiple 500MB bundles, each bundle will expire 28 days from the date of purchase.  As a result, avoid purchasing another 500MB bundle until the existing one runs low or approaches its expiry date.  Previously, a 500MB bundle in the queue did not start the 28-day countdown until the previous one ran out.

Spending spare Three credit

For users that make very few voice calls, there are a few other ways of spending spare cash credit besides buying 500MB add-ons.  Although Three claims that top-ups do not expire if they are in use, each top-up goes in a queue.  As a result, top-ups that do not make it to the top-up of the queue will expire after 6 months:

Three queued cash credit expiry

As a result, I strongly recommend keeping a date log of each top-up.  When there are multiple top-ups in the queue, the oldest top-up will reach the top next.

Google Play Store

One can pay for apps and in-app purchases using Three phone credit.  First ensure the phone Wi-Fi is off.  When purchasing an App or in-app purchase, it should show “3 carrier billing” as an option, then follow the steps.  Some phones such as dual SIM phones require a restart for the carrier billing option to appear.

Streaming music services

Both Google Music and Deezer subscriptions can draw the €10/month subscription cost from call credit on Three.  With Deezer, follow the steps on Three’s website.  For Google Music, start the subscription on the phone over data and choose “3 Carrier Billing” for the payment option.  To switch an existing subscription to carrier billing, go into Google Music’s billing settings on the phone and change the payment method here.

For light data users that mainly consume their data with streaming services and surfing, consider switching to Vodafone prepay and their Spotify Premium bundle.  Of course, use up the Three credit first! On Vodafone, a €5 data allowance provides 1GB of data.  The Spotify add-on costs €5/month and provides an additional 500MB data allowance.  1.5GB/month is more than adequate for streaming music and light surfing on the move, costing about €10 total every 4 weeks.

From my experience, paying with phone credit does not appear to cripple the service in any way.   One can access the music service and download music on multiple devices, as with paying by credit card.

Premium SMS services

Besides dubious competitions, there are several useful services that accept payment by premium rate SMS.  Various charities accept donations by SMS, so if one regularly donates to a particular charity, ask them if they accept donations by SMS.

For gamers and Windows Store users, there’s a service “BuyGameCredit” that accepts payment by Premium rate SMS.  For example, one can purchase a Windows Gift Card and use it towards purchasing Windows Store Apps, music and so on.  While this incurs a transaction fee, it can be useful for quickly releasing credit stuck in the queue before it expires.

5 thoughts on “Alternative way to buy a Three 500MB prepay data add-on”

  1. You’re a genius – I used the €20 top up method for 2 years, ammassed some amount of credit too.
    I didnt use it all up on calls so had loads left, think its lapsed now.
    “BuyGameCredit” was what i needed.

  2. What’s the cheapest ‘out of bundle’ data per mb in Ireland? I want to have a dongle running in a holiday home to let me access the security system and cameras and heating over the internet and it will only use a few mb per month to transfer this data so I’d prefer not to be spending on 1gb bundles…

  3. What’s the cheapest ‘out of bundle’ data per mb in Ireland? I want to have a dongle running in a holiday home to let me access the security system and cameras and heating over the internet and it will only use a few mb per month to transfer this data so I’d prefer not to be spending on 1gb bundles…

    1. The cheapest pay-per-MB I’m aware of is Eir prepay broadband. They charge 2c per MB. The catch is that when no bundle is active, it displays a landing page (with Internet cut-off) asking whether to proceed with out-of-bundle usage. I’m not sure how long it will remain connected, i.e. until the power is disconnected or every 24 hours, etc. Three Prepay Broadband has the next cheapest out-of-bundle charge at 6.15c per MB. Their connection remains up until the credit runs out.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think the equipment will use less than 100MB a month. Even just maintaining the connection to the cloud from each device will consume a trickle of data. It would be worth testing with a router that can show the accumulated network traffic, then see what it clocks up over a 24-hour period.

      If you are willing to spend €5 every 60 days, I suggest checking if a Post Mobile phone SIM will work in a router (I haven’t tried this, but reckon it will). Set the APN to, then buy a 1GB add-on for €5. It lasts 60 days, so would work out at €2.50/month, assuming you can manage with under 500MB/month. Lyca Mobile is the only provider in Ireland I’m aware of that prevents its SIMs working in a router.

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