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.

12 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.

  4. I just ported to Three this week from an old 02 account, and the all you can eat deal is so confusing! Like I top up by 20 a month for free internet/texts/calls, and thats fine….a fiver a week only basically, but Im confused about the credit disappearing after 6 months, out of the €20 I top up each month, I subscribed €7 a month to upgrade my Hotmail (Outlook) OneDrive to 1TB, and subscribed €10 a month to upgrade my Google Drive to 2TB, I backup everything so upgrading both of my cloud drives was something I wanted to do first as well as keeping local backups on a 4TB drive along with a couple of 2TB drives……..Finally a question! As long as I top up 20 a month, I should be ok right? As in bottom of the queue will either move to the top and be used or will be deleted after 6 months, but that shouldn’t really matter as long as I top up consistently without fail, unused will die but new top up is added every month to keep subscriptions going, I know zero people with a landline so cant ring them to keep the credit from disappearing, also everyone I know is on three, so cant ring them to add an sms charge to keep it from dying either. I assume Im all wrong about the credit thing, it just makes no sense to me….I pay my 20 a month to three for net/sms/calls, they DONT take it out, the 20 stays there…Microsoft takes 7 a month for the subscription, Google takes 10 a month for their subscription too, which means I dont pay either really, for example, pretend I give a guy called Bob 20 for fixing my roof, he puts it in his pocket, I owe Steve 7 for a cab, but I tell him to ask Bob for it since I gave him the 20 I owed him, along comes Jim and asks me to pay 10 I owe him for a tshirt, I tell him to ask Bob, Bob pays both Steve and Jim so Bob is nearly broke from paying both of them…..So how do Three even make money by letting me keep my credit and letting me spend it on apps/subscriptions! As I said…Im probably confused and wrong completly on how it works, O2 was….you want something…you pay for it and that’s it, nice and easy!

    1. What you mention is all correct and indeed you can spend the full €20 top-up on Google / in-app purchases. Three do get a cut out of it, although it’s not clear how much. While Three probably would make very little if you managed to fully spend every top-up, I’m sure they still make plenty on those that either forget to top-up in time or make the odd calls, especially since a 3 minute call is over €1. Think of like a credit card – As long as you pay off your credit card by the due date, you don’t pay any interest, yet the credit card company still makes money on 2-3% cut of every transaction.

      I already lost credit once before by missing the top-up date, which is very easy to do. For example, I used Google calendar (a big mistake) to remind me to top up ~10pm on the last day. I didn’t hear the puny bleep Google calendar makes, so didn’t see the reminder until the following morning by which time my credit was gobbled overnight. I’ve since switched to a better reminder App that rings like an alarm clock on the bundle expiry date and haven’t missed a top-up since then.

      1. Brilliant! Thanks for clarifying Sean, very much appreciated, I feel “safer” if that’s the, I already put it in my calendar (Business Calendar 2)to top up so I should be ok on that, oh and if you have trouble with Google Calendar, Outlook and Google Calendar can both be added to Business Calendar 2 (, Installing Solid Explorer ( will allow you to pick from installed MP3 files for alarms/calendar events instead of the pathetic little beeps our calendars usually provide, Thanks again Sean for the help, Cheers! Keith.

  5. They seem to have discontinued the option to buy a bundle via 1744 now,
    Option 4 gives the ‘lend me’ service.

  6. Great post! It summarizes all the things I’ve learned to do over the last couple of years with Three.

    But… Have you noticed that the 500MB doesn’t show up on their website or app anymore? I was pushed into changing to their new prepay plans (with the half-price promotion) and didn’t realise until now that the addon doesn’t seem to be available anymore.

    I came across this page on their website which still lists it:

    As described on that page, I texted 5NET to 50272 and got “This service isn’t available for your account” as a reply.

    Have you noticed the same thing? Is there another way to get the addon or did they really just remove it?

    1. Up until a few weeks ago, there was a ‘DATA’ tab in the Manage Services section with a choice of a 1GB add-on and a 5G booster add-on, but that tab is gone now. One thing to beware of with their new prepay plan is that the €20 plan gobbles up the top-up, so once you use the remaining credit, you need to top-up separately (e.g. with €10) to top up the credit balance as the €20 top-up gets gobbled up to renew the 28 day plan. Annoyingly, I was not aware of the promotional plan not applying to online banking top-ups, so ended up paying the full €20 for the last month of the promotional period.

      If you don’t mind paying €8 a month, the 48 Network provides 100GB for €8 and it’s a monthly cycle instead of every 28 days. Their offer expires on the 10th November, but if you order the SIM in time, you can keep the plan going forward. It’s also a prepay network. From my own testing, I get the equivalent 4G and 4G+ speeds on 48 as I do on Three, however, the 48 network does not have 5G access.

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