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“I have no money on my cell phone account” or “my cellphone is out of money” or how?

What do I need to do, when I have run out of credit for my cell phone?

  • I've always stumbled with this one as well! In Portuguese we sometimes say the equivalent to "(re)charge", but that obviously can create ambiguity with the battery charging sense...
    – waldyrious
    Feb 18, 2012 at 17:27

4 Answers 4


In most of the world I think top up is well understood. Where I've been in Asia and Africa, the booth attendant or store clerk will also understand if you ask to add units.

"Top up" is known in the U.S., being the terminology used by MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, NET10, and of course Virgin Mobile. The major prepaid providers, however— T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon Wireless— all use refill. Because pre-paid mobile plans are not as prevalent in the U.S., I would always specify that it is your phone whether you are topping up, refilling, adding credit, or adding minutes.

Note that in the U.S. one can top off, but this refers to filling something completely that was already mostly full, for example when fueling up your car.

  • I haven't heard top up in the US. The norm is to add time, credits, or minutes.
    – AnWulf
    Feb 19, 2012 at 15:22
  • If you go to the websites of the companies I noted above, they all use top up, so while the phrase may not be common it is not unknown.
    – choster
    Feb 19, 2012 at 15:54
  • In the US from the average person on the street I hear "I need to add minutes to my phone", in the UK I hear "I need to top up my phone". Apr 3, 2014 at 1:14

In the UK, at least, you need to top up.

  • In Australia too.
    – CesarGon
    Feb 18, 2012 at 21:54

In Australia, you need to 'recharge'.

e.g. 'I can't make any phonecalls until I recharge.'

  • 1
    In the UK the reason you can't make any calls until you recharge will always be understood to mean your mobile's battery is running out, not your talktime credit. Feb 19, 2012 at 0:59
  • ^@FumbleFingers ... Same in the US.
    – AnWulf
    Feb 19, 2012 at 13:45
  • In Australia we just say 'I need to charge my phone'. I'm sure there are a few exceptions but 'recharge' is generally understood in terms of needing to buy phone credit.
    – Rachel
    Feb 19, 2012 at 18:32

“Can you tell me where I can purchase some credit for my mobile phone.” Should work, unless you are in the wrong part of town where they will think you are a bit posh.

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