Cell networks allow you to change devices but keep your service when you use SIM cards. If you break your...
How to Use a Prepaid Sim Card
Cell networks allow you to change devices but keep your service when you use SIM cards. If you break your phone, you can take the SIM card out, and put it in a new phone, activate it, and be on your way. The SIM card method also allows you to “bring your own phone” to a network, provided the phone is already setup for that network, or is “unlocked” for use on any network, provided the network is also GSM.
Many prepaid wireless carriers are now offering SIM card only plans, so you can bring your device and get service without having to buy a new phone. The SIM card only service is also beneficial for travelers who will be visiting the U.S. and want to be able to use their phones while they are here.
What is a SIM Card?
A SIM is a tiny piece of plastic, a small card that stores customer and phone data. When a number is assigned to your SIM card, you can take that SIM card out of your phone, and place it another. When calls are made to your number, it will ring on the new device. This makes upgrading your phone much simpler than if you operate on a network that does not use GSM technology.
Which Companies Offer SIM Only Plans?
Only Global System for Mobiles (GSM) networks allow for SIM cards. Right now, the only networks that allow it in the United States are:
- T-Mobile®: When you bring your own phone to T-Mobile, you can do it without a contract, but you are still able to use the contract plan pricing to have more than one line on your plan if you want. The single line plan is $70/month for unlimited talk, text, and data. If you want more than one line, it is $60/month/line. This is about the same as their prepaid plan, except you don’t have to purchase the phone up front.
- AT&T®: SIM cards are free, but you’ll have to get the right card for your phone. There are cards for iPhones, 4G phones, and for basic phones. You’ll pay the same price as you would for prepaid service with a phone you just bought.
Why Aren’t Other Companies Doing It?
Though there are many other cell phone companies out there, they operate on a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network. If you’re using a phone on a CDMA network, the information is not placed on a SIM card, making it harder to change phones. Basically, this means that CDMA carriers, such as Verizon, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, will not accept phones from other networks. You cannot use a Verizon phone and try to take it to AT&T, and a CDMA network will also not accept “unlocked” phones not tied to a particular carrier. Essentially, you can take an AT&T phone to T-Mobile, and vice versa, but any other combination will not work.
Outside the United States, most countries operate on a GSM network, which enables them to use SIM cards. In fact, the United States is considered the only country that operates mostly on a CDMA basis, so there is less flexibility here in terms of moving phones and networks. If you already have a phone, contact either AT&T or T-Mobile about their SIM only plans to use with your prepaid wireless. If you have a phone on another network, you can contact that network about their policies in regards to bringing your own phone.