Purchasing a SIM card is something every cell phone owner has had to deal with. This became prominent with the oldest well-known format, mini-SIM cards, and remains prominent nowadays, with nano-SIM cards. Although the practice might eventually be eradicated with embedded-SIM cards, there’s a gap of at least a few years until that happens. Before you make your decision, take a look at the differences between prepaid SIM and postpaid SIM cards. Decide on the type, then proceed with finding the place to get it in. With that said, here’s how to buy a SIM card, and where.
Places to purchase a SIM card
1. Official carrier store
This is the first obvious place to acquire a SIM card when you don’t have one, your SIM card isn’t working, or you want to change the SIM card. It’s the best and the only secure place to get a postpaid SIM card. It’s advised to do a little bit of research before you decide on a carrier, but you can also ask the people working there. You go to the counter and get a list of available subscription plans. Before you sign the contract for 12 to 24 months, you can often choose a new smartphone or tablet at a discount and often paid off with your monthly bill, courtesy of the carrier.
You get a SIM card on the spot, wrapped in cellophane. You can then proceed to find the IMEI number if you need to block your SIM card, and PIN and PUK numbers to protect your phone from intrusion. Finally, punch out the appropriate SIM card size from the full-size SIM card, and start enjoying the benefits of what’s stored on it. You also need to know that every provider offers tourist/visitor SIM prepaid cards, too. Those cards are known for having a large number of free calls, SMS, and mobile data credits, but for a limited time.
Well, we lied when we said the carrier’s official store was the only way to get a postpaid SIM card. You can also go to their official website, make a new account, choose an unused phone number, and arrange a phone call with their representatives and sign a contract electronically. Then, you can get the SIM card posted to your doorstep, or pick it up in the official store at your convenience.
It’s not hard to guess why carriers would be selling SIM cards at airports, right? We’ll explain the benefits below. For now, you need to know that there will be a dedicated stand with SIM cards hanging on the shelves. If the airport is massive, there might be a dedicated carrier store. Depending on your citizenship, visa (or green card), you might be able to get a postpaid SIM card, although prepaid SIM would be the better choice. It’s up to you and your habits and schedule, though.
4. Newsstand, kiosk, and SIM vending machine
Kiosks and newsstands are the primary way of selling SIM cards throughout Europe. The only limitation is the lack of postpaid SIM, but there’s also a great benefit. You can pay for prepaid SIM phone credit anywhere you go – these objects are located at every corner. In the United States and Canada, self-service SIM card vending machines are slowly taking over. No people working there, but the process is automatic, and you can find such a machine where a store or kiosk wouldn’t be able to fit.
5. Shopping mall
Did you think carriers would miss the opportunity to purchase a storefront there? They will be nearly identical to official carrier stores, only a tad smaller and with less flashy stuff to show off. However, the access to SIM cards won’t be impacted in the slightest.
Although this option for making a SIM card purchase is prevalent in the United States, its smaller counterparts, markets and supermarkets, and also included. Among the countless shelves filled with everyday stuff, you’ll find dedicated shelves to SIM cards from all major carriers. If you’re lucky, they might even have an on-call staff member to give you advice.
Frequent travelers have figured this out. It’s much better to land in a new country and purchase a prepaid SIM card on the spot. Then, remove the old SIM card, insert the new card, and enjoy the stay. The only requirement is that your phone must be unlocked. That way, you get these benefits:
- You won’t pay roaming fees to call native phone numbers. For example, taxi service, hotel, tourist information line, police, your country’s embassy, etc.
- There are no roaming fees to access the Internet
- You’ll pay less and get significantly more free calls, SMS, and mobile data than if you were to purchase an add-on package, often called Passport/Traveler/International by your native carrier
- Best of all – there’s no need to keep worrying about your bill waiting at home, and you can just throw the old card away or swap the SIM cards. Then, buy a new one when you visit the same (or another) country again.