How to activate SIM card image with Sim card and phone

How to activate a new SIM card

Having trouble activating your SIM card? The last thing you want is for it to get too complicated and to be left without access to your phone service.

There’s plenty to do when you get a new SIM card. It could be coupled to a new phone on a plan, it could be a smaller SIM to fit into a new phone, or it could be you making a change and moving to another provider, or even replacing a broken SIM. Whatever the reason, you’ll need to avtivate your new SIM card.

It can get overwhelming, but as long as you stay on top of the activation process, you can get it done in no time. Read on with Canstar Blue to uncover how to activate a SIM card.

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The following table shows a selection of sponsored SIM Only plans on Canstar Blue’s database with links to referral partners.

Quick steps: Activating a new SIM

  1. Insert the new SIM into your phone, and have the phone turned on.
  2. Activate your new SIM card by using its accompanying activation key (this will be included in the package). You may need valid ID.
  3. Use this key to activate the SIM card online. You’ll need an internet connection for this (use a computer or your WiFi).
  4. Wait some time, and it should be activated shortly.

Make sure you read the instructions accompanying your new SIM carefully, in case an extra step is necessary.

What does a new SIM card do?

Your new SIM card will connect you to your new plan, and your new carrier if you’ve switched to a different provider. The SIM card is what lets you send and receive text messages, along with receiving and making phone calls.

SIM cards do not affect your phone’s storage data. The only data your SIM relate to is the mobile network data you use to access the internet on your phone without a Wi-Fi connection, say at home or at work. SIM cards will not reset your phone.

If your phone’s connection to calls is somewhat laggy, your SIM card could be the cause and it might be time to get a replacement sent out to you. Luckily this guide can work for you as well!

Choosing the right SIM card plan

If you haven’t yet chosen a new SIM card, there are plenty of SIM-only prepaid and postpaid phone plans to choose from. Whether you’re after a cheap phone plan or one with lots of data, it always helps to compare a range of plans and providers to ensure you’re getting the best plan for your needs. Not sure if prepaid or postpaid is better for you? Check out our prepaid vs postpaid guide.

The below table compares a range of SIM-only plans, simply switch between the tabs to compare prepaid and postpaid plans.

Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Try using our mobile phone plan comparison tool to see a wide range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data each month, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. If you want to compare a larger range of offers from other providers, use our phone plan comparison tool. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Is my phone unlocked?

If your phone isn’t unlocked — meaning it’s coupled to your current plan and will only work with your current mobile network — you can’t change over to another SIM. This is where you can run into trouble when signing up to a postpaid or prepaid plan.

Most phones are now sold network unlocked, even when bought on a plan, so this likely won’t be an issue. However, prepaid phones may still be locked to your provider — you can check with the telco you purchased your phone from if you’re unsure.

Read more: Is my phone unlocked?


SIM card


How to activate SIM card

We’ve put together some more detailed steps you can take before activating new SIM cards to make sure your SIM card will be ready to go and working in no time.

Take down the numbers

Your SIM provider will have a detailed explanation of what to do when you get your SIM included with the package. Typically it will have come with a SIM number. This will come in handy later after your SIM card is in your phone – you don’t want to have the SIM in your phone without knowing the numbers!

If you’ve had your SIM card replaced by a professional, they should have done this for you, and all you need to do is activate the SIM.

Registering your SIM online

Login to your SIM providers online service. This can be done through a search engine, or through the app of the service on your phone. Just make sure you have your internet connected.

Make sure you know your login details, and have the numbers of your SIM ready. An option should appear to activate the SIM card. Enter the numbers now, and you should be prompted to activate the card.

Putting the SIM in your phone

SIM cards need to be put inside of the phone to work. It’s usually a process that doesn’t require that much hassle, and depending on where you buy your phone from you can typically get it done for you.

If not, all you need to do is grab the SIM key packaged with your phone, or just straighten a paper clip, and poke it into the pinhole on the side of the phone where the SIM card slots in. This will open up the phone’s SIM tray, letting you put the card in. Make sure it’s the right way up!

If you’ve had your SIM card replaced by a professional, they should have done this for you, and all you need to do is activate the SIM.

Telling people about a new phone number

After you install your new SIM, you should contact everyone you keep close to and let them know. If you have a physical phone book, easy! If you relied on your old phone’s contacts, you might have it backed up in cloud storage.

This is quite easy for iPhones if you’re also moving from an older model to a newer model: just make sure you have your Apple ID. If you’re using an Android, you should have all of your old contacts saved to your Google address book – they should save with your account.

How long does it take for a SIM card to activate?

The time for a SIM card’s activation can vary massively, depending on what the reason for the change is – most activations take between 15 minutes and four hours. If it’s still not working after this time, try to turn your phone off and on again.

If it’s still not activated after that, try to re-insert the SIM. If all of this fails, contact your SIM provider. They’ll have an online access portal, where you can speak to someone over the internet if you can’t reach them through another phone.

FAQs about SIM cards

Typically SIM cards are coupled to prepaid, postpaid and phone bundle plans, so the price is included in the overall sale. However, you can buy SIM cards from shops — such as supermarkets and department stores — or buy online, and have the card mailed out to you. They’re not something you can physically print, as they’re a small chip that is placed inside of your phone.

There are three types of SIM card. Standard SIM, Micro SIM, and Nano SIM, descending in order of size. Newer phones take the Nano SIM, whereas older phones take the Standard and the Micro SIM.

Regardless, when getting a new SIM card, you’ll typically be given a Standard SIM, which can be converted into a smaller size so for phones compatible with Micro or Nano SIM.

Some phones also support eSIM technology, which doesn’t involve a physical SIM, and instead uses onboard SIM technology. However, to get this you’ll need an eSIM-compatible phone and your telco must also provide eSIM capability.

Telstra offers some easy steps to activate your new Telstra SIM card. You’ll need to state whether you have a prepaid or postpaid service. For a physical prepaid SIM, you will need to activate your SIM on the Telstra website, whereas a postpaid SIM will be automatically activated when you’ve received your SIM card delivery.

If your SIM is a replacement SIM for an existing Telstra service, you’ll need to activate via the My Telstra app.

When activating a SIM card from Optus, you’ll need to identify if it is a new SIM or a replacement SIM for an existing Optus service. For a new postpaid SIM, your SIM card should auto activate within four hours of delivery. New prepaid services will require you to activate your SIM on the Optus website.

If you’re activating a replacement Optus SIM, you’ll need to be able to receive an SMS to verify your mobile number. Some replacement SIMs (physical or eSIM) will require you to visit an Optus store or call Optus to activate.

If you wish to activate a new prepaid Vodafone SIM, you’ll need to use the Vodafone website to activate your new service. New postpaid SIM services should automatically be activated.

Images: justyle / Shutterstock, fortton / Shutterstock

Emma Bradstock
Telco Specialist
Emma Bradstock has been an authority on consumer phone, internet, technology and streaming markets in Australia for the last 5 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media from Macquarie University and has a decade of professional writing experience in print and digital media.

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