How to activate a new SIM card

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.

The last thing you want is for it to get too complicated and to be left without a reachable phone. It can get overwhelming, but as long as you stay on top of the activation process, you can get it done in no time.

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 phones connection to calls is somewhat laggy, your SIM card could be suffering. It might be time to get a replacement sent out to you. Luckily this guide works for you as well!

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 getting on a post-paid or pre-paid plan could be quite valuable.

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.

Are new SIM cards free?

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  – including from 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.

What are the different types of SIM card?

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 originally be given a Standard SIM, which can be converted into a smaller size so for phones compatible with Micro or Nano SIM.

SIM card

Some phones support eSIM technology, which doesn’t involve a physical SIM, and instead uses onboard SIM technology. To get this, however, your provider must also provide eSIM capability.

How to activate your new SIM card

We’ve put together some steps you can take 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.

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.

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 address book, 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.

Choosing the right plan for your SIM card

What is the best phone plan? It’s whatever you see as good for you. Changing your SIM is a great time to see if you’ve got a plan that works for you. It might be time to see if other providers have perks that you want.

A prepaid phone plan is a plan that sets you up for receiving a service where you pay in advance. This might be better for you if you’re watching your spending.

A postpaid plan sets you up better if you’re more the type to save money and pay after you try the service out. This might be better for you if you just want to set and forget your plan.

We’ve compiled a range of postpaid and prepaid SIM-only mobile plans in the table below for you to compare.

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.

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Images: justyle / Shutterstock, fortton / Shutterstock

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