The T-Mobile USA SIM card (monthly prepaid plan) features:
- Includes your first 30 days service so you can use your US mobile service as soon as you arrive in the United States
- Easily buy more credit to extend your service online or from thousands of convenience stores, pharmacies, supermarkets or T-Mobile shops throughout the USA
- Includes a US mobile phone number that you can give to friends and family or use to divert your home phone to before you travel. Your phone number is emailed to you after your phone has been activated.
- Activated on a T-Mobile monthly prepaid plan with the options and 3G data allowance of your choice
T-Mobile's monthly prepaid plans are easy-to-understand plans that offer great value. When you buy your SIM card, it will include enough credit to pay for your first month of service (each additional month of service will cost between USD $50 and USD $95 depending on which 3G data allowance you choose and which additional features you add to your service).
T-Mobile's Unlimited Talk, Text & Web monthly prepaid plans include:
- Unlimited free incoming calls (regardless of where the call originates)
- Unlimited free calls to landline and mobile phones in the USA
- Unlimited free text messages to US mobile phones
- Unlimited internet access (1GB data at 3G speed with the option of increasing this to 3GB or Unlimited 3G data and unlimited data at EDGE speeds on T-Mobile's 2G network after your 3G data allowance has been reached). 3G data speeds aren't available to everyone so read below before deciding to opt for a larger 3G data allowance.
This SIM card is activated before you travel so all you need to do is put it in an unlocked tri-band or quad-band phone.
T-Mobile's monthly prepaid plans include a minimum monthly charge, however these plans feature a lot of included value and can be the best option if you are travelling for three weeks or longer and need to make a lot of international calls.
If you're travelling for 2½ weeks or less, it is recommended that you also consider a T-Mobile SIM card set up on one of T-Mobile's Pay By The Day plans.
The T-Mobile Unlimited Talk, Text & Web plan outlined on this page includes unlimited internet access at EDGE speed on T-Mobile's 2G network; but you also get a 3G data allowance that gives you faster internet access before your speed is throttled down to EDGE speed.
The standard 3G data allowance is only 1GB, however some phones will only access data at EDGE speeds so you should read the information below to see if it is worth paying the extra for a larger allowance of faster internet access.
The standard rate for a call home to Australia is $1.99/minute, although there are a number of ways that you can reduce the cost of international calls.
Text messages sent to phones outside the USA cost 10¢ to send and 10¢ to receive. MMS picture messages sent to phones outside the USA cost 25¢ to send and 25¢ to receive.
SMS and MMS messages sent to non-US phones that are roaming in the US are treated as international text/picture messages.
For an additional $12 (USD $10/month after your initial 30 days) you can add the Unlimited International feature to your mobile service. This add-on feature gives you unlimited calls to landlines in 56 countries (including Australia) plus reduced rates on calls to mobile phones outside the USA (20¢/minute to Australian mobile phones) and landline phones in other countries.
T-Mobile's Unlimited International feature gives you unlimited free calls to landlines in the following countries:
Adding the Unlimited International feature is the easiest way to get cheap (or free) international calls from your mobile while in the USA. However if you are travelling for more than 30 days, if you are mostly calling mobiles outside the USA or if you will also be visiting other countries (such as Canada) then it may work out cheaper to use the Rebtel service for cheaper international calls.
Using Rebtel to make cheaper international calls
If most of your international calls are to a handful of numbers, you can significantly reduce the cost of international calls with the Rebtel service. Rebtel works by assigning a local US number to each of the regular international numbers you call, then you simply call this local number and your call is diverted to the international number. You are charged for a national call by T-Mobile and the international portion of the call is paid to Rebtel at USD 2¢ per minute to Australian landlines and USD 16¢ per minute to Australian mobiles. Check the Rebtel website for rates to other countries.
It only takes around five to 10 minutes to set up a Rebtel account online, however you need to access the internet as soon as you arrive in the US to complete the set up process as Rebtel sends you a text message with your activation code before asigning local US numbers to your international phone numbers. Once it is set up, however, it is a very easy system especially if you save your Rebtel numbers to your phone's address book.
If you have a smart phone that can run the Rebtel app (such as Android phones, BlackBerry devices, Windows phones and the Apple iPhone), then this is another way that you can use Rebtel to make cheap international calls. The advantage of making international calls using the Rebtel app is that you can dial directly from the app without first setting up your contacts.
Which is the best option for cheaper international calls? Rebtel or the Unlimited International feature?
The easiest option is the Unlimited International feature as you don't need to set up any special account or install any apps on your phone. However there are some instances when Rebtel works out to be the best option.
- Rebtel works out the best option when you will be making mostly calls to mobile phones outside the USA (calls to mobile phones in Australia cost 20¢/minute with the Unlimited International feature, but only 16¢/minute with Rebtel).
- Rebtel works out the best option when you are travelling for longer than 30 days (with the Unlimited International feature you have to pay USD $10 each each additional 30 days service, but with Rebtel you only pay for the calls you make – although you do need to add a minimum of USD $10 credit to pay for your international calls).
- Rebtel works out the best option if you will also be visiting other countries that you wish to make international calls from. This is particularly the case if you are visiting Canada (local Canadian SIM cards don't offer cheap international calls), where Rebtel is the most practical way to make cheap calls home.
Other ways to save on international calls
There are several other options for making cheap calls home, although these are not always as practical as using Rebtel. Some options are using Skype or Viber to call home (although these don't work well over an EDGE data connection and if you don't have access to 3G data you're advised to call from a Wi-Fi hotspot such as from your hotel or a coffee shop).
In the USA it is unusual to be able to tether your phone (use it as a mobile hotspot) on a prepaid mobile phone plan; however T-Mobile will allow this on their monthly prepaid plans (although tethering is limited to 5GB if you have the unlimited 3G data allowance). See here: http://help.travelgear.com.au/entries/22015883-Can-I-tether-my-phone-use-my-phone-as-a-personal-hotspot- for instructions on using your smartphone mobile hotspot, as the menu options are slightly different from Australia.
BlackBerry phones access data differently to other mobile phones and data (for email and internet access) will only work with BlackBerry phones if you add the BlackBerry feature (now at no extra charge).
Please note that there are two types of internet access on BlackBerry phones: BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) and BIS (BlackBerry Internet Services). Data will only work with BIS with the BlackBerry feature on T-Mobile's prepaid plans so you need to ensure that you normally access data using BIS before paying for this service.
Data works fine on all other smartphones including Apple iPhones, Android phones and Windows Phones without payment for this add-on feature.
There are several ways to buy refill vouchers and top up your T-Mobile SIM.
- You can purchase credit from us https://www.travelgear.com.au/t-mobile-usa-refill-top-up/
- You can buy online from www.ezetop.com. This is the cheapest option to purchase a large amount of credit but you can only add $25 on your first transaction and then you have to wait at least 48 hours before buying additional credit (that's because they need to check that your credit card is OK before they will accept further transactions on your card). This is the cheapest way to buy credit online (they are based in Ireland so they don't need to include GST or sales tax in the price), they add the credit directly to your T-Mobile number and they let you pay online with your Australian credit card.
- You can also buy refill cards from 90,000 locations across the United States including T-Mobile retail shops, independent mobile phone dealers, convenience stores (like 7-Eleven), discount department stores (like Target and Walmart), electronics shops (like Best Buy and RadioShack) and pharmacies (like CVS and Walgreens).
- If you have a credit card issued in the USA, you can also top up over the internet at www.t-mobile.com.
Please note: that sales tax is added to the cost of a refill voucher in many parts of the USA and some websites charge a small service fee (usually $2-5 per refill).
How long is my T-Mobile monthly prepaid service valid for?
Your T-Mobile remains active for 90 days from the date that credit was last added to your account, but the monthly service is only good for 30 days from when credit has been added. As long as you have enough credit in your prepaid account to pay for another month of service, your service will roll over for another 30 days after the first 30 days are up.
Changing plans is very easy using the T-Mobile customer service number, on 611 from your mobile or 1 877 778 2106 from any other phone. You can do this via an automated service, or even speak to a real customer representative! If you prefer, we can do this for you. Simply call us in Australia on 03 9988 0686 or in the USA on 310 933 6222.
You can switch plans as often as you like, as long as there is enough credit on your phone to change to the plan you wish to although the new plan usually won't take effect until after your current rate plan has run its course. You can even switch to a Pay By The Day plan from a monthly prepaid plan.
The T-Mobile GSM mobile network offers good coverage in most areas of the United States including Hawaii and even Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. You can check coverage on the T-Mobile website.
T-Mobile has the largest 1900 Mhz GSM network in the United States and is the best option if you have a tri-band phone, but you will get better coverage if you have a quadband phone that also supports the 850 MHz GSM band.
The T-Mobile USA SIM card will work in any unlocked GSM mobile phone that operates at the 1900MHz GSM band. This includes all tri-band and quad-band mobile phones from Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the UK.
If your phone also has the 850MHz GSM band you will get enchanced coverage, particularly in rural areas and the 1700MHz and 1900MHz 3G bands will enable you to access data at faster speeds; however the 1900MHz GSM band is the important one that is required to use your phone in most parts of T-Mobile's network.
We strongly recommend that you check your phone's specifications before you travel to ensure that your mobile phone is compatible with the 1900MHz GSM band. It is also essential that you double check that your phone is unlocked before travelling.
What's the deal with unlocking my phone?
When you buy a mobile phone it is usually locked into the network you bought it from; this means that it will only accept a SIM card from that network. If you call your mobile phone company, they should be able to unlock your phone for you so it will accept any SIM card (including the T-Mobile USA SIM).
How do I know if my phone is locked?
Before you travel put any other SIM that's not from your regular mobile network into your phone and turn it on. If your phone shows a network name it is unlocked, if it says something like "Network locked", "SIM locked" or "SOS calls only" then your phone is locked into your home network.
Occasionally we have customers who have been told by their carrier that their phone is unlocked, whereas the phone was either not unlocked or the unlocking process was not completed successfully. The best way to check that your phone has been unlocked is to pop in a SIM from a different network (for instance an Optus SIM in a Telstra phone) and see whether you get a signal. You can put your T-Mobile SIM in your phone in Australia to check before you go, however as you are roaming outside the USA, take the SIM out again to avoid roaming fees.
Can I unlock my phone?
Most mobile phones sold in Australia are locked to the network that they were originally sold through (all phones sold by Telstra are locked), although a small number of phones are sold already unlocked. If your mobile phone is on a contract there is usually no problem getting your phone unlocked by simply calling your network and asking them to unlock it. Mobile phones on prepaid plans are usually locked to a network but if you have been with the same network for a while it can usually be unlocked by calling your mobile phone company. Pre-paid phones on Boost, Optus and Virgin Mobile can be unlocked after $80 of credit has been added to the phone.
What about unlocking my Apple iPhone?
The unlocking process for Apple iPhones is a two-step process and it can take several days to unlock an Apple iPhone.
To unlock an iPhone you will need to contact the phone network that you purchased your iPhone through. They will ask for your phone's IMEI number, which you can find out by going into your phone's settings (Settings > General > About) and within a few days you will receive a text message saying that your phone has been unlocked. Please note that this text message doesn't mean that the unlocking process is complete. You will still need to connect your phone by cable to your computer (running the latest version of iTunes) to restore your phone. If you do not restore in iTunes, your unlocking process will not be complete and your phone will still be locked. When you have successfully unlocked your iPhone iyou should see a screen in iTunes that looks like this:
Most iPhones purchased from Apple Stores are sold unlocked and are ready to use with any SIM card, however it is still best to check by inserting a SIM from a different network as some Apple Stores overseas still sell locked iPhones.
Here is some information from the Telstra website about unlocking your iPhone. This link has details about unlocking your iPhone along with the contact details at Telstra for their iPhone unlocking team.
Can I roam with this SIM?
You can also use this SIM to roam outside the USA; however roaming charges apply so it is not recommended to use this SIM outside the United States except for short trips into Canada where roaming charges aren't too bad (roaming in Canada costs 59c per minute to receive a call or call a phone in Canada or the USA plus $1.99/minute to phone Australia), but it is much more expensive to use it in most other countries. Please note that any included value in your rate plan can not be used while roaming outside the USA.
Text messages in Canada are 10¢ to send or receive, but in other countries this will cost 50¢ to send and 10¢ to receive. MMS picture messages cost 25¢ to send or receive.
The T-Mobile SIM is ideal for travellers going to the USA and making side trips to Canada, but if you're spending more than a three to four days in Canada we recommend that you buy a Canadian SIM card.
Remember, the reason you're buying a US SIM card is to avoid roaming costs so the best way to save money is to only use a US SIM card when you are in the USA and buy a separate Canadian SIM card for travel in Canada (or limit your use outside the USA).
Data is not available when roaming outside the USA.
Will I get a brand new number?
The T-Mobile SIMs that we have in stock are activated with numbers allocated direct from T-Mobile.
In the United States (as with most other countries) when telephone numbers expire they are put back into circulation. This is basically an issue with all phone numbers, anywhere, but it is more noticable in the USA where there is a shortage of phone numbers per area code (because they still use seven-digit phone numbers). To avoid running out of numbers, they are recycled shortly after being disconnected. All phone companies do this, and it is certainly not an issue that is unique to T-Mobile.
Unfortunately, this means that some people have recieved calls and text messages intended for people who previously had their phone number.
Rest assured that the numbers are direct allocations from T-Mobile, and we now avoid activating numbers on certain area codes to reduce the chance that you get a recycled number.
You'll find more information about using the T-Mobile USA prepaid SIM card on our customer support site. Following are links to some of our frequently asked questions: