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T-Mobile Now Shipping SIMs Pre-Activated and That's a Problem For Some Users

T-Mobile SIMs
T-Mobile USA recently started shipping their prepaid SIMs pre-activated. They arrive with a phone number assigned on the $3/month "pay as you go" plan. The SIMs can be used immediately and include a total of 30 free minutes and/or texts. While that sounds good for people who want to get up and running on T-Mobile as quickly as possible, it screws up several common uses of unactivated SIMs.

The biggest gotcha is with T-Mobile's $30/month plan which comes with a generous 5 GB of high speed data along with unlimited messaging and 100 voice minutes. It's a great plan for those of us that communicate mainly with texts and social media and don't make many calls. The winkle with the $30 plan is a joint promotion between T-Mobile and Walmart and is only available with phones or SIMs purchased from Walmart or when activating any T-Mobile SIM online. Because the new SIMs are preactivated it's not possible to activate them online and get the $30 plan. Users here and on Reddit who called T-Mobile customer support reported that were told that they can switch the pre-activated SIMs to any plan except the $30 plan.

It also looks like you can forget about throwing the preactivated SIMs in a drawer to hand out to international visitors or to use a replacemt for a lost phone or damaged SIMs. The preactivated $3 plan will already be part of the way into its 30 days of service by the time you get it. Once the 30 days are up, service will stop working, Unless T-Mobile policies have changed recently, 90 days after an account is suspended with a zero balance, the account is terminated, the phone number is lost and the SIM is permanently deactivated.

The change to pre-activated SIMs doesn't seem very well thought out. I've asked T-Mobile to comment on the issues with $30 plan activation and storing SIMs for future use and will update the post if and when I get some answers.

Update: According to a T-Mobile spokesperson:

  • Pre-activated SIMs must be activated within 60 days or they will be permanently deactivated.
  • SIMs purchased online or through telesales, can be activated on the $30 plan by calling customer care.
  • Customer care can transfer your existing account, phone number, service plan, and prepaid balance to a pre-activated SIM.

If you want a T-Mobile SIM that you can throw in a drawer for up to two years or activate on the $30 plan without calling customer care, unactivated T-mobile Prepaid SIM kits are available at BestBuyicon, Walmart and Target stores and online from Amazon and eBay.

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50 comments:

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  1. There is a easy solution around this just buy the sim starter kit for $0.99 at T Mobile website.

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    1. That's the problem, not the solution. The Prepaid SIM Starter KI are now shipped preactivated.

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    2. That it not a problem, T-Mobile online support can do it. I confirmed it with them.

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    3. Do what?

      I've heard they can't or won't switch the pre-activated SINs to the $30 plan.

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    4. You have heard it wrong! I switched from ultra.me to t-mobile 30$ plan. It only took 5min! Moreover, my sim was also pre activated.

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  2. Where else can you get 5GB of data and unlimited text, in addition to 100+ MBs for courtesy tethering and 100 minutes for only $30? T-Mobile's SECRET PLAN is still nicely buried, and still trumps all!

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    1. "SECRET PLAN" only in your mind.

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    2. My plan with Smartel kills that so-called secret plan. $35 a month for Unl NA Talk n Text with 10 GB of data along with all of T-Mobile's bonuses. Same plan at 4GHS costs $47.71 or you can get a 6 GB plan for $37.71.

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    3. Sorry but I still hate that plan and 5gb can gobble up fast when playing music or youtube a lot even those apps not part of music freedom

      Also stop calling secret plan because some plans are better than your plans!

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    4. You guys and these stupid $30 "secret" T-Mobile plans. After tax is figured, you're better off with $35 after autopay on Cricket with a far superior AT&T network and unlimited everything. You want a poor network with more high-speed data for less, switch to Boost with their growing data. I've never seen so many people worked up about such a worthless plan in my life, and I've been in the industry for almost twenty years.

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    5. How is that so when Cricket is a throttled MVNO? LTE cannot go above 5-7mbps! Forget that. You can get over 100mbps on T-Mobile's $30 plan though it's usually closer to 20-30 during peak hours. And T-Mobile is a fine network especially if you have band 12.

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  3. I just received my new Prepaid SIM yesterday. The SIM has an Activate By Date of 08/04/2018. So the "activate by date" is worthless?

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    1. I'd guess so,Looks meaningless now.

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    2. What are you talking about?

      There's nothing for a 2yr life she'll of a sim card you still got time....

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  4. That's BS! Cuz I have plenty of those pre-paid sims that are unactivated. If people would stop logging into their accounts then they won't be pre-activated when they arrive. Visit the site without logging in and place your order. How hard can that be?

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    1. T-Mobile.com shipping pre-activated SIMs is a new thing that started sometime this month. If you order one today it will come pre-activated. T-Mobile even tells you that it will. On prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/ it says halfway down the page:

      "The prepaid phone or SIM you purchase online will be ready to use as soon as it arrives. It comes with 30 minutes of talk or 30 texts (or any combination of the two that adds up to 30.)"

      If would be nice if not being logged in would get you an un-activated SIM but that seems unlikely. Nowhere during the SIM order process does the T-Mobile site prompt you to login. You have to go out of your way to log in to My T-Mobile. I doubt that all the people reporting that they got pre-activated SIMs were logged in when they placed their orders.


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  5. T-Mobile started raising prices on some of their plans as a test balloon. If the prices stick without losing customers, there will be many more in the pipeline.

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  6. I recently got the $1 SIM Starter Kit, and it also has an Activate By Date of 08/04/18. But when I put the SIM into my phone w/o activating, I get one text assigning me a phone number, and a voicemail requesting me to set up my voice mailbox. A couple weeks later, I get a 2nd text saying "Your monthly payment is due. To make a payment..." I'm thoroughly confused, is this SIM then activated, and the above date is moot?

    (I should say that the phone is used as a wifi phone on Hangouts, and the SIM was intended for emergency/backup use.)

    Dennis, can you check on this further? TIA.

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    Replies
    1. If your SIM already has a phone number and a plan expiration date it's obviously activated. Unactivated SIMs don't have numbers.

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  7. assume that the T Mobile sims that are found in the drug stores like Walgreens are still un- activated too but they're never going to be $0.99 I doubt! but I think they're on sale for 6.99 this week maybe for somebody wanting one in the drawer it's better than nothing.
    of course if you're going to pay that much just for a sim for a visitor, perhaps then might as well get an AT&T h2o sim and have $0.05 a minute...and if buying too many even save buying multiple Sims by paying 40 bucks the year (to keep a spare # active w/wo an unlocked / or AT&T phone might be cheaper if you have lots of visitors).

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  8. Started? They've been doing this for a while now. People were ordering sims and reselling them on Craigslist.

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  9. Good thing i have a alot of new Tmobile sim from six months ago and they are not activated. I'm goinng to take this open opportunity to sell them on ebay for 20 dollars each now because they are going to be in high demand.

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    1. Lol you're why they are preactivaed, thanks a lot!

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    2. You will have trouble selling them for $20. The going price for T-Mobile Prepaid SIM Kits on eBay today is around $5.

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    3. Im selling my for 30 buck each going to list the link to my ebay page in a little bit.

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    4. You can't you use this site to advertise your overpriced SIMs. You will have to find suckers somewhere else.

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    5. Hey Big D where is the link to your Ebay page. I'am intrested in gettting me a SIM from you. I have no problem paying 30 for it. As long as I can get the T-Mobile 30 dollar plan.

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    6. Here'as a link to all the T-Mobile SIMs on eBay. T-Mobile Prepaid SIM Activation Kit | eBay. I don't see Big D's $30 one anymore, he must of taken his down but there are multiple sellers of unactivated kits for under $7

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  10. So, how do you purchase and activate the WalMart plan now? Only by buying in a physical WalMart store? Can you then set it up for autopay through T-Mo?

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    1. You don't need to buy a phone from Walmart to get the Walmart plan. Just buy an unactivated SIM kit at BestBuy, Walmart, Target, Amazon or eBay and activate it online on the $30 plan.

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    2. Walmart still offers the Starter kit, with $30 airtime. They are in a retail style package. I wouldn't think those are auto-activated, as old shelf stock.

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    3. I'm sure all SIMs in the retail channel are unactivated. Store's wouldn't want to carry highly perishable SIMs with potentially out of market phone numbers.

      When you order online, it looks like T-Mobile is activating SIMs with a phone number based on your shipping zipcode immediately before shipping.

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  11. I think all sims have an activate by date printed on them (when made)
    But it may already be active in their system. You should call to check so it isn't useless in 30 days

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  12. It looks like T-Mobile. Com wants any sim it sends to be used on a new account, need a replacement Sim, I guess you have to go to a T-Mobile store or cvs/walgreens.

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    1. Or buy the SIM and have C/S activate it with your old #. This works well when you are replacing a phone and your old TMo s

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  13. I wonder if Tmo is inflating their numbers with all of these "preactivated" #'s rolling out of their warehouse. This practice is alienating and Verizonish.

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    1. Good point, think you nailed it.

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  14. T-mo's suburban area is still weak than ATT and Sprint.

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    1. Which suburban area is T-Mobile weak in? T-Mobile works great for me in the San Francisco suburbs of South San Francisco , Daly City, Colma and San Raphel. On the other hand, AT&T has a big dead spot in South San Francisco where T-Mobile is strong. Does that mean AT&T is weak in the suburbs too?

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    2. EVERY carrier is weak somewhere. No getting around it.
      Verizon has better coverage, Tmobile covers more people, Sprint has faster coverage, AT&T has more coverage then Sprint/Tmobile - all current ads. They cant all be right

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  15. The "activate by" date doesn't mean Anything to the end user, especially since they are preactivaed, T-Mobile always seems to leave loose ends.

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  16. I have bad signal in my house but full bar in outdoor. Some buildings (especially old concrete buildings) are worst combination with T-Mobile.

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  17. Good News People... To deactivate the SIM and turn it into a regular UN-ACTIVATED SIM Card that can be re-activated manually (via the website, phone call, etc.) is contact T-Mobile Customer Care at 1-877-746-0909, and request that the SIM be deactivated and made available for activation in the future.

    I just did, and sure enough, the T-Mobile Prepaid Website shows that my SIM is now UN-ACTIVATED and available for activation, just like the old SIMs.

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    1. Thanks for the info. I was able to call and deactivate my SIM, and the rep said that it can be re-activated within my expiration period. However, in looking at the online activation page, I'll need an activation code, which didn't come with the SIM. So, I still can't do online activation w/o the code, but will need to call T-Mobile for "assisted activation."

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    2. No activation card is strange. The SIMs used to come in a 3" x 3" sealed cardboard envelope containing the SIM and a couple of folded sheets of paper. One sheet was the Terms of Service document and the other was labeled "SIM Activation Card" and had the activation code printed at the top.

      Did T-Mobile just send you the bare SIM or was the package opened and the activation card paper missing?

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    3. I just activated my iPad with free T-Mobile unlimited service by phone, assisted (200 MB LTE high speed/month). I opened the new T-Mobile SIM package that I bought last Fall and was surprised to see that there was no activation code. The SIM jacket was inside a small T-Mobile pamphlet (no large cardboard container) that did not list a code. My older unused SIM packages all came with a code.

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    4. Here is what the previous T-Mobile prepaid SIM kit looked like, purchased last fall and described above: http://imgur.com/a/VEQno

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    5. I tried de-activating through T-Mobile live chat and was turned down by the CSR. She said they can only de-activate when activating a new SIM card on same line. Will have to try calling...

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  18. Dennis, I no longer have the packaging of the SIM, so can't definitively say if there was an activation card. But I'm normally careful about such things, so unless it was well hidden, I wouldn't have accidentally discard it. And as said, the SIM was pre-activated, so there would be no reason for an activation code to be included.

    This is the only item that I received,

    https://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-2031 (see image of card)

    On second thought, IMO T-Mo's new policy is actually a net benefit, as now you can get a number with a 30-min allowance for $1, and it's good for about 3 weeks (-1 week lost to shipping). Once you're done using the card, call to deactivate it, and save it for a future use.

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