More TracFone and Net10 SIM Card Info

[Note: This info is a follow-up to my previous post about SIM cards. As with the previous article, this information applies equally to TracFone and Net10 users. However, to make for easier reading, I’ll be referring only to “TracFone.” If you’re a Net10 user, just replace the word “TracFone” with “Net10.”]

What type of SIM card is in your phone?

If you have a TracFone with a SIM card, you might want to know what type of SIM card it is. I think I’ve posted this before in the comments section, but I don’t believe I’ve ever made it part of an actual post. There are two ways to determine the type of SIM in your phone. The easier way for most people is to go to your phone’s “Prepaid” menu, and scroll down to “SIM Number” or “SIM Serial Number,” and select “OK.” You should see a 20-digit number starting with the numbers “890.” This is your SIM Serial Number.

Alternatively, you could also turn off your phone, remove the battery to access the SIM card, and read the SIM serial number off the card itself. Either way, you’ll be interested in the first six digits of the number. All TracFone and Net10 phones have SIM cards beginning with 890. The next three digits determine your carrier. If you have 890141, then you have an AT&T SIM card. If you see 890126, then it’s T-Mobile.

If you have a T-Mobile SIM Card and haven’t had any problems, don’t worry about it. If, however, you’ve had problems with data services, or had trouble getting a signal where you knew AT&T users had good service, you might want to consider switching to an AT&T SIM.

Replacing your current TracFone or Net10 SIM

Switching SIMs is something that TracFone or Net10 can do for you easily (and at no charge to you), though they would prefer not to if they can help it. I’d also like to reiterate that if your phone works to your satisfaction at the moment, there is no need to switch SIMs. It can be a nuisance to complete the switch, as you’ll see below.

To get the process started, you’ll need to call customer service and select the options that allow you to report a technical difficulty. When you are able to speak with a representative, tell them that your phone coverage is unacceptable, and your friend with an AT&T-based TracFone has much better coverage than you. Tell them that you would like to be switched to an AT&T SIM. At this point, they may resist, but you’ll need to be insistent that your current coverage is unacceptable. If all else fails, you could threaten to leave TracFone.

Once they agree to send you a new SIM card, the process has begun in TracFone’s system. AT this point, it would be wise to request a “ticket number” from them so that when you receive the replacement, their system will know what to do with your phone. TracFone will send you a new SIM card in just a few days. Once you receive the replacement SIM, you’ll have to call customer service again and have them walk you through the steps to activate the new SIM. Keep in mind that before you switch SIMs, you will want to make sure that any phone book entries that had been saved to your old SIM are switched to your phone’s internal memory.

Getting your preferred SIM card in a new TracFone or Net10 phone

As I said, switching SIM cards after you’ve activated a phone can be a big nuisance. To save this trouble, you can make sure before buying a new phone that you’ll get the SIM card you prefer. You might even prefer to replace your phone altogether rather than just getting a new SIM. Here’s how to do that:

If you order online from TracFone’s site, they will ask you to enter the ZIP code where you will use the phone the most. Try it now for yourself: Click on one of the links below to get to the order page:
TracFone’s phone order page
Net10’s phone order page

Enter your own ZIP, confirm it, and wait for the next page to load. Now, here’s the critical part. Look in your browser’s address bar for a string of text that looks like this: “action=view&market=” The string of characters that follows the “market=” determines the type of phone TracFone wants to sell in your area, as follows:
“CO” is for CDMA coverage, provided by VErizon
“GSM4” or “COGSM4” – Any GSM phones offered in this area will include an AT&T SIM Card
“GSM5” or “COGSM5” – Any GSM phones offered in this area will include a T-Mobile SIM Card
“GSM5AT” – GSM phones could be AT&T or T-Mobile, but probably T-Mobile

The above codes explain what type of SIM card to expect from TracFone. If you know what type of SIM you want to receive, but your own ZIP gives you the wrong kind, you can also trick the system by using a different ZIP code. Use 24874 or 65046 to get an AT&T SIM, 82001 to get a T-Mobile SIM, or 57401 to get CDMA-only offerings. If you do this, you will need to enter the “trick” zip on the first page, and then when you are ready to check out you will need to make sure you shipping ZIP gets changed to your actual home ZIP code, and confirm that you understand you have used two different ZIPs in the ordering process.

That explains how to get your preferred SIM card type from TracFone’s website. If you are buying from another site or store, your experience may vary. As far as I know, all phones currently sold on Walmart’s web site areĀ GSM phones and include At&t sim cards. I think that Amazon uses TracFone’s own system to determine SIM type. And if you buy from eBay, you should confirm the SIM type with the seller.

If you are buying in a store, the process is more straightforward, but could lead to more frustration. The SIM card included in these packages will depend upon the area in which they are sold, and will usually correspond to TracFone’s site offerings for that ZIP code. To figure it out in the store, look on the bottom of the phone package for the model number surrounded by a few other characters. For example, the LG600g would look something like this: TF600GP4. The last two digits are what we’re interested in. If they’re “P4,” the package contains an AT&T SIM card. If it’s “P5,” you’re looking at a T-Mobile-based phone.

I hope this info helps save some frustration for TracFone and Net10 customers in the future. As usual, if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them. Please reply in the comments section. Thanks!

TracFone and Net10 SIM Card Info

Lately Ive been receiving a lot of questions and comments on the issue of AT&T vs. T-Mobile SIM cards. So I decided to write up a little info on this issue to hopefully help clear things up a little.

[Note: This information applies equally to TracFone and Net10 users. However, to make for easier reading, I’ll be referring only to “TracFone.” If you’re a Net10 user, just replace the word “TracFone” with “Net10.”]

For those of you who don’t know, TracFone don’t own any networks – they just contract with the network owners, or “carriers,” to use the networks. There are three main carriers that TracFone works with: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon (who now also owns the former Alltel network). The former two carriers operate “GSM” networks, while Verizon’s network uses the “CDMA” standard. For more information on these two technologies, check out my old TracFone CDMA vs. GSM article here.

Here’s a simplified view of how the GSM phones work on TracFone: The GSM carriers require that each phone use a “SIM Card.” In the case of TracFone GSM phones, you will get a SIM card that is native to either the AT&T or the T-Mobile network. The type of SIM card determines which network your particular phone will give preference too, in case both networks are available.

For example, if you have a T-Mobile SIM in your phone and you’re in an area where both AT&T and T-Mobile networks are available, your phone will use the T-Mobile network. If you travel into an area with only AT&T coverage, you should be able to use the AT&T network. However, this is where things get a little murky for TracFone users.

Throughout the comments on this blog and on other forums around the web, TracFone users with T-Mobile sim cards in their phones have reported subpar or even unacceptable roaming ability. As far as I can tell, these problems seem to arise when a phone with a T-Mobile SIM is in an area with a strong AT&T signal, but weak T-Mobile coverage. Since the T-Mobile SIM tells the phone to give preference to the T-Mobile network, that’s the network you’ll be forced to use – even though the AT&T signal is stronger.

This issue is compounded by the problem that AT&T has a more comprehensive network, so it’s a fairly common problem to use an inferior T-Mobile signal when AT&T would be a better option. Further, users with T-Mobile SIM cards have also reported problems with the data capabilities of their phones, having trouble sending MMS messages and using the mobile web.

Add all these factors together, and the result is that for many (but not all) TracFone users with T-Mobile SIM cards, an AT&T SIM would actually provide better service. On Friday I’ll follow up with another article on this topic, discussing how to tell what type of SIM card is in your phone, whether you should replace your SIM card, and how to make sure you get the SIM card you want when buying a new phone.