How to Use an Old Prepaid SIM Card

Written by lisa wampler
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How to Use an Old Prepaid SIM Card
Usually you can reactivate an old prepaid SIM card. (mobile phone image by green 308 from

If you have an old prepaid SIM card for a GSM carrier like AT&T, T-Mobile or TracFone, in some cases you can reactivate it. While it helps if you are the listed account holder for the SIM card/account, if you are not it generally is not an issue. You need to obtain a few pieces of information from the SIM card to determine which carrier can restore the SIM card.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look at the back of the SIM card and write down the list of numbers on it. This is the SIM card number. Enter the SIM card number at and it will tell you which carrier the SIM card belongs to. If, for example, the SIM is a T-Mobile SIM, you must go to T-Mobile to have it reactivated. This is the same for all carriers.

  2. 2

    Place the SIM card into a GSM phone for that carrier or you can use an unlocked phone that will work for all carriers. Most budget prepaid phones are not unlocked. Press #NUM# into the keypad and obtain the phone number associated with the SIM card. Even if the SIM card is turned off and it has no money assigned to it, it will still show you the number attached to it. If it does not, the SIM card is purged from the system due to being inactive for a very long time and can no longer be reactivated.

  3. 3

    Call the customer service department for the SIM card you have and provide them with the phone number. Make a payment to add minutes to the prepaid account. This will reactivate the SIM card. If you did not previously own the SIM card or use the phone number, you can ask to have the number changed. Most carriers will charge a fee for this service.

Tips and warnings

  • Most carriers have provisions to protect prepaid customer accounts. If you were not the previous owner of the SIM card, usually you can have the account changed to your name. You will not be able to do this if the previous owner has special instructions on his account that require password authentication to add minutes. If this is the case, you must purchase a new SIM and start a new account.

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