Best iPhone 5 PAYG nano-SIM options for traveling to Canada

If you're visiting Canada with a GSM unlocked iPhone 5, you have several Pay As You Go, or prepaid, options to consider. Nano-SIM availability is still hit and miss. There's not reason you shouldn't be able to get one, since every major carrier and subsidiary is currently carrying the iPhone 5. However, getting them to give you one for short-term PAYG might be a battle, or could incur an additional charge.

Canadian carriers like Rogers, Bell, and TELUS all have discount subsidiaries, namely Fide/Chatr, Virgin, and Koodo, so we're going to focus on those. Other carriers, like Moblicity, Wind, and Videotron use AWS frequencies (like T-Mobile in the U.S.) and don't currently support the iPhone.

Chatr

Chatr is a Rogers subsidiary, like Fido, with cheap plans. However, it's hard to find a dedicated Chatr location to get a nano-SIM, and while we've heard Rogers and Fido can activate nano-SIM cards on Chatr, not every customer service rep (CSR) may know that, and not every CSR may be willing to do so.

Chatr has a wide range of no-contract plans, though data is limited to the $45 plan that includes:

  • Unlimited incoming talk
  • Unlimited outgoing talk within Canada
  • Unlimited US and Canada texts

  • 100MB of data ($0.10 per MB for each additional MB)

If you're willing to go without data and stick to Wi-Fi, you can also get a different $45 plan that includes

  • Unlimited incoming talk
  • Unlimited outgoing talk within Canada
  • 20 minutes of international long distance
  • Unlimited International texts

Additional charges apply for overages.

Fido

Fido is also a Rogers affiliate and while they may be more expensive than Chatr, they can also be easier to find and get a non-SIM card activated. There are also several voice and data options to consider.

The most robust voice plan is $39.97 a month and includes:

  • Unlimited local calls
  • Unlimited international incoming and outgoing texts

Data add-ons include:

  • $10 for 100MB (+ $0.15 a MB)
  • $25 for 500MB (+ $0.5 a MB)

Virgin Mobile

Virgin is a Bell subsidiary that offers several prepaid options. The $35 smartphone plan includes the following:

  • Unlimited incoming calls (US & Canada long distance is a $30 add-on)
  • Unlimited weekends and evenings
  • Unlimited US & Canada incoming and outgoing texts
  • 250MB of data (+ $0.05 a MB, 1GB of data is a $35 add-on))

Koodo

Koodo is a TELUS subsidiary with prepaid plans and "boosters" that seem geared towards in-Canada use (if you want to call or text outside Canada, try someone else). The $35 base plan includes:

  • Unlimited Canadian texts
  • Unlimited incoming calls
  • Unlimited local evenings and weekend calls

Data boosters include

  • $10 for 100 MB
  • $25 for 500 MB
  • $35 for 1 GB

Other options

If you have trouble getting a nano-SIM, you can try an Apple Retail Store. As pointed out by Çingleton on ADN They have them for most major local carriers and should be willing to give you one. (Flash your iPhone 5 or a receipt if you have to.) Most carriers have told us there's no difference between a prepaid and postpaid SIM, so it's worth a try.

It’s also worth mentioning that nano-SIM “cutters” are available online to enable brave users to trim down micro-SIMs to nano-SIM size. If the gold contacts are the right size, you should be able to use one of these hole punch-like devices to cut down the plastic around your micro-SIM so that it’s the correct size for iPhone 5. You can also attempt this manually using a good old-fashioned pair of scissors, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Cutting down SIM cards can be hit and miss, though, so proceed at your own risk if you decide to go ahead with this. However, if successful, you’d be able to slice down any micro-SIM and use a PAYG SIM from any provider in your iPhone 5.

We’ve reached out to the other major mobile networks to see if they plan on offering PAYG nano-SIMs anytime soon. We’ll update this article with any new information they provide.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 5 comments. Add yours.

SteveW928 says:

Slightly off-topic (though I would want a pay-as-I-go plan, even though I'm not visiting), but does anyone know of a more reasonable data plan (or if one might be coming from some carrier) if I don't care about unlimited calling, etc.? Currently, I pay $10/mo for an 'emergency phone' and I'm completely fine with that. I never use all my minutes. I'd love an iPhone some day, and data, but don't need the frills... just something inexpensive that includes a reasonable amount of data (say, 500 MB to 1 GB). It seems that shouldn't cost more than $10 either.... but it doesn't seem like one can get anything below about $40-50/mo. (And even then, it isn't nearly that good.)

tomsunny says:

i found this online store that sell iPhone 5 parts, do hope offer you guys a big help
http://www.etradesupply.com/apple/iphone/apple-iphone-5.html

newdeal says:

Ok Rene the best pay go provider by FAR is 711 Speakout or Petro Canada mobility. Both are basically the same, both use the rogers network, both are way better than anything you listed for voice and text and if you change the settings of your phone the $10 per month unlimited browing option has 3g data on which many things work (not all though, it works better on android where it is basically full data, unlimited for $10 a month)

SteveW928 says:

Thanks... the 7eleven speakout looks interesting to me (as I pay $10/mo anyway with my cheapo telus phone, and could add data as needed... even if limited usage). I read one of the article about how to do it, and it seems to involve changing the APN and pointing at a proxy, or something like that. Is that kind of solution pretty stable? Or, does the proxy and settings change from time to time (and you have to keep finding new solutions)?

Ccarse says:

If you can't find a nano sim, you can always get a micro sim and cut it down. Some scissors and a nail file is all you need. You can find templates you can print out that you can trace the places to cut onto the sim card. It's what I did here in Poland.