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.


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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 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 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.

  • See all international pre-paid/PAYG options
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.