Beat the global roaming rip-off: buy an overseas SIM in Australia

Beat the global roaming rip-off: buy an overseas SIM in Australia

While Australian mobile carriers continue to slash the cost of global roaming, the best value is still a prepaid SIM card from the country you're visiting – and it's now possible to pick one up before leaving Australian soil.

Recently opened at Melbourne International Airport and with similar stores at Sydney Airport and online, retailer SimCorner stocks SIM cards from a number of countries including the USA, China, Hong Kong, the UK and New Zealand.

Using local mobile phone SIM cards has long been a favourite trick of savvy jetsetters looking to keep in touch with the office, friends and loved ones back home – and when shopping with SimCorner, you could actually pay less than you would abroad for the same pre-paid plan.

We checked out SimCorner’s prices and how they compare to buying the same SIM in its home country – here’s what we found.

SIM cards for the United States

For the United States, SimCorner stocks a range of regular T-Mobile SIMs plus a couple of Red Pocket data-only SIMs for use in iPads, portable hotspots and USB modems.

SimCorner sells the T-Mobile SIMs at face value in Australian dollars – so if you’d normally pay US$50 for a pre-paid SIM in the USA, you’ll only part with A$50 for the same product at SimCorner.

Better yet, T-Mobile normally charges a US$10 fee to purchase the SIM on top of your first pre-paid plan, but that’s also waived at SimCorner.

Looking at the data-only plans with Red Pocket, you’ll part with A$35 for an unlimited data SIM (3GB at up to 4G speeds, then throttled to 2G speed). Buying the SIM and plan directly from Red Pocket sets you back US$30, plus a US$9.99 fee for the SIM itself (roughly A$43.50).

That's an overall saving of A$8.50, with the added bonus of being able to use it from the moment you land without losing any time from your hectic business trip or well-earned holiday.

SIM cards for the UK and Europe

Over in the United Kingdom, you’ll pay a little more for the convenience of having your SIM before you arrive.

While SimCorner’s Lebara SIM comes in at A$25, we found comparable Lebara pre-paid plans available for just £10 (~A$17.50) in the UK, which included a free SIM and can be found at most newsagents, convenience stores and major retailers.

Twenty five dollars gets you a solid 2GB of data, or you can choose to trade some of that data for calls and SMS credit when activating your SIM.

For balanced phone users, we'd suggest the mix of 500 minutes of local calls, unlimited SMS, 102 minutes of talk time to Australia numbers and 500MB of downloads instead of the straight 2GB chunk, which is best put to use in tablets and portable hotspots.

Or, when connecting onwards within Europe, the pre-paid WorldSIM could take your fancy at just A$30 through SimCorner, complete with US$20 of credit to get you started.

Buy your WorldSIM at SimCorner's Sydney Airport store...

You’d normally fork out US$49.99 for the SIM card and a lower US$15 of credit – making SimCorner cheaper and better value than buying the product direct from the WorldSIM website.

It's only US$0.35 per minute to call home to Australia from major European destinations such as France, Italy and Germany and Austria, and US$0.30 per MB of data.

Sending SMS messages isn't as cheap – you'll pay US$0.59 to text back home to Australia from the same countries, so we'd suggest using Apple's iMessage service to text using the data connection for a fraction of what you'd pay for a standard SMS text.

Crunching the numbers, your initial $20 credit gets you either 57 minutes of calls to Australia, 66MB of data or 33 Australia-bound SMS messages. That's not overly flash on a per-country basis, but that's still up to 89% less than you'd be slugged by roaming with Telstra across Europe.

Travelling further afield?

SimCorner also stocks SIMs for France, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Indonesia and Thailand, but as we’ve found above, always check that you’re getting the best deal.

If you’re happy to pay a premium for the convenience of being set-up before your plane leaves the runway in Australia, you can also order your SIM via the SimCorner website.

You’ll pay an $8.50 delivery fee, but if it saves you hunting down mobile phone retailers and comparing mobile plans on the fly, it could well be worth it.

More on global roaming:

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18 Comments

  • moa999

    moa999

    23 Sep, 2014 10:59 am

    Good article.

    Simcorner website seems to be down. Where in SYD departures is the Sydney store?

    Whilst Virgin's $5 a day roaming is the best deal domestically - given you can get near unlimited prepaid in Asian countries for about $10 and $20-30 in Europe/US, local SIMs are the way to go to save money -- even better if you have a dual SIM phone.

    For Japan, I also note that b-mobile has just launched a combined voice/data SIM, but it is still expensive at Y9980 (about A$100) for 7-days.

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  • David Flynn

    David

    27 Sep, 2014 12:10 pm

    Hi moa999 - in Sydney's T1, the SIMcorner stand is along that connector between the central 'attrium' part of the airport with the Qantas lounges etc (which you first enter after coming through security and the duty-free maze) and the gates used by SQ, AirNZ, Etihad, Thai etc.

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  • Peter Cain

    Peter Cain

    23 Sep, 2014 12:15 pm

    As someone who deals in local and roaming SIM cards all day (I run a SIM retailer based in Melbourne), I'd add that T-Mobile is probably not known to have the best speed/coverage outside a few of the biggest cities. I do sell both AT&T and T-Mobile, but ATT has far superior coverage and speed. Also note, that whilst the WorldSIM might have some OK call/SMS rates, be carefull on the data pricing. When I look at the site just now, they are pricing in $ per 100kb - that obviously isn't per MB (yes, lots of people get caught out on that). Great to have a last minute service at the airport, but as always do your research (online) so you don't get caught out and have it all sorted before you leave home (& free shipping is never a bad thing either! :-).

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  • Julie Sufi

    Julie Sufi

    23 Sep, 2014 12:55 pm

    I recently travelled to the USA for a business trip, and purchased a couple PrePaid Sim Cards from SimCorner. I was really impressed with the entire service from the Get Go. As soon as I landed into L.A, I switched my phone on, and started receiving emails, updates and notifications straight away. I was most happy with the generous data allowance. I used it to hot spot from my lap top when I was on the road, constantly was on the phone checking emails and updates etc. I didn’t even need to use the Hotel wifi, as the Sim cards from Sim Corner had much better coverage than the wifi in the hotel.

    My colleagues also got Sim Cards from Sim Corner, which made a huge difference in being able to communicate with each other during our trip. Travelling from L.A, to New York to San Fran Sisco, the coverage was fantastic at every point of the way. Its a fantastic solution to global roaming.

     I travelled to the UK for a work trip previously, and had to activate global roaming through my carrier for only 2 weeks, with minimal data, text and incoming calls/voicemails, I came back to a bill of $3,000! A mistake never to be made again.

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  • Damian88

    Damian88

    23 Sep, 2014 01:01 pm

    I've already used these guys before for there T-Mobile USA sim for my second trip to the USA. Worked perfectly! I was in Vegas, LA, MIami and NY and had no issues.

    The first time I went it was such a headache getting a sim card there, the journalist has obviously done his research because when i went to the USA the first time they charged me $20 for the sim. Some of my other mates purchased USA sims from a different location in the USA and literally every store charges different prices for the sim. So annnoying!!! Some stores wouldn't even sell you a sim card on its own and that you had to get a phone as well :S.

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  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    23 Sep, 2014 10:51 pm

    In the US T-Mobile only offer a plan (one month) for $10 for unlimited international calls and SMS as an add-on to the $50 minimum plan which allows unlimited calls, SMS, and some data too I suppose.   The major downsides to the International component is that you can only call landlines, and cannot receive calls from Australia or wherever, but can receive SMS. You need to check every little detail with any plan you are buying.

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  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    27 Sep, 2014 12:34 pm

    Does SIMcorner have this T-Mobile product, or similar, where it is possible for someone in Aust. to ring and SMS the T-Mobile number? No-one seems to be clear on this!

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  • Cedric Johnston

    Cedric

    23 Sep, 2014 01:27 pm

    I have friends who have used the USA SIM card from simcorner. They couldn't have been happier with the service and quality. I personally have been looking at simcards as well and have done extensive research, travellers should be weary of sites charging for blank simcards with no credit in them. Simcorner have local plans ready to go and the simcards are free! Will definitely order mine soon. 

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  • wdeguara

    wdeguara

    23 Sep, 2014 01:49 pm

    Do the sim cards offered by SimCorner allow for connection tethering ?  (eg. If you have a SimCorner sim card in your iPhone and wish to create a 'personal hotspot' for your iPad/laptop connectivity). 

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  • Cedric Johnston

    Cedric

    23 Sep, 2014 02:19 pm

    They sell local SIM cards so it varies from country to country. One of the  USA plans , from what I know, gives you 5gb of 4g data 

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  • nix584

    nix584

    24 Sep, 2014 08:45 am

    Every time I go overseas I get a SIM for the country I'm visiting. On my last trip I ended up with 5 SIM cards!

    There are other websites based in Australia who can provide cards for the US, UK, Germany, Hong Kong and Thailand. It's super easy to get a Starhub SIM on arrival in SIN and a True Mobile SIM in Thailand is cheap as chips with what seems to be unlimited data. the 2 Degrees SIM for NZ is a great deal too. I have used T-Mobile before and they were great but my last US trip I had an AT&T SIM and was very impressed.

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  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    24 Sep, 2014 09:04 am

    Hi nix584.  How did making and receiving international calls work out on the AT&T SIM?  Could you make calls to mobiles in Aust?  I'm not so interested in the data aspect.

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  • Peter Cain

    Peter Cain

    24 Sep, 2014 11:26 am

    Hi MissBasset, AT&T charges calls to Aust mobiles at about $1.09/min, and that requires credit above what you pay for the plan. They also have a $5=250min international call pack, but that only covers landlines in Aust ... but to be honest, obviously depends on preference and cost sensitivity, but a big % of people these days are using the fast/cheap data to make calls using apps like Skype/Viber/WhatsApp. As I mentioned above, AT&T has much faster data to allow this. T-Mobile speed/coverage (based on first hand experience and from plenty of customers), is very poor outside the big cities. Also just to clarify the  (my comment above was getting down voted form some reason?.. it wasn't being directed at SIM corner, instead at T-Mobile in US), but the reason is most of T-Mobile's coverage is on bandwiths that are incompatible with phones from outside the US.. yes they do have some coverage on compatible bands, but these are limited and hence why the poor reception/speeds, particularly relative to AT&T which runs on GSM compatible bands for foreign phones. 

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  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    24 Sep, 2014 11:54 am

    Yep, I agree re T-Mobile coverage in US, but not really a bother for me as mainly in NYC. The biggest bugbear is not being able to receive any calls from home, only SMS. A bit primative to get an SMS saying "Please ring me now!" Definately need to look at other options before I travel next week!

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  • Peter Cain

    Peter Cain

    24 Sep, 2014 12:03 pm

    Both should allow you to receive calls in US from Aust no problem (the caller in Aust is paying to call you, and you just need local call tiime to receive), but making outbound calls from US number is where costs do apply. Also, side point, AT&T give unlimited international SMS in all their plans, think its is charged at a small rate on T-Mobile. Either way, most find fast/reliable data combined with Apps like WhatsApp/skype a good work around to high telco costs, but yes, do home work and find right solution that suits :-)

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  • Nic Jay

    jnic

    25 Apr, 2015 01:27 pm

    Bought 2x AT&T USA SIMS before travelling to the US last year (after previously giving up aquiring SIMs over there and wound up drinking much Starbucks coffee to get free wi-fi access).

    The guy from E-Bay (Australian vendor) sent an EXCELLENT set of instructions along with the SIMs, which included specific details of what to do .... and also what to do when those inevitable error messages pop up, resulting in (almost) perfect coverage everywhere we went. The one anomally was where the phones locked onto some unknown carrier instead of AT&T, it didn't have any associated data capability and took me multiple attemts to manually re-attach to AT&T once I had realised the error.

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  • peterd49

    peterd49

    20 Jul, 2015 09:40 pm

    I've read the reviews on Lebara and none have anything good to say. Any comments?

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  • thiago thiago

    72ericjoh

    30 Oct, 2015 10:23 am

    I've been to Lithuania but it was my only visit to Europe so i can't compare but phone services really didn't cost £10 over there as said in this article. Although it might be because I was using local prepaid card, they are cheaper. The first day I bought ezys.lt prepaid sim card and i think it is wise to do so in every country.

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28 Jul, 2017 12:52 am

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