How did it happen that your prepaid calling credit or local SIM card expired? This is something very annoying and difficult to understand for a consumer. Just like the validity of a credit card, your calling credits or data credits can also expire. This is probably a smart trick played by mobile operators to make more money. But why does your local SIM card also expire? Why can’t it just always stay valid?
We receive such kinds of questions regularly. Validity is inextricably linked to the prepaid local SIM card. So, it’s time to find out exactly what is the validity of a (prepaid) local SIM card.
Before we answer this question, it is important to distinguish between the three different types of validity:
- The validity of a physical local SIM card (i.e., a piece of plastic with a chip);
- The validity of a telephone number (i.e., connection to the network);
- The validity of prepaid calling credit and data credit (i.e., money or MBs on your account).
The validity of a physical local SIM card
A local SIM card is a key that your mobile phone needs in order to connect you to the mobile network. This is a simple microchip on a piece of plastic which stores authentication information that allows you to open access to mobile networks.
This is not something that needs a best-before date, you would say (your car key does not have a best-before date, does it?). It is still logical that some other chip cards (like credit cards or public transport cards) have an expiration date and need to be replaced since they suffer a lot from wear and tear during use. A local SIM card, on the other hand, does not face such risks as it is safely stored inside your phone.
Nevertheless, a local SIM card (a plastic piece) sometimes features validity information (you can find "use before December 2020" often printed on a local SIM card or packaging). This is not logical because local SIM cards are still perfectly usable after the expiration date.
It’s up to connectivity providers to decide if they want to put validity on their local SIM cards. By doing so, they do not have to keep very old series of SIMs available in their systems, all of which must be ready for activation. The costs that these databases entail is equal to millions of entries. Most likely, this is the major reason for putting expiration dates on local SIM cards.
Another reason to write a best-before date on a local SIM card is that connectivity providers do not want SIMs to remain in circulation for an unlimited term. There are small developments in local SIM cards (like storage space, security, form, and branding), which you ultimately want to use in a long-term perspective. On such occasions, only the newest version of a local SIM card will be used, and the rest will disappear gradually. A good example is a transition from SIM to USIM, which was caused by the introduction of 4G networks. There was a need for certain extra elements in local SIM cards in order to connect to 4G networks, which became the reason to exchange old local SIM cards for newer ones.
The validity of a telephone number
In order to start using a local SIM card, you need to activate it first. Almost all SIMs that are sold in stores are blank. They do not feature any associated phone numbers yet. As soon as a local SIM card is activated, it is registered as such in all the systems of the connectivity provider. You can start using it then.
An activated local SIM card is connected to an account featuring credit/data credit details. In many countries, active local SIM cards are linked to you as a person. In most cases, this is made mandatory by governments for national security purposes.
But a local SIM card does not remain active forever. If a local SIM card is not used for a long time, it is blocked (suspended). For example, a local SIM card will be suspended if there is no top-up or call/SMS/data activity recorded for several months or a year.
There are two major reasons why connectivity providers do this:
- First, there is only a limited amount of phone numbers Connectivity providers rent telephone numbers from the local government, which they can then issue to their customers. It costs money and it would be too expensive to connect phone numbers to local SIM cards indefinitely. Most telecom providers will block your local SIM card after 6 or 12 months of inactivity to make the telephone number available for use again by a new customer. Often connectivity providers use a cooling-off period of a few months to one year so that a new customer receives no messages from the previous "owner" of the phone number. However, that is not legally required.
- In addition to the restricted amount of phone numbers, limited capacity of a connectivity provider’s database also plays an important role. An active local SIM card is registered in different systems. It keeps track of things like the antenna to which the local SIM card was last connected, a complete log with metadata of data sessions/phone calls/messages, balance consumption history, communication credit, other account details of a user, the validity of your local SIM card, etc. There is a lot more happening in the background and that costs your connectivity provider quite a bit of database capacity. The numbers are not very shocking if we consider the recorded data of a single local SIM card. But with millions of active SIMs in the field, it makes a lot of difference whether you leave SIMs unrestrictedly active or suspend/remove them from your database after a year or 6 months of inactivity. That way, telecoms need less capacity and save costs
The validity of prepaid credit
Finally, you have the validity of the data bundle or call credit. This is one of the most frustrating of the 3 forms of validity. The validity of the call or data credit is a purely commercial decision of a connectivity provider - the longer your credit is valid the greater the chance that you really use it all. Therefore, the longer it takes for you to top up new credit.
Call credit expiration is a very luring topic for connectivity providers. Most of them offer prepaid credit that can be kept for as long as a local SIM card remains active, i.e., 10 days, 2 weeks or 1 month after the last top-up or active use. Choosing Droam’s pre-paid products, on the other hand, gives you data that never expires so long as you refill at least once a year.
With this type of SIM, you get 1GB of prepaid data that is valid for 1 year from when you first use the local SIM card. Although the pre-paid SIM seems pricey if you compare it to alocal SIM card with 1GB of data, however, with Droam your data never expires if you refill once a year. Any refill even 100 MB resets the validity of all the remaining data balance for another year.
Furthermore, you never know how much data you will need next month while your call credit is still valid. Perhaps you will need more than the set limit, which often leads to significant additional expenses. With Droam, if you need more data, you can refill as needed at the same great rates as always.
Call credit is especially useful for making phone calls and sending text messages. On the other hand, it is very disadvantageous to use data directly from your call credit since it costs you 10 to 25 cents per MB, which equals $100 to $250 per GB.
The solution for you should be a pre-paid SIM that you can refill and not lose your un-used data. You will not waste your money and be able to use every last MB.
In summary, there are 3 types of validity that we need to distinguish:
The validity of a physical local SIM card lets providers keep their databases clean as they limit the number of outdated local SIM cards in the market.
The validity of phone numbers: There are a limited number of phone numbers available, so they need to be assigned only to active users.
The validity of prepaid call/data credit: Connectivity providers offer call credit for phone calls and mobile data that is valid for a limited number of days which allows them to sell bundles of prepaid data at a cheaper price. When considering that an average user consumes only 50% of their prepaid data). It’s easier to then use a data plan, that you can top-up and keep the data that you paid for. Plus, not having the need to use it in a short period of time gives a bit of breathing room when it comes to using your mobile data.
Try now to enjoy rewards of boundless connectivity opportunities for a lifetime!