Newcomer's Guide to Buying a SIM Card and Phone Plan in Canada

Living in a new country is exciting, and you’ll want to share this newfound joy with loved ones. One of the most important decisions you’ll make your first week in Canada revolves around the phone.

There are three things you'll want to consider when deciding how to stay connected: how to buy a SIM card, deciding on which phone you'll use, and choosing a phone plan. By the time you're done reading this, you'll have a better understanding of what Canada has to offer when it comes to staying in touch with loved ones and friends.

Choose a SIM and Phone Plan Wisely to Save Hundreds

Compared to most of the world, Canada has one of the most costly phone plans. However, if you choose wisely, you can save hundreds per year (and avoid lots of frustration) by selecting the perfect plan.

Many people choose plans based on a quick opinion from a friend or salesperson and end up paying for features they don’t even use. With that in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding on a phone plan:

Will I be living in a big city? Will I be spending a lot of time away from the main cities? Will I be traveling around the country a lot? Which province will I live in? Do I want to be able to stream movies or videos on my phone? Will I need a dependable connection for work?

Keep in mind that Canada does provide lots of areas with free public wifi within the major cities meaning that if you plan to spend most of your time in major cities, you may not need as much data compared to if you choose to spend a lot of time away from major cities.

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Cheap Plan

Not all phones and SIM cards that work in your home country will work in Canada for various reasons. First, you’ll have to make sure your phone is unlocked — in other words, you want to make sure your phone provider doesn’t have your phone locked down. If your phone is locked, it will be tough to insert a new SIM card, and you may need to buy a new phone altogether.

Once your phone is unlocked, you’ll want to make sure that your phone’s bandwidths are compatible with the bandwidths offered by the service provider you’re looking at in Canada.

The concept of bandwidths may sound complicated, but don’t worry. Here are two ways to see if your phone will be compatible: Contact the service provider who you are thinking about joining and ask.

Visit either of the following sites and put in your phone information:

frequencycheck.com https://willmyphonework.net/

Canada’s Popular Phone Plan Providers

Some high-level things to know about Canada providers are that there are three main phone plan providers: Telus, Bell, and Rogers. Then there are some smaller ones that do not have as much national coverage as the main three but are a lot more affordable. A third option is using a phone that you already own and looking to activate international roaming with your home country's provider. International roaming can prove to be the best decision based on your specific needs.

Note: Some provinces have local providers that specialize in that specific region. For example, service plan provider Videotron specializes in Quebec and you most likely should not consider it if you live all the way in Vancouver.

In the same way, some providers perform better in one province over others. For example, Freedom tends to get excellent reviews for those living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) but less favorable reviews from those living elsewhere.

It might be a good idea to refer to facebook groups and forums in your local area to find out who the more popular carriers are.

The Big 3 Phone Plan Providers

The top dogs in Canada are Telus, Bell, and Rogers. There isn’t much competition from other providers as far as speed and coverage when it comes to choosing a phone plan, but their prices tend to be on the high end.

If coverage and speed is a very high priority for you, these are the plans you’ll be looking at.

It’s worth mentioning that you’ll find it easier to look at prepaid plans from the Big 3 if you haven’t had a chance to establish credit yet in Canada. These major companies will often look for at least 6 months worth of credit history for their postpaid plans. In the same way, if you plan to buy a phone from them, you’ll probably have to plan to pay for it upfront since financing the cost of a new phone may require a credit check as well.

The Popular Cheap Plan Providers

Aside from the Big 3 providers, you'll find other providers that are more affordable if the price is a huge factor for you when choosing a plan. Do keep in mind that most of these providers are owned by the Big 3, which lends them some credibility.

It's hard to say which one is better without first knowing more about you. Some of these provide better coverage in specific areas and less coverage in others. Let's look at some of the more popular ones.

  • Freedom Mobile
  • Public
  • Fido
  • Chatr

Freedom

Freedom is one of the more popular cheap phone plans, and here are three things to consider about them:

First, Freedom's connection tends to be better in the city than in the mountains and more rural areas. Second, Freedom is also limited in its compatibility with lots of phones. So double-check that your phone will work with them (iPhones work fine). Third, as you research Freedom, keep in mind that it's gotten a lot better compared to reviews in the past. Make sure to look for recent reviews.

Public

Public, owned by Telus, is one of the more affordable plans because they don’t have a customer service team to talk to. However, they do have 24/7 virtual assistance and an active community.

Public doesn’t perform any credit checks for their postpaid plans and is generous in allowing ways for its users to lower their monthly phone plan which includes being an active member in the community and bringing in new members. It also has loyalty credit meaning your phone plan gets reduced slightly the longer you’re with them.

Fido

Fido, owned by Rogers, has affordable rates and phones and also offers a free 1000 long distance minutes to India and a few other countries. Contact Fido to learn more.

Chatr

Chatr, owned by Rogers, is highly recommended among forums and social media group users.

Chatr has no credit checks and also offers a convenient pay as you go method. Their phone usage prices are very competitive and they also offer cheap phones.

Bring Your Own Phone FAQ

If you decide to bring your own phone and stay with a carrier from your home country, you may want to learn more about the term “international roaming”. Check your specific carrier to see if they offer international roaming services in Canada. With that in mind, here are some of the common questions regarding bringing your own phone to Canada while using a service provider from home:

Does Airtel work in Canada?

Yes. Visit this link and put your information to find the best plans suitable for your specific needs. Prices, if you start from as low as ₹649 (~C$11.70) for one day to as low as ₹1199 (~C$21.75) for 30 days.

If you desire to just use Airtel for a one time password (OTP) for your bank account, you can for a minimum recharge of Rs 49/month. This keeps your SIM alive. With this basic plan, you can’t get calls or data, only incoming texts.

How to recharge? To recharge, you’ll need to visit the Airtel Thanks app or website, or call their call center.

Does Jio work in Canada?

Yes. The operator for Jio in Canada is Telus and Bell. Make sure to activate international roaming by following these steps.

Find their current plans following this link and make sure to select Canada as the country.

How to recharge? You can recharge your international roaming plan by using the MyJio app or by visiting www.jio.com and clicking on “quick pay” on the homepage. Then follow the instructions. You can also visit a store or retailer to recharge.

Does Vodafone work in Canada?

Yes. Prices range as low as ₹295 (~C$5)for 28 days with no data and limited talk time to ₹6995 (C$127) for 28 days, including up to 5GB and 500 minutes talk time. Visit their site for more details.Keep in mind that you will get charged a ₹99 (C$1.80) fee every 30 days as soon as you engage in texting, calling, or data usage.

Additionally, if you only desire to just use vodafone for a one time password (OTP) for your bank account, you can do this for a minimum recharge of Rs 49/month. This keeps your SIM alive. With this basic plan, you can’t get calls or data, only incoming texts.

How to recharge? Go to https://www.myvi.in/ and click on the recharge tab.

Extra Tips to Consider

Take advantage of sales that take place on Black Friday and often continue on to New Years as prices tend to be very competitive during this time of the year. While we're talking about discounts, if you're a student, it's also worth mentioning it and showing your student ID because many providers might give you discounts on data.

Final Thoughts

There are a few things to consider when choosing the best way to stay connected. Once you figure out your own needs, then choosing the cheapest plan for you will be easy! And you won’t have to worry about wasting money on plans that include things you don’t use.

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