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Looking at prepaid SIM card options in Canada it seems that the best choice by far is to get a T-Mobile prepaid plan for $50/month which includes 4GB of data and allows you to use the same tariff in Mexico, US and Canada. The detailed T&C's mention that:

Not for extended international use; you must reside in the U.S. and primary usage must occur on our U.S. network. Device must register on our U.S. network before international use. Service may be terminated or restricted for excessive roaming or misuse.

However it's not clear what "excessive use" means. Is it one month outside the US? 6 months? 1 year? If they let you roam for at least a month it would be perfectly fine as one could easily stash numerous anonymous prepaid SIM cards and swap them out once per month.

  • Are you proposing to pay $50 a month each for numerous anonymous prepaid SIM cards? You'd be better off to just pay for Canadian service. But if you usually use the SIM with native T-Mobile USA service, a month in Canada isn't going to cause you a problem. – Jim MacKenzie Dec 6 '17 at 20:54
  • @JimMacKenzie the SIM card itself is free. You only start paying when you activate it. So I could easily get 3 at once and use them for 3 months in a row, if necessary. I'm going to visit the US once per month, but most of the time will be in Canada. – JonathanReez Dec 6 '17 at 20:56
  • That certainly breaks the spirit of their intentions. And according to their terms, they must be on native T-Mobile service before international roaming will work, which may or may not be convenient depending on your timing (and assumes native T-Mobile exists in the US where you intend to go). – Jim MacKenzie Dec 6 '17 at 21:00
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    When I worked for a major mobile phone manufacturer based in Canada, they frequently found that it was cheaper to buy a US plan with unlimited Canadian roaming than to buy an equivalent Canadian plan and pay occasional US roaming charges. – DJClayworth Dec 6 '17 at 21:40
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    @JonathanReez Google Fi works on specific phones only I think. – Newton Dec 7 '17 at 4:03
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I was told by the representative before leaving the US that the plan would be terminated after a few months of full-time data roaming.

I got a warning message with this link for using too much T-Mobile in Canada.

  • post-paid plan
  • message came after about 6 weeks of full time roaming

too much roaming warning text

I heeded this warning and bought a Canadian data plan because I didn't want to lose my (legacy priced) T-Mobile plan.

It is unclear what further action they would take if I didn't reduce the roaming usage.

For a cheap Canadian plan it's worth noting that Fizz now charges $32 CAD for 4 GB including roaming to the States: not sure yet what "fair usage" limits, if any, they're imposing on the roaming part.

  • But you can buy a T-Mobile SIM without showing any ID, right? If so, I'm okay with throwing out an old one once per two months. – JonathanReez Dec 9 '17 at 16:13
  • As for the 8GB postpaid plan - what is the penalty for leaving it? And would they sell it to a foreigner without a credit rating? – JonathanReez Dec 9 '17 at 16:15
  • For Koodo post-paid, they don't care if you lack credit and there's no termination fee, but you have to have to officially live in Canada (provide a Social Insurance Number). – Carl Dec 9 '17 at 16:34
  • Oh that's great - it's completely different from how postpaid works in Europe. I'll sign up for Koodo then. – JonathanReez Dec 9 '17 at 16:37
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    In the end I got a virtual number from Anveo, works great. – JonathanReez Mar 11 '18 at 3:25
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I just called the T-mobile customer service. The kind lady explained that if I wanted to use the sim card for extended periods of time (months) in Canada it won't be terminated as long as I keep it active.

As a T-mobile Pay-As-You-Go customer, you would have to keep some balance on the account to use service for 30 days. Then after that, the account would continue for another 30 days as long as there are funds in it. However, you will have to activate it once in the US before you can use it in Canada.

On the other hand for a monthly plan, for the US only it's $45 and if you want to include Canada & Mexico too it's $50 for what you mentioned. The service will automatically renew at the end of 30 days provided there is enough balance in your account. And it will continue to do so as long as you are paying the $50 before the 30 days complete.

It seems that line in the TOC is to keep the corporate company on the safe side of legal matters.

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My solution worked out great - the T-Mobile plan is indeed the cheapest option for getting 4+ gigabytes of data with occasional roaming in the US, at least if you want a prepaid plan with no long-term commitments. Haven't received any warnings after 1 year and 4 months of heavy usage, so I'm pretty sure their T&C's are not enforced in practice. The only issue is that not every Canadian has international calls/texting, but Whatsapp/Viber is widespread enough for it to be a non-issue. If you really do need a Canadian number, register a virtual one on Anveo.

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