My daughter is going to spend the next school year (August 2011 to June 2012) in Memphis, TN as an exchange student from Switzerland. She'd very much like to use her iPhone during her stay in the United States.

What are her options for getting prepaid talk, text and data services without also having to buy a new phone? I realize that she'll be limited to AT&T and T-Mobile because of the GSM network.

As far as I've read, T-Mobile SIM cards only work on T-Mobile branded phones, so is AT&T her only option there?

1 Answer 1


If she's there for a year, it might be worth getting a contract, as that may well be cheaper overall. As she already has the phone, she'd want a "SIM Only" deal, if she can get it. A carrier store on/near campus ought to be used to international students, so should be able to help if possible. (I've had a sales guy in a small AT&T shop look at me like I was from Mars when I asked to buy a PAYG sim with data... Luckily the store manager knew what I was on about, and was delighted to at last sell one!)

I've not tried T-Mobile PAYG before (AT&T has always worked out cheaper for the trips I've done), but I've not heard of T-Mobile SIMs not working in unlocked phones. It certainly isn't something that was mentioned the last time I almost got a T-Mobile one... Are you sure it isn't just that most AT&T phones are locked to AT&T, so can't be taken to T-Mobile unless you get an unlock code for them?

  • They probably don't call it PAYG in the US though, do they? Maybe that's why the sales guy got confused. Actually, even sales people in the UK have looked at me as if I was from Mars when I asked for PAYG SIM only cards. Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 2:22
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    It was the data bit that got him, but you're right about not calling it PAYG, the Americans seem to use the term pre-pay. A lack of a SSN was another issue, again sorted by the manager, but it's a reason for prefering a campus store where they'll hopefully be much more used to international customers.
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 21:31
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    I live in the US and I've never heard of PAYG. We have pre-paid plans or pay-as-you-go plans, which is what you want. Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 0:27
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    @BillPaetzke PAYG stands for Pay-as-you-go.
    – emmalgale
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 14:13

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