Don’t Lose Your Phone Number: 9 FAQs About Switching SIM Cards

Whether you’re buying a new phone, switching mobile service providers, or replacing a damaged SIM chip, you might wonder if you can get a new SIM card with the same number.

You can get a new SIM card and keep the same number. Your telephone number is associated with a replaceable Subscriber Identification Module. Mobile service providers use SIM chips to identify you on their network. Several situations warrant issuing a new SIM card for your phone.

Here are some common questions I had while trying to solve my “No SIM Card” error. At the end of the article, I also included some free ways to check if you really need a new SIM chip.

Don't lose your phone number: 9 faqs about switching sim cards

Steps To Replace A Sim Card & Keep The Same Number

Replacing a lost SIM card or a damaged one is a simple process, and you can even keep the same phone number.

Here is how:

1. Contact your phone company or service provider as soon as you realize your SIM card is lost or damaged.
2. Provide the necessary identification to verify that you are the rightful owner of the account.
3. Get a replacement SIM card from your provider.

If your mobile provider has a physical store, pick it up there.

In-person transactions at a corporate store are often the most secure, so this option is generally the fastest way to get your new SIM card replaced.

If you’re unable to get to a store, contact your mobile provider via phone or online and request a new chip via mail. This is sometimes the slowest way to get a new SIM card, but usually, the SIM is already linked to your subscription plan.

When I needed new SIMs for my teens, I requested 2 Mint Mobile SIM cards on their site. I received the chips in the mail the next day. Activation was super quick, and for $15/mo (at the time of writing), it was the perfect deal when we landed back in the States.

4. Activate the new SIM card by calling the customer service number provided by your provider. Or, by visiting a store in person, or activating it online if possible.
5. Tell the customer service representative that you would like to keep your same phone number.
6. Wait for your phone company to transfer your number from the lost SIM card to the new one.
7. Be aware that there may be a small fee for replacing a lost SIM card, and there may also be a short waiting period before your new SIM card is activated and your number is transferred.

Once everything is set up, you’ll be able to continue using your phone as usual with the same number.


How much does it cost to get a new SIM chip?

Generally, a new SIM chip costs between $1 and $10. When ordered directly from the mobile service provider, a new SIM card may be replaced free of charge in-store or by calling the company’s customer service. The actual cost to manufacture a SIM is around $0.50 per card

SIM cards are much cheaper and more durable than they once were as production methods evolved over the years. Most of today’s cost paid by customers for a SIM primarily reflects the marketing, shipping/mailing, and servicing/connecting a new SIM to the network.


If you’re being charged for a replacement SIM, ask the representative to waive the fee as an existing customer. Mobile companies know their market is very competitive and not worth losing a subscriber over such a small actual cost. 

For new customers, expect to pay a higher initial price for a SIM card for prepaid services. The network operator has less guarantee that you’ll continue using their service and wants to cover their costs of getting the chip to you. Often, the price of a SIM includes some free phone calls, texts, or small data quota to let new subscribers test their service for a short time.

Does a new SIM card change my service plan?

Inserting a new SIM card should not change your service plan when obtained directly from your service provider. When you buy the replacement SIM card from a retailer and not your network provider, additional steps are needed to connect the new SIM chip to your existing account.

Many companies will offer to replace an old SIM card free of charge with your existing service plan. It’s important to know that a new SIM card doesn’t have to change anything about your service at all. While you have the customer service representative on the phone, double-check with them by saying something like:

One last question: Now that I have my new SIM card, I wanted to make sure there were no changes to my current service plan, contract length, phone number, or anything else, right? 

How do I handle the SIM card?

  1. Ensure your hands and work surface are clean and dry
  2. For a new SIM chip, know the correct size (standard, micro, or nano) before popping it out of the manufacturer’s plastic card
  3. Avoid bending or touching the gold contacts
  4. Hold the card by its edge using your fingers instead of tools like tweezers

While you should handle a SIM card carefully, it is a reasonably durable piece of technology. 

Note: The contact pads on a SIM are made from a fine layer of gold to prevent oxidation of the underlying aluminum or copper contacts. Typically, a chip is installed into a phone and remains in place for years. If you’re a traveler, frequent swapping may remove this gold layer. Keep an eye out for problems. Traveling between countries monthly, I’ve only to replace one SIM card.

When storing SIM cards, I keep them protected in a plastic SIM card sleeve or holder, ideal for protecting multiple SIM cards. Mine, my partner’s, and kids’ SIMs were nicely organized, kept dry, and ready to be swapped before landing. 

Some people warn you should keep SIM cards separate from other cards or magnets, but these chips do not have magnetic components. It’s a good idea to keep SIM cards from rubbing against any surface, again, to protect the all-important contacts.

Close up of ejection tool and sim tray so users know they can have a new sim card with the same number

How do you insert a SIM?

  1. Find the SIM tray on the side or SIM slot under the back cover of your phone.
  2. Remove an existing chip.
  3. Locate the orientation notch on your SIM. This is a designated corner of the SIM with a diagonal portion of the corner removed.
  4. Align the orientation notch to match the diagram printed near the SIM slot. For phones with a SIM tray, align the chip to match the tray’s orientation notch.
  5. The SIM tray should slide back into the phone smoothly. Phones with a SIM slot should accept a properly aligned chip with no force.

Inserting a SIM card varies between phone models, so definitely refer to y our phone’s manual for detailed instructions. 

For a little more detail, there are generally three types of SIM slots:

  • Slots that require you to insert a SIM-eject tool or paperclip into a small hole to eject the tray. If you have an iPhone, you should look for this hole.
  • Slots that eject the SIM card after you push in the current chip a little further. You’ll hear or feel a slight click before the chip or tray pops out.
  • Slots with a cover that you lift and slide out of the way to remove the SIM itself.

Dual-SIM phones & extended memory slots

For some SIM trays, it’s common for your SIM card to share the same tray as your memory card, especially in multi-SIM phones. For example, if you have a dual-SIM phone with only two slots in the tray, you will place the SIM in one spot of the card tray and the memory (SD) card in the other slot. However, you can place a SIM card in each spot if you need to switch between SIM cards fluidly. The SIM tray will usually be labeled, but the memory card (and the secondary SIM) slot is larger than the primary SIM card slot.

Main holding phone close-up , activating his esim

What is an eSIM card?

An embedded subscriber identification module or eSIM is a dedicated chip permanently connected inside your device and identifies your phone on a cellular network. Customers can connect to multiple mobile service providers supporting eSIM without needing to buy a physical SIM chip.

There are several advantages to eSIMs over SIM cards.

An eSIM allows for instant activation of a service plan for new phone purchases upon buying a phone. For example, a burner phone can be purchased, turned on, and is immediately active with a pre-defined plan.  

Frequent travelers won’t need to locate a SIM retailer and purchase a SIM, instead activating a local plan on a service provider’s website or in an app using their existing phone.

The best advantage is that there’s little risk of losing, damaging, or otherwise needing to replace a SIM, ensuring you have continuous mobile service.

Once eSIMs are commonplace, you won’t have to worry about inserting a SIM card incorrectly. 

What if I insert a SIM card incorrectly?

If you’ve inserted a SIM card incorrectly, do not forcibly remove the chip or SIM tray. Take your device to a mobile phone store to have a trained professional extract the SIM. Attempting to remove a jammed SIM chip yourself may damage the SIM, tray, and potentially your phone.

The primary places to find a qualified technician are:

  1. Your mobile service provider’s own corporate store or service kiosk: There may be a fee for removing a stuck SIM card, but this is generally the less expensive service location.
  2. A third-party mobile phone repair shop: These private vendors will charge a fee to remove a SIM chip and/or tray.

The charge to properly remove a stuck SIM card will avoid a more expensive repair from attempting to fix the problem yourself. Additionally, mobile phone technicians can determine if your phone or SIM tray and card are damaged after removing them from the phone. 

If your SIM chip is damaged, the store will typically replace the SIM card and activate it in-store. 

Ever wonder what you can do with a smartphone without a SIM card? These devices are surprisingly useful. Check it out next.

How long does it take to activate a new SIM card?

Activating a SIM card takes a few seconds to a few minutes. Some phones must be rebooted after inserting a new SIM chip. A SIM purchased online, over the phone, or in a store may require you to log into your service provider’s website to associate the SIM card’s serial number to your account.

To test whether your SIM card is working, you can send a text (SMS or MMS) message or make a standard phone call. Your phone cannot use these network functions without a functioning SIM card.

Technicians at a mobile phone store will typically make a test call using your cell phone to ensure a new SIM is active and functioning before returning your smartphone to you. You’ll want to place a call or send a test text to a fast-responding contact before leaving the store. Also, check that your mobile data is connected by clicking on a news story. 

With all the hassle of getting a new SIM, it’s essential to know why your SIM chip stopped working in the first place. 

Close up of sim slots so users know how to swap a new sim card with the same number

What causes a SIM to stop working?

  • Frequent removal and insertion
  • Damage to gold contact pads
  • Damage to the phone’s internal SIM connectors
  • Water damage
  • Dirt or debris inside the phone
  • Improper or forcible SIM installation
  • High temperatures
  • Manufacturing imperfections

These common or potential causes for a SIM card failure are generally not due to user mistakes. Most consumer electronics and electronic components are designed to tolerate the average use.

It’s best to be mindful not to expose your SIM to situations where it could become damaged.

How to check if you really need a new SIM?

If you see the message “No SIM card is inserted” and you’re unable to make a standard phone call, then use the following troubleshooting steps. Make a test call between each step.

  1. Restart your phone
  2. Eject your SIM and inspect it for damage, dirt, or debris, then reinsert it
  3. Eject the SIM card and gently clean it with a microfiber cloth or photo lens brush, then reinsert it
  4. Put your SIM chip in another phone. 

If the SIM works in a different phone, then take your phone in for cleaning and maintenance. 

If the SIM does not work in the other device, request a replacement SIM from your mobile service provider.  

Advanced Users:

Sometimes (though rarely), there is a problem with Access Point Network (APN) settings. For advanced users, you may search for these settings from your provider and compare your current values with the published ones. I’ve only had one instance where this got me back online. A replacement sim card is usually the final fix.  

Mike Chu

Mike is a web developer and content writer living as a digital nomad. With more than 20 years of devops experience, he brings his "programmer with people skills" approach to help explain technology to the average user. Check out his full author bio by clicking here.

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