Where to Buy a Prepaid sim card at Chicago O'Hare Airport?
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Jul 28, 2012 3:57 AM Last Post By: max_mexico
Jun 14, 2012 9:04 AM
Where to Buy a Prepaid sim card at Chicago O'Hare Airport?I have an unlocked smartphone and would like to know where I could buy a prepaid simcard at Chicago O'Hare airport. I have 3.5 hours until my connecting flight, so I would like to spend the extra time I have sorting out my phone.
Are there any places where I can purchase a prepaid simcard for my phone?
I might be limited to a certain carrier as my phone only operates on the following frequencies:
2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100
HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100
Ideally, I would prefer a cheap data package. Talking minutes would be good but I probably won't use much of it.
Jun 14, 2012 9:10 AM
Jun 14, 2012 9:50 AM
2The two predominant GSM operators are T-Mobile and AT&T. I am not certain of this, so you should investigate, but you may be restricted to GPRS/EDGE without the 1700 Mhz band for T-Mobile. They apparently have HSPA/+ in the 1900 Mhz band but I have no idea how widespread it is.
AT&T might be a better choice for data, but they tend to be more expensive than T-Mobile. There are also resellers that have their own brand name but use either the AT&T or T-Mobile network. You'll have to research this for yourself unless someone here knows better.
I don't know of a place in O'Hare that sells SIM cards. The good news is that I don't think you will pay roaming, but of course check the details before you buy (especially if you buy from a reseller).
Jun 18, 2012 1:07 AM
Jun 18, 2012 7:56 PM
4Don't expect to just turn up and get your data sim in 5 minutes... there's usually a lot of problems involved, even with an unlocked phone.. or at least it used to be, not sure if the situation is improving recently. Here's an interesting article on the subject:
Prepaid 3G Data for Visitors to the USA – Truth and Fiction.
Also read this for what kind of hell you might go through. (it comes in 6 parts or something)
Jun 19, 2012 1:14 AM
5Thanks max_mexico. Im really struggling to get advice on this topic. The articles you attached were helpful . All I'm looking for is at least 100mb of data (even if its just EDGE) for a short period of time. I've visited various 3rd world countries and obtaining a sim with data has never been difficult. Its unfortunate that the cellular companies in the US seem to have a tight noose around the consumers.
Jun 19, 2012 4:11 AM
6Excellent links, Max. I'm still following links from those articles. Bwii, note that the articles are talking about problems specific to iphones. AT&T not selling micro sims for prepaid even though they sell the iphone and ipad - that's just ridiculous. And making it difficult to change network settings - Apple is starting to suck in my view, but that's another story.
Since it sounds like you already know how to configure the network setting for your phone and would be satisfied with 2G data, perhaps you should go with T-Mobile. They aren't as backwards/obstructionist about SIM portability as AT&T (although some sales people in shops aren't very knowledgeable) and they also tend to be cheaper.
Jul 27, 2012 1:08 PM
8Here's my trip report:
I have just arrived back from my trip and obtaining a sim card was not difficult at all (but still not easy). I walked into a t-mobile store in Minneapolis and the guy there tried to sell me some strange, complicated and expensive plan when all I needed was a small amount of data. I then went to AT&T where the guy there sold me a $5 data-only sim card with 50mb and it took about 10mins to sort out. The 50mb was enough for me to send and receive emails as well as get a fast GPS satellite lock - and it worked perfectly.
Sure, I had to travel to the city centre to get the sim card, but it really wasn't much of an effort at all. Thanks everyone for the help!
Jul 27, 2012 1:22 PM
9Wait, you were able to get a $5 sim with 50mb data easily at the AT&T store?? 3g or edge? Can you provide more details about this sim card, such as what it's called, what to ask for in the store and what other options there are (more data? voice available too?). This sounds like a fantastic option for tourists to the US with an unlocked smart phone!
Jul 27, 2012 6:08 PM
10I think you could of gone to the Mall of America from the MSP airport its just a 3 stops away on the train/metro.
But good to know about ATT.
I wonder what the deal is for voice and data? I have friend from China here tomorrow in Chicago need to get him sorted out....THX.
Jul 27, 2012 6:49 PM
11Found this on AT&T website under GoPhone Wireless Prepaid Plans:
$25 for 1 GB
$15 for 200 MB
$5 for 50 MB
If I understood bwil's post correctly, he did NOT need to get a monthly plan in order to get these data packages. If this is correct, it is fantastic news for foreign tourists as it would greatly simplify the process of getting high quality data on their smart phones when here (assuming 3g). I only hope the store didn't do a mistake in giving him this card -- the text above does seem to indicate you can't buy the data plan by itself. As for voice, if you even need it, you can for example get a $10 card costing 10 cent/minute (100 minutes total). Question is if you can get it in one and the same SIM, so you don't have to switch sim cards back and forth.
Hobo, if you are trying this out tomorrow as well, can you please post back your findings? Thanks!
Jul 27, 2012 7:02 PM
12The 50mb was enough for me to /../ get a fast GPS satellite lock
Btw, you should not need data to use the GPS. An extremely handy feature is to cache maps through wifi and then use the GPS. At least on my galaxy nexus I have a feature to make maps available offline. You can store the better part of a US state or a European country offline at high resolution and voila, there you have a GPS without needing a data plan. Just find wifi whenever you need new maps. Earlier this week I used this feature during a road trip in Moldova and Romania and it worked perfectly. Even without the offline feature, google maps will still cache maps as you pan through them so that they're available when you're offline. Another way is to use a gps navigator with offline map support such as Maverick.
Jul 27, 2012 7:10 PM
Jul 28, 2012 12:56 AM
14Max_Mexico, those prices you listed was exactly what was available to me:
$25 for 1 GB
$15 for 200 MB
$5 for 50 MB
As stated before, I opted for the $5 data package, which gave me 3G connectivity valid for 30 days. All I did was tell the guy that I was in the USA for 2 weeks and all I needed was a small amount of data. I also said that I didnt really need voice or texts. He wasn't sure if just a straight data plan (on its own) would work on my phone and that there was a possibility that I needed to add voice and text deals to it. I decided to take a gamble and went with the data only package-it worked perfectly throughout my stay. However, I did receive texts from AT&T saying something along the lines of "Your rate plan did not renew due to low acc balance...please make payment....". I ignored these texts and my data continued to work.
As far as I understood, adding voice minutes and texts to the same card would not be a problem and I would not need to purchase a new sim card for it.
I have a cheap Nokia E5 with offline maps. However, without an internet connection, the GPS struggled to get a quick satellite fix and would take forever to connect when I was amongst tall buildings. Once I had data enabled, the "A-GPS" kicked in and satellite locks were almost instant and the walk and drive navigation worked like a charm.
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