Is your SIM card worth anything? Flipsy.com investigates.
You know you can sell your old smartphone, but what about your SIM card? Is it worth anything? Does selling your SIM card present security risks? Flipsy.com has the answers!
Can you sell your SIM card?
The short answer is yes, you can sell your SIM card - but it's probably not worth the time and effort, except in certain circumstances.
"A SIM card and the subscription attached to it is really inexpensive. When someone buys a SIM card it comes with a subscription for the person who created the account. This is key," explains Joanan Hernandez, former telecommunications engineer and founder of augmented reality development firm Mollejuo. "The creator of this account can sell the SIM card to another person; but for it to be worth it, it has to be really cheap. Let's assume the transaction happens, then the new buyer is at the mercy of the original subscription holder unless they both go to the store and make a transfer of subscription to the new buyer. At this point, the whole thing is so cumbersome that it's easier for the buyer to just buy a new SIM card outright."
So, you can certainly try to sell your SIM card - but you'll probably struggle to find a buyer.
Why would someone want to buy your SIM card?
If the process is so cumbersome, why would anyone want to buy your SIM card? Here are three possible scenarios:
Precious metal reclamation
Precious metal refineries like Cash for Electronic Scrap USA buy used SIM cards. You can also find buyers on Ebay, online forums like Gold Refining Forum and Scrap Metal Forum, and perhaps even high-volume pawn shops. However, these buyers are primarily interested in bulk lots of SIM cards - not individual SIM cards.
Why? According to Metal Mine Media, it takes approximately 1,000 SIM cards to produce a single gram of pure gold. Since you need around 28 grams to make an ounce (the actual conversion is 28.35 grams equals 1 ounce), that means you'd need 28,000 SIM cards to yield between $500 and $1,300 worth of gold (depending on the purity of the gold).
Thus, precious metal reclamation is only an option if you have a source of bulk SIM cards; for single SIM card sellers, it's a dead end.
Turning iPhones into iPods
If you have a SIM card that was once active for an iPhone or other smartphone, you might be able to sell it to people who want to turn their iPhones into glorified iPods. Ebay has multiple listings of SIM cards for this purpose, which essentially allows users to bypass an annoying warning screen (but does not provide cell service). Gotta Be Mobile details how to use an old SIM card to turn an iPhone into an iPod.
SIM cards sold for this purpose typically go for around $5 on Ebay.
Some Ebay sellers sell SIM cards that are on "legacy" plans; for example, unlimited data on Verizon. There are a couple of different ways this can be done:
- Transfer service: The seller transfers service from a "grandfathered" unlimited data plan into the buyer's name, and the buyer enjoys unlimited service as long as their plan is paid on time.
- Resell service: Rather than transferring service, data is resold - though this isn't the same as selling a SIM card since you'd have to manage user accounts
Either way, unless you have a SIM card with an attractive legacy plan, this isn't an option.
What about airtime?
Outside of legacy plans, can you simply sell a SIM card with unused airtime? You can, but as Hernandez points out, it's really not worth the hassle for the buyer so there isn't a big market. If you have a SIM card with prepaid airtime, you could try selling it on Ebay or another outlet, but you also risk unwitting involvement in criminal activity.
Wireless cellular expert Ben Levitan, who holds 30 patents in cell phone/GPS technology and works as an expert witness in criminal and civil cases that have cell phone evidence, says putting someone else's SIM card into a prepaid phone offers criminals "perfect anonymity."
"There is a very big problem with cell phones in prisons. It's easy to sneak a phone into prison, apparently, but once it's in you have to keep it loaded with minutes," Levitan says. "How do you reload these phones? One way is to simply steal or buy SIM cards and sneak those into prisons. SIM cards are small and easily smuggled into prisons. Other than the prison angle, I really don't see a benefit of selling used SIM cards. There is no real legitimate benefit."
Is it safe to sell your SIM card?
Even if you can find a buyer for your SIM card, there are security considerations. The Federal Trade Commission reports that personal information is contained on your SIM card and recommends destroying it once you no longer need it.
The bottom line? It's certainly possible to sell your SIM card, though you might have a tough time finding a buyer. Even if you do, the payout for a single SIM card isn't worth the time, effort, and security risk. Unless you have a source for acquiring hundreds or thousands of SIM cards for resale, you're better off destroying yours when you sell your phone - after wiping your personal data, of course.
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