SIM cutting

Mini and Micro and Nano, oh my! A guide to cutting your own SIM cards

My favorite blog posts always start with the disclaimer of "We're not responsible if you do this and it makes bad stuff happen." But, we're not, and it could. You've been sufficiently warned.

I have a feeling a lot of us are ordering a Moto X today. Enough to crush the website, at least. Each and every one of us who ordered is going to need one thing — a Nano SIM. Most Android phones currently use a Micro SIM, some older models use a Mini SIM (note that a full-sized SIM looks like a credit card, and none of your phones use one), but the Moto X uses a Nano version.

You can get a new SIM card from whoever provides your cell service, but for some of us that means waiting for the mail or driving a few miles or more to go pick one up. And there's a good chance it won't be free. Luckily, cutting your own isn't that difficult.

Read on.

The easy way

SIM cutter

$13 gets this Noosy SIM card cutter delivered to your door from Amazon. You put your current SIM card in the tray under the handle, set it on a flat, sturdy surface, and press the handle down. Your Nano (or Micro — it does both) SIM card pops out of the bottom like some sort of magic. OK, so it's not really magic. It presses the SIM through a die-cut opening which stamps out a SIM of the right size. It is, however, really easy. If you use a lot of different phones or different pre-paid SIM cards that you switch around a lot, it's a smart buy. If you want to cut your own card without messing it up, it's also a good buy. Don't order just yet, because you'll need some adapters, too. Keep reading.

The manual way

SIM cutting

I hesitate to call this the hard way, because it's not really hard. It does require you be a little careful — cutting something is easier than adding material back to it. 

There are two ways to go here, the by-the-seat-of-your-pants Jerry way, or the template way. The Jerry way is to nibble away at the card until it fits in the phone's SIM tray using some very sharp scissors and a pair of nail clippers. This way works, but I wouldn't recommend it until you have a few under your belt. Cutting things too small is really easy to do, and I have the pile of too-small Nano SIM cards to prove it. On the other hand, if you're like me (and I know some of you are), grab a beer and some sharp things and whittle away. The folks who sell spare SIM cards will love you for it. I'll love you too, because more people doing silly things makes me look normal.

Using a template is much smarter. Here's a great one from the folks at Simple Mobile. Print it out, get some tape and your scissors, follow directions and you should have no issues. 

SIM adapters

SIM adapter

You might want to put your SIM card back into a phone that doesn't use a Nano SIM — especially since that would be every other Android phone. To do that, you'll probably need an adapter.

These things are the devil. Even the best ones can flex while inserting or removing the SIM card, and depending on the phone that could ruin things. Beside my pile of too-small SIM cards, I also have a Galaxy Nexus with a broken mainboard from a shoddy adapter. This is a bigger deal on some phones that it is on others. Have a look at this.

SIM holder

That's the SIM tray of a Note 3. You have to use an adapter to get the SIM in the right spot, because you have no access to three sides of the holder to correctly position a Nano SIM in a Mini SIM-sized slot. There are springy contacts under there, and if you catch them while putting your SIM card in or out you can really muck things up. 

The key is to find a decent adapter, and be extra careful while putting things in and out. The decent adapter part is easy enough, because both Phil and I have been through all sorts of them and finally found two brands that are worth using. I recommend this set from Amazon, made by Noosy — the same people who make the cutter I recommend buying. Phil says to use this Sadapter brand one from Amazon. They both have two things in common — they are thick and sturdy, and don't use glue or tape to hold the SIM card. 

I can't stress enough that you don't want to use one of those flimsy, colorful ones that include sticky tape. Take it from someone with a broken phone from using them.

Regardless of which adapter you use, take your time and be careful putting the card in or out when it's in an adapter. If something doesn't look or feel right, stop and see why. The mechanism that holds things in place as well as the electronics that are exposed are pretty fragile.

SIM card and adapter

There's no shame in realizing that your phone cost way too much to be tinkering with a $6 SIM card in a way that might break it. A phone call to your service provider will get a properly sized SIM card in the mail and on the way to you, and waiting an extra day or two is worth it for a lot of people.

But if you need that feeling that comes with instant gratification, or just like to cut stuff (or both), good luck with your SIM card resizing!

 

Reader comments

For the bold: Cutting your own Nano SIM card

37 Comments

I've cut mine down n the past with no problems. Still using a cut down card in my HP Netbook on TMO. Would change providers if TMO would get me a dang unlock code!

Manual sounds like a quick way for me to have to buy a new SIM... The $13 for the cutter is the way to go for me.

Phil, carrier sold ones should have them preloaded with the phone. I know the Droid Max did

Posted via Android Central App on my daily driver, the Droid MAX

Can't you get a free SIM from whatever provider you are with? I could see this as a good "Oh crap" moment when you are travelling and something comes up and you find yourself without the correct size.

Tell that to the people still hunting a Sprint one for the N5 (or the people that paid Best Buy over $30 for it)...

Sprint's folly aside (mind you, I had little trouble getting mine), I imagine some carriers will charge you for it, specially prepaid carriers who might've given you one already (they don't grow on trees!) and might not stock a lot of them in this size if they don't sell the Moto X, iPhone, whatever.

I certainly hope the major carriers would have all their retail locations fully stocked, as well as third party's, specially GSM carriers... Specially Tmo who's bullish on BYO at the moment.

This is probably like activation fess, they'll all find a way to fall in lockstep soon enough (and a call to CS will probably still dodge any fess).

AT&T gives them out...takes about 30 seconds to program it and you're all set for $0.00. Price is right for me!

I've read in a couple time in the past that some AT&T stores hand them out for free, but others will charge for them. Corporate has basically left it up the individual stores to decide what they want to do and set their own price if they want to charge for them.

I hate the fact that I just purchased a Droid Maxx and my s4/note 3 sim won't fit, might just pick up one of those.

Posted via Android Central App

Becareful with using the mini-sim adaptor (ie. the regular sized one), this is because the edge where it meets with the actual sim will get caught to the sim's slot pins, breaking off the pins as you pull out the sim adaptor.

I had this happened to me with a Galaxy S2 and it costed $80 for Samsung to replace it because I couldn't find a replacement sold online at the time.

This is more of a problem with sim slots, even sim trays is vulnerable since it slides too. It's unfortunate they don't make it like the older Nokia phones where it's like a motherboard's cpu and you have a sim door that open and close to secure/latch it inplace.

I cut my own SIM with scissors when I got my phone from the unlimited data upgrade with Verizon a couple months ago. I pretty much just guessed, cutting a little more off at a time until it fit. It wound up being the size of the gold contact on the back, so I just had to trim almost all the empty space away. Works perfectly fine, too.

I ordered the Moto X this morning. Is there any advantage to cutting my Galaxy Nexus' Micro SIM card myself if my local store will give me a Nano SIM card for free? Since I'll hold onto the Galaxy Nexus as an emergency backup, I might want to pick up an adapter, so I can use the Nano SIM in it. I assume I could use the carrier-provided Nano SIM in the adapter.

Wow, you must've been the only person to be able to make it through the glut in the website.

Posted via Android Central App

It's a shame about the nano sim cause I was really hoping to be able to do quick and easy swaps with my N5, though I was aware of this issue going into the purchase of the X. Who knows maybe I'll fall in love with my new moto enough that sim swapping won't even really be on my radar very much lol.

I own an x & n5. I use the German made adapter. Nothing else compares IMO, amazingly well built. Snaps into place. Works and fits perfectly in my HTC one & nexus 5. I swap daily at times. Check out the review I wrote up about them. Posted link below. It takes me about 30 seconds to swap from my x to the n5. I have probably swapped the Sim in the n5 at least 20 times. Zero hang ups. I'll put my x on the charger , put the Sim in the n5, then when it dies swap back to the X. I too was concerned when originally debating the nano Sim to micro Sim adapter. Don't be afraid ! They are solid.

Posted via Android Central App

I just order one of those nano sim to micro sim adapter from the same company because is machine cut and the plastic is not flimsy. I plan to buy an iphone 5s and want to swap sim between my nexus 4, does it do a good job of securing the nano sim when you insert it into your nexus 5? My greatest fear is that the adapter could jam inside my nexus 4.

I use the sim cutter, but I didn't pay $13 for it, I think I paid like 6.99 on ebay and I've used it multiple times helping other people out.
Also if you're on prepaid sometimes a provider doesn't have nano sim cards.

Maybe people get away cutting it themselves. mini to micro I could see.
micro to nano, I wouldn't try it your way too close to the chip, I'd rather just pay for a new sim card or get a sim cutter.

Cutting it yourself you likely to wind up buying a new card which could be more than the cutter with some prepaid carrier's.

When I bought the HTC One, I just cut off the excess of the Sim by using the Micro Sim as a cut around. Works perfectly.

Did you have to "sand" down the base layer a bit to make the card fit into adaptors?
I would want the adapted card to be able to go back into a phone with Mini or Micro sim. Just in case.

Thanks for this useful article.

Awesome A C

Though I have absolutely no use for this, I must say I enjoyed the article, Jerry. You always have an entertaining way with words and descriptions!

Posted from my Note 2 via Android Central App

Seems like a lot of effort. It only costs $10 for a new micro SIM at Telus?

Posted via Android Central App on BlackBerry Z30

I trimmed my old ST miniSIM, using an Insten microSIM card cutter (identical to the Noosy above) and it comes with the included 4 adapters. After aligning the SIM correctly, similar to what a microSIM contacts looks like..my very 1st cut was a charm. Perfect!..it only cost me $5.50 to my door. My just acquired LG G2 locked T-Mobile now works like a dream.

I had done it with a template a day before this post. It went pretty smoothly for me. I started with the template and scotch tape holding it in place. Then with a ruler I used an exacto knife to get things rolling. It wouldn't cut all the way through. But once some nice grooves were in place from the guidelines, I went with a pair of wire clippers. This did the trick and it broke down the cut seems pretty smoothly. A little small filing and it fit in there. It wasn't exact, but it works just fine.

Care was taken around the edge that gets real close to the important piece of the card, but it didn't snap on that cut. That is the important one.

I cut mine down because I couldn't be bothered waiting another twenty-four hours for T-Mo to send me a new one. It had already been three weeks since I ordered the Nexus 4. It has some rough edges but it fits and has been working fine since March of this year. It's easy, but yeah if you don't want to risk things, don't.

Can't you just get a new nano sim from t-mobile or at&t and request a phone number transfer. The sims are free from t-mobile (I'm not sure about at&t), and it would save you a lot of work. And with a actual nano sim, you should be able to use a good nano sim-to-miro sim adapter without it jamming inside your phone.