How to Manage Your MTN SIM card

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Learn the different ways to effectively manage your MTN SIM card. Go through our handy guide to see which steps you should take to ensure the successful handling of common and complicated MTN SIM card operations.

SIM cards from South African networks operators
SIM cards from South African networks operators

Secure your MTN SIM card

SIM card fraud is rife in South Africa, with fraudsters coming up with clever ways to access your messages or steal your airtime.

It is essential that as an MTN subscriber you secure your SIM card with a PIN so that you can reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your airtime and data.

Where to buy your MTN SIM card starter pack

Buy a new prepaid MTN SIM card from MTN stores, MTN representatives, and trusted retailers like Checkers or Pick n Pay.

Buying your SIM starter pack from trusted retailers means you can RICA the SIM card at the store. Bring your proof of residence and ID with you when you go and buy your SIM card.

Don’t buy SIM cards from street vendors or stores that fix phones. This is to avoid your SIM card being cloned. By cloning your SIM card fraudsters can get access to the OTP sent to you by your bank. Fraudsters can even get into your cellphone banking by cloning your SIM card.

Change your SIM card PIN

As an extra security measure change your new MTN SIM card’s PIN number from what you received on the starter pack to one that is more familiar. This way if an unauthorized person was to get a hold of the starter pack that has the SIM card’s PIN they will not have access to your SIM.

But, the actual steps to take if you want to change your MTN SIM card PIN are based on the type of device you will use to change it. These are the same for Vodacom, Telkom, and Cell C. So click on the relevant link and follow the steps:

Change a SIM card PIN on an Android phone

Change a SIM card PIN on Apple iPhone

Change a SIM card PIN on a WiFi router

Activating your SIM card

With a new and recently acquired SIM card, you will not have to do anything to activate it except insert it into your device and switch it on.

With your MTN SIM card in your phone or router, make sure to switch it on and let it connect to the MTN network.

Of course, the first time you try and connect to the MTN network with a new SIM card it may not immediately be active. You may see a “No Service” notification at the top right. You will only have to wait a few hours until the SIM card gets automatically registered by MTN’s systems.

But, if there are issues with your SIM card, you can force it to connect to the MTN network using a few ways as below:

Activate your SIM card

If you have signed up for an MTN contract, upgraded your MTN contract, or have a new data contract that comes with a router you may have received a new SIM card as well.

To activate your new MTN SIM card simply insert it into your device, dial *141#, and follow the instructions.

To activate an MTN data SIM card insert it into your device, check that the network lights are on, and then wait for the MTN network to recognize your new SIM card.

It usually takes about 2 hours for an MTN SIM card to get activated, but it should take less than 48 hours. If after 48 hours it is not active then insert it into your phone, dial *141#, and follow the instructions.

Why your MTN SIM card may not be activated

You may struggle to activate a new MTN SIM card if it’s not registered for RICA. All other SIM card activation issues will emanate from problems with the physical SIM card or issues with MTN’s network.

Your SIM card might not work because:

1. It has not been registered using the RICA process

If you have bought your SIM card already but did not RICA it you can download the MTN app to your phone or tablet and then go through the self-RICA process. This process may take around 24 hours to complete.

2. It just is not yet active on the MTN network

The RICA process can take a few hours or up to 48 hours, meaning you may just have to wait.

3. Your cellphone number has expired

MTN will recycle your number if it has been inactive for more than three months. Being inactive includes not loading airtime, not making calls, or surfing the internet using the MTN SIM card in question.

Remove a SIM card PIN

By removing the requirement of a PIN card from your SIM card you reduce its level of security. This means any person who has access to your SIM card can take it and put it in any device and use it to make calls, browse the internet, or send and receive SMS messages on it.

But, you may want to remove your SIM PIN because it causes you an inconvenience with your router. As long as one understands that there may be issues with security then maybe one can take measures to secure the physical SIM card itself instead of having a SIM PIN.

Remove your SIM PIN using your cellphone, tablet, or web browser. Removing an MTN SIM PIN is the same as for Vodacom, Telkom, and Cell C. This is because you will use the device to remove SIM PIN number and not the SIM card itself.

Remove a SIM card PIN on an Android phone

Remove a SIM card PIN on an Apple iPhone

Replace your MTN SIM card by doing a SIM swap

A SIM swap is a process where you change your physical SIM card and stay with the same cellphone number.

Your new SIM card will not have any of the information that is stored physically on the old SIM card. Only your cellphone number and its balances will be moved to the new SIM card. Your balances include your airtime, SMS, data, and other balances linked to the cellphone number.

Before you start a SIM swap process RICA your new SIM card. For contract subscribers, MTN will RICA your SIM card for you if you receive a new SIM card with your new contract or contract upgrade.

For prepaid you will have to RICA your SIM card at the store or online.

How to do an MTN SIM swap

Send the message SWAP from your SMS to

SIM swap to an eSIM card

When you do a SIM swap on an eSIM you swap your number from the old physical SIM card and use the electronic SIM card embedded in the cellphone instead.

MTN has been able to support eSIMs on Apple iPhones since 2020. But, eSIMs have really become popular since Apple announced that their flagship Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max will only be able to accept an eSIM. Apple iPhones like the XR have been shipped with eSIM capabilities since they came out, but it may only now that consumers are taking notice and are looking to swap out their old data-only SIM cards to eSIMs.

To SIM swap an eSIM on MTN:

  • Request MTN to RICA your eSIM. This can be done through social media page like Twitter or their call center.
  • Unlink your eSIM.
  • Request a QR code from MTN so that they can link your current cellphone number to the new eSIM.
  • Go to your phone’s settings and add the eSIM. You will then scan the QR code to activate the eSIM

Moemedi Segoje

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