Tuesday, October 1st 2013

San Miguel Cell Phone Service

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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How to get a cellphone in San Miguel de Allende

Have you wondered what is the best way to get a cell phone in San Miguel de Allende? Like much of the rest of Mexico, getting a cell phone in San Miguel can be cheap and easy if you know what to do. Here we have recommendations on choosing between cell phone service providers in San Miguel de Allende.

*This content has been updated to reflect changes in the telecommunications industry – July 2018

In San Miguel de Allende, cell phone reception is good and service is inexpensive. There really is one major service, Telcel, and a only a few other minor companies which struggle to compete. However, recently AT&T has established a foothold in the industry here by buying up Telcel’s competitors such as Iusacell.

You Have Several Cell Phone Choices When Traveling in Mexico:

-Keep Your American Plan-

The first option is to keep your Verizon or AT&T service and add a Mexican plan. Many offer add-on plans to compliment your current American cell phone plan with international services. You get to keep your USA number, and it can call or receive here or in the United States. It rings once as an American number and then it has a a distinct Mexican ring.

We do not recommend this choice. Friends of ours have AT&T with this service, and from our experience only 33% of calls connect—the others receive a recorded AT&T voicemail prompt. We often have to call a few times before we can reach them. AT&T likely piggybacks on Telcel’s system, and the difficulties arise from the communication between the two companies. When they do connect however, it is a clear call.

There is also T-Mobile’s “Mobile Without Borders” plan, which offers unlimited talk, text, and data and up to 5GB of 4G LTE (or a maximum of your high-speed data allotment, whichever comes first) while traveling in Canada and Mexico. The jury is still out on this service. If you look at the small print, it states that it’s not meant for long term use in Mexico. However, it seems a viable option for the steady traveler.

-Purchase a Mexican Plan-

The second, and easiest option, is to get Telcel. It is the clear leader here. You can either bring your cell phone and have it unlocked in Mexico or in the United States, or you can purchase a phone here. Then stop by a Telcel store (in San Miguel de Allende, the major service center is near the Mega supermarket) and for about 100 pesos ($5 USD) get a SIM card. They will activate it, provide a new phone number, and you’re good to go.

The Telcel main office here in San Miguel de Allende offers a Mexican plan with unlimited talk and text, as well as 2gb of data. Also with their Sin Fronteras plan, you can use your phone in the USA and Mexico at a cost of only 299 pesos a month. It is relatively simple to switch over. After visiting the main office of Telcel, you show your Tarjeta de Residente Temporal (Temporary Residence card)—sorry no Tourist visas. You must also provide 3 references of people with landlines. Telcel will call one of the landline numbers, and if you are approved, you will receive your service in only a few hours.

-Purchase a Pre-Paid Cell Phone in San Miguel de Allende-

Most people here use Telcel prepaid cell phones. It can be difficult to get month-to-month service here unless you have residency status. If you would like a new cell phone in San Miguel, you can pay cash for the total cost without any 24-month contracts. Contrary to the United States, most Mexicans are on prepaid cellphones.

You can visit OXXO or Mega supermarket at their cash registers in order to buy credit on your phone—whatever peso amount you can afford in increments of 20 pesos, with a maximum of 500 pesos. Often, the more you purchase, the better the deal. For example purchasing 300 pesos worth of credit gets you a bonus of 150 pesos as a gift or “regalo”. An instant message comes to you confirming your purchase, and an hour later another arrives with your current credit. A rough estimate offers about 1 peso a minute, however internet and SMS messages have different rates. Calling USA numbers is sometimes this same rate, though often more expensive. However, you don’t use your cell phone in San Miguel de Allende as often. When you are interested in surfing the internet, you can program your cell phone with the internet passwords of local establishments.

Internet for Telcel can get pricey. It is deducted from your account balance at about 2 pesos a mb. Watching a video has been known to wipe out an entire account balance. However, many people do not realize that Telcel offers data packages for prepaid cell phones. Stop by the Telcel store and have them show you how their packages work. As mentioned above, in San Miguel de Allende, this is hardly an issue because wifi signals from local establishments are readily available on every corner.

Simple Samsung models from Telcel that come with 100 pesos of service, the phone, and the SIM card cost about $10-15 USD. Also, there are weekly plans that include data and service for the whole week, however when the week has ended, outgoing phone calls cease to function. (Phones can still receive calls without credit.) It is hard to find a corner of San Miguel de Allende where you don’t get full reception. In the United States, our AT&T bills were easily $100 USD per line. Here in Mexico, we might spend 400 pesos for a pair of cell phones per month.

A Few Tricks for Prepaid Cell Phones in San Miguel de Allende:

  • Watch for an occasional text from Telcel. They offer promotions to double your minutes about once a month.

  • Make sure you do not sign up for their news updates. Those come fast and furious, eating up pesos along the way. If that happens visit the Telcel service center to turn that feature off.

  • To see how much credit is left on your cell phone dial *133* and a text will appear with your remaining pesos.

  • Whoever dials, pays. If you are expecting a long conversation, have them call you.

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