Find out Which German SIM Card Suits You Best
As an international student in a foreign country, you certainly want to keep in touch with your friends and family back home, connect with new friends in Germany or share your experience online.
Mobile Contract or Prepaid SIM Card?
To enter the mobile world in Germany, you first must decide which type of mobile phone card you would prefer. You can either choose to buy a prepaid SIM card which must be topped up regularly, or you could sign a contract and pay a monthly fee according to the mobile package of your choice. Below are some important factors to consider before making your choice.
|Mobile Contract||Prepaid SIM Card|
German Mobile Phone Market
The German mobile phone market is dominated by 3 main providers:
Only the providers listed above have their own mobile network, the other providers operate based on the network of those listed companies. For example, providers such as T-Mobile, Congstar and 1&1 are using Telekom network while freenetmobile offers services in all three networks to different conditions.
In general, there are two different types of networks in Germany: D-network (mostly used by Telekom and Vodafone) and E-network (mostly used by O2). The D-network has a higher reach and better signal quality than the E-network due to lower signal transmit frequencies and more transmitting stations. However, E-network has the advantage of being able to support a lot more calls at the same time; thus, D-network is preferable for those who travel a lot or live at the countryside while E-network is preferable for those who live in crowded areas.
Recommendation on Mobile Contracts
You can choose between multiple mobile providers in Germany, which all have their advantages and disadvantages. Finding the provider that suits your needs best can, therefore, be very challenging. To help you make an informed decision, you can find offers for basic packages in our mobile comparison below that can help you get a first impression of the different alternatives. If you are interested in one of the providers shown below, simply click the “Learn More” button to get more information about the offers!
Prepaid Cards in Germany
If you are staying in Germany for less than a year, prepaid phone plans may be a better choice for you as you are not obliged to commit to a long-term contract. The two main ways of purchasing a prepaid SIM card are online or in physical stores (grocery stores, cell phone shops, petrol station, supermarket, etc.) It is normally not required to provide a bank account (IBAN) for purchasing a prepaid SIM card as you can conveniently top up your credit online or in physical stores. However, to purchase a prepaid SIM card online, you need a registered German mailing address (Meldebescheinigung/Anmeldung).
Dedicated Mobile Contracts
For those staying in Germany for a longer period (> 1 year), a mobile phone contract is recommended, as some companies may offer bonus minutes, texts or data together with other discounts or incentives; this makes it cheaper on average than a prepaid SIM card if you are a frequent user. Please note that traditional mobile phone contracts usually have a minimum duration of 24 months and often include an automatic renewal clause if the contract has not been cancelled 3 months before expiry. However, many companies also offer mobile phone contracts that can be terminated on a monthly basis. They are slightly more expensive than traditional contracts but can be cheaper than prepaid SIM cards if you are a frequent user.
Activate Your SIM Card
Regardless of the option you choose in the end, when activating a SIM card, it is necessary that you go through an identification process. You can complete the identification process using your passport and German address* either online via video chat or at a German post office (Post-Ident).
* For prepaid SIM cards, hotel or hostel address is acceptable if it is purchased at a physical store.
Tips & Reminders
As most of the information regarding mobile contracts are written in German, we’d like you to be cautious about below limitations and hidden benefits that are easily overlooked:
- Mobile contracts will be automatically renewed if not cancelled within the cancellation time frame (e.g. 3 months in advance for long-term contracts, 14 days in advance for monthly cancellable contracts)
- Price changes/increases after 12 months are common
- Some contracts contain upfront installation fees
- Always keep an eye on promotional campaigns
* The “Learn more” buttons lead to an advertisement link. This means that we receive a commission when you buy products over this link. The product prices for you are not affected by that in any way.