T-Mobile Updates SIM Unlock Policy To Allow Exceptions For International Travelers

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As T-Mobile’s new SIM unlock policy went into affect, a small but vocal minority found the new rules to be less than agreeable. At issue is the ability to unlock your device prior to the device being completely paid off in the need a customer wants to travel internationally. A petition began on Change.org earlier in the month hoping to bring some attention to the issue and allow for T-Mobile to make the necessary changes. As of May 6th, they have and while T-Mobile’s support documents show a change on May 6th, they have yet to write in the new exceptions as of this writing. The new policy allows for existing customers who have not paid for their device in full or completed the 18 month requirement who need their device unlocked for international travel, are eligible if:

Less than two years account tenure:

  • Customer has paid a minimum of two monthly service payments, including EIP payments
  • No more than two international unlock request per year

More than two years account tenure:

  • No more than 2 international unlock requests per year

I’m not sure how T-Mobile will police those customers requesting international travel requests against those who make the same request but intend on leaving the company shortly after receiving the unlock code. At the end of the day, T-Mobile will still collect the full payment of the device one way or another, but I doubt these unlock requests will be based on the honor system.

The current policy had hardened T-Mobile’s stance on unlocking devices before the customer completed a rigid set of requirements when compared to the same policy 60 days ago which was far more lenient:

As of April 12th, device unlocks (before any exceptions) on T-Mobile require:

  • Devices must be paid in full (Value Plans)
  • 40 days of active service + and paid in full (Simple Choice and Value Plans)
  • Classic/Subsidy Tenure must be 18 months
  • General eligibility criteria – includes up to date on all payments, no late payments etc

This is good news all around and I’m glad to see T-Mobile listening to customer feedback and making the necessary changes.

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  • Zac

    So I’m not sure I understand the exceptions exactly. If under two years of tenure what are my options?

    • coolio93

      If you are under 2 years, you can just call and get your phone unlocked. There is a limit of a maximum of 2 unlocks per year. Device doesnt have to be completely paid off with the new policy.

  • archerian

    David, the 2 requests per year and other restrictions – they are per line and not account just as it used to be in the past right?

  • ceegii63

    how about buying 3 Devices full price? only 2 can get unlocked?

    • Don Kim

      I’m pretty sure it’s 2 temporary SIM unlocks for 1 device.

      • Zac

        whoa. temporary? not possible as far as I’m aware.

      • Dion Mac

        From what I can remember, its 2 per line… but thats based on the old policy.

  • superg05

    i would install a software based temp sim unlock that expires in 4-6 months then it locks again in the United States especially. if they never come back and or the phone detects AT&t’s network or another united states carrier and has not been paid off locks immediately .
    all these people complaining ain’t going over seas there going to At&t and the only reason they came to T-mobile is so they can get a cheap phone as a matter a fact I’m going to send this idea to T-mobile right now

    • galaxymaniac

      you don’t talk much do you?

    • Dion Mac

      tete ^_^

  • Ginadagelatina

    Well for people that go to Mexico alot like me its just better to pay the 1.49 the minute roaming. I took an unlocked phone last time i went bought a local telcel sim Faaak worst mistake ever i put 300 pesos which is approx 30 bucks made 2 freaking calls yes about 2 calls each call was bout 2 minutes long on my 3rd call i got “Su balance esta bajo” Your balance is low for those that dont know Spanish i tried movistar sim same thing tried unefon and iusacell they all like telcel they rob u to the max so next month i go ill just pay the 1.49 the minute roaming. i told my family members in Mexico how do they do it? They all told me the same thing well we have no choice they all knew that all cell companies over there rob u alot .

    • Deibid

      Sorry man, that is a total lie. Telcel Amigo MAX prepaid is 4 pesos/min (30 cents) if you don’t sign up on any special prepaid plan. With their new plans, Amigo Optimo, each call to North America (US MEX or CANADA) in 1 peso/min (10 cents.)

      If you go with movistar, 200 pesos (18 dolars) gets you 500 mins (all or north america), 100 SMS, and 250 MB…obviously you must of had the data on that was charging you per KB and drained your credit. I own a telcel and tmobile so I know what I am talking about.

      • Ginadagelatina

        Entonces algo estaba mal la muchacha en chedraui me dijo que si queria una recarga le dije que si le meti 300 pinches pesos y me los ROBARON todos.oh aND btw i hadno DATA at all since i didnt fix the apns so i dnt know what the hellhappened

        • Turo

          APNs may get set up automatically once you put in the SIM, depending on the phone. I’ve not once had to set up an APN for any Android or iPhone I used on Telcel or Movistar. Best thing is to shut off the cell data before you switch SIMs, buy a data pack and switch data back on. Use a data monitor app to keep an eye on the data used and shut it off as needed to keep within your limit. Also Telcel will rob you if you download anything from their portal so stick to the official app stores. Telcel will rob you if you let them.

        • Deibid

          Asi es…algo paso para que se agotara tu saldo. Te sugiero movistar con uno de esos nuevos planes con minutos, mensajes, y megas..aparte tendiras whatsapp twitter y facebook ilimitado.

        • Marco

          en tu viaje a Mexico te recomiendo comprar una sim card compatible para tu equipo, antes de instertar la sim card asegurate que los datos 3G esten apagados, hacer una recarga de 500 pesos (en total te dan 900 pesos) con esos 500 pesos de saldo envia un SMS con la palabra alto30 l numero 5050. se daran un paquete de datos de 3GB por $399 pesos. y tendras 3GB o 1 mes para terminarte los 3GB. con el resto del saldo podras hacer llamadas a donde quieras, disfruta mexico y te dejo la lista de los paquetes de internet prepagados en Mexico para que escojas el que mas te convenga (yo siempre recomiendo 3GB)


      • Thierry Thomas

        Deibid is right, I use Telcel when going to Mexico and purchase an amigo data refill. Just because you don’t know how to use Telcel’s plans properly doesn’t make what you state true.

        Iusacell is even cheaper.

    • droidster

      Load some money on a Skype account. Get a phone number through Skype for like $2.49 or $2.99/mo. turn on your wifi when in Mexico let say and call any land line that you want. If you need to get some data do that if no wifi is available. I had free wifi in Cabo San Lucas at a hotel that I wasn’t even staying at and called back to my sister and my parents to let them know I was doing well. Check out Tru phone as well.

    • Mike

      I use a Telcel sim when I go down there. You can get 1.5GB of data (for up to 15 days) for like 13 bucks. I just use skype then and it works over the phone internet. Easy as can be. On my Amaze 4G I did have to enter in the data APN for telcel once I got down there. I leave on all my autosync and everything and it’s good to go.

      • Mike

        Also I should add, I then use my phone as a wifi hotspot, and then my wife will turn on her wifi calling with tmobile sim and make calls and texts with the normal tmobile phone number with no extra costs. Pretty rad actually that it all works!

  • Zac

    I’m really curious how this International Travel exception works exactly. Are they going to ask for a fax of your itinerary? I spoke with care today and there is nothing new on the SIM Subsidy Unlock Request form that mentions this exception.

  • gerarbios

    We bought our phone in early January with the explicit purpose of using it while in Europe. We just found out about this policy change when we tried to get an unlock code. Calling T-Mobile again today to mention this article about exceptions for Intl. travel and were told this site is not official and that the 18-month rule still applies for us. We fly on Tuesday without what we paid for and T-Mobile will not even give us a phone number or email for Albuquerque Customer Service HQ….we can only write. It seems that T-Mobile is fulfilling their part of the contract we entered into in January. Any ideas for helping in this situation?

    • adam

      what phone you try to unlock?

    • song

      If you bought your phone before Jan 26th you can buy the code online via ebay or some unlocking sites.

    • Tmaybe

      Hang up and call back.

    • BkEnigma

      Try going into a store. Mention that you read it on Tmonews…and granted they might also have the same answer for you initially, but you can just ask them to please look up the policy and see if it’s changed, and if they could show it to you.

    • superg05

      i know this sucks but maybe you should sell your phones if the no contract plan you can sell it back for some value

    • davidwal

      Just by a throw away phone in Europe. Use your handset only on wifi. There are tons of old android, blackberry, and iphones that are unlocked and used. I try to sell them overseas in Jamaica.

    • If you’re going to Western Europe, there’s an add on feature that may work for you. It’s called Open Europe and gives you unlimited roaming data throttled at 500mb in most Western European countries. It costs $50/mo but the best part is that it can be prorated. I used this feature on both my iPhone 5 and note 2 the last time I went and it worked great!

      • Also I should tell you that they told me this feature is available to business accounts only like mine, but who knows maybe you can find someone in customer care that can add it on to yours.

  • Zac

    Let us know if they actually give you the code. The SIM Unlock Team seems to make their own rules and are deny-everything-happy.

  • Just called today to try and unlock my 2 iPhone 5’s as we’re traveling internationally in a few weeks. We were denied earlier before they changed the rules. I called cust care and asked them to resubmit my request. Will let you all know how this turns out.

    • drew

      i just submitted mine yesterday and got an email back today stating that I have to wait 40 days

    • Jose do

      If you have the TEP plan ask for a warranty exchange because your having issues with your phone and they’ll send you a Unlocked iPhone 5.

  • TBN27

    What would be cool is if T-Mobile were to introduce a block of prepaid international minutes and data allotment that is meant to be used overseas, which would reduce the worry of having to get your phone unlocked and buying a sim for the overseas carrier.

  • Kelvin

    They changed it again on May 13th, so no exceptions, no nothing but more restrict us from unlock (paid in full AND 40 days with service (or 60 days with Prepaid)). So they call this listen to consumer ?!?!?!

    • Zac

      There were changes on May 13th but the International Travel Exceptions are still there! Try again.

  • Big Mama

    Did anyone copy and save the sim unlock instructions that someone posted for the SG3? I can not find it now.

  • I called to request my phone unlocked a week after I bought it, I paid it upfront, they said I needed to wait 40 days.

  • El Boricua

    I will be in Dominican Republic in one week I ask for legal unlock code from T-Mobile but they screw us Again with false advertisement SO CALLED CARRIER UNRESTRICTED I WONDER WHAT ELSE THEY HAVE UNDER THEIR SLEEVES!!! My case is that I paid in full same day, In 2 weeks I ask for unlock they denied me my unlock code. I’ve done everything legal but this time I’m going illegal…

  • T-Bullshit

    I am so DONE with Tmob, bought 2 phones and paid upfront but could not unlock the phones because stupid 40 days BS. I’ve been with tmob for over 8 yrs and never late on payment and still have to wait for 40 more days.

    • I just got my S4 phone unlocked by T-Mobile. 4 days after full
      purchase… (I have been with T-mobile over 2yrs) Simply send a
      *Polite* email with your account info, IMEI (make sure your not behind
      in any payments) and a note that your traveling overseas.. next week..
      to T-Mobile “office of the president” or ExecutiveResponse (at)
      T-Mobile.com – problem solved… :-)

  • Tony M

    Hey David Beren can you follow up on this and find out if the info you got will be official? They have updated the support documents twice but nothing like the information above….thanks

  • Mike

    I’ve had them unlock 2 phones for travel that were not paid off yet (actually 3, one was insurance replaced so they unlocked that one too) and never had any issues. They were quite helpful and it was pretty painless. I wasn’t even a long term customer at that point. Just told them I was traveling and wanted to use the foreign sim while there which is what I did.

  • ajblair

    I just called T-Mobile and explained their new policy based on David’s article. The rep read the exact text from the picture above which tells me the info is official even though the support article has not be updated on their website. I am traveling internationally in a little over a week so I will update if it goes through. I did buy my iphone outright and have been a 10+ customer so it should work.

    • ajblair

      I have received my instructions to unlock the iphone but I have to wait 72 hours before I can try. It has to be hooked up to itunes for it to become unlocked.

      • Guest

        How? I’m having so many issues with them.

        • ajblair

          How was I able to get the unlock setup? I explained my legitimate travel plans overseas next week, I explained that I knew about the previous 40 day wait period, and then explained that they have a new policy (from May 13th I think which David mentions above) that allows unlocking for international traveling. After I explained everything, the rep looked at the requirements for unlocking a phone, read the exact verbage as the second picture above, and said yes I do see you qualify. He then submitted the request which has to be approved by his manager and can take up to 48 hours before you receive the email stating the unlock information. Once I received the email, it now tells me to wait 72 hours before it will work (its not an actual code that you type in like in the old days, the iphone somehow talks through itunes to something and then it just unlocks it).
          If you have tried to unlock the phone before and they rejected your request, does that count as an “unlock request” of which you can only have two per a year? I don’t know…

        • Can you help me? How can I reach you outside of this? Please and thanks.

  • maya

    Can anyone explain to me why there’s the rule, “No more than 2 international unlock requests per year” ?
    If your first unlock request is successful, why would you need a second request? Or does the unlock code somehow expire after a certain time?

    • No, it doesn’t expire. They offer a 2nd unlock for maybe your spouse, child, etc. that might be on the same line when you travel.

  • cdw

    Can anyone confirm if they’ve had success? I’ve just had an unlock request for international travel rejected and when I called customer service they said there was no exception in their policy (that she was reading from)

  • If anyone needs help factory unlocking their iPhone, reply here.

    • Addam

      hi – im having the same issue. there was no exception made. ive been a Tmo customer for nearly 5 years. How do i unlock the phone myself?

      • Guest

        E-Mail me for details. dvest8x at gmail dot com

  • Cassie

    we arrived in Italy one week ago – TMobile has refused to unlock IPHONE 5 – we purchased a new SIM card thru BIP but can’t call BIP to register for 2 reasons: 1. phones not unlocked and 2 BIP requires that the SIM cards be registered within 24 hours of purchase in Italian. We do not speak Italian well enough to negotiate phone service. HELP thank you

    • Guest

      I can factory unlock it and save you the stress of T-Mobile’s policies.

  • Neteru

    T-Mobile is Unlock Policy is scammy and is illegal. I purchase a galaxy S4 paid in full (no contract/ no subsidies) The Galaxy Note came out wanted to upgrade so I purchased a Note 3 and wanted to unlock my S4 to sell. T-Mobile refused to unlock. On a non-subsidized phone, paid in full this is illegal but this is their normal practice. Yes I can pay to have my phone unlocked but I shouldn’t have to I’ve reported them to the FTC because the practice is scammy.

  • Nick

    Imagine my surprise….when I bought a brand new Nokia Lumina 521, which I “planned” to use in India, during my forth-coming trip there. Paid full price, so I could unlock the same and use overseas. Some facts; I have been with TMO for 14 (yes fourteen) years; have “EasyPay” setup, so no late payments or any outstanding payments!

    When I placed the order the rep pretty much guaranteed me, that after popping in my old sim into the new phone and using it for 4 ~ 5 days, I would be able to call in and have them process an unlock code for me. Called up yesterday, the agent pretty much said, I would have to wait for 40 days to get the unlock code! I spoke to her supervisor, and then got the following e-mail the next day:

    ~ snip ~
    Thank you for taking the time to contact T-Mobile. We have received your SIM Unlock
    Request. Unfortunately, this subscriber is not eligible to receive the unlock
    code at this time. In order to be eligible, the IMEI must have usage by the
    mobile number requesting the unlock code and the account must have a minimum of
    two monthly service payments, including the equipment installment plan, since
    purchase of requested device. The subscriber that is requesting the unlock code
    must also have no more than two unlock requests within the last year. Please
    submit a new request after all requirements have been met.
    ~ snip ~

    Okay, so lets look at the requirements:

    – “the IMEI must have usage by the mobile number requesting the unlock code”; don’t I already have that since I popped in my old SIM into the new phone?
    – “the account must have a minimum of two monthly service payments”; don’t I already have that being a Postpaid subscriber with a 14 year history?
    – “including the equipment installment plan, since purchase of requested device”; don’t I already have that since I paid full price for the phone and don’t have any pending EIP left?
    – “The subscriber that is requesting the unlock code must also have no more than two unlock requests within the last year”; don’t I already qualify for this, as this is the first phone for which I am requesting an unlock key? All other phones that I have used on the T-Mobile network have been full-priced unlocked phone’s that I purchased from Apple directly?
    I mean, is this absurd or what?