To buy a prepaid mobile broadband in Canada, you must have a Canadian address

by Ole Christensen

I have used this site in order to find the place to buy a prepaid mobile broadband for use during my stay in Canada for a month. All the mentioned supplies of prepaid broadband did not at their shop recognize any prepaid mobile broadband, and finally one supplier told me that I must have a Canadian ID and address in order to buy a mobile prepaid broadband. I suggest that this very important data is stated at this site, as at least in Canada the site is of no use.

Kind regards
Ole from Denmark

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Feb 13, 2013
Address Requirements vs. ID Requirements NEW
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

First, I have to agree that your experience was definitely lame! I do, however, want to clarify that your situation is different than what was described as the experience in Canada.

The original post was about Canada requiring a Canadian ID, so you're basically out of luck unless you can find a retail store like Walmart, Target, or Best Buy that doesn't require ID (wireless stores may continue to require ID, but larger nonspecializing retailers may not).

Your experience in the U.S. is related to requiring a U.S. address for the account, as well as requiring a U.S. credit card with corresponding U.S. billing address. i.e. You don't need to provide U.S. ID.

This is not unusual, and providing a valid U.S. address is not difficult; try using the store address (as you noted), your hotel address, a restaurant address, etc. Their systems check that it's a valid USPS address; that's it. This requirement is largely based on U.S. Patriot Act regulations, as opposed to a carrier choice.

As it relates to the credit card, many payment systems require that cards not be international. This is more of a fraud prevention approach than any technology limitations per se. However, it certainly is lame, for people traveling across borders are great candidates for no contract prepaid phones and data plans.

While in a store, however, you shouldn't have trouble making a one-time payment using a credit card. It should be the same as making buying gas, a chocolate bar, a book, etc. That said, if they're using a point of sale terminal for their wireless service (i.e. not a generic credit card transaction), their systems will usually share the same limitations/protections that their website has. But generally speaking, you should be able to easily buy, activate, and make one-time payments in store without a problem.

Ideally, you could do that online, however, for a limited period, if you can buy prepaid cards as needed, or a couple at a time, it shouldn't be prohibitive to using the service. Inconvenient, yes, but not so bad that it's un-usable I would think.

If you're staying for an extended period of time, you can also consider getting a U.S. prepaid debit card. Find one with minimal or no fees, and use that card to make online payments.

I definitely feel that carriers across the globe should allow foreign credit cards to be easily used in self-service payment channels like on device and on the Web. It really does seem as though they are behind the times.

Feb 13, 2013
It's the same in the USA NEW
by: David T.

I'm a British visitor to Hawaii, and will be moving on to Alaska, and then to Canada. I spend a long time in each country, so this is very important to me.
In Hawaii, I found it impossible to get an ATT prepaid data plan, because you must have a USA address, and not only that, a USA billing address for your USA credit card.
So I went to a Verizon store. There, I managed to buy a Mifi device, and I think they did it by putting in the address of their store. However, when I come to renew the plan each month, I cannot do it online, because the first thing I come to is a registration portal that again insists on a USA billing address for a USA credit card. The only way I can renew is to visit a Verizon store. There, they are often unsure about what to do, because it happens so rarely that a foreign visitor wants to take out a prepaid plan to use a computer in the USA. Really??? You have to tell them to use the right SKU when they take the payment, and take your computer/tablet with you to make sure that the plan is active before you leave the store. The last time I did it, this worked, for adding $90 for 10MB

This really is a PITA, and I'm depressed to find it's going to be the same fiasco in Canada. I've recently spent a lot of time in Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti, and in each case it was very easy to buy a modem and get a prepay plan, which I could easily top up online. USA and Canada seem to lagging way behind the rest of the world.

Jul 25, 2012
That Would Be Tragic! NEW
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

Thank you for your post Ole. To be honest with you, the information that you shared actually comes as a huge surprise to me. I remember two specific instances being abroad and not having any trouble buying a prepaid product.

One example is in London (England) where I was able to buy a phone. I remember being asked for a local address. As I was traveling on business, I was staying at a hotel, and didn’t even know the address offhand. The wireless dealer took care of it for me. I don’t know what he specifically entered, but I suspect it was his store address. I showed him my foreign ID, my passport (which I suppose proves that I’m a legitimate and legal person?). Anyway, all in all, it was a very painless experience.

The second example is when I purchased a prepaid wireless Rogers phone in Canada. It was at the Eaton’s Center downtown. I think I used an address of a friend of mine. I suspect that any valid address that would pass the post office address validation (and it cannot be a P.O. Box) would have worked.

I don’t know if your specific situation is different as you were trying to buy a prepaid broadband device. However, based on my experience, wireless carriers don’t treat voice products (i.e. phones) any differently than wireless broadband products.

I’m wondering if the store you went to was particularly unhelpful thinking that they weren’t going to be making much money from you over the long term. Or perhaps the rules have changed? I’d be very interested to hear from other people who have had experience with this one way or the other. I will also research with my Canadian contacts to see if I can learn something about these rules.

One of the main advantages of no contract wireless is for people traveling abroad being able to buy something without having to commit to a contract. This is pretty much prepaid wireless 101, so I’d be very surprised if carriers would proactively build roadblocks for such prospective customers. Hopefully there are no crazy new laws that are creating this issue!

Anyway, thank you again for sharing, and I look forward to hearing from others who have had experience with this.

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