How to refill your China Mobile SIM card

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China Mobile RMB50 voucher

Last week, when I arrived in Beijing, I bought a SIM card from China Mobile to put in my cellphone. It is widely considered as the best brand in China. The SIM card (for the number) cost me RMB280, as well as an extra RMB50 for a first voucher (the time money is not included in your original SIM card purchase with China Mobile). The price I paid for my SIM card was vastly above the normal price, which is around 100 RMB (at most 150 RMB), that I was given or that I found on the web. I suspect that I either fooled myself, because I knew the market price (but had a brain cramp in RMB<->CAD conversion), or that the market price is changing because the Olympics are coming. It needs verification. Special numbers do cost more – usually those with lots of 8s. Mine only had 2 eights out of 11 possible numbers.

There are several plans, and I did not explore them all unfortunately. My hosts suggested that I got a M-zone, specially marketed to young people

The first 50 RMB lasted me a week and a half. This is the second 50 RMB refill that I bought from a nearby florist, and which you can safely buy from anywhere that isn’t necessarily a China Mobile shop. It is a voucher that you tear open for a refill code. In order to refill, you just call the number on the voucher and bear with the heavily accented automated service’s English. For some reason, my voucher in fact gave me 60 RMB worth of time-money.

5 thoughts on “How to refill your China Mobile SIM card”

  1. Is airtime a lot more expensive in mainland China? In Hong Kong a $48 SIM card lasted me for an entire month.

  2. I am not sure of the actual cost. I spent 20 of my last 60, on top of the original 50 I got, in two weeks. It may’ve been a pricier plan than I thoughgt. Plus, I got myself a vastly overpriced (perhaps not so with the Olympics coming) SIM card due to an untimely brain cramp. Overseas calls are definitely more expensive with that card, at 10RMB a minute! (When it’s 1 or 2HKD a minute in HK).

  3. Chinese does not seem to have any kind of packages deal or monthly plan for their cellphone airtime. I finished one 50 yuan prepaid card within one week… I used to talk in average 5 min. each day, but SMSed a lot (5 to 10 messages per day). I don’t know the cost for sms, nor i know if it is charged per message or character.

  4. If you paid 280RMB, then you were ripped off unless it was a really good number. The base price is 100RMB – but you can get much cheaper numbers if you don’t mind a bad one (like with lots of 4’s in it).

    If you are a non-resident, you basically have 3 choices – there are two prepay tarrifs “shenhouxing” (aka “easyown”) and “M-Zone” – the major practical difference being that the M-Zone SIMs have GPRS enabled.

    The other choice is China Unicom – I dont’ know much about them, though.

    If you are making international calls from a China Mobile SIM, *always* put 12593 in front of the number – this cuts the call rate from 8 RMB/minute to about 1.2 RMB/minute. You don’t need to register for this, and it doesn’t cost you anything – I have no idea why it is not automatic…

  5. Actually, I bought my China mobile SIM card for only RMB 60 with RMB 50 worth of load. It shouldn’t cost you even more than RMB 100 unless it’s some special package. It’s not true that only M-Zone has GPRS, Easyown also has GPRS enabled. In my case, I used Easyown before and right now, mine is Quanqiutong (全球通). Unless you can speak Mandarin well enough, it’s better to bring along someone who is able to speak Mandarin and I mean good Mandarin. This is to prevent any miscommunication.

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