Roaming and keeping a MTN number active


New Member
Oct 18, 2012
I recently had an experience with trying to keep access to my MTN prepaid sim card while on SMS roaming in the east of US.

For context, I have been on SMS roaming for 110 days and have been recharging airtime and sending a sms every month to keep the number active. I received a message from mtn saying: “Hello. You have not used your MTN SIM Card for 110 days, please make a chargeable call within 5 days to keep your number active on the MTN Network.For more info, call 083135”

Seems in the past you could send sms’s, MMS’s or make calls to keep an MTN sim card active, but this seems to have changed and you can now only make calls to keep a number active.

I solved my issue by deactivating my sms roaming, which allowed my phone to connect to the AT&T network and I could successfully make a call to numbers in the US and in South Africa. This was a bit of a gamble. Firstly, I did not know I could deactivate sms roaming while here, and secondly, was not sure my prepaid number would connect to the network, because there is only one network that allows prepaid roaming in the US (see, so for reference, I can confirm this did work in Massachusetts, but it might not work everywhere.

These very short calls ended up costing less than R5. Incidentally, on roaming the SMS’s to South Africa cost R10 per sms, and if you are on SMS roaming you can only send sms’s to South African numbers. For the US, the rates on MTN’s website are rates for US to US calls. (for instance if I sms from my mtn number to a us number it costs R2.50, but if I sms to a south african number I am charged R10). The mtn website is very deceptive in this regard.

So to summarize, in my situation, the most cost effective way to keep my number active, would be to not use sms roaming, but just have normal roaming and make a very short call every 2.5 months. This is a bit of a gamble because you don’t know if prepaid roaming is available where you are going.

The least effort and safest method would be to activate “Acess4life” with MTN. You have to activate this before leaving south africa, because I cannot currently seem to make calls to 083135 from the US, even though all my other roaming services currently work. It costs R20 per every 90 days. You just have to make sure you maintain enough airtime, otherwise “Acess4life” would deactivate automatically.

Another option is to have a contract, in which case your number would also just remain active.

I'm curious if others have had similar experiences, or have figured out what works? There was very little written about this, so would be helpful to everyone is more info is available.


Expert Member
Jul 26, 2013
Eish maybe once they decide to get wifi calling (like EVERY other of our local networks) working it won't be an issue.