All modern iPhones and iPads now use nano-SIM cards. Unfortunately, this can be a bit of a problem for anyone switching from an older device, because the nano-SIM is much smaller than the micro-SIMs and regular SIM cards used in the past.

The nano-SIM uses the same tech as its larger counterparts, with the only real difference being the amount of plastic that surrounds the chip. While it's possible for most people to call their carrier and request a new nano-SIM for their new phone, there is a much quicker way: cut the SIM down to a smaller size yourself.

In this tutorial we show how to cut down a SIM card (or micro-SIM card) and turn it into a nano-SIM for your iPhone or iPad.

Warnings before you start

Please note that you cut your SIM card down at your own risk.

We've cut down SIM cards a few times, and it's worked in all but two instances. Those aren't actually great odds. And one instance was a bit of a headache because the SIM card could no longer be used at all (not even in the original phone).

Please remember that there are always risks involved with home modifications and don't cut up your SIM card unless you're happy for it not to work (in this case you'll need to get a replacement from your carrier or buy a new one). Proceed at your own risk.

If you're worried by the risks, consider the advantages of a multi-SIM, which we discuss later in this article.

What you need

To cut your SIM card down to nano-SIM size you need the following equipment:

  • Standard or micro-SIM card
  • Nano-SIM card (for measurement)
  • Pencil
  • SIM ejector tool (or paperclip)
  • Small pair of straight scissors
  • Nail file

Once you have all these to hand it's time to get started.

Removing the nano-SIM

Use the SIM card ejector tool (or a straightened paperclip) to open the SIM card slot on your iPhone or iPad.

Inside you might find a stock nano-SIM. You'll need this. If you do not have a nano-SIM inside your iPhone, you should borrow one from a friend to help you size up your SIM.

Regular SIM vs nano-SIM

Here we can see a regular SIM card (right) compared to a nano-SIM (left):

How to cut a SIM card & make a nano-SIM for iPhone & iPad: Nano-SIM compared to SIM card

It appears much smaller, and the whole of the nano-SIM can fit inside of the metal on the regular SIM card. Because of this you might think the SIM cards use different technology. But they don't: the nano-SIM is the same type of SIM card as the regular SIM, it's just had all the excess trimmed off. Most of that excess is card but some of it is silicon.

Spotting SIM card guidelines

You may see some reports online that suggest you measure the SIM card with a ruler. This used to work with the old-style micro-SIM cards, but it doesn't work when creating a new nano-SIM. For this you need to place a nano-SIM over the metal of the old SIM and line it up by eye.

Some SIM cards, handily, have guide marks on the metal of the sim. These help you line up the nano-SIM on the regular SIM card and provide you with an area to cut out.

How to cut a SIM card & make a nano-SIM for iPhone & iPad: SIM card guide marks

How to measure up your SIM card

Place the nano-SIM on top of the regular SIM with the cut-corner on both SIM cards in the top-right (as shown in the picture). Use the guide lines to line up the metal of the SIM card in the same central position on your SIM card. Make sure you line up the central metal part of the SIM card and not the surrounding plastic. Different SIM cards have different metal vs card dimensions; you should be looking to line up the central part of the metal on your full-sized SIM card.

With the nano-SIM lined up against the regular SIM, draw around the nano-SIM (and on to the regular SIM) with a sharp pencil. This will create a guideline for you to cut around. Dom't worry about marking the corner, just pay attention to marking the sides of the nano-SIM accurately.

How to cut a SIM card & make a nano-SIM for iPhone & iPad: Measure up SIM card

Cutting your SIM

Be cautious. It is better to trim back your SIM card a little bit at a time and proceed slowly than to chop off too much. You can use a file to file down the edges. We usually start with the top piece of card and the sides before carefully clipping the bottom (you can also just file down the bottom).

We're using a pair of small nail scissors to cut through the SIM card. It is typically as easy to cut through the metal of the SIM card as it is the plastic card surrounding it. You can also use regular scissors but the smaller pair offer more accuracy. If you're using nail scissors be sure to use a straight pair, not ones with a slight curve.

It's better to trim it slightly large and squeeze it in, rather than cut off too much and it be wiggling around inside the SIM card slot. Trim off the corner manually.

How to cut a SIM card & make a nano-SIM for iPhone & iPad: Cutting SIM Card

Measure into the nano-SIM tray

Now place the cut up SIM card on top of the nano-SIM tray from the iPhone or iPad. It should be too large to fit into the nano-SIM tray. This is a good thing. Now you need to trim the SIM card down bit by bit until it fits snugly into the tray. Slide the nano-SIM card into the device.

That should be it. Turn the iPhone or iPad on and iOS should say 'Searching' in the top left corner, followed by the name of your service provider.

Multi-SIMs

If that all sounds a bit stressful, you might be interested to hear that there may be an easier way than cutting the SIM card to the desired size yourself.

Recently, many major UK carriers have done away with traditional SIM cards with varying sizes, and have instead replaced them with a single SIM card that can be used in any device. The new 'multi-SIM' provides users with a standard SIM, as well as a micro-SIM and a nano-SIM nestled inside - much like traditional Russian dolls.

This picture should give you an idea of what we mean:

How to cut a SIM card & make a nano-SIM for iPhone: EE multi-SIM

There are benefits to using a multi-SIM apart from having to cut your SIM yourself, too. If a situation ever arises where you're using a nano SIM and need to switch to a phone that requires a micro SIM, you need only pop the nano SIM into the micro SIM frame to use it. Simple, right?

(Mind you, note that you could always buy a SIM adapter kit to combat the issue if it arises: they cost very little. In the UK you can get this TechRise model for under £6 or this Ciscle model for under £4; in the US there is an Aerb kit for $4.99.)

These days every major UK carrier offers multi-SIMs, and all you need to do is call your carrier (if you're on contract) and ask them to send you out a replacement multi-SIM (or whatever it's called on your network). You'll probably be without a SIM card for a day or two while one is sent, and some carriers may charge you a small amount, but we think it's worth it in the long run.