This article is written for users with prepaid Safaricom SIM cards in Kenya, but it may be valid in whole or in part for other, similar tariffs as well. The instructions and numbers below are for Safaricom. For other service providers please check their web sites.
Please note that the Kenyan mobile service providers have a tendency to keep changing the URLs and links on their web sites. If any of the links below does not work, please search their web sites for the desired page.
The bigger Safaricom data bundles expire after one month. Small ones expire even more quickly. Since July 2015 they can be prolonged (as they could be some time earlier).
Safaricom data bundles, Airtel data bundles
- You can always check your current data bundle status. To do that, SMS the word balance to the phone number 450. You will receive an SMS with your data bundle status. This procedure is free, so you can do it as often as you want.
- Another method that works with USSD codes instead of SMS is this: Call the number *100# . In the menu enter 1 (My Account) and tap Send. In the next menu (My Account) enter 1 (My Balance) and tap Send. A dialog box will appear and tell you your airtime and bundle balances.
- Yet another USSD code that acts similarly is to call *544# .
- If you run out of Megabytes, buy another data bundle. Do this before you actually run out, because after running out of a data bundle any data use will become expensive and will quickly gobble up all your airtime. This is financially the biggest mistake you can make, because it is much more expensive than any data bundle, KSh4 per Megabyte as of July 2015.
- Moreover, Safaricom's data bundles (as of July 2015) can be extended by buying a new data bundle before the current one expires. If you are conscientious, you can save money by buying an expensive bundle, then extending it with the cheapest 30-day bundle every time before it expires.
- In a cinch, if you are running out of Megabytes but cannot quickly buy more, disable data in the settings of your phone: Settings, Data usage, Mobile data, Off. Then buy a data bundle. Then switch mobile data back on.
- Do not buy too small. The smaller data bundles are more expensive per Megabyte. Even if you buy a second one, it may not last for a month of normal smartphone use, except if you don't do anything with it or if you have Wi-Fi at home and at work. The interesting monthly bundles for most smartphone users begin with a bundle of around 1 GB (ca. 1,000 MB). If you are not sure, try a smaller bundle first. If it does not last for two weeks, then buy the next bigger one. If you know that you will be travelling, buy a bigger bundle, because away from home you will probably use more data. In any case try to find out which is the biggest 30-day bundle you can mostly use up in 30 days. Consider also that a bigger bundle may be cheaper even if you do not use it up fully.
- Note that Safaricom also offers 90-day data bundles. These are a bit more expensive per Megabyte, but you gain the flexibility of using fewer or more Megabytes in any of the three months. Therefore they may end up being cheaper for you. Plus, you will not have to deal with the data bundles every month, but only once every two to three months. But calculate for yourself. If the bundles can be extended by buying the next bundle before the current one expires, and if you do that, then the 30-day bundles are cheaper (as of July 2015).
How to buy a data bundle
- Dial *544# (or *100#), select Internet Services if necessary, then select the desired bundle from the menu. The data bundle price will be deducted from your airtime balance.
- Using an airtime scratch card PIN, dial *544*PIN# (Replace PIN with the PIN number on the scratch card.) In this case you can only buy a bundle whose price matches the scratch card value.
It is possible to Sambaza (here: send to another phone) data bundle Megabytes. This service is called Internet Sambaza and is described in the FAQs on Safaricom's internet page.
But you can only transfer a very small number of Megabytes per day, so this is generally not very useful.
How to do it:
- Dial *544# (or *100#)
- Select Internet Sambaza. Look for it in the menus.
- Follow the prompts.