In today’s digital age, staying connected while traveling has become more and more necessary. Whether it’s for sharing picturesque moments on social media, navigating unfamiliar streets, or keeping in touch with loved ones, having a reliable and cost-effective means of communication is essential for tourists.

T-Mobile, a leading telecommunications provider, offers both traditional SIM cards and modern eSIM options tailored to meet the connectivity needs of travelers. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of T-Mobile SIM cards and eSIMs, exploring their benefits, usage, and how they can enhance your travel experience

t-mobile sim card guide

I. Quick facts about T-Mobile

Get a T-Mobile SIM cards and eSIM at a T-Mobile retail store
Get T-Mobile SIM cards and eSIM at a T-Mobile retail store

Here are quick facts about T-Mobile you should know:

  • T-Mobile US, Inc. is a U.S. telecommunications company based in Bellevue, Washington.
  • Reported revenue of nearly $80 billion in 2022, ranking as the third-largest U.S. telecom operator behind AT&T and Verizon.
  • Offers wireless voice, messaging, and data services across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands under various brands.
  • The majority shareholder is Deutsche Telekom, a German multinational telecom company.
  • T-Mobile reported the best 5G coverage and the fastest typical 5G download speeds.

II. T-Mobile coverage and speed in the USA

As one of the three leading mobile operators in the USA, T-Mobile boasts extensive coverage across the entire United States. You can refer to T-Mobile’s coverage map in the image below: 

T-Mobile coverage map
T-Mobile coverage map

However, what stands out significantly is T-Mobile’s 5G network. T-Mobile holds the distinction of possessing the largest 5G network in the US. Notably, T-Mobile’s 5G coverage area surpasses the combined 5G coverage of AT&T and Verizon.

T-Mobile has the best 5G coverage and fastest network
T-Mobile has the best 5G coverage and fastest network

The OpenSignal report effectively underscores this fact. It reveals that T-Mobile users enjoy a 5G connection 57.9% of the time, a much higher percentage than the other two major carriers—AT&T at 20.7% and Verizon at 9.8%.

5G Availability of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited
5G Availability of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited

Beyond its robust coverage, T-Mobile is also renowned for being the fastest carrier in the US in terms of both download and upload speeds. According to the OpenSignal report, T-Mobile’s average download speed is an impressive 97.1 Mbps, surpassing AT&T’s (40.1 Mbps) and Verizon’s (34.3 Mbps).

Download Speed Experience of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited
Download Speed Experience of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited

Furthermore, T-Mobile’s average upload speed is 11.7 Mbps, a notable increase from the figures of Verizon (8.3 Mbps) and AT&T (6.4 Mbps).

Upload Speed Experience of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited
Upload Speed Experience of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited

Note: T-Mobile is the fastest and largest 5G mobile network operator in the United States.

III. T-Mobile vs. other USA mobile operators

According to the OpenSignal report, T-Mobile stands out as the carrier providing the best overall experience, leading in most categories, including Video Experience, Live Video Experience, Games Experience, Consistent Quality, as well as Download and Upload Speed Experience. 

USA Mobile Experience Awards. Source: © Opensignal Limited
USA Mobile Experience Awards. Source: © Opensignal Limited

While Verizon excels in most categories on the 5G platform, the most pivotal categories of 5G Availability (Coverage) and 5G Download Speed still see T-Mobile as the dominant player, outperforming both Verizon and AT&T, as previously mentioned.

USA 5G Experience Awards. Source: © Opensignal Limited
USA 5G Experience Awards. Source: © Opensignal Limited

Regarding 5G Upload Speed, T-Mobile comes in second place behind Verizon, yet the disparity is minimal – 18.2 Mbps compared to Verizon’s 18.5 Mbps.

5G Upload Speed of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited
5G Upload Speed of USA mobile operators. Source: © Opensignal Limited

Note: Whether considering 4G or 5G, T-Mobile remains the paramount mobile carrier to prioritize when traveling to the US.

IV. Best T-Mobile SIM Cards and eSIMs for tourists & Cost?

T-Mobile offers both SIM cards and eSIM options for tourists. However, it’s important to ensure that your device is unlocked and compatible with the T-Mobile network before making a purchase.

1. T-Mobile SIM cards for tourists & Cost

T-Mobile provides 7 prepaid plans suitable for everyone, including tourists visiting the USA. 

For additional details, please consult the table below:

PriceDataLocal MinutesLocal SMSMobile HotspotPrice/GBValidity
10 USD1GB10001000N/A10 USD/GB30 days
15 USD3.5GBUnlimitedUnlimitedN/A4.29 USD/GB30 days
25 USD6.5GBUnlimitedUnlimitedN/A3.85 USD/GB30 days
35 USD12GBUnlimitedUnlimitedN/A2.92 USD/GB30 days
40 USD10GBUnlimitedUnlimitedShared with 10GB handset data4 USD/GB30 days
50 USDUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited at 3G speedsN/A30 days
60 USDUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUp to 10GN high-speed data, then unlimited at 3G speedsN/A30 days

Notes: Based on the price list above, we can see:

  • The cheapest T-Mobile SIM card plan is priced at 10 USD, which offers 1GB of data along with 1000 local minutes and 1000 local SMS.
  • All T-Mobile plans, except for the 10 USD plan, include unlimited local calling and texting.
  • For 40 USD, you can acquire a plan that features a mobile hotspot capability. This is particularly useful if you require internet connectivity for multiple devices.
  • Plans with unlimited data are available starting from 50 USD or higher. However, it’s important to be aware that T-Mobile might reduce your internet speed if you surpass 50 GB of data usage per month.

2. Best T-Mobile eSIM for tourists & Cost

T-Mobile provides eSIM options for tourists, which can be obtained by visiting their official retail stores. However, for convenience, you also have the option of purchasing T-Mobile eSIMs from online providers such as offers 37 T-Mobile eSIM plans for tourists. You can check the table below for details: 

1GB/day3 Days9.00 USD3.00 USD/GBNo
2GB/day3 Days14.00 USD2.33 USD/GBNo
5GB3 Days20.00 USD4.00 USD/GBNo
10GB3 Days36.00 USD3.60 USD/GBNo
20GB3 Days70.00 USD3.50 USD/GBNo
1GB/day5 Days13.50 USD2.70 USD/GBNo
2GB/day5 Days21.90 USD2.19 USD/GBNo
5GB5 Days20.90 USD4.18 USD/GBNo
10GB5 Days37.90 USD3.79 USD/GBNo
20GB5 Days74.00 USD3.70 USD/GBNo
1GB/day7 Days17.90 USD2.56 USD/GBNo
2GB/day7 Days29.50 USD2.11 USD/GBNo
5GB7 Days21.00 USD4.20 USD/GBNo
10GB7 Days39.50 USD3.95 USD/GBNo
20GB7 Days77.50 USD3.88 USD/GBNo
1GB/day10 Days24.50 USD2.45 USD/GBNo
2GB/day10 Days41.50 USD2.08 USD/GBNo
5GB10 Days21.90 USD4.38 USD/GBNo
10GB10 Days41.00 USD4.10 USD/GBNo
20GB10 Days80.90 USD4.05 USD/GBNo
1GB/day15 Days35.90 USD2.39 USD/GBNo
2GB/day15 Days60.90 USD2.03 USD/GBNo
2GB15 Days12.50 USD6.25 USD/GBNo
5GB15 Days21.90 USD4.38 USD/GBNo
10GB15 Days33.90 USD3.39 USD/GBNo
20GB15 Days62.60 USD3.13 USD/GBNo
1GB/day20 Days46.90 USD2.35 USD/GBNo
2GB/day20 Days80.50 USD2.01 USD/GBNo
1GB/day25 Days57.90 USD2.32 USD/GBNo
2GB/day25 Days99.90 USD2.00 USD/GBNo
1GB/day30 Days57.50 USD1.92 USD/GBNo
2GB/day30 Days119.50 USD1.99 USD/GBNo
2GB30 Days13.00 USD6.50 USD/GBNo
5GB30 Days23.50 USD4.70 USD/GBNo
10GB30 Days37.00 USD3.70 USD/GBNo
20GB30 Days65.60 USD3.28 USD/GBNo
30GB30 Days94.50 USD3.15 USD/GBNo

Pros of eSIM:

  • Enables online purchasing and installation before landing in the USA, thus avoiding airport SIM card queues.
  • You don’t need a passport for the registration process.
  • Offers a broad range of plans for visitors to choose from.
  • Compatible with 5G network.

Tip: Learn more about T-Mobile eSIM from before choosing a plan that suits you best.

V. Where Can You Buy a T-Mobile SIM card and eSIM?

1. Where to buy a T-Mobile SIM card

As a tourist, you have several options to buy a T-Mobile SIM card:

  • T-Mobile Official Website: You can order a new eSIM or a physical SIM card directly from T-Mobile’s official website.
  • T-Mobile Retail Stores: You can visit any T-Mobile store, and they’ll set you right up.
  • Amazon: Amazon offers T-Mobile USA Prepaid Travel SIM Card with unlimited call, text, and 4G LTE data (for use in the USA only).
  • Walmart, Target: You can also get a T-Mobile SIM card from Walmart and Target.
  • Convenience Stores: T-Mobile SIM Cards can be easily bought in convenience stores like 7-Eleven and CVS.

Note: Before purchasing, make sure your phone is unlocked and compatible with T-Mobile’s network.

2. Where to buy a T-Mobile eSIM

As previously mentioned, as a tourist, there are two options available for purchasing a T-Mobile eSIM:

  • Buying it directly from T-Mobile Retail Stores: You can purchase a T-Mobile eSIM directly from the official retail stores across the United States. This option provides the advantage of being able to access local calls and SMS. However, it’s important to note that this method might not be available for online purchase and may involve visiting a physical store.
  • Buying it from Third-Party Providers: Alternatively, you can buy a T-Mobile eSIM from third-party providers such as This approach offers the convenience of completing the purchase process entirely online, eliminating the need to visit a store in person. However, please be aware that eSIMs obtained from these providers typically focus on data-only usage and may not support local calls and SMS.

Note: It’s crucial to consider your specific needs and preferences before deciding which option is best for you. Purchasing from T-Mobile’s official stores might be more suitable if you require local calls and SMS. On the other hand, buying from online providers could be a more favorable choice if your primary requirement is data for internet access.

VI. How to use T-Mobile SIM cards and eSIMs

1. How to install and activate a T-Mobile SIM card

Here are the steps to install and activate a T-Mobile SIM card:

  1. Insert the SIM Card: Locate the SIM card slot on your device, which is usually on the side or top of the device. It’s important to insert the SIM card correctly, so refer to your device’s manual if you’re unsure.
  2. Power On Your Device: After inserting the SIM card, turn on your device.
  3. Connect to Wi-Fi or Mobile Data: If possible, connect your device to a secure Wi-Fi network for activation.
  4. Activate the SIM Card: There are a few different ways to activate your SIM card:
  • Call T-Mobile: You can call 1-800-T-MOBILE to complete the process. You may have to provide the representative with your phone’s IMEI number and the number printed on the SIM card.
  • Online Activation: Log into your T-Mobile Account, select the line you want to activate your SIM card on and follow the prompts.
  • T-Mobile App: Log in to or the T-Mobile app, select your device type, select the option to bring your own device, review plan selections and select Add a new one.
  1. Complete Setup: Follow the on-screen steps to complete the initial setup.

Note: Remember to check if your phone is unlocked and compatible with T-Mobile’s network before starting this process.

2. How to set up and activate T-Mobile eSIM

Setting up and Activating a T-Mobile eSIM involves several steps:

  • Ensure Wi-Fi Connectivity: Ensure you’re connected to Wi-Fi when setting up your device.
  • Activate your Device: If you’re setting up an eSIM on a new device, select the Activate Device button. If you’re setting up an eSIM on a device that already has a physical SIM card, select the Activate SIM button.
  • Scan the Carrier QR Code: Go to Settings > Cellular > Add Cellular Plan on your iPhone, then use your phone’s camera to scan the QR code provided by T-Mobile. The process may vary slightly for Android users depending on the device model. Generally, you’ll need to go to Settings > Connections > SIM card manager > Add Mobile Plan.

Note: Not all devices support eSIM functionality, so ensure your device is compatible before starting this process.

VII. How to top-up your T-Mobile SIM card

Topping up your T-Mobile SIM card is quite simple. There are several ways you can do it:

  • Direct Dialing: You can dial *ADD from your T-Mobile device or call 1-877-720-5195. This will take you to T-Mobile’s service, where you can top-up your account.
  • Online Top-Up: Visit the T-Mobile Prepaid Direct-to-Account page. Here, you can add extra funds to your prepaid account to pay for additional minutes and data when you need them.
  • Third-Party Websites: There are various websites like,,, and, where you can buy a T-Mobile refill. You simply select the amount you need, enter your phone number, and pay using various options like PayPal, credit card, etc.
  • In-Store Purchase: You can also purchase a T-Mobile refill card from a retail store like Target or Walmart. These cards come in various denominations and can be added to your account.

Remember that T-Mobile sends a free text message reminder when you’re approaching your service renewal date, so you won’t run out of service unexpectedly.

VIII. How to check your T-Mobile account usage and balance

T-Mobile provides customers with the convenience of monitoring account usage at any time, absolutely free. You can access this information directly on your T-Mobile phone. Check your minute usage and balance by using the provided short codes:

  • To check minutes used: Dial #MIN# (#646#) and press Send
  • For text message usage (not available for prepaid customers): Dial #MSG# (#674#) and press Send
  • To monitor data usage: Dial #WEB# (#932#) and press Send
  • View your account balance and plan details: Dial #BAL# (#225#) and press Send

IX. FAQs about T-Mobile in the USA

Is T-Mobile one of the largest mobile operators in the USA?

Yes, T-Mobile is one of the largest mobile operators in the USA, competing with other major carriers like AT&T and Verizon.

Does T-Mobile offer 5G coverage?

Yes, T-Mobile has the largest 5G coverage in the USA. In fact, T-Mobile’s 5G coverage area is larger than the combined coverage areas of AT&T and Verizon.

Can I bring my own device to T-Mobile?

Yes, you can bring your own compatible device to T-Mobile, allowing you to use T-Mobile’s network without changing your phone.

How can I activate a T-Mobile SIM card or eSIM?

You can activate a T-Mobile SIM card or eSIM by visiting a T-Mobile store, using their website, or contacting customer support.

How can I monitor my usage and avoid overage charges with T-Mobile?

You can monitor your usage through the T-Mobile app or online account. Be aware of your plan limits and consider using Wi-Fi whenever possible to prevent overages.

X. Final words

T-Mobile’s offerings, including traditional SIM cards and eSIM technology, redefine how tourists stay connected on their journeys. With extensive coverage, high-speed connectivity, and plans designed to cater to various needs, T-Mobile ensures that travelers can focus on exploring without worrying about communication hurdles.