Traveling to the US and need mobile data? Getting a local prepaid SIM card can provide you with affordable data plans during your trip. This guide will cover everything you need to know about US prepaid SIM cards, including the latest prices, where to buy, how to use them, choosing mobile operators, and tips for saving data. Keep reading for detailed advice to get connected in the US!
Table of Contents
I. Connectivity Options When Traveling to the US
So, How Many Ways to Stay Connected in the USA? Here Are Five Options:
|International Roaming||– No need to buy a new SIM card or switch out your existing one. |
– Instant connectivity upon arrival in the USA.
|– Roaming charges can be significantly higher than local rates, leading to expensive bills.||– Short-term travelers have little need to use data, make local calls, or send texts.|
|Wi-Fi Hotspots||– Access to the internet in various public places.||– Limited coverage and security risks.||– Budget travelers.|
|Pocket Wi-Fi Rental||– Connect multiple devices simultaneously.||– Need to carry an additional device.||– Group travelers or those with many devices.|
|Local SIM Card||– Local phone number and data plan at an affordable cost.||– Need to remove the primary SIM card and insert the travel SIM card. |
– Requires an unlocked device.
|– Travelers are staying for a moderate duration.|
|eSIM||– No physical SIM card is required. |
– Convenient activation.
|– Requires eSIM support in an unlocked device.||– Travelers with eSIM-compatible devices.|
Notes: Based on the above table, we can draw the following conclusions:
- To ensure a seamless and dedicated internet connection, purchasing a SIM card or eSIM for your trip to the USA is advisable. This will allow you to stay connected without relying on others.
- If your device supports eSIM technology, opting for an eSIM is a favorable choice due to its convenience. It eliminates the need for a physical SIM card, streamlining the activation process and providing easy access to mobile services.
II. US SIM Card Types – Which One is the Best for Tourists?
1. Types of USA Tourist SIM
When traveling to the USA, staying connected is vital for a smooth and enjoyable trip. To cater to the needs of tourists, mobile operators in the USA offer two primary types of SIM cards: Physical SIM and eSIM.
|Pros||– Wide range of devices supported |
– Local calling and texting are available
|– Can buy online and receive it through email within minutes |
– No need to show a passport for registration (when you buy it online from eSIM providers like eSIMUSA.net)
– Larger storage for multiple operator profiles
– Not susceptible to physical damage or loss
|Cons||– Need to visit stores or queue at the airport to buy. |
– Can buy online but have to wait for shipping.
– Need to show a passport for registration.
– Limited storage capacity.
– Can get damaged or lost.
|– Limited to eSIM-compatible devices |
– Local calling and texting may not be available (Most eSIM providers offer data-only plans)
Considering these factors, you can decide which option best suits your needs during your trip to the USA.
If your device supports eSIM technology and you value the convenience of a virtual SIM, choosing an eSIM may be the ideal choice. It offers seamless activation and storage flexibility for multiple profiles.
However, if you have a non-eSIM-compatible device or prefer traditional methods, a physical SIM card will still provide reliable connectivity throughout your journey.
Note: Before deciding, remember to thoroughly research available eSIM and SIM card options, compare data packages, and consider your specific device compatibility. This way, you can ensure a seamless and connected experience during your trip to the USA.
III. How Much Data is Enough for a Prepaid Tourist SIM Card for the US?
Most tourists find that 2-8GB of data is adequate for a 1-2 week US trip when used mostly for maps, social media, web browsing and light video streaming.
Here are some data usage estimates for common travel activities:
- Google Maps navigation (1 hour/day): 300MB
- Social media scrolling (1-2 hours/day): 200MB
- Web browsing (2 hours/day): 300MB
- Music streaming (1-2 hours/day): 250MB
- Video streaming SD (1-2 hours/day): 1-2GB
- Video streaming HD (1-2 hours/day): 2-4GB
To be on the safe side, you may want to get a 5GB or 8GB plan and top up later if needed. Avoid choosing too little data and getting overage fees. Also beware of “unlimited” plans that slow speeds after just a few GB.
IV. How Much Does a US Prepaid SIM Card Cost?
Costs for US prepaid SIM cards are quite reasonable, usually $30-$50 for a starter kit including some data.
Here are some typical costs for tourist SIMs in the US:
- SIM card/activation fee: $10
- 1GB data: $10
- 5GB data: $35
- 10GB data: $50
- Unlimited data: $50+ per month
The major four networks like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and US Mobile all have prepaid SIMs costing $30-$50 for a few GB of data. Deals can be found for $10-$20 sometimes with lesser known providers like H2O Wireless or TracFone if you only need minimal data.
For heavy data users going through 5GB+ per week, unlimited data plans may provide the best value.
V. esimusa.net – Alternative to US Prepaid SIM Cards
As an alternative to plastic SIM cards, some US providers offer eSIMs. An eSIM or embedded SIM is a digital-only SIM profile that is loaded to your phone.
Some benefits of using eSIMs for travel include:
- Remote provisioning – eSIMs can be loaded instantly
- Multi-SIM – Have US eSIM + regular SIM active simultaneously
- Easy switching – Change plans or operators via app
- No SIM trays – Convenient for devices without SIM slot
With eSIMs, you can have both your regular home SIM and US SIM enabled at the same time. This allows you to receive calls/texts from your regular number while utilizing the data from your US eSIM.
The top US eSIM providers are Airalo, eSIM.net, and AlwaysOnlineWireless. Prices are very reasonable but data allotments usually max out around 5GB.
VI. Where to Buy US Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM for Tourists?
1. Where to Buy US Prepaid SIM Cards?
Here are some common places where you can buy a USA SIM card for tourists:
- Airports: Many airports in the USA, such as Miami International Airport, San Francisco Airport, Las Vegas Airport, Orlando Airport, etc., have stores that sell SIM cards for tourists. This option may be convenient if you want to get connected as soon as you arrive in the country.
- Mobile operator stores: Major mobile operators like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have retail stores across the USA. You can visit their stores to purchase a prepaid SIM card. The advantage of buying from a mobile operator store is that you can get assistance from their staff in selecting the right plan and setting up your SIM card.
- Third-party retailers: Numerous retail stores and electronics shops across the country offer prepaid SIM cards. Places like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and electronics stores often have these options. Buying from third-party retailers gives you the flexibility to compare different SIM card packages and prices from various providers.
- Mobile operator websites: Numerous mobile operators provide official websites where you can conveniently buy prepaid SIM cards online and have them delivered directly to your accommodation in the United States.
2. Where to Buy USA eSIM?
All major mobile operators like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T offer eSIMs for travelers to the US. However, you can only buy them from the official stores of these operators.
If you prefer a hassle-free and online approach, there are other alternatives. Online travel eSIM providers like eSIMUSA.net and others offer USA eSIM options you can purchase online. This means you can avoid queues at the airport and the need to show your passport for physical SIM card purchases.
eSIMUSA.net offers up to 37 eSIM plans for USA tourists. Refer to the table below for details:
|1GB/day||3 Days||9.00 USD||T-Mobile||3.00 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||3 Days||14.00 USD||T-Mobile||2.33 USD/GB||No|
|5GB||3 Days||20.00 USD||T-Mobile||4.00 USD/GB||No|
|10GB||3 Days||36.00 USD||T-Mobile||3.60 USD/GB||No|
|20GB||3 Days||70.00 USD||T-Mobile||3.50 USD/GB||No|
|1GB/day||5 Days||13.50 USD||T-Mobile||2.70 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||5 Days||21.90 USD||T-Mobile||2.19 USD/GB||No|
|5GB||5 Days||20.90 USD||T-Mobile||4.18 USD/GB||No|
|10GB||5 Days||37.90 USD||T-Mobile||3.79 USD/GB||No|
|20GB||5 Days||74.00 USD||T-Mobile||3.70 USD/GB||No|
|1GB/day||7 Days||17.90 USD||T-Mobile||2.56 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||7 Days||29.50 USD||T-Mobile||2.11 USD/GB||No|
|5GB||7 Days||21.00 USD||T-Mobile||4.20 USD/GB||No|
|10GB||7 Days||39.50 USD||T-Mobile||3.95 USD/GB||No|
|20GB||7 Days||77.50 USD||T-Mobile||3.88 USD/GB||No|
|1GB/day||10 Days||24.50 USD||T-Mobile||2.45 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||10 Days||41.50 USD||T-Mobile||2.08 USD/GB||No|
|5GB||10 Days||21.90 USD||T-Mobile||4.38 USD/GB||No|
|10GB||10 Days||41.00 USD||T-Mobile||4.10 USD/GB||No|
|20GB||10 Days||80.90 USD||T-Mobile||4.05 USD/GB||No|
|1GB/day||15 Days||35.90 USD||T-Mobile||2.39 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||15 Days||60.90 USD||T-Mobile||2.03 USD/GB||No|
|2GB||15 Days||12.50 USD||T-Mobile||6.25 USD/GB||No|
|5GB||15 Days||21.90 USD||T-Mobile||4.38 USD/GB||No|
|10GB||15 Days||33.90 USD||T-Mobile||3.39 USD/GB||No|
|20GB||15 Days||62.60 USD||T-Mobile||3.13 USD/GB||No|
|1GB/day||20 Days||46.90 USD||T-Mobile||2.35 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||20 Days||80.50 USD||T-Mobile||2.01 USD/GB||No|
|1GB/day||25 Days||57.90 USD||T-Mobile||2.32 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||25 Days||99.90 USD||T-Mobile||2.00 USD/GB||No|
|1GB/day||30 Days||57.50 USD||T-Mobile||1.92 USD/GB||No|
|2GB/day||30 Days||119.50 USD||T-Mobile||1.99 USD/GB||No|
|2GB||30 Days||13.00 USD||T-Mobile||6.50 USD/GB||No|
|5GB||30 Days||23.50 USD||T-Mobile||4.70 USD/GB||No|
|10GB||30 Days||37.00 USD||T-Mobile||3.70 USD/GB||No|
|20GB||30 Days||65.60 USD||T-Mobile||3.28 USD/GB||No|
|30GB||30 Days||94.50 USD||T-Mobile||3.15 USD/GB||No|
eSIMUSA.net eSIM pros:
- Convenient online purchase and installation before arriving in the USA, eliminating the need to wait in airport queues for a SIM card.
- No passport is required for registration.
- A wide variety of plans is available for visitors to select from.
- Supported by T-Mobile – USA’s fastest mobile operator
- Supports 5G network
Note: Besides USA eSIM, eSIMUSA.net also provides regional eSIMs for tourists who travel to the USA, Canada, and Mexico.
Tip: Before deciding which provider to choose for purchasing USA eSIMs, it's crucial to consider customer reviews. Visit eSIMUSA.net to explore the feedback and experiences shared by our customers.
IV. Best Mobile Operators in the US
When it comes to mobile network operators in the USA, three reputable names stand out for their coverage and service quality:
- T-Mobile: Based in Bellevue, Washington, T-Mobile stands as a major player in the American mobile operator landscape, sharing the spotlight with AT&T and Verizon. Operating under various brands such as T-Mobile, MetroPCS, and GoSmart Mobile, the company provides comprehensive wireless services encompassing voice, messaging, and data across the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A standout feature is T-Mobile’s leadership in expansive 5G coverage and remarkable typical 5G download speeds.
- AT&T: Based in Dallas, Texas, AT&T stands as a multinational telecommunications corporation, serving a diverse clientele ranging from individual consumers to businesses. In the competitive landscape of the United States wireless market, AT&T occupies a significant position alongside Verizon Communications and T-Mobile US. While T-Mobile US has taken the lead in terms of 5G coverage and download speeds, AT&T claimed the second spot for 5G coverage in 2022 and secured the third position in a 2023 survey assessing typical 5G download speeds.
- Verizon: Headquartered in New York, Verizon Communications is a notable telecommunications giant in the United States, ranking among the top three in the nation alongside AT&T and T-Mobile US. Operating its wireless network under the name Verizon Wireless, the company provides extensive mobile services to both individual consumers and businesses across the entirety of the United States.
If you want to learn more about these operators, please check out our article about Best mobile network providers in the USA.
V. Best US Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM
1. Best USA SIM Cards & Cost
You can obtain the best USA SIM cards from top mobile operators such as T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. While these operators don’t offer SIM cards specifically tailored for tourists, they do provide prepaid plans that cater to a wide range of users, including tourists.
1.1. Verizon SIM cards for USA tourists
Verizon offers 4 prepaid plans at the prices of 35 USD, 45 USD, 60 USD, and 70 USD.
For details, refer to the table below:
|Price||Data||Local Minutes||Local SMS||Mobile Hotspot||Validity|
|35 USD||Unlimited (2G data speeds only)||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||30 days|
|45 USD||15GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Share your wireless network connection with other devices over Wi-Fi.||30 days|
|60 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||5 GB of 5G Nationwide / 4G LTE data, then speeds up to 600 Kbps for the remainder of the month.||30 days|
|70 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||25 GB premium Mobile Hotspot data, then unlimited lower-speed data.||30 days|
1.2. T-Mobile prepaid SIM plans
T-Mobile offers 7 prepaid plans for everyone, including tourists, starting at just 10 USD.
For details, please refer to the table below:
|Price||Data||Local Minutes||Local SMS||Mobile Hotspot||Validity|
|10 USD||1GB||1000||1000||N/A||30 days|
|15 USD||3.5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||30 days|
|25 USD||6.5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||30 days|
|35 USD||12GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||30 days|
|40 USD||10GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Shared with 10GB handset data||30 days|
|50 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited at 3G speeds||30 days|
|60 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Up to 10GN high-speed data, then unlimited at 3G speeds||30 days|
1.3. AT&T SIM cards for USA tourists
AT&T offers 3 prepaid SIM plans at 30 USD, 40 USD, and 65 USD.
Refer to the table below for details:
|Price||Data||Local Minutes||Local SMS||Mobile Hotspot||Validity|
|30 USD||5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||30 days|
|40 USD||15GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||30 days|
|65 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||5GB||30 days|
To compare these operators, follow the table below:
|Operator||Price||Data||Local Minutes||Local SMS||Mobile Hotspot||Price/GB||Validity|
|Verizon||35 USD||N/A||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||N/A||30 days|
|45 USD||15GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||3.00 USD/GB||30 days|
|60 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||5 GB of 5G Nationwide / 4G LTE data, then speeds up to 600 Kbps the remainder of the month||N/A||30 days|
|70 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||25 GB premium Mobile Hotspot data, then unlimited lower-speed data||N/A||30 days|
|T-Mobile||10 USD||1GB||1000||1000||N/A||10 USD/GB||30 days|
|15 USD||3.5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||4.29 USD/GB||30 days|
|25 USD||6.5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||3.85 USD/GB||30 days|
|35 USD||12GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||2.92 USD/GB||30 days|
|40 USD||10GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Shared with 10GB handset data||4.00 USD/GB||30 days|
|50 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited at 3G speeds||N/A||30 days|
|60 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Up to 10GB high-speed data, then unlimited at 3G speeds||N/A||30 days|
|AT&T||30 USD||5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||6.00 USD/GB||30 days|
|40 USD||15GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||2.67 USD/GB||30 days|
|65 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||5GB||N/A||30 days|
- All plans from these carriers grant 5G access (except Verizon's $35 plan) and unlimited calls and texts within the USA.
- The cheapest plan available is T-Mobile's $10 plan, which offers 1GB for 30 days, while AT&T boasts the best Price/GB at $2.67/GB with 15GB for 30 days.
- For substantial data needs (over 15GB), consider unlimited plans, but be aware of potential speed slowdowns during peak times or exceeding data thresholds (such as exceedig 50GB/month with T-Mobile).
- Consider plans with mobile hotspot capabilities if you require connectivity for multiple devices.
VI. How to Use US Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM
1. Using USA SIM Cards
Once you have purchased a USA SIM card, follow these steps to use it:
- Power off your phone and insert the SIM card into the designated slot.
- Power on your phone and wait for it to connect to the mobile network.
- If necessary, configure the APN settings provided by the SIM card provider.
- You can now make calls, send messages, and access the internet using your USA SIM card.
2. Setting up and activating USA eSIM
To use an eSIM in the USA, follow these instructions:
- Check if your smartphone supports eSIM functionality and ensure it is unlocked.
- Access the eSIM settings on your device and scan the QR code provided by the eSIM provider or manually enter the activation code.
- Follow the prompts to download and activate the eSIM profile.
- Once activated, you can switch between different eSIM profiles within your device settings and enjoy seamless connectivity.
VII. FAQs about US Prepaid SIM Cards
1. Where can I buy a US prepaid SIM card or eSIM?
You can purchase prepaid SIM cards or eSIMs from various sources, including airport stores, mobile carrier stores, third-party retailers, mobile operator websites, and online eSIM providers.
2. Which mobile operators offer US prepaid SIM cards and eSIMs for tourists?
Major mobile operators like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile offer prepaid SIM cards and eSIM options for tourists.
3. How do I know if my device is compatible with eSIM technology?
Check the USA eSIM Compatible Devices List to see if your device supports eSIM technology.
4. What factors should I consider when choosing a US prepaid SIM card or eSIM for my trip?
Consider factors like coverage, data allowances, international calling rates, validity periods, and more when choosing a USA SIM card or eSIM for your trip.
5. Can I top up or recharge my US prepaid SIM card or eSIM during my trip?
Yes, most prepaid plans allow you to top up or recharge your balance online, through mobile apps, or at retail locations.
VIII. Final Words
In conclusion, purchasing a US prepaid SIM card or eSIM is the best way to stay connected during your stay. Consider your data requirements, coverage needs, and budget when choosing the right option for you. Whether you opt for a traditional SIM card or the convenience of an eSIM, you can find reliable options from various mobile network operators and authorized sellers. Enjoy your trip to the USA with seamless communication and internet access!