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Very much recommended are international sim cards that cover the USA, more about that later. But the cheapest way to stay connected when traveling to the States is an e-sim card for the USA, more about those below.
As a full time world traveler trying to visit every country in the world and visited more than 150 countries as of April 2023 let me tell you that buying a local prepaid sim card in the country you are visiting is the cheapest way to have data on your phone. The network coverage will be the best, the data speed maximum and locals calls are included and often unlimited.
In total I wrote more than 200 local prepaid sim card guides for places and countries like: Canada, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam, Panama, South Africa, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Colombia and so on.
Prepaid USA sim card prices are NOT competitive, for cheaper USA sim card deals check out international prepaid sim cards with data to stay connected when traveling in the USA or e-sims card for the USA.
Buying a sim card for the USA is easy, it takes just a couple minutes and you are connected straight away, it is like plug and play. You put the sim card in your phone and it instantly works. However, you have to make sure your phone is unlocked if you want to use a prepaid sim card or an e-sim card abroad.
Traveltomtom recommends a T-Mobile sim card for the USA. It has a very extensive 5G network and for $50 you get unlimited data for 30 days, it is cheaper than AT&T. However, the best USA sim card deals can be found online, see below.
There are international sim cards with global network coverage in 2023 that we recommend. In the link you will find a review and comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2023. You you can order online before your trip to the US and get them shipped to your home address.
Make sure your phone is unlocked, before buying a sim card for the USA. Foreign sim cards only work in unlocked phones. If you are not sure about this ask your provider in your home country before your trip, this also counts for e-sim cards.
The most convenient and easiest way to stay connected when traveling to the USA is getting an e-sim card that works in the USA. You can easily order them online within less than a minute. You will then receive a code on your current mobile phone, you enter it and your e-sim card is activated. Check out these amazing e-sim card deals for the USA:
Unlike any other country around the world it is NOT easy to find sim card shops or resellers at international arrivals in most of the airports in the USA. I still can't get my head around this! Like for real America? At Houston Airport the guy from the information desk was like, uh what... a prepaid sim card?
That said, I am determined to continue writing sim card guides for USA airports and already started with the Big Apple. Flying to New York? Check out my guides for buying a sim card at New York JFK Airport or buying a sim card at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Many more coming in 2023. The newest addition is my guide for buying a sim card at Miami Airport.
I have written uncountable sim card guides for international airports: Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Dublin, Johannesburg, Dubai, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Cairo, Panama City, Bangkok, Bali, etc. At every international airport worldwide you will find sim card shops next to car rental companies and money exchangers, unfortunately not in the USA! In the last years I landed in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas/Forth Worth, New York JFK, Newark, Miami and it was a disaster.
The best place to buy a sim card for the USA is at an official retail store. The staff in here will give you the best advice on your needs and everything will be set up quickly and within just a couple minutes. You will walk out of the store with a working data connection on your phone.
In the bigger cities like New York, Chicago, San Fransisco you can sometimes find sim card kiosks at the bigger train stations, like the above photo from Penn Station in New York. These sim card shops are resellers of MVNO sim cards. MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator, a well known example is Lycamobile.
A Lycamobile sim card operates on the T-Mobile network in the USA and they sell the above data plans and packages including unlimited calls/text. They are not cheap either and 7 GB data will already cost you $29 USD + tax.
As mentioned before an e-sim card is the cheapest but also the easiest way to get data on your phone when traveling to the USA, but you can also order physical prepaid sim cards online that work in the USA. Check out my article about the best international sim cards for travelers in 2023, it has some really good alternatives and you can order directly online.
Online you will find many options for sim cards to use in America. These prepaid sim cards will be send to your home address and are automatically activated from its first use. Click here for more than 10 prepaid sim cards with data for traveling in the USA. It is a little more expensive, but very convenient and easy.
Although I knew about this I just wanted to make sure and visited this Verizon shop in Atlanta, Georgia to get the latest information. VERIZON does NOT offer prepaid USA sim cards for tourists. There is a way around though, a little complicated, but possible. Click here to buy the Verizon sim card for the USA offer on Amazon. This is just a prepaid sim card, no data, calls, text included!
The registration process for prepaid sim cards in the USA is very standard. When buying a sim card you will need to bring your passport. In the store a copy of your passport or a photo will be taken and will be attached to your registration. Your new US sim card and number will be registered on your name and passport number.
They offer 3 different sim card packages, see the above photo. All of the prepaid sim card deals come with UNLIMITED CALLING & TEXTING in the USA, the use of max data speed at 5G network and are valid for 1 month.
The data is only for use in the USA, you pay $5 extra for max 5 GB data to use in Canada and/or Mexico. But when you travel to Mexico as well I recommend buying a sim card for Mexico instead.
The activation fee for an AT&T USA prepaid sim is $15, but also waived when in most cases when buying one of the above prepaid sim card plans. AT&T offers 2 prepaid USA sim card plans for tourists, don't get fooled by the sim card deals above. The middle column is a prepaid offer for 12 months!
The $65 deal is only $50 if you renew automatically every month, so for tourists not applicable. Also it says unlimited calling, text and data in Mexico and Canada, but on 2G speed. That means an E signal on which you can barely check your email or use WhatsApp. Totally useless! When traveling to Canada on the same trip is better to buy an international sim card for North America.
When we look at the comparison of the prepaid sim cards USA the conclusion is simple: AT&T USA IS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN T-MOBILE USA! Based on the price I am definitely recommending a T-Mobile USA sim card over an AT&T sim card.
Whether you are traveling to the USA as a tourist or for business the chances of not having a phone signal are very small. The network in the USA is countrywide pretty good and yes there is of course 5G in the United States. Prepaid sim cards that you buy in the USA support 5G, international sim cards and e-sim cards for the USA do NOT support 5G!
When comparing all the prepaid sim cards for the USA we can come to the very simple conclusion that T-Mobile is the best prepaid sim card in the USA in 2023! They offer the best prepaid sim card deals and also have the best 5G network in the country. However, in 2023 we also take the online sim cards into consideration and then we come to the conclusion that these are the best USA sim card deals.
E-sim cards are the cheapest way to get a lot of data on your phone. For $34.9 USD you get 20 GB data and you can arrange everything online within just a couple minutes. Keep in mind that e-sim cards are data only sim cards and calls are NOT supported.
But if you want the fastest data speed and a sim card that supports 5G on your trip to the USA then you have to buy a prepaid sim card on arrival in the USA. In that case Traveltomtom recommends a USA sim card with unlimited data from T-Mobile. You will pay $10 activation fee + $50 plan = $60 (+tax), but you are sorted for the rest of your trip! This sim card is valid for 1 month and T-Mobile has the biggest 5G network in the country.
On my trip to Las Vegas and New York I bought a T-Mobile sim card in Las Vegas and traveled around the US for 3 weeks. I never had a problem connecting and the T-Mobile 5G network experience was amazingly FAST! Even in some of the National Parks that I visited there was either a 5G or 4G signal: Zion in Utah, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Shenandoah in Virginia, everywhere I had an excellent signal throughout my journey with a T-Mobile sim card.
At Times Square New York you will find a T-Mobile store and a AT&T store within 100 meter from each other. You can walk in, buy a prepaid sim card and you are connected within 5 minutes, but yeah it will cost some time and energy to get connected if you decide to buy a prepaid sim card in the USA.
If that sounds like too much hassle than also get an e-sim card for the USA. Also another reminder that e-sim cards are actually CHEAPER! Click on the link to find 3 GB data for just $11 USD. Or check my article about the best global sim cards in 2023 including free roaming in the USA.
On top of the USA prepaid sim cards from T-Mobile and AT&T mentioned above you can also buy an international sim card for the USA online. These sim cards will be shipped to your home address before your trip and are pre-activated. So whenever you land you put them in your phone and it is plug and play.
You can order this sim card from Amazon but value for money is bad. I would not recommend this sim Lycamobile sim card for the USA and it makes sense when you think that an e-sim card for the USA with 1 GB data costs only $4.5 USD. Check below for much better options. 781b155fdc