If you’re planning a trip to the USA, having a sim card is essential for staying connected. With access to the internet while traveling, exploring new cities becomes effortless. Whether you’re searching for the finest dining options, navigating to your accommodation, booking a taxi, or sharing photos with your loved ones, having internet access on the go is extremely convenient.
While roaming is always an option, international fees can quickly accumulate, making it more cost-effective to opt for an eSIM or a local sim card that offers local phone rates. Fortunately, obtaining either an eSIM or a local sim card in the USA is a straightforward process.
To help you make the best choice, this guide provides all the information you need, including current pricing and the top recommended sim card for your needs.
Mobile plans in the US are expensive and travellers are likely to get a bit of a shock when they arrive. You’ll basically have three options: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon who each offer similar prepaid phone plans.
The best physical sim card in the USA is the T-Mobile prepaid sim card combined with one of their simple prepaid phone plans. The cheapest option is the 10GB plan for $40 USD which also includes unlimited calls and texts. However, if you’re visiting America for a while I would usually recommend the $50 USD plan which is identical but includes unlimited data.
The sim card is usually free when you buy a plan, but there is a chance you’ll be required to buy the sim card for $10 USD.
In terms of network coverage, all three mobile network operators have very extensive networks and extremely fast internet speeds so you should choose the operator based on price and the proximity of a store. On that note, I recommend seeking out an official T-Mobile store to purchase your sim card. They’ll help to set you up properly.
With that said, I don’t actually recommend buying a physical sim card in the US. Airalo’s USA eSim is much better value and runs across the T-Mobile and Verizon networks so your coverage will be at least as good as if you went with any of the local sim card operators.
For most travellers I recommend the 10GB data plan which costs just $26 USD – almost half as much as buying a physical sim card in a store! Which is crazy considering eSims are better than physical sim cards in the first place. If 10GB isn’t enough data for you, you can buy 20GB for $42 USD which is still cheaper.
Or, if you’re a budget-oriented traveller, the 5GB plan costs only $16 USD. Just make sure to use the free wifi which can be found all over the main cities.
Pretty much all phones these days support eSims, including any iPhone produced after 2018. All you need to do is buy the eSim online here before you travel to America. The eSim will self-activate when you arrive in the United States of America. You won’t need to visit a store or do anything.
A Tourist Sim Card in USA costs $50 USD in February 2024, however, the exact price will often depend on the store you visit and the plan you choose.
Alternatively, an eSim in USA will cost between $4.50 USD and $42 USD. This, again, depends on how much data you require and which eSim provider you choose.
I generally recommend this Airalo plan for most tourists visiting USA which includes 10GB of data which is valid for 30 days and costs $26 USD.
In the United States, there are three main SIM card providers that dominate the market – T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. T-Mobile is known for its extensive coverage and affordable plans, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious customers. With its wide range of options, AT&T offers excellent network speeds and reliable signal strength, making it a preferred choice for those who prioritize performance. Verizon, on the other hand, boasts unparalleled coverage and a reputation for exceptional service quality, appealing to customers in more remote areas. All three providers offer various data plans, international roaming options, and competitive pricing, ensuring customers have a range of choices to suit their needs and preferences.
T-Mobile is a major telecommunications company in the USA that offers great options for tourists with their sim cards. Their tourist sim cards provide unlimited talk, text, and data across the United States, allowing visitors to stay connected throughout their trip. With affordable prices, excellent coverage, and 5G capabilities, T-Mobile ensures seamless communication for tourists. Their user-friendly packages and easy activation make them a preferred choice for travelers exploring the USA.
The price of a T-Mobile tourist sim card in USA is $50 USD.
The plan offered by T-Mobile stores includes unlimited 5G data + unlimited calls and texts valid for 1 month.
AT&T is a leading telecommunications company in the USA that offers Tourist SIM cards for international travelers. These SIM cards provide visitors with reliable network coverage, high-speed data, and unlimited talk and text capabilities. With easy activation and flexible plans, tourists can stay connected throughout their trip. AT&T’s Tourist SIM cards also provide access to numerous AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, ensuring seamless connectivity during their stay.
The price of a AT&T tourist sim card in USA is $65 USD.
The plan offered by AT&T stores offers unlimited 5G data + unlimited calls + unlimited texts valid for 1 month.
Verizon, a leading telecommunications company in the USA, offers tourist SIM cards for visitors looking for seamless connectivity during their trip. These SIM cards provide tourists with reliable coverage across the country, allowing them to easily access the internet, make calls, and send messages. With competitive pricing and various data options, Verizon ensures travelers can stay connected and share their experiences effortlessly while exploring the beautiful destinations in the United States.
The price of a Verizon tourist sim card in USA is $40 USD.
The plan offered by Verizon stores includes 5GB 5G data valid for 1 month.
Identify mobile providers: T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon are your best options in USA.
Find your nearest store: Locate a store or retailer by searching on Google Maps for your nearest store or asking at your hotel reception. I’ve never had issues finding a store as they can usually be found in major cities, shopping centers, or tourist areas. If possible, I always recommend to to avoid airports and head in to an official store in the city.
Bring the necessary documents: It is always a good idea to carry your passport or identification documents for sim card registration purposes. We’ve found most providers will need to confirm your identity to provide a sim card and it can be a major hassle to head to a store only to have to come back again later with your passport.
Choose your plan: Either request the plan you are after or consult with the staff in the store to select the right plan for you. My recommendations at the beginning of this guide are a good starting point, but the staff will usually be able to suggest the best option.
Pay and activate your card: Pay for the SIM card and plan, and the staff will activate it for you.
Test: It’s always a good idea to check that you can access the internet before you leave the store. I always search for something on Google then refresh my Instagram feed to check it’s working fine.
Buying a prepaid sim card for USA at the airport is usually considered the most convenient option for travellers arriving by plane.
However, airport stores selling sim cards are almost guaranteed to charge inflated prices, so if you are a cost-conscious traveller then you should definitely buy your sim card from a store in the city center.
In addition to this, we would argue that buying physical sim cards at all aren’t particularly convenient now that most people use esim compatible phones. If you are looking for the most convenient option, then buying an esim before you arrive or with the airport wifi is much easier and will save you having to queue up or communicate with staff.
If you must purchase a sim card at the airport in USA then you will be in luck. All major international airports in USA have stores selling sim cards. Despite the prices being higher than normal, the staff are knowledgable and will be able to get you set up with the correct sim card relatively quickly.
If you want to avoid the inflated sim card prices you’ll find at the airport and your phone isn’t esim compatible, then you’re going to need to head in to a store to buy your sim card.
I recommend visiting one of the official retail stores of the mobile internet operators such as T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon. Your best option is to enter their names into Google Maps and find the branch closest to your hotel or accommodation. Typically the staff in the official stores in USA are knowledgable and helpful which means you can ensure you’ll walk away with a functioning sim card.
Despite this, it’s always a good idea to check your internet is working before you leave the store by loading a Google search results page and your preferred social media app. You should also ensure you always bring your passport with you when purchasing a sim card in case they need to register it.
If you like to be prepared and would prefer to arrive in USA with your sim card all sorted and your phone ready to connect to the internet immediately then you should look into purchasing a sim card online.
The first option is to buy your sim card in advance via SimOptions, which is a company that will prepare and ship a sim card directly to your door. It’s a reliable and effective service, but with the invention of eSims it’s becoming obsolete.
The better option is to purchase an eSim online. We’ve written more on that below!
An eSim is a digital version of a traditional sim card and is most likely the future of connectivity for mobile devices. The convenience of no longer visiting a store, handing over your passport and purchasing a physical sim card is quickly making physical sim cards obsolete in favour of eSims.
We recommend Airalo’s eSim when travelling to USA. The Airalo USA eSim offers fast internet speeds, wide coverage and extremely competitive prices making it a far more compelling option than purchasing a physical sim card from any of the local sim card providers.
In order to get set up with an Airalo eSim, all you need to do is visit Airalo here and purchase the eSim online (the $26 USD plan is suitable for most travellers). Once you’ve purchased the sim card Airalo will email you instructions and a QR code. Following these instructions should take just a couple of minutes, then you’ll have a sim card in USA without having to venture outside.
Our preferred eSim provider in USA is Airalo. We used them, alongside a local sim card on another device, for our most recent trip to USA and found the service to be equal to the local sim card but without the hassle of acquiring a sim card in a store.
Airalo’s USA eSim uses the T-Mobile and Verizon networks to provide data and connect users to the internet. You can expect very good coverage and reliability with the T-Mobile and Verizon networksnetwork as they are amongst the best mobile internet operators in USA.
Here are the plans and prices for Airalo’s USA eSim:
1GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $4.50 USD
2GB data valid for 15 days – Price: $8 USD
3GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $11 USD
5GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $16 USD
10GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $26 USD
20GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $42 USD
For most travellers we recommend the 10GB data plan for $26 USD which is valid for 30 days. Some travellers may prefer a larger plan, whilst travellers visiting for just a couple of days may be fine with a smaller plan.
An alternative eSim provider we can recommend is Holafly.
Holafly’s eSim is a suitable option for travellers who require large amounts of data, such as digital nomads and people who work online while they travel. All of Holafly’s USA eSims offer unlimited data.
Holafly’s USA eSim uses the AT&T / T-Mobilenetwork to provide data and connect users to the internet. This network will provide reliable speeds and coverage while in USA
Here are the plans and prices for Holafly’s USA eSim:
Unlimited data valid for 5 days – Price: $19 USD
Unlimited data valid for 7 days – Price: $27 USD
Unlimited data valid for 10 days – Price: $34 USD
Unlimited data valid for 15 days – Price: $47 USD
Unlimited data valid for 20 days – Price: $54 USD
Unlimited data valid for 30 days – Price: $64 USD
Unlimited data valid for 60 days – Price: $84 USD
Unlimited data valid for 90 days – Price: $99 USD
An eSIM, also known as an embedded SIM, is a virtual SIM card integrated directly into a device like a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch. Unlike physical SIM cards, it doesn’t require insertion or removal from the device.
Instead, the eSIM is part of the device’s hardware and can be programmed and enabled remotely by a mobile network operator. This offers users the convenience of quickly switching between different mobile networks or plans without physically changing SIM cards.
eSIM technology offers travelers and individuals who frequently switch networks or travel internationally, greater flexibility, ease, and convenience. It eliminates the need to purchase and insert physical SIM cards, making it simpler to manage multiple mobile connections on one device.
To activate an eSIM, users can either scan a QR code provided by their network operator or manually enter activation details. Once activated, the device can easily connect to the preferred network and access voice, data, and messaging services just like with a regular SIM card.
– Using an eSIM offers convenience as there is no need to physically insert or remove a SIM card when switching networks or plans.
– eSIM allows for dual SIM functionality, meaning two active mobile numbers can be used on the same device.
– The embedded nature of eSIMs saves space within devices, allowing for smaller designs or the use of extra components.
– Activation and management of mobile plans can be done remotely over the air with eSIMs, eliminating the need for physical SIM cards or store visits.
– eSIM technology is gaining support from more mobile networks and service providers, ensuring access to new services and offerings in the future.
– Overall, eSIM technology provides flexibility, convenience, and future-proofing for mobile connectivity.
eSIM technology is becoming increasingly popular and is supported by a growing number of smartphones and other devices. Here are some examples of eSIM-compatible phones:
Apple iPhone series (iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13, etc.): Apple was one of the early adopters of eSIM technology and offers support for eSIM on various iPhone models.
Google Pixel series (Pixel 3, Pixel 4, Pixel 5, etc.): Google’s Pixel smartphones also support eSIM functionality, allowing users to activate and use eSIMs.
Samsung Galaxy series (Galaxy S22, Galaxy Note 20, etc.): Many of Samsung’s flagship devices now come with eSIM support, enabling users to utilize eSIM technology.
OnePlus devices (OnePlus 7, OnePlus 8, etc.): OnePlus has included eSIM support in some of its smartphone models, offering users the flexibility of using eSIMs.
Motorola Razr (2020): The latest iteration of the iconic Motorola Razr features eSIM compatibility, enabling users to use eSIMs for cellular connectivity.
These are just a few examples, and the list of eSIM-compatible phones continues to expand as more manufacturers embrace this technology. There’s a very strong chance your phone supports eSims so if you’re unsure we recommend looking it up on our list of eSim supported phones.
Using an eSim is new for many travellers, however, the good news is it’s surprisingly easy to get set up – even for the technologically challenged!
Here’s a general guide on how to use an eSIM:
Check eSIM Compatibility: Ensure that your device supports eSIM functionality. Many newer smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and other devices are eSIM compatible including all iPhones produced since 2018.
Obtain an eSIM: There are multiple ways to acquire an eSIM. You can purchase an eSIM online from a provider like Airalo (which we recommend) or directly from a mobile network operator. Some devices also allow you to scan a QR code provided by your carrier to download the eSIM profile.
Activate the eSIM: Your eSim provider will send you instructions to activate the sim. This will usually involve scanning a QR code, entering an activation code, or downloading the eSIM profile directly onto your device.
Set up the eSIM: Once activated, your device will guide you through the eSIM setup process. This typically involves selecting the eSIM as your preferred mobile plan, configuring settings like data roaming, and entering any necessary authentication details.
Enjoy the Connection: Once the eSIM is set up, you can use it as you would with a physical SIM card. Make calls, send messages, browse the internet, and use data services as needed. You can also switch between eSIM profiles if you have multiple eSIMs installed on your device.
Hi, I’m Mitchell. I’m a full-time traveller, explorer and travel blogger. Travel Sim Expert is a blog dedicated to helping you find the best sim card for you, no matter where you are or what your budget is.