Best prepaid international SIM card for the United States | finder.com
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Traveling in the United States? Check out our guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card

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Reduce your rates by using a local SIM card.

Using an out-of-country phone network in the United States of America can work out to be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans. The US has some of the best prepaid SIM cards available, with deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from the leading telco provider in the US for as little as $10. So, whether you’re planning a quick break or a tour of America, check out the best SIM card options on finder.com.

Travel Sim Card

Travel Sim Card from SimCorner

SimCorner's prepaid SIM cards let you enjoy local call, text and data rates in dozens of countries around the world.

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Details Features
Flexiroam Sim Card
Flexiroam Sim Card
If you're planning a trip that includes multiple countries, a Flexiroam X sim card can be much cheaper than roaming with your existing mobile number.
  • Over 120 countries
  • 6 different starter pack options
  • Data options from 1 to 7 GB
  • Shipment takes 3 to 7 days
Go to site More info
SimCorner Travel Sim Card
SimCorner Travel Sim Card
Enjoy local calls, text and data rates in dozens of countries around the world with SimCorner's prepaid SIM cards.
  • Available in most major tourist destinations
  • 4GB data speeds
  • Several different data plans available
  • Ships in 7-12 business days
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Prices last updated 6 Sep 2017
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Telco providers in the United States

There are four main operators in the United States: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. All four operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. Their services have all been tried and tested by both locals and travelers, and can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s network map, coverage is very good in the main towns and cities. It can suffer as you head out toward the desert areas or countryside regions.

About the telco operators in the US

All four operators offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can buy them from supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets, as well as at international airports. 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE plans are available on all networks for some CDMA and unlocked GSM phones. You can buy a prepaid SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several kiosks around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in most stores and supermarkets. Some carriers in the United States do allow you to purchase prepaid SIM cards but they have to be purchased with the handset as a package. Make sure you check the total price before purchasing, as they can work out to be expensive. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in the US.

Verizon

Verizon is the largest provider in the United States. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. It also offers both CDMA and GSM platforms, but check whether your device is compatible first, as only a limited number are supported on CDMA. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and credit can be purchased from the same retailers and most supermarkets across America. Verizon has the largest number of subscribers in the US, along with the best coverage and best speeds.

Prepaid SIM cards and “pay-as-you-go” plans can be added to the SIM cards as long as your phone is compatible with Verizon’s service. If not, you will have to purchase a phone with the SIM card in order to use it in the States.

Its 4G/LTE-compatible SIM packs can be purchased for $49.99. This may sound like a lot, but it includes unlimited talk and SMS within the US, plus 2GB data. Credit can be purchased in the guise of “PIN cards” or “PIN codes” for anywhere between $15 and $150 from most stores and supermarkets across the country. Just look for the Verizon sign.

The following options are restricted to prepaid SIM packages that come with a Verizon smartphone. Prices vary depending on what smartphone you choose, but these deals are obviously much more expensive than just acquiring a SIM card.

The following data plans can be added (each valid for 30 days):

  • $40: 3GB
  • $50: 7GB
  • $60: 10GB
  • $80: Unlimited data

High-speed data can also be added:

500MB30 days$5
1GB90 days$10
3GB90 days$20

In addition, data can be added for tablets or modems (also restricted to when you buy a tablet or modem package with Verizon):

$15500MB1 week
$201GB1 month
$352GB2 months
$605GB2 months
$10010GB2 months

Verizon’s APN: internet /or/ vzwinternet, website: www.verizonwireless.com

AT&T

AT&T is the second-largest operator and the largest GSM-based provider in America. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and credit can be purchased from the same retailers and most supermarkets across America. AT&T “GoPhone” prepaid SIM cards can be picked up for free, but packages must be added to use them.

There are two prepaid plans available: one includes data, voice and SMS while the other is a data-only SIM card for modems and tablets.

Credit can be added in many different denominations between $15 and $100, valid between 90 and 365 days.

The following voice and data plans are available:

$30Unlimited in USData charged at $2 per MB or 250MB for $5
$35Unlimited in US1GB included
$45Unlimited (to Mexico and Canada included)6GB included
$65Unlimited (to Mexico and Canada included)Unlimited US data

There are also $1-per-day data add-on packs that can be purchased, valid per calendar day.

The following data-only packs are also available

$252GB500MB for $10 add-on available
$505GB1GB for $10 add-on available
$758GB2GB for $10 add-on available

AT&T’s APN for smartphones: phone, APN for modem, routers and tablets: broadband

Website: www.att.com

T-Mobile

T-Mobile US is catching up with both Verizon and AT&T. Its plans are very popular with the younger audience, and it offers better prices than its competitors. Prepaid SIM cards come labeled as “activation kits” with a SIM card, detailed information about how to set it up in both Spanish and English, and/or a smartphone. SIM cards can be purchased for $25, but they have only $3 of credit. Dial *611 from a T-Mobile phone to activate. Credit can be purchased from most stores or supermarkets from $10 up to $200. Prepaid SIM cards are valid for 90 days after credit is added.

The following data packs can be added to prepaid SIM cards:

  • $5: 500MB for 1 day
  • $10: 1GB for 7 days

There are also monthly prepaid plans available:

$45Unlimited dataUnlimited cap: 4GB
$55Unlimited dataUnlimited cap: 6GB
$75Unlimited dataUnlimited cap: 30GB

There are also the following data-only SIM plans available:

$5500MB1 day
$101GB7 days
$303GB30 days
$405GB30 days
$507GB30 days
$1005GB150 days

The following data packs can also be added; they renew automatically after 30 days:

  • $20: 2GB
  • $35: 6GB
  • $50: 10GB
  • $65: 14GB
  • $80: 18GB
  • $95: 22GB

T-Mobile’s APN: epc.t-mobile.com, and website: www.t-mobile.com

Sprint

Sprint is the smallest operator but has some good deals available. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and credit can be purchased from the same retailers and most supermarkets across America. The only catch here, though, is that you must buy a prepaid SIM card pack, which comes with a smartphone. Prices vary depending on which phone you select, but this makes these SIM card packages extremely expensive. We therefore suggest you choose one of the other providers mentioned, as they offer better services and better deals. However, if you do find a better deal on this network, then go ahead and use it because it be trusted.

Sprint’s APN: cinet.spcs, and website: https://www.sprint.com/

Some top tips from finder.com staff:

  • Locals call a SIM card a “SIM” or “chip”.
  • Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we’ve highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
  • Remember, it’s always better to get things done early, before the shops get too busy. That way you’re more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!

TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them

While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and vacations, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in the US.

Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:

What I do is use a standard AT&T SIM card in my phone, and it gives me all the features I want. As long as your iPhone is unlocked, you’ll be perfectly OK.

The prepaid phones are everywhere, the drugstore/pharmacies will have a selection IE CVS, RiteAid, Walgreens. You may find a RadioShack not too far from your stay and they usually have a better selection.

I have a $2 per day plan with T-Mobile. I bought a SIM card, it was $25 but $15 went toward the prepaid plan so it ended up costing only $10 for the activation of the SIM card. The plan is talk-text-data unlimited. This is very good cost wise.“

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Deal ends

Pros and cons of the top telco providers in the US

All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone (or CDMA if you plan on using those services). To double check you have this phone, or whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.

Pros:

  • Good value for money
  • The United States has good coverage
  • Prepaid credit when required
  • No in-store contract needed
  • Could be compatible with your current phone
  • Cheap handsets are sold in stores

Cons:

  • Most providers only offer prepaid SIM cards with devices, which pushes up the price
  • Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones or unlocked CDMA devices
  • Signal can suffer in the desert or far-flung regions

Switch to a cell phone plan with international calling

Details Features
SIMPLE Mobile
SIMPLE Mobile
  • Plans: Individual
  • From: $25/month
  • Min. contract: None
  • The Truly Unlimited plan gives you
    Unlimited talk, text and data for $50/month
  • No contracts
  • No credit check
  • Unlimited international calling
Go to site More info
FreedomPop
FreedomPop
  • Plans: Individual, Family, Business
  • From: $0/month
  • Min. contract: None
  • The Basic 500 Plan gives you
    200 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB data for $0/month
  • Offers a Free talk, text & data plan
  • Data can rollover month to month
  • Call other FreedomPop users for free
Go to site More info
NET10 Wireless
NET10 Wireless
  • Plans: Data, Pay-As-You-Go, Home, Business, International
  • From: $20/month
  • Min. contract: None if you choose a Pay-As-You-Go
  • The Mega Data User Plan gives you
    Unlimited nationwide talk and text plus 10GB high-speed data for $60/mo
  • Nationwide coverage with flexible prepaid plans for talk, text & data.
  • Unlimited international talk for $65 a month.
  • No credit checks, no activation fees.
    Go to site More info
    Straight Talk Wireless
    Straight Talk Wireless
    • Plans: Individual, Family, Business & International
    • From: $30/month
    • Min. contract: None - Pay as you go
    • The Unlimited 5G Plan gives you
      Unlimited Talk, Text and Data for just $45/month
    • No contract option for nationwide coverage.
    • Unlimited international plan for $60 a month.
    • Bring your own phone.
      Go to site More info
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      7 Responses

      1. Default Gravatar
        GladysOctober 16, 2018

        Hi,

        I have a quick trip to the US. Is there a way to buy prepaid data before I arrive?

        Thank you,

        • finder Customer Care
          AshOctober 16, 2018Staff

          Hi Gladys,

          Thank you for contacting us.

          Unfortunately, you cannot order a Prepaid SIM card before you arrive in the US as you will need your passport to purchase one. You can buy a Prepaid SIM card from supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets and any of their international airports.

          I hope this helps.

          Please do not hesitate to reach out again to us if you have additional questions.

          Cheers,
          Ash

      2. Default Gravatar
        DavidSeptember 21, 2018

        I am visiting the States next week. When I was living in the States, some of the best prepaid plans were at WalMart. Is this still the case?

        • finder Customer Care
          joelmarceloSeptember 21, 2018Staff

          Hi there,

          Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

          Yes you can definitely get a sim card in Walmart. The prepaid sims are everywhere, the drugstore/pharmacies will have a selection IE CVS, RiteAid, Walgreens. You may find a RadioShack not too far from your stay and they usually have a better selection.

          Please send me a message if you need anything else. :)

          Cheers,
          Joel

      3. Default Gravatar
        mireilleMarch 21, 2018

        Hi! is it possible to buy a SIM T-mobile
        upon arrival from Hongkong at San Francisco International airport?

        • finder Customer Care
          RonMarch 22, 2018Staff

          Hello Mireille,

          Good day! Appreciate you contacting finder regarding your inquiry.

          Yes it is possible. Usually kiosks from Telco providers are available at Major international airports in the US for foreigners/tourists who would wish to rent/purchase sim cards upon arrival at the airport. Sometimes they can be easily seen past through immigration and baggage claim; you can see kiosks usually side by side. Otherwise, you may look for the airport concierge so you can seek assistance.

          Hope this helps!

          All the best,
          Ron

        • Default Gravatar
          RyanAugust 14, 2018

          I say if you can skip the airport,Go to the nearest chain store,they sell a veriety of prepaid SIM card packs for much less than the airport charges and activate it yourself. You can skip the hassle at the airport stores.

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