Traveling to the United States of America is a legendary experience for many people around the world. It’s the USA! America! The land of the free and the home of the brave. The United States is an enormous country filled with amazing destinations! From Hawaii, Hollywood, Miami, Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Canyon, to the great State of Texas, with events like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or New Years in New York City! Travelers can stay for a week, a month, a summer or longer and never see it all! With all that in mind, here is our list of the best USA SIM Cards for travelers.
The SIM Cards on this list are prepaid, meaning without a contract and paid up front so they are easy to ditch or expire after your trip. However some require a credit card on file and bill at the end of the month, but no credit check is required. Because the USA is such a big country, this article focuses on SIM Cards for the mainland USA, excluding Alaska, Puerto Rico & other US territories.
SIM Cards Available in the USA
There are a lot of options out there for USA SIM Cards and factors to consider before selecting one.
- How long is your trip?
- Will you be traveling to Mexico or Canada too and need roaming?
- Will you be traveling from Canada?
- Will your phone work on USA networks?
- For larger groups consider a Wi-Fi Hotspot Rental
This article is a little lengthier than our usual ones. But do take the time to check out the requirements and your phones compatibility with USA SIM Card providers.
Where to Buy a SIM Card?
The USA has four main network providers but only two use the international GSM network: AT&T & T-Mobile. You can check out the others but only LTE (4G) will work, meaning if you don’t have a 4G signal, you have no signal.
All the other companies on this list use either the AT&T or T-Mobile network but strangely aren’t sold in those stores. In the USA, the best place to find SIM Cards is Walmart, Target, 7-Eleven, Best Buy or Gas Stations. The prices in stores for the SIM Card may be different from the online price listed below.
Most of the SIM Cards listed can be bought online, on ebay or Amazon and shipped to a US address or even any international address like a hotel, hostel or friend. Note that the prices may be pre-tax because the USA and Canada have different sales tax rates in each state or province.
USA SIM Card Requirements
The United States does not require the registration of prepaid SIM Cards and may not require a credit card on file depending on the provider.
All you need in a compatible unlocked phone. Please see the next section on how to check your phone’s compatibility to the US networks.
Check Your Phone Compatability
Your phone needs to be compatible with the SIM provider’s network. What does this mean?
There are two network types worldwide: CDMA and GSM. AT&T & T-Mobile are GSM which is what is used in most countries including the EU & Canada.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to know the details because nice internet people have come through for us! Check out WillMyPhoneWork.NET. Here is what you need:
- Your Phone Brand (Apple ,Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei etc…)
- Your Phone Model (Samsung Galaxy S9, IPhone X, etc…)
- Your Phone Sub-Model Number (Model A1532) May also have to know your carrier (Verizon, Sprint, Rogers etc…)
- The country you are visiting (United States, Japan etc…)
- The carrier whose network you’ll be using (AT&T or T-Mobile)
Example of Compatibility
- Brand: Apple
- Model: IPhone 5C
- Sub-Model: N# on the back of the phone A1532.
- There are two options: Verizon CDMA and GSM (other carriers). I’m not with Verizon so it must be GSM (North America)
- Country: United States
- Carrier: AT&T
Compatibility Result: 3G & 4G. Next I checked T-Mobile, but I only had 2G, 3G and only maybe 4G compatibility on their network. So AT&T is probably better.
Best Value SIM Cards
- Free+Network: AT&T
- Pre-purchase Online: Yes. H2O Wireless (US Shipping Only),
- Available Locations: Amazon, 7 Eleven, Target, Best Buy, K Mart, EZ Mart, Family Dollar, Office Depot
- Top Ups: Yes, Credit Card or Voucher
- Note: Activate Online, Max roll-over of 5 GB of unused data, 30 day packages
SIM Price: Free+
- $20 USD for 2 GB of Data, Ultd. Voice & SMS in USA + 50 Countries, $10 Int. Voice credit
- $30 USD for 6 GB of Data, Ultd. Voice & SMS in USA + 50 Countries, $10 Int. Voice credit
- $40 USD for 15 GB of Data, Ultd. Voice & SMS in USA + 50 Countries, $20 Int. Voice credit
- $50 USD for Ultd Data, Ultd. Voice & SMS in USA + 50 Countries, $20 Int. Voice credit
- $60 USD for Ultd Data, Ultd. Voice & SMS in USA + 50 Countries, $20 Int. Voice credit
H2O Wireless has two of the best deals of any SIM Card provider in the USA. The $30 & $40 plans give you unlimited Voice & SMS to 50 countries, unlimited SMS anywhere internationally and a decent amount of international voice credit for all other countries. But mainly the data included is the best value, especially the 8GB at 4G LTE speeds for $40, $5/GB. The SIM Card is free online when you pick a plan, just pay for shipping to any US address like a hotel or hostel. Or pick one up on amazon and activate it online here.
- Network: AT&T
- Pre-purchase Online: Yes. Red Pocket Mobile – Int. Shipping! Free US Shipping
- Available Locations: Amazon,Red Pocket Stores
- Top Ups: Yes, Credit Card or Voucher, Callingmart.com
- Note: Only Data, activate online, 30 day packages
SIM Price: Free+
- $20 USD for 3 GB of Data
- $30 USD for 10 GB of Data
- $40 USD for 22 GB of Data
- $50 USD for 30 GB of Data
Red Pocket Mobile offers exactly what I prefer as an international traveler! Cheap, data only plans with enough data and coverage for all my day to day needs on the road. The $10 and $15 packages can be pre-loaded onto the SIM Card and shipped for free to any US address. A surcharge will be added for international shipping. Just like with H2O Wireless, the SIM Card itself is free when ordered online! So $10 is actually $10! Warning: Apparently Red Pocket customer service is less than ideal.
- Network: T-Mobile
- Pre-purchase Online: Yes. ting.com
- Available Locations: Amazon, Ebay
- Top Ups: None, billed via Credit Card on file
- Note: Activate Online, usage resets each month, all plans has unlimited talk time
SIM Price: starts from $10
- $25 USD for 5 GB of Data
- $35 USD for 12 GB of Data
- $45 USD for 22 GB of Data
ting’s pricing system is completely different from every other provider. There are no packages or plans, no contracts and you essentially pay for what you use each month. The ting rates page makes it a lot easier to understand, check it out here.
For me, I would set a cap for minutes and text at zero and only pay for the data I use while in the USA. The ting SIM Card has the most flexibility and that’s a nice luxury for a traveler!
Best Price SIM Cards
- Network: AT&T
- Pre-purchase Online: Yes, Freedompop.com
- Available Locations: $5 in Target Stores
- Top Ups: Yes, Credit Card
- Note: Need to disable features and trials to get only the free plan
- $15 USD 1 GB, 250mins Ultd Voice mins & SMS
- $23 USD 4 GB, 250mins Ultd Voice Mins & SMS
- $30 USD 10 GB, 250mins Ultd Voice Mins & SMS
The issue is that they make you jump through hoops to deactivate all the free trials and services that come pre-activated on the SIM, services that will automatically be charged to your credit card the second month. You are also forced to send SMS messages and make calls through the official FreedomPOP App which displays ads. As someone who prefers simplicity, this is quite annoying. But some may find it worthwhile to get a monthly recurring free plan. Just know this SIM Card can be a hassle.
- Network: AT&T
- Pre-purchase Online: Yes. AT&T, US shipping only
- Available Locations: Amazon, AT&T Stores
- Top Ups: Purchase plans & add-ons using any International Credit Card
- Note: 0.99 for the SIM Card in Stores & Online, $1 Daily Data can be used without activating the $2/day Voice & SMS
- $30 for 5 GB, Ultd. Voice & SMS in US
- $40 for 15 GB, Ultd. Voice & SMS in US, roaming to Mexico & Canada
- $50 for 5 GB, Ultd. Voice & SMS in US, roaming to Mexico & Canada
AT&T doesn’t offer the best deals for larger data plans, or even high cost unlimited prepaid packages. But the $1/day for 100 MB is a great deal for travelers that simply don’t need a SIM Card, or maybe only need one for emergencies. Picking up a SIM for 0.99 in stores or having one ordered online with free shipping to your hotel is easy. Essentially, for $1 or $2 you have the option to connect to data, voice and SMS if you ever need it while in the USA. That is a pretty great deal.
- Pre-purchase Online: Yes. USMobile.com, Free US Shipping
- Available Locations: Amazon, Online Only
- Top Ups: Yes, add-ons available using a Credit Card
- Note: Select the GSM SIM, Pre-customize the plan & service cut off at the cap/limit. Use add-ons for additional service beyond the cap you set.
SIM Price: $3.99+
- $2 Service Fee
- $12 for 1 GB, $15 for 5 GB, $20 for 12 GB, $25 for 18 GB, $30 for 30 GB
- Customize the plan when you order the SIM online.
US Mobile offers a service very similar to ting except that the plans are set in advance when you order the SIM card. The plans are completely custom based on your needs for Voice, SMS and Data. The SMS is international, while the voice minutes are only within the US. However you can receive international calls at no charge.
For price sensitive travelers, this flexibility is pretty good but I would recommend the options listed under Best Value for service with 1 GB of data or more.
Roam from Canada
- Pre-purchase Online: Yes. GoPhoneBox.com
- Available Locations: Online Only
- Top Ups: Yes, Online
- Note: Activate Online – USA Plans
- Note2: The 30 day plans have ‘Unlimited Data’ but it’s throttled after the stated data amount.
SIM Price: $10 CAD ($7.60 USD)+
- $40 USD for 5 GB Unlimited USA & International SMS and Voice, Unlimited Data for 3 Days
- $55 USD for Unlimited USA & International SMS and Voice, Unlimited Data for 5 Days
Disclaimer: The FreedomPop, ting and Amazon links in this article are affiliate links that don’t add any cost to you but help support the site. Also, some of the promos may be for a limited time. We will try to keep the info updated as best we can!
Additional Notes: Two more things we wanted to include but will have to wait for another article: Tablet SIM Cards and portable Wi-Fi Hotspots or Laptop Data Sticks. The article is already long enough so we will include these in a separate article.
More of what you need: Check out the Best SIM Cards for other destinations, a Quick List of awesome movies, books and podcasts for your pre-travel research and the Essential Gear every backpacker should have for staying in hostels.