Stay connected when traveling to the USA! It sounds easier than it actually is, as the American sim card market isn’t as advanced as in Europe or in other parts of the world. But don’t worry, it isn’t that complicated either! Buying a sim card in the USA is the best way to stay online and avoid high roaming costs.

Just don’t expect to have a lot of options! In world’s most famous country you only have two options when buying a USA prepaid sim card! YES you read that right… TWO OPTIONS!

at&t t mobile usa

However you can also buy international sim cards that also work in the USA, but more about that later… VERY MUCH RECOMMENDED BTW! :)

As a full time world traveler trying to visit every country in the world I can only recommend you buying a prepaid sim card in every country you visit. The network coverage will be the best, the data speed optimal and calling is mostly included… even in the USA, where prices for prepaid sim cards are NOT competitive!

Beginning of 2021 I traveled a couple weeks around the USA, visiting 16 different States in 3 weeks and looked for the best prepaid sim card USA for tourists.

If buying a US prepaid sim card on arrival is too much hassle then check out my article about the best international sim cards for travelers.

Buy your USA sim card online

You will find many options online and a sim card for use in America will be send to your home address. Click here for more than 10 prepaid sim cards with data for traveling in the USA.

Mobile operators in the USA

In a country with more than 300 million people it almost unimaginable that there are only 4 main mobile internet operators:

  • T-Mobile
  • AT&T
  • Verizon
  • Sprint (bought by T-Mobile)

Unfortunately if you are looking to buy a sim card for the USA we can already forget about Verizon and Sprint. These two USA mobile internet operators use a different technology like the rest of the world: CDMA.

verizon sim card usa

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 in stores, but you can order them online.

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!

Which basically means that they don’t use a sim card and that international phones are not compatible with their network. For tourists visiting the USA that means there are only 2 options left: T-Mobile and AT&T.

TIP: Make sure your phone is unlocked, before buying a USA sim card!

Buying a tourist sim card for USA on arrival

Unlike any other country around the world it is NOT easy to find sim card shops or resellers at international arrivals in most USA airports. In the rare occasion you will find a T-Mobile shop at an airport in the US consider yourself lucky.

NOTE: I was visiting the USA beginning of March 2021. Most international flights were canceled because of COVID-19. Most shops at International Arrivals were temporary shut.

buying a sim card in usa

This is a sim card vending machine at Newark Airport, Jersey, a popular airport to visit New York.

I checked the airports of Dallas, Las Vegas, Washington, Atlanta and Newark. Only at Newark they were still selling prepaid sim cards. Click here for the best USA sim cards at Newark Airport New York.

Where to buy a USA sim card

Yes it is possible to buy USA sim cards at convenience stores like 7Eleven, CVS and of course at Walmart. They are mostly located behind the counter and gathering information about the packages is a pain. Don’t expect the clerks to know anything about these prepaid USA sim cards. Not recommended!

Your best bid buying a prepaid sim card for the USA is in the official retail shops of AT&T and T-Mobile. There are many of them scattered around every city.

t mobile kansas city

This is the T-Mobile shop in Kansas City. Very helpful staff, patience, polite and perfectly answering all my questions.

Best way to find the nearest shop is to go to Google Maps and type in for example: t-mobile. Google Maps suggest: T-Mobile (see locations). Click on it and find the nearest shop.

TIP: Bring your passport when buying a tourist sim card fo the USA.

Prices prepaid sim card USA

I have walked into T-Mobile and AT&T stores in Las Vegas, Kansas City, Atlanta and New York to come to the conclusion that prices are the same nationwide. Sales tax differs from state to state, in general somewhere between 4-7% tax will be added.

T-Mobile USA

A T-Mobile USA prepaid sim costs $10: activation fee. They offer 3 different sim card packages. All of them come with UNLIMITED CALLING & TEXTING and are valid for 1 month.

  • 2 GB data = $15
  • 10 GB data = $40
  • Unlimited data = $50

Data only for use in USA, you pay $5 extra for 5GB max to use in Canada and/or Mexico.

prices t mobile prepaid sim card

This is the latest information I found on the T-Mobile USA website.

AT&T USA

The activation fee for a AT&T USA prepaid sim is $15. They also offer 3 different USA prepaid sim card packages with UNLIMITED CALLING & TEXTING and are also valid for 1 month.

  • 1 GB data = $35
  • 15 GB data = $40
  • Unlimited data = $65

You can use an AT&T USA prepaid sim card for free in Mexico and Canada. You can use data roaming at no extra costs.

prices at&t prepaid sim card

This is the latest information I found on the AT&T USA website.

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!

Best mobile network in the USA

Whether you are traveling to the USA as a tourist or for business the chances of not having a phone signal are very small.

network coverage map at&t usa

network coverage map t mobile usa

Both T-Mobile and AT&T have an extensive network coverage and cover ALL tourist areas in the USA! That said, from the mobile network coverage maps above (source nperf.com) we can clearly see 2 things:

  • AT&T has better coverage in remote areas
  • T-Mobile has a much better 5G network

Click here for the official network coverage of T-Mobile and AT&T, according to their websites. 

What is the best prepaid sim card in the USA?

For a trip to the USA I would recommend 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.

I also bought a T-Mobile sim card in Las Vegas and traveled around the country for 3 weeks. I never had a problem connecting and it was my first 5G experience. Amazingly FAST!

Also I have been traveling in some National Park like Zion in Utah, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Shenandoah in Virginia and had excellent signal throughout my journey!

at&t times square new york

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 10 minutes. But...

If buying a sim card in the USA on arrival is too much hassle than I have a great solution for you. Buy your USA sim card online, see the following options. Also check my article about the best global sim cards. The best options also include free roaming in the USA.

Buy a USA sim card online

On top of the 2 USA prepaid sim cards form T-Mobile and AT&T mentioned above you can also buy a sim card for the USA online.

These are international sim cards that can be used in the United States (and many more countries). Here is a list of the best 8 international sim cards for the USA

Lyca Mobile UNL Talk Text

  • UNLIMITED (international) calls*
  • UNLIMITED (international) text*
  • 1 GB
  • valid for 1 month

Click on the link above to order this sim card from Amazon.

All the following international sim cards for the USA can be ordered online through Simoptions.

Three UK PAYG AIO15 - $29.90

  • NO calls
  • NO text
  • 10 GB data
  • valid for 30 days

Three UK PAYG AIO20 - $39.90

  • NO calls
  • NO text
  • 12 GB data
  • valid for 30 days

Three UK PAYG MBB 12GB - $59.90

  • NO calls
  • NO text
  • 12 GB data
  • valid for 1 year!

Three UK PAYG MBB 24GB - $79.90

  • NO calls
  • NO text
  • 24 GB data
  • valid for 2 years!

Orange Holiday World - $49.90

  • NO calls
  • NO text
  • 10 GB data
  • valid for 14 days

MOST RECOMMENDED USA SIM CARD FOR TOURISTS BELOW

T-Mobile Prepaid SIM 50GB - $69.90

  • UNLIMITED (international) calls*
  • UNLIMITED (international) text*
  • 50 GB (Canada + Mexico included)
  • valid for 15 days

AT&T UNLimited Data + Talk + Text - $79.90

  • UNLIMITED calls (USA, Canada, Mexico only)
  • UNLIMITED text (USA, Canada, Mexico only)
  • 30 GB (Canada + Mexico included)
  • valid for 30 days

Click here to order this T-Mobile sim card or any of the other mentioned sim cards online through Simoptions!

Looking at the above international sim cards for the USA, I would recommend you the last 2 options: T-Mobile and AT&T.

Both USA sim cards have calling included, whereas the other DO NOT!

Depending on the length of your trip I would preferably choose T-Mobile, wherever is your trip to the USA longer than 15 days then definitely get a AT&T sim card.

As you can see buying a sim card for the USA is almost the same price as buying one on arrival in the USA. Plus you save the hassle of going to a mobile phone shop when arriving in the USA.

Order your USA sim card online before your trip, get it delivered to your home address… Switch the sim card in the plane and enjoy a data connection as soon as you land!

May you have any more questions please leave me a comment, Im happy to help. Looking for some serious wanderlust inspiration than head to my Instagram @traveltomtom and follow along my journey to visit every country in the world.

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