Traveling to the United States soon or planning on staying for a while? Although WiFi hotspots are commonly available at hotels and restaurants, you’ll definitely need to acquire a prepaid U.S.A. SIM card if you want to stay connected while traveling. Unlike other countries where options are more limited, the U.S. has dozens of different providers, each with different price ranges and coverage options. Keep reading to find out which plan makes the most sense for you.

 

Best SIM card option for short trips (one week or less)

FreeUP Mobile

If you’re only traveling to the U.S. for a few days, FreeUP Mobile’s basic plan is free. Well, almost. You’ll have to purchase their SIM card for $10. After that, you’ll get 500 minutes of talk or 500 texts and 100 MB of 4G LTE data for a grand total of $0. That’s more than enough to get you around between WiFi hotspots. Blueground offers fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments in some of the world's most sought after cities. Speaking of, when you sign up with FreeUP Mobile and download their smartphone app, you’ll get free access to four million WiFi hotspots in the U.S. You can also use the app to get rewards for additional phone credits.

After you head home, keep the SIM card you purchased somewhere safe. You’ll be able to reuse it for your next trip to the U.S.

 

Best SIM card option for medium-length trips (one week to one month)

T-Mobile 30-Day Unlimited

With unlimited talk, text, and data, T-Mobile’s 30-Day Unlimited prepaid SIM card is the best prepaid U.S.A. SIM card if you’re planning to travel for anywhere from one week to one month. At roughly $39, the total cost per day comes to only $1.30, which is a real bargain for a pay-as-you-go plan. No more walking around aimless looking for a restaurant, or having to guess which subway stop your hotel is at.

business man traveling through airport while talking on the phone

Note that although data is unlimited from your phone, you won’t be able to use this SIM card to create a mobile hotspot for other devices, such as laptops and tablets.

 

Best SIM card option for longer stays (one month to one year)

U.S. Mobile

U.S. Mobile’s flexible plans allow you to only pay for what you want. Select your talk, text, and data needs and commit for 30 days at a time, with no annual contracts or commitments. If you run low, top-ups are available. U.S. Mobile will also let you turn your phone into a mobile hotspot in case you need to connect other devices to the internet on the go. You’ll most likely need this plan only if you’re thinking of moving to the U.S. for work, in which case don’t forget that you’ll need to apply for a work visa.

You’ll find that many services in the U.S. are straying away from annual contracts and towards more consumer-friendly, pay-by-the-month options. For example, Blueground offers furnished and equipped apartments in many major U.S. cities for flexible lease terms from one month up to a year and even longer.

 

Best cell phone coverage for remote areas of the country

Verizon Wireless

The prepaid U.S.A. SIM cards listed above will get excellent service in most of the popular tourist destinations. However, some international travelers might seek adventure in remote areas, far from major cities (and cell towers). If you anticipate significant cross-country driving or venturing into deserts and forests, you’ll want to invest in a Verizon Wireless SIM card.

Prepaid plans on this network are a bit pricier than competitors, but the coverage maps show just how much more of the country Verizon Wireless covers than any other service provider. You’ll thank yourself when you’re lost in the middle of nowhere and are still able to ask Siri for directions to the nearest gas station.

 

How to purchase a prepaid U.S.A. SIM card

Ship the SIM card to your home

If you want to make sure you have cell phone service from the moment your plane touches down, you’ll probably need to plan ahead. You can have the SIM card shipped to your home before you leave for your trip. Not all cell phone carriers will ship SIM cards abroad, so contact the specific carrier to ask about their policies. Unfortunately, this is not a very cost-effective option, as you might end up spending more than the cost of a month’s service just in postage fees.

Ship the SIM card to your hotel

One popular option is to have the SIM card mailed to your hotel in the U.S. so that it’ll be waiting for you when you arrive. You’ll have to pay for postage, but it won’t be nearly as expensive as trying to ship the SIM card internationally. Of course, you should check with your hotel to make sure they’re willing to accept mail on your behalf and let them know to keep an eye out for the package so it doesn’t get misplaced.

Pick the SIM card up from a store

Many retailers in the U.S. offer in-store pickup. Walmart and Best Buy both have this option; just order the item online and choose the location you’d like to pick the SIM card up from. 

man in pink shirt leaning on counter speaking to saleswoman who is helping him buy sim card at electronics store

Amazon also offers a similar delivery method. Instead of picking up your item from a store, however, you’ll retrieve it from an Amazon storage locker.

Purchase the SIM card from a carrier upon arrival

Not all the service providers listed above have physical locations in the U.S., but major carriers like Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile certainly do. Once you arrive, you can easily visit one of these carriers’ stores to purchase a prepaid U.S.A. SIM card. This is an ideal solution if you’re still not sure which prepaid plan you need and would like to discuss your options with a salesperson.

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