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Best Prepaid SIM cards for traveling to the USA in 2024

In this article we will tell you everything you need to know to buy and use a SIM card with data for the United States (2023).

Julio Osuna

May 19, 2024

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If you’re traveling to the USA, you’ll need a mobile internet connection to accompany you. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the best prepaid SIM card for the USA, including where you can buy them, how to activate them, and how to ensure you’re never left without internet access.

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How to get a prepaid SIM card in the USA?

If you want to get the best prepaid SIM card in the USA, you need to know how to get one when you travel. 

When traveling to the United States, getting a prepaid SIM card is somehow easy. There are different vending machines located in a variety of airports where people can get different prepaid SIM cards.

The thing is, these prepaid SIM cards come with a basic plan. And that might not be enough for what travelers need, that’s why visiting physical stores comes as a handy solution to get SIM cards.

When visiting a store, let’s say T-Mobile or Verizon, people will have access to different plans to stay connected while in the United States, but it will be harder to get a SIM card there.

Also, postpaid plans are not available for travelers. No matter the carrier, none of these actually provide postpaid plans to travelers.

Prepaid SIM cards vs. Postpaid SIM cards

Now that we have mentioned the overall process of getting a SIM card in the USA, what are the differences between the available data plans offered by carriers like Verizon or T-Mobile with a physical SIM card?

A prepaid SIM card USA already has an established price upon people buying one. As said before, these are available on vending machines in many places, such as international airports or even at convenience stores.

People can also get a SIM card from a physical store, but as travelers, the process will be more complicated. Only prepaid SIM cards will be available.

Postpaid plans are available for locals, which means there’s no way of getting SIM cards with any of these plans. 

Now that we have this clear let’s make some comparisons between both:

Prepaid PlansPostpaid plans
People can recharge these eSIMs to use it as a pay-as-you-go serviceUsually requires to get bundles to get a data plan
Accessible for travelers not only in physical stores but at convenience stores and vending machinesMore expensive compared to prepaid plans due to what it offers
Ideal for avoiding roaming charges when traveling to the United StatesNot ideal for avoiding roaming when abroad as it requires monthly payments to work
It’s hard to find unlimited data prepaid SIM cardsSome postpaid plans offer unlimited data packages

Where to buy a data SIM card for the USA?

Buying a USA tourist SIM card will keep you connected throughout your trip. Forget about paying excessive charges for international roaming services in the USA or renting Pocket WiFi. With the data SIM card, you can use your cell phone during your trip. And you’ll never worry about losing connection again.

When traveling to the USA, the local options you can buy as a tourist are prepaid SIM cards. Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile sell these SIM cards in their stores nationwide. You do not need to sign contracts to buy them; they are ideal for travelers. However, you will not have internet until you arrive in the country and find a store. Finally, to help you choose, you can review this checklist.

  • Physical stores: If you want to wait until you arrive in the United States to stay connected with a prepaid SIM card, physical stores are your go-to option. As said before, convenience stores are great places to find these SIM cards; the same goes for airports like LAX. Unlocked phones and valid IDs are a requirement in this case.
  • Online stores: If you want to enjoy similar benefits to using an AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon SIM card, online stores are a great option for travelers. These stores offer a variety of data plans, and the network coverage will be similar to using a local carrier.

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Buying a SIM card before and after landing: Comparison

Up to this point, what’s the best option to buy a prepaid SIM card USA? While physical stores and online stores seem like great solutions, let’s see what each one offers so travelers can choose the one that suits their needs better!

Prepaid SIM card USA featuresOnline storesPhysical stores
Internet the moment you landYesNo
Saves time when buyingYes No
Short stay plansYesNo, most plans last 30 days
Unlimited data plansYesYes
Multi-Country optionsYesYes
Required contractNoNo, unless visiting an official store
Required unlocked phoneYesYes

Top 6 Best SIM Cards for the USA

There will be no shortage of offers and alternatives when buying a physical SIM card or a virtual SIM card for the USA. That’s why we will give you some recommendations to consider so you don’t waste too much time looking for a solution. We also avoid running into service offers that do not guarantee good speed and coverage nationwide.

Here are some of the providers and their options to keep you connected in the USA

1. Holafly

Holafly home website
Holafly home website. Source: Holafly.

Regarding eSIM unlimited data for the USA, one of the best online stores to consider is Holafly. You only need an internet connection, a valid email, and a compatible phone to buy and use them.

The eSIM for this destination has various plans ranging from one day to 90 days of use, including unlimited data and with prices from $6 to $139. Best of all, you can customize your plan and include precisely the days you need.

This online store also offers an eSIM North America with unlimited data, which helps with using eSIMs in Mexico, Canada, and the USA in one package and a similar package with the eSIM in Europe with coverage in more than 30 countries. Thanks to this technology, virtual SIM cards can be delivered immediately via email. In addition to fast delivery, multi-country coverage, and unlimited data, Holafly’s service includes other benefits such as:

  • You can buy it before arriving in the USA or once you are there.
  • Hotspot: enjoy 500 MB per day to share with others.
  • Multilingual customer service and online store
  • You can recharge your service through top-ups for more days of use
  • 4G LTE coverage in the USA with support for AT&T, Verizon, and PTI networks 
  • Multiple payment methods targeted to travelers, such as credit cards, debit cards, Paypal, G Pay, and Apple Pay
  • Mobile App is compatible with Apple and Android.
  • No registration is required, and a virtual SIM card is easy to set up
eSIM USA advantages
Holafly digital SIM card USA advantages. Source: Holafly store

2. AT&T

AT&T Inc. Source: NetApp.

This is one of the most used mobile operators in the United States. So, with them, you can acquire a prepaid SIM card for free and recharge any data plan. This makes it one of the options when looking for the best prepaid SIM card USA.

You can not buy on their website as a tourist, so you must look for it when you arrive in the country. You can choose between different plans depending on your needs, and that can help you answer how much does a SIM card costs.

  • 5 GB high-speed data for 30 days at $30
  • 15 GB high-speed data for 30 days at $40
  • Unlimited data for 30 days at $65
  • 16 GB/Month high-speed data for three months at $99
  • Unlimited data for 12 months at $300

You also can share data with nearby devices if needed. If the plan you choose is not an unlimited data plan, the data you do not consume in one period can roll over to the next period as long as you renew it. Also, you can purchase AT&T prepaid SIM cards through their website, in a physical store, or even in supermarkets such as Walmart or Best Buy. In any of the cases when hiring their services, you will have additional benefits such as

  • Unlimited talk and text
  • 5G access included with high-speed data
  • Unlimited text from the USA to over 230 countries
  • Rollover data
  • Some plans have coverage in Mexico and Canada (Limit 25GB for data)

AT&T Coverage map

at&t coverage map
AT&T coverage map in USA. Source: GSMA.

3. T-Mobile

T-Mobile SIM card USA
T-Mobile US, Inc. Source: T-Mobile.

On the other hand, we have T-mobile. With this local operator, you will need to pay for the T-Mobile USA prepaid SIM card, and you will need to purchase it through one of their physical stores or supermarkets, such as Walmart and Target. As for the prepaid offers:

  • 10 GB high-speed data for 30 days at $40
  • Unlimited data for 30 days at $50
  • Unlimited data plus for 30 days at $60

If you want to add services to neighboring countries like Canada or Mexico, you must pay an extra fixed amount between $5 and $15. The difference between the unlimited plus and unlimited plans is that one allows high-speed data sharing, and the other does not. Other services that are added to these data plans:

  • Unlimited domestic talk and text
  • Domestic 5G handset data on T-Mobile network
  • Caller ID
  • WiFi calling
  • Data Maximizer

T-Mobile coverage map

t-mobile coverage map
T-Mobile coverage map in USA. Source: GSMA.

4. Verizon

Verizon SIM card USA
Verizon Communications, Inc. Source: Verizon.

Verizon is another well-known mobile operator in the United States. However, one particularity with this USA carrier is that their SIM card is not compatible with all types of phones. For this reason, to purchase a prepaid SIM card with them, you must bring your device and confirm that you can use one of their data plans. 

  • 15 GB high-speed data for 30 days at $45
  • Unlimited data for 30 days at $60
  • Unlimited data plus for 30 days at $70

Again, the difference between the two unlimited data plans is the amount of GB you can share a mobile hotspot at high speed. You can enjoy discounts for Auto Pay or loyalty after three months of use, but this is focused more on resident customers than tourists. Considering this, in addition to the discounts you have services such as

  • Access to 5G Verizon network coverage with compatible devices
  • Mobile hotspot to share data with other devices
  • Unlimited calling and texting in the USA
  • Unlimited text messaging from the USA to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.
  • Coverage in Mexico and Canada 
  • Digital security with personal data anti-virus, anti-malware, and secure browsing.

Verizon coverage map

verizon coverage map
Verizon coverage map in USA. Source: NPERF.

5. Lycamobile

Lycamobile USA.
Lycamobile USA. Source: Google Play Store.

Another option we have in the USA is Lycamobile, a virtual operator that works with the T-Mobile network in the country. To buy one of their prepaid SIM cards, you must access their website and enter the Zipcode of the city where you are. After that, it will tell you if they have coverage in the area and the New Lines deals they offer.

  • 250 MB for 30 days at $15
  • 2 GB for 30 days at $19
  • 3 GB for 30 days at $23
  • 6 GB for 30 days at $29
  • 9 GB for 30 days at $33
  • 15 GB for 30 days at $39
  • 40 GB for 30 days at $49
  • 60 GB for 30 days at $59

The connection speed is 5G if your device is compatible and you are within the network coverage. After you consume the data package, you cannot continue browsing unless you recharge your SIM card. Thanks to Lycamobile’s alliances in other countries with their data packages, it is also included:

  • Unlimited nationwide talk and text
  • You can use your minutes and messages from the USA to 85 different countries.
  • No contracts are required. Just have a US address to receive the SIM card.
  • You can use SIM cards on phones purchased outside the US if unlocked.
Lycamobile SIM card advantages.
Lycamobile SIM card advantages. Source: Lycamobile

6. Black Wireless

Black Wireless Add ons. Source: Black Wireless.

Finally, we came across another virtual operator from the USA that uses the AT&T network to connect with their prepaid SIM cards. As in other cases, they do not require a contract to buy them, but we must have an address to receive the SIM card. They have four monthly plan options to choose from

  • 500 MB high-speed data for 30 days at $15
  • 1 GB high-speed data for 30 days at $20
  • 10 GB high-speed data for 30 days at $30
  • 22 GB high-speed data for 30 days at $40

After you consume the data of your plan you will be able to continue browsing but at a reduced speed of 128 kbps. International calls are also included. There is no minute limit, but you can only call ten different numbers per monthly cycle. In addition to this benefit, you can add other services such as.

  • Unlimited local texting and messaging
  • International calling in over 50 countries
  • Activate your prepaid plan on a SIM card or virtual SIM card
  • You can add international data or minutes through Add ons every month

What’s the best SIM card to use in the USA?

Holafly offers one of the best virtual SIM cards for the USA, providing consistent 4G speed, unlimited data, and easy top-up options. It is also the most convenient option, as you can purchase it online before arriving or once in the USA. You can use multi-language customer service to assist you at all times. So, if you are looking for a reliable and affordable way to stay connected in the country, Holafly is the best choice for travelers worldwide.

 What is the Best unlimited SIM card for the USA?

In this category, Holafly also stands out from the other options by offering unlimited data on all available plans for their unlimited eSIM USA, regardless of the duration of the package! It also offers this advantage in prepaid, so being a tourist, the purchase is much more direct. It is difficult to find online stores offering unlimited data with this versatility.

eSIM with unlimited data for the USA
Holafly eSIM for USA. Source: Holafly.

On the other hand, if you do not have a phone compatible with the virtual SIM card, you can find local options in the USA with unlimited data packages. AT&T and T-Mobile have unlimited data SIM cards but only in 30-day options. Also, these carriers are looking for long-term customers, so you will not enjoy benefits such as discounts if you do not renew the plan every month.

Frequently asked questions about SIM cards for the USA

How else can I connect to the internet in the United States?

You can activate data roaming and use data provided by your current provider. But be aware that this will be very expensive. For sure, the best alternative for connecting to the internet in the USA is the virtual SIM card.

Is my smartphone compatible with eSIM?

To check if your phone is compatible with an eSIM, you must check with the company you’re buying the eSIM from. This information will be on their website. Generally, the latest iPhone, Samsung, Google Pixel, and Huawei models are compatible with eSIM but check carefully before buying.

Can I use a SIM card with data on any smartphone?

A physical data SIM will work with any unlocked cell phone (i.e. a phone that is not tied to any one cellular provider)

How much does roaming cost in the USA?

Roaming services in the United States vary between cellular providers as each operator has a different rate. But the average value per MB is usually between $5 and $10. Watching a show on Netflix at that rate could cost hundreds. That’s why we recommend buying a SIM card to avoid roaming costs.

Can I put an American SIM card in my European phone?

Yes, you just need to confirm that it is an unlocked phone and you can use American SIM cards without any limitations. If it is locked, it will only work with SIM cards from your local operator. In addition to being unlocked, the phone must be able to use GSM networks. However, this is standard in almost all countries, so it should not be an obstacle.

Can I purchase a SIM card online for the USA?

You can buy prepaid internet SIM cards for the USA in several ways. First of all, you can purchase one through online stores. These prepaid SIM cards from online providers will mainly offer internet for the USA from local cellular networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile. With these stores, you can choose between different data plans and benefits that may vary depending on the provider.