Saturday, July 20, 2024

Which prepaid SIM Card is best for visiting the U.S.?



If you plan to travel to the U.S. and want to avoid expensive roaming charges, getting a prepaid SIM Card for U.S. travelers and tourists is the way to go. As long as you own a GSM unlocked phone that’s compatible with local networks such as T-Mobile and AT&T, getting a SIM card online or at a local retailer is both easy and affordable. These are some of the best prepaid SIM Cards for U.S. travelers and tourists to consider.

Best overall: T-Mobile Simply Prepaid


T-Mobile not only offers some of the best cell phone plans you could get today, but it also has an excellent prepaid option that will suit most travelers and tourists needs when visiting the U.S. Because T-Mobile’s network has improved vastly over the past few years and its 5G network has some of the most expansive coverage and fastest speeds in the nation, you’ll likely get excellent service with T-Mobile when traveling to major cities during your stay.

There are four T-Mobile prepaid plans you can choose from, though the ideal plan for most visitors will be T-Mobile’s 10GB prepaid plan for $40 per month. This plan includes unlimited domestic talk and text, up to 10GB of high-speed data, free mobile hotspot data, and a music unlimited feature so that any music you stream won’t eat up your data. If you want to add international calling, you can do so for $15 extra, or if you’re traveling to Mexico or Canada for a few days, you can add talk, text, and 5GB of data to use over there for an extra $5.


Unfortunately, taxes and fees aren’t included in this plan, and a SIM card could cost an extra $10 at activation, so you might end up paying more than $50 for this plan. But it’s still an amazing choice if you need unlimited talk, text, and solid data speeds.

If you don’t need quite so much data during your stay, you could also opt for T-Mobile Connect for $15 per month. Though you won’t have the same international add-on features as with the Simply Prepaid plan, you’ll still get unlimited talk and text as well as 2.5 GB of data (or 5.5GB for $10 more). If you think you’ll be using your data a lot, you can upgrade to T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid Unlimited or Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus plan for $50 and $60 per month, respectively.

If you’re ready to sign up, you can do so very easily online, but you’ll need a U.S. shipping address. Of course, the easiest option is to pop into a T-Mobile store upon arrival and purchase a SIM card there, but you’ll likely find T-Mobile SIM kits at many popular retailers as well.


  • T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G network
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • 10GB of data
  • International add-ons available
  • Free mobile hotspot


  • International calling is extra
  • Taxes and fees aren’t included
  • Speeds throttled after data is consumed

Best overall

T-Mobile Prepaid


  • From $40/mo. at T-Mobile

Nationwide coverage

T-Mobile has one of the best networks you could join today, and its prepaid plan will keep you covered as you travel.

Best runner up: AT&T Prepaid


Known for its great coverage, AT&T is also an excellent carrier to consider getting a SIM card from when visiting the U.S. and one of the best prepaid phone plans. It tends to have better coverage in rural areas than other carriers, so it’s also a great option if you plan to be on the road a lot. For $30 (plus taxes and fees), AT&T Prepaid will get you 5GB of high-speed data, which is then throttled to 128Kbps. As always, you should check your device’s compatibility with AT&T online before signing up.

On this plan, you’re able to use your mobile hotspot, and you can text to more than 100 countries. You’ll also be able to talk, text, and use data in Mexico and Canada (though data speeds may be slow). And if you think you’ll need more than 5GB of data, you can always upgrade to a 15GB prepaid plan for $40, which is a great deal and definitely worth considering.

You can purchase an AT&T SIM card along with a prepaid plan online, or you can head to an AT&T store. Other retailers such as Target, Best Buy, and Walmart sell AT&T SIM cards for around $10, which is more than you would pay online but always an option.


  • Great coverage with the AT&T network
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • 5GB of data
  • Unlimited text to 100+ countries
  • Talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada


  • Taxes and fees aren’t included
  • Speeds throttled after data is consumed

Best runner up

AT&T Prepaid


  • From $30 at AT&T

Globally connected

An AT&T plan will keep you connected in the U.S. and abroad thanks to unlimited texting to 100+ countries.

Best short stay: Ultra Mobile Tourist


Ultra Mobile is an MVNO on T-Mobile’s network, meaning that you’ll get great T-Mobile coverage at a lower price. Though Ultra Mobile offers its own set of prepaid plans, the Ultra Mobile Tourist plan is a perfect fit for anyone visiting the U.S. for three weeks or less. After 21 days, this plan will expire, convenient for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of cancellation. On that same note, you won’t be able to recharge your Ultra Mobile SIM card, so make sure you’re not considering extending your stay.

For $30 with the SIM included, you’ll get unlimited talk, text, and up to 3GB of 4G LTE data. You’ll also have 100 minutes to use to 80+ international destinations, meaning you can call friends and family back home without having to use a third-party app.


To purchase an Ultra Mobile Tourist plan, you can either do so online or at a T-Mobile store. There’s also a store locator on Ultra Mobile’s website that you can use to find stores near you where Ultra is sold.


  • T-Mobile network
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited international text
  • 100 minutes to 80+ international destinations
  • Up to 3GB of 4G LTE data


  • Cannot recharge plan
  • Expires after 21 days
  • Can only be purchased in stores

Best short stay

Ultra Mobile Tourist


  • From $30 at Ultra Mobile


Ultra Mobile’s Tourist plan is made for travelers and tourists looking for talk, text, and just enough data to get by.

Best extended stay: Mint Mobile


Mint Mobile is one of the best MVNO carriers today and uses T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and 5G network, making it a great prepaid SIM card to get if you plan on staying in the U.S. for at least three months. It’s you’re a student on a study abroad exchange or your job has relocated you for a few months, Mint Mobile is guaranteed to give you great coverage at an affordable price.

With Mint, you need to purchase at least three months of service upfront. After that, the best deals are offered when you sign up for six months or 12. For three months on the unlimited plan, you’ll pay $90 and get unlimited talk, text, and data, 5GB of mobile hotspot, and free calls to Mexico and Canada. Though you can add on additional international features such as calling and roaming, you’ll have to pay extra. If this is a high priority for you, then another carrier that includes free international calling is a better fit.

3 months (introductory price) $15/mo. ($45) $20/mo. ($60) $25/mo. ($75) $30/mo. ($90)
3 months $25/mo. ($75) $35/mo. ($105) $45/mo. ($135) $40/mo. ($120)
6 months $20/mo. ($120) $25/mo. ($150) $35/mo. ($210) $35/mo. ($210)
12 months $15/mo. ($180) $20/mo. ($240) $25/mo. ($300) $30/mo. ($360)

Joining Mint Mobile is easy, and you can even sign up for a trial online to get a free Mint Mobile SIM card.. It’s especially easy if your phone is eligible for an eSIM since you can then activate the SIM straight from your phone and later continue your service if you like it. You can also get a Mint SIM card from Target, Best Buy, Walmart, or Amazon.


  • T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G network
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Affordable unlimited plan
  • Free trial available
  • Free mobile hotspot


  • Must sign up for at least three months
  • International calling is extra
  • Unlimited data is throttled at 35GB

Best extended stay

Mint Mobile


  • From $15 at Mint Mobile

Multiple month

Mint Mobile offers some of the most affordable cell phone plans on T-Mobile’s network if you’re looking for at least three months of service.

Best value: Lycamobile


Lycamobile is unique because it’s a global MVNO, and in the U.S., it’s an MVNO on T-Mobile’s network. To check whether your phone is compatible, the easiest thing to do is type in your IMEI number on Lycamobile’s website, but most GSM unlocked devices should work.

Lycamobile offers several plans to pick from and really caters to those who need unlimited nationwide talk and text and international calling and texting to 75+ countries. Each plan includes these features at no additional charge, making this the perfect plan if you’re someone who wants to be able to call abroad whenever you want.


When it comes to data, you have multiple options starting at 1GB and going up to unlimited. The cheapest 1GB plan costs $19, while the top unlimited data plan costs $50. Each plan includes slightly different bonus features, so you’ll have to pick what makes the most sense for you.

Fortunately, Lycamobile SIM cards are pretty easy to get a hold of. They’re sold online on Lycamobile’s website and Amazon, but you’ll also find Lycamobile SIM cards in several retailers, including 7-Eleven, pharmacies, local convenience stores, etc. When in doubt, you can also use the online store locator to find the nearest retailer near you.


  • Multiple plans to choose from
  • Sold at several retailers
  • Unlimited international talking and texting
  • Affordable
  • T-Mobile network


  • Expensive unlimited plan
  • 5 percent tax on plan purchases online

Best value



  • From $19 at Lycamobile

International plans

Lycamobile offers true international plans with several data options that include unlimited domestic and international talking and texting.

Best data only: Cricket Wireless


If you don’t think you’ll need minutes during your stay in the U.S. and really just want data, you could consider a data-only plan from Cricket Wireless, which is an MVNO on AT&T’s network. For $35, you’ll get 20GB to use during the month, or for $55, you’ll get 100GB.

Again, this plan doesn’t come with any minutes, so you’ll have to be sure you’re fine using apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Skype to connect with family or friends. It does come with text and picture messages across the U.S., as well as usage in Mexico and Canada if you plan on visiting those countries as well. It’s the perfect plan for anyone who will be spending lots of time on the road and wants to be able to stream, download, and do some high-speed browsing.

You can get a Cricket SIM card by going into a Cricket Wireless authorized retailer, which you can locate with Cricket’s online store locator. Other popular retailers such as Amazon, Target, Best Buy, and Walmart will also sell Universal SIM card activation kits for Cricket Wireless. The good news is that if you do end up wanting minutes, you can always switch to another one of Cricket’s plans with the same SIM card.


  • At least 20GB of high-speed data
  • Great AT&T coverage
  • Mexico and Canada usage
  • SIM cards sold at several retailers


  • No minutes

Best data only

Cricket Wireless


  • From $35 at Cricket Wireless

Stream what you want

Don’t need minutes? A Cricket Wireless data-only plan will keep you connected as you travel in the U.S.

Bottom line

You really can’t go wrong with a prepaid SIM card on T-Mobile or AT&T’s network while visiting the U.S., and the right fit for you depends on the length of your stay and whether you need features like being able to call back home. If you’re traveling for only three weeks or less, the Ultra Mobile Tourist plan is the best choice and offers just enough talk, text, and data to stay connected. On the other hand, if you’ll be in the U.S. for a few months, Mint Mobile will give you the best multiple-month value. And if you’re somewhere in between, a prepaid plan from either T-Mobile or AT&T is easy, reliable, and guaranteed to give you great coverage.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide


Olivia Lipski is a freelance writer for Android Central and loves testing out the latest kitchen tech and discovering the best cell phone plans. When she’s not busy running around NYC trying to find great food or coffee, she’s in her kitchen trying to make it herself.


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