Guides

The best SIM Card options when travelling to the USA

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The United States is the land of choices. Go to the grocery store and you’ll find an overwhelming amount of brands for one just one product. But while it might be simple to choose from an assortment of soft drinks or chips, picking from a selection of something attached with more consequence might be a little nerve-wracking.

Of course, here we’re talking about your ability to use your cell phone carrier and communicate with friends and family when you’re overseas! There are a lot of good SIM card plans to choose from – we’ll help you narrow it all down.

Can I use my Australian SIM card while in the States?

Most Australian phones use Global System for Mobile communication (GSM), but America uses both GSM and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). It’s rare that a phone will have both, so yours might not support everything you’re trying to use it for and you may end up with expensive roaming fees.

Here are some of the Australian plans that work in America.

Telstra

Telstra offers international roaming on a plan or using a pre-paid account. There is also an option to use the International Day Pass which only charges you when you use your mobile overseas, however that reaches $10 a day in the U.S.

Vodafone

Vodafone’s international roaming plan is the only network with $5 a day roaming plan.

Optus

Optus’ international roaming feature (Optus Travel) can be purchased before you go. However, Optus prepaid accounts also have roaming options that can be recharged as you go.

Virgin

Virgin Mobile has an international roaming postpaid service that can be switched on right in your account. Rates apply based on the zone you’re in.

TravelSIM

Another Australian alternative is picking up a TravelSIM who offer a prepaid international SIM card with rates of 0.25c per mb and 0.25c per call/SMS in the USA. They also have a companion app to allow you to check your balance, recharge and contact their support team.

What are the best-value SIM cards in the States?

Your phone needs to be unlocked in order to use an American SIM card in it. Most Australian phones are unlocked, however, if it isn’t you can have your carrier do it for you (usually for a fee). Here are some American carriers that have the best-value SIM cards for tourists.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile is one the better deals you can get as a tourist. The 1,000 minute and unlimited texts and data plan costs US$30 (AU$39.07) with up to 2 GB of 4G LTE data – the SIM card itself is free.

AT&T

There are several plans available to tourists with AT&T – some of the best options include the following:

  • US$65 (AU$84) for unlimited data
  • US$45 (AU$58) for 6 GB
  • US$35 (AU$45) for 1 GB
  • US$30 (AU$38) for no data

Verizon

In the States, Verizon is the more popular cell services. As such, the plans are a little more expensive, though you might find it worth it for the coverage.

  • US$80 (AU$103) for unlimited GB and unlimited talk and text
  • US$50 (AU$64) for 7 GB unlimited talk and text
  • US$40 (AU$51) for 3 GB unlimited talk and text

MetroPCS

MetroPCS has some of the cheapest options of all the carriers. Its unlimited data, talk and text plan costs you only US$30 (AU$38)!

Where is the best place to purchase American SIM cards?

All of the carriers are best purchased online, or in their physical stores once you get there if you want to talk to a representative before committing to a carrier. If you choose to buy one online, you can have it shipped to your hotel or wherever you are staying so you can pick it up when you arrive.

What is the network coverage like?

T-Mobile

T-Mobile is one of the top three best performing carriers, with a quick network and wide coverage around the country. The weakest areas of coverage are in the north-west part of the U.S. (in states like Oregon, Idaho and Washington).

AT&T

AT&T is a high performing carrier in terms of coverage around the country. The weakest areas of coverage include Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada.

Verizon

Out of all the carriers, Verizon has the best and widest coverage across the entire country, so you don’t have to worry about matching a SIM card to the regions you’re visiting.

MetroPCS

MetroPCS is a newer provider that has a good amount of coverage around the States. It’s weakest coverage is in on the western, rural portions of the country.

Is there free Wi-Fi throughout the States?

Free Wi-Fi is usually pretty standard around the country – some cities try to give it to you wherever they can. For example, New York City’s underground subway system provides you Wi-Fi , which is very useful when you’re unfamiliar with its train routes! However, there will be some shop or restaurant owners who will insist the Wi-Fi is for paying customers only.

Note: Information is up-to-date as of November 3rd, 2017. Please check the providers website for the latest information.

See also: United States travel safety

See also: Seasonality United States


Author

TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

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