The best SIM cards for travelling to the USA in 2020
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 smart phone 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 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 that costs $10 a day in the U.S for 200MB worth of data.
Vodafone’s international roaming plan is the only network with $5 a day roaming plan where you can use your existing data.
Optus offers international roaming for both prepaid and postpaid mobile services:
- On eligible postpaid plans they offer $10 Optus Roaming Pass which is $10 per 1GB of data or per 24 hours (whichever comes first), unlimited talk and SMS
- On prepaid plans you may be able to purchase add-ons such as $10 travel credit or $20 roaming data
Virgin Mobile has an international roaming postpaid service that can be switched on right in your account. The United States falls into Zone 1 and the cost is $30 for 500MB (6c/MB), $45 for 1GB (4.4c/MB), $60 for 2GB (2.9c/MB) or $85 for 3GB and valid for 30 days after purchase.
What are the best-value SIM cards I can buy online?
They offer a USA sim card for $55 (RRP) for 5GB on 4G speeds, once activated lasts for 30 days and uses the T-Mobile/Ultra mobile network.
They offer various 4G speed sim cards such as $55 (RRP) for 6GB or unlimited data for $119 (RRP) on the T-Mobile mobile network.
What are the best-value SIM cards in the U.S?
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 has a number of prepaid plans at 4G LTE speeds offer unlimited domestic talk and test though the data varies:
- US$40 for 10GB including domestic mobile hotspot
- US$50 for unlimited data including unlimited domestic mobile hotspot at 3G speeds
- US$60 for unlimited data including unlimited domestic mobile hotspot at 4G LTE speeds upto 10GB then 3G speeds thereafter
There are several prepaid plans available with AT&T – some of the best options include the following:
- US$65 for unlimited data (mobile hotspot being an add-on)
- US$50 for 8GB (including mobile hotspot)
- US$35 for 1GB (including mobile hotspot)
In the States, Verizon is the more popular cell services. As such, their 4G LTE speed prepaid plans are a little more expensive, though you might find it worth it for the coverage.
- US$70 for unlimited data (with unlimited talk and text)
- US$50 for 16GB (with unlimited talk and text including mobile hotspot)
- US$40 for 6GB (with unlimited talk and text including mobile hotspot)
Metro by T-Mobile
Metro by T-Mobile (formerly MetroPCS) has some prepaid plans similar to T-Mobile:
- US$40 for 10GB (hotspot not included)
- US$50 for unlimited data (with 5GB hotspot data)
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?
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.
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 is a high performing carrier in terms of coverage around the country. The weakest areas of coverage include Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada.
Is there free Wi-Fi throughout the States?
Free Wi-Fi is 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 March 12th, 2020. Please check the providers website for the latest information.