If you are planning to travel to North American countries such as Canada, USA, or Mexico, mobile phone bills can be quite an extravagant issue since the charges of telecommunication are more expensive in this region compared to other countries, especially in the USA. Besides, in the United States, CDMA technology is used exclusively for mobile phone communication, and CDMA phones are locked to the carrier provider company. This means it’s not possible to switch over to a new carrier prepaid sim card without changing your phone in USA.
So, there is a chance that a tourist won’t be able to use their own phone at all. Even if you can, the roaming bill may be overwhelming. To avoid such costs, you should consider buying a prepaid SIM card from a USA operator once you get to the States.
Prepaid SIM cards require no prior contracts with the service providers and no hidden or overhead charges. When you stop paying, the prepaid SIM service provider will stop the service. For this reason, many native users also prefer prepaid SIM cards over postpaid services.
How Do Prepaid SIM Card Work In USA ?
If you decide to use a prepaid SIM card in the USA, you have to pay upfront for the connection and talk times. With SIM only prepaid plans, you have to purchase a 28-day plan before using one wherein postpaid schemes; you will receive your phone bill at the end of the month.
Recharging your prepaid SIM can be automated if you link your debit or credit cards or bank account, or PayPal accounts to your prepaid account. There are some long expiry prepaid plans to renew your account after 6 to 12 months, depending on the plan.
Once your account is set up, you have to insert your prepaid SIM card inside your phone. The prepaid SIM card usually works only on GSM phones. The CDMA carrier uses phones locked to the carrier, and they have a unique identifier inside. That’s why prepaid SIM cards offer more flexibility, as you can switch carriers by changing just the SIM card without changing the entire phone.
When you sign up for a service provider’s monthly plan, the information inside the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card is required to link a certain account to a certain phone. A unique serial number (ICCID), international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) number, security authentication and ciphering information, temporary information related to the local network, a list of the services the user has access to, personal identification number (PIN) for ordinary use, and a personal unblocking key (PUK) for PIN unlocking are inside the internal memory of the SIM.
Will Your Phone Work With USA Prepaid Sim Card?
Since modern phones and flagship smartphones are designed to work with different technologies in various parts of the world, compatibility won’t be a major issue. But there are some historical differences between the technologies adopted in Europe and America. Hence, older phones or more niche mobile devices (meaning not recognizable devices from big brands) might have some issues. So, you should check your device carefully before traveling to a new destination.
You can find about the network compatibility of your device on the technical manuals or websites. When you are abroad, the local operators provide your phone services even if you use your native SIM. So, your phone must comply with the network technology of that service provider.
In the US, AT&T and T-mobile are the major stakeholders in the telecommunication sector. The network configuration of T-mobile is:
- For 2G: GSM 1900,
- For 3G: WCDMA/HSPA 1900 or WCDMA/HSPA 1700/2100 (AWS)
- 4G: LTE bands 71, 66, 12, 4, or 2
AT&T has the following technologies:
- For 2G: AT&T no longer supports any 2G service at all
- For 3G: WCDMA/HSPA 850 or WCDMA/HSPA 1900
- 4G: LTE bands 71, 66, 12, 5, 4, or 2
You won’t be able to use your phone if it is not compatible with any of these network configurations. In that case, you can purchase disposable burner phones for the time you stay abroad.
10 Best Prepaid SIM Card In The USA
The prepaid SIM card market is a competitive one, and by carefully analyzing different products, you will be able to save a ton of cash. Here are some great SIM card options that can while you are traveling or want flexibility and freedom.
1. Prepaid SIM – 50GB (T-Mobile)
T-mobile is highly dedicated to the consumers offering award-winning customer service. As a customer of T-mobile, you will be entitled for dedicated customer care without any bot, scheme blocking protection, data maximizer, Wi-Fi calling, Music service, and free caller ID. With some additional charges, you can update your prepaid plans for stateside international calling and 4G data service in Mexico and Canada. T-mobile has taken lots of initiative as corporate responsibilities such as investing in renewable energies, youth, device recycling, discounts for veterans and first responders, and many more.
T-mobile SIM cards are available in a triple cut format: micro, nano, and standard making them compatible with major phones. These SIM cards include unlimited domestic talk times and text. The high-speed data is valid for 30 days, and you have to activate your SIM within 90 days of your purchase. If it is not, it will be automatically activated on the 90th day. You should get the T-mobile SIM card ahead of your trip because it takes upto 24 hours to activate the SIM card.
- $40 / month for single line : 10GB high speed data, 10GB domestic mobile hotspot, Wi-Fi calling, unlimited domestic talk and text, caller ID, scam blocking, music unlimited, data maximizer for video streaming.
- $50 / month for single line : Unlimited domestic 4G LTE data, unlimited 3G domestic mobile hotspot, Wi-Fi calling, unlimited domestic talk and text, caller ID, scam blocking, music unlimited, data maximizer for video streaming.
- $60 / month : Unlimited domestic 4G LTE data, 10GB 4G LTE domestic mobile hotspot (after that unlimited 3G data), Wi-Fi calling, unlimited domestic talk and text, caller ID, scam blocking, music unlimited, data maximizer for video streaming.
2. Unlimited Data + Talk + Text (AT&T)
AT&T prepaid SIM cards offer several advantages such as no annual contracts, free activation, and no credit history check. The AT&T network is one of the strongest in the US and it covers 99% of the country. You can switch to AT&T prepaid plan without changing your device given that it is unlocked and compatible. You can add your smartwatch, car, or tablet directly to AT&T network using a prepaid SIM and this SIM comes in micro, nano, or standard size to fit inside most smart devices.
If you subscribe for the AUTOPAY option, you can save upto $15 on Unlimited plans. For a single user, a $30 plan for 5GB high-speed data is the lowest among monthly plans. You will get unlimited talk time inside the US and unlimited text messages both in the US and 100 other countries. DVD quality video streaming is also included.
Apart from this basic plan, there are options for a 12-month plan where you pay $300 in advance for 12 upcoming months and you will get 8GB high-speed data every month with unlimited text and call only for $25.AT&T prepaid SIM cards facilitate multi-line offers for the whole family. In this scheme, you can add multiple lines having different plans in a single multi-line account. By doing so, you will be able to save upto $10-$20 off per line per month.
AT&T prepaid SIM cards charge no activation fee (valid upto 14th January 2021) and also they are free of cost. AT&T provides 5G mobile network services nationwide.
- $85 / month: 100GB of premium data including 5G access, unlimited call and text, unlimited text, voice call and internet service in Mexico and Canada, cutting edge network security, HD streaming (HBO MaxTM included), 30GB mobile hotspot data.
3. $20/Month Mint Mobile Wireless Plan
Mint mobile is dedicated to providing smart networking services to its customers. It aims to deliver cost-effective premium wireless service to the consumers directly. Since Mint Mobile operates solely online, it saves cost by eliminating stores and salespeople. You can buy flexible data plans without any surprise charges. It is possible to buy plans for 3, 6, or even 12 months, requiring no prior contracts.
Mint Mobile SIM is available with 3GB of 4G LTE data per month, which is valid for 3 months and can be used across the U.S. Mint Mobile offers SIM cards only, and you have to bring your own mobile with you. With a “test drive offer”, you will get a 7-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the service. The SIM cards are available in standard, micro, or nano formats.
It is quite easy to install and activate Mint Mobile SIM cards. You can also bring your phone number from your previous carrier. When your data usage reaches the limit, you can extend it again. These options include 3GB, 8GB, 12GB, or unlimited data each month with a provision for extension.
- $56 / 3 months: unlimited talk and text, 8GB data of 5G speed each month, free Wi-Fi calling, free mobile hotspot and international calls to Mexico and Canada
4. Lycamobile Plus USA Prepaid Sim Card
Lycamobile offers one of the lowest rates for international calls from the United States to over 60 countries worldwide. The company also promises its customers high-quality network services and free prepaid SIM card in the USA, free voicemail services, and free Lyca to Lyca calls. Lyca SIM cards provide pay as you go plans and include a bonus credit for new activations, which can be used towards future top-ups. You will also receive a bonus $ 5 credit if you recommend it to a friend.
Once you choose a plan from Lycamobile, you will receive a free SIM card delivered to your address. You will enjoy complete freedom as Lycamobile SIM cards require no prior contacts. The online account management system is quite easy to handle. Although Lycamobile claims 4G data network, some areas may show only 3G networks depending on the coverage. This prepaid SIM works only with unlocked phones inside the US.
- $39 unlimited international plan: 15GB data of 4G speed ($31.05), unlimited nationwide talk time and text($7.95). New customers buying 6-month plans will get a free Samsung J2/J3 phone.
5. Cricket Wireless 3-in-1 SIM Kit
Cricket Wireless covers almost everywhere inside the US by utilizing AT&T’s 4G LTE networks. This Wireless is one of the best-prepaid networks in the country. The $6.66 SIM kit includes a SIM card, which can be activated by inserting it inside an unlocked phone. You can call 35 countries with Cricket Wireless international plan.
During the activation process, you will choose a plan that suits you the best, and because of the “bring your own device” plan, you have a chance to use your own smartphone. Cricket Wireless prepaid SIM card is compatible with a wide range of devices. There are no surprise fees or additional changes to activate the prepaid SIM. If you insert the SIM inside your phone, you will be able to activate it via Cricket Breeze-Thru instructions on your mobile screen.
- $30 / month: unlimited talk and text
- $60 / month: unlimited 4G LTE data with free talk and text
- $100 / moth for 4 lines
- $80 / moth for 2 lines
6. Verizon Prepaid SIM
With Verizon’s prepaid mobile service, you don’t have to worry about changing your phone number. The Verizon SIM starter kit will cost you $9.88 and it comes in triple format: standard, micro, and nano to fit inside most of the devices. According to RootMetrics, Verizon is rated first place for overall 4G LTE network performance in the United States. Verizon features more than 40 smartphones to work with the prepaid SIM. Also, you can bring your unlocked phone if it is compatible.
For customer service, both dedicated hotline and online chat options are available. You can manage your own account using My Verizon app or website. Verizon prepaid provides solid network services but it’s not the cheapest. But you can save further by customer loyalty rewards.
- $70 / month: unlimited talk times and text, 4G LTE data Disney, Apple Music and Discovery free for six months.
- $80 / month: premium networking services for unlimited call, text and 4G data. HULU, Disney, and ESPN channel included. Apple Music free for 6 months and Discovery free for 12 months.
7. Aerobile Prepaid SIM Card with Unlimited Data
Aeromobile is perfect for frequent fliers as this company specializes in delivering prepaid SIMs of foreign countries to the customers before they travel to those countries. Established in 2006 by two Taiwanese students, Aerobile provides tourists with economical and convenient mobile service. Apart from selling prepaid SIM cards, Aerobile also retails Wi-Fi routers, digital clocks, thermo flasks, selfie stands, etc.
In the USA, Aerobile uses the AT&T carrier, and these prepaid SIM card offer great internet data packages and unlimited voice calls. A day before your departure, Aerobile will activate the SIM and notify you of the US number. You will need a GSM 4G LTE 850/1900Mhz handset for the Aerobile prepaid SIM card. Insert the SIM inside the mobile set once you reach your destination, and within 3 minutes, your phone will receive a signal.
Usually internet settings are configured automatically by the phone. If that doesn’t work, you may have to try APN settings. Aerobile prepaid SIM cards will be valid for 45 days after activation. After that, it will expire unless you don’t recharge the balance which extends the service from 30 to 365 days based on the amount refilled.
- For Plan A $35: unlimited voice call, text and internet service (first 1GB is high speed 4G LTE data) in the USA
- Plan B $45: unlimited talk time, text messages and internet service (first 6GB is 4G data) in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
- Plan C $65: unlimited text, call and internet service (first 22GB is 4G LTE high speed data) in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
- For $6, international call packages can be added to call in 60 countries.
8. PAYG AIO15 (Three UK)
If you pay as you go 10GB prepaid SIM card, you won’t have to worry much about country borders to use mobile internet connection. There is no roaming charge to use mobile internet abroad with Three UK, and using the Go Roam option, you will be able to enjoy data allowance, call, and text of the Prepaid SIM card in more than 70 destinations worldwide.
For a price of $29.99, you will get a prepaid SIM card which requires no registration. This plug and play prepaid SIM card will be valid for 30 days from the activation day to provide 10GB 3G/4G data, unlimited text, and Talktime, and free incoming calls in the selected countries. To refill the SIM, you have to use a UK credit card or voucher code.
- PAYG 10GB: for $29.99 SIM price, 10GB high speed data, unlimited call and text in the Go Roam countries.
9. PAYG MBB 12GB (Three UK)
Another prepaid mobile broadband SIM package from Three UK which costs $59.90. Like the previous one, it requires no roaming charge to operate in the selected 71 countries. You will get data service only providing 12GB high-speed data. The SIM is valid upto 1 year after activation.
- PAYG 12GB: for $59.90 SIM price, 12GB high speed data in 71 countries
10. PAYG MBB 24GB (Three UK)
This MBB (mobile broadband) SIM card from Three UK will avail you 24GB 3G/4G data for $79.90. It is plug and play type and comes in three different sizes: standard, micro, and nano size. PAYG MBB 24GB SIM will work inside any unlocked device like smartphones, tablets, or smartwatches. You will get reception in 71 listed countries. This package is ideal for heavy data users who travel frequently. The validity of the SIM is 2 years after activation.
- PAYG 24GB: for $79.90 SIM price, 24GB high speed data in 71 countries
11. WorldSIM International SIM Card
WorldSIM is an international prepaid SIM card that cuts the high roaming charges. This prepaid SIM card comes with UK and USA phone numbers and if you want, you can add phone numbers of other listed fifty countries to your WorldSIM International SIM card without any limit. Then you will be able to use WorldSIM service to roam on your existing number without roaming charges. WorldSIM provides 24-hour customer service and you can refill your account any time by calling it. You can also recharge and manage your account online.
Since it’s a global SIM card, you will get coverage in 200 countries and 4G network service where it is available. With the help of call through technology, you will get immediate call connection. There are multiple options to get delivery of WorldSIM in the US using free to premium services. You will get a discount if you order in bulk. If the credit order is $135, the SIM is for free.
- $27 credit with $20 SIM price: 4GB high speed data in 100 countries, multiple numbers with virtual number service, talk time and text services
How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in the USA?
You will hardly find any reliable prepaid SIM card at international airports in the USA. There is no kiosk or stall for selling SIM cards in the airport; you may find some in the occasional airport convenience store. But you will find plenty of stores in the large cities, and T-mobile stores are quite ubiquitous. Both nano and micro SIMs, along with standard ones and you will get an active SIM from these stores in no time.
The purchasing process is quite simple. You will need an unlocked phone to use a prepaid SIM (in the US or anywhere). Then you have to choose a specific monthly plan and pay for it. It is recommended that you should insert the SIM card right away to check whether it functions with your phone. When you pay for the package, you will get a receipt with your new phone number printed on it.
Prepaid SIM Card Costs In the USA
You may get confused sometimes if you try to compare the online offers and in-store deals from the same company. Generally, tourists are more likely to buy prepaid SIM cards from stores directly. But if you have a mailing address in the US, you should definitely check for online deals.
Sometimes, the prepaid SIM itself is free of cost, and you have to pay for the monthly plan only. The unlimited text and call plans are common plans available from the carrier companies. AT&T offers prepaid monthly smartphone plans starting at $35 for 1GB of data, or $50 for 8GB. Another popular brand T-Mobile’s standard prepaid plans, start at $45 for 4GB of data or $50 for 10GB data. The sales tax of 10% on the quoted price is not included in the mentioned price, and you have to pay for it in addition to the original price.
T-Mobile’s tourist package is the best value for the tourists who would stay less than three weeks in the US. You get 2GB of high-speed data for $30 along with 1000 minutes of domestic calls and unlimited texts. Once you reach the 2GB high-speed data limit, you will get unlimited free slow speed data.
How do I Install a SIM Card?
First step of the process is to locate the SIM adapter of your phone. Some phones have a small access tray for SIM where others have the SIM slot behind the battery. Three different formats of SIM are available: standard, micro and nano sizes. It’s possible to resize a standard size SIM into a micro or nano SIM but there is a chance of damaging the SIM. So, you should buy a triple cut SIM that will fit inside the slot of any of those sizes.
Now, it is time to put the SIM inside. If there is an access tray, you can release the access tray by pushing in a paper clip. The phones with removable batteries generally have the SIM slot behind the battery. When you remove the battery, you should see the SIM adapter. In either case, switch off the phone and then insert the SIM.
How do I activate my SIM card?
Different operators have different methods of activation for their prepaid SIM. Usually, the process is quite simple to follow, and it is quick, too. Most of the time, it’s an automatic process, and if you insert the SIM inside your device, you should be able to use it to call or browse the internet right away. But if you fail to do so, you may have to set an APN or any other means mentioned on the SIM package or instruction manual. Visiting the website or customer care of the service provider will help you in such a situation.
For example, AT&T prepaid SIM can be activated online by going to the website and then selecting the “Activate your device” option. After that, you have to fill-up the form with necessary information and then select the “Continue” button. By following the rest of the instructions, you can complete your activation. If you can’t activate your SIM this way, you have called the customer service of AT&T
Other Options Have A Prepaid Sim Card
Apart from standard prepaid SIM, there are other alternatives for pay as go service for mobile networks. You should consider the following options for cheap data usage-
GlocalMe G3 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
This is more than just an ordinary prepaid SIM; it’s a portable hotspot device meant for worldwide data use. By purchasing this device, you will be able to access the internet from multiple devices. In addition to that, Glocal G3 can be used as a power bank, and it has a battery life of 15 hours. With 50 MBPS uploading and 150 MBPS downloading speed, you can connect five devices to the internet simultaneously with GlocalMe G3.
Although it has two SIM slots, it can function without any local SIM and roaming fees. By using the most secure protocol, GlocalMe G3 keeps your Wi-Fi connection safe from intruders. This device also includes Bluetooth connectivity. It will cost you $119.99.
MVNO stands for mobile virtual network operator and this term refers to the wireless communication operators who don’t have their own network infrastructure. Instead, they lease the carrier from major operators. For this reason, they are more flexible and can accommodate wide ranges of prepaid plans. In this way, you can experience new networks without spending much.
The best overall MVNO operator is Metro by T-mobile. But it can hardly beat the family plan of Walmart family mobile. For single-use, Mint mobile is recommended.
Do prepaid SIM cards come with a phone number?
No. Technically, a prepaid SIM card has an identification number printed on it. Once you register your SIM with this number with the service provider, it will link your SIM card to your name and address. At this point, you will receive your 10 digit phone number.
Can I put my contract sim card on a prepaid phone?
Yes. The SIM card has built-in memory and you can save a limited number of contacts there.
Can I put my Verizon sim card in a prepaid phone?
If your phone is compatible with the technology that Verizon carrier uses, then Yes.
Can I use a USA sim card on a European phone?
Usually, a SIM card will work with any unlocked phone, if the phone’s technical specification is compatible with the carrier company. So, Yes, a USA SIM should work on an unlocked European phone.
Does Walmart sell SIM cards?
Yes. Walmart is a MVNO service provider that leases the communication network of third party and provides prepaid service using SIM cards.
Nowadays, communication means a great deal to our daily life. But they are not always cheap and smooth, especially when you are traveling to a new country. Prepaid SIM cards can be an excellent way to eliminate some of the costs and barriers between local mobile operators. Besides, with some service providers, you can keep your original number.
So, you should check some of these prepaid SIM products before you start for a new destination which will let you connect to your loved ones without costing a fortune.