Buying a Prepaid SIM card in the USA

 

 

To avoid a long list of extra chargers and the subsequent headache, we have to make sure we inform ourselves about the most economical options available to us. How to make efficient use of your smartphone abroad is one those important issues.

Canada and the Americas, in general, are beginning to see quite a bit of change on this front. Since December of last year, Canada has eliminated unlocking fees, making use of alternative service providers a lot more economical. Next, to that, a debate has been sparked regarding roaming charges and it is reported these may be eliminated across the Americas by 2022. Canadian officials have stated that this is no binding contract, however, and no practical goals have been set thus far.

Until these benefits take full effect, we have to make our own arrangements before traveling to the US. Most Canadian providers each offer their own package deals regarding international call, text and roaming charges. But since Canada has some of the highest cellular costs in the world, discarding this option altogether might be your best bet when traveling abroad.

Good alternatives currently available are Roaming SIMs as offered by providers such as Roam Mobility and KnowRoaming, effectively cutting roaming costs for Canadians traveling to the US. But for a lot of travelers, the purchase of a SIM card in the US is still the cheaper option. Allow us to offer you an overview of the best available prepaid SIMs in the USA.

If you are traveling to Europe, and need a sim card, have a look at our buying a sim card in Europe guide.

 

Prepaid SIMs in the USA

T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and MetroPCS some of the most highly rated mobile providers in the US, each for different reasons. From all of these, you can expect prepaid plans starting from $30 a month. Make sure to shop specifically for a prepaid SIM as these won’t bind you to an annual contract. In addition, before purchasing a US SIM card, make sure to check if your phone has been unlocked and if not, request this (now free) service before leaving the country.

 

AT&T

Prepaid plan overview:

Monthly cost excl. taxes

Internet

Minutes

Texts

30USD (39.35CAD)

1GB

Unlimited to US

Unlimited to US

40USD (52.47CAD)

8GB

Unlimited to US, Canada and Mexico

Unlimited to US, Canada and Mexico

55USD (72.14 CAD)

Unlimited

Unlimited to US, Canada and Mexico

Unlimited to US, Canada and Mexico

75USD (98.37CAD)

Unlimited

Unlimited to US, Canada and Mexico

Unlimited to US, Canada and Mexico

 

AT&T is one of the biggest US mobile providers, offering good rates for unlimited minutes and texts in the US as well as to Canada and Mexico. These plans would be perfect for the traveler who makes frequent use of their smartphone and specifically requires to make calls and send texts from the US to Canada.

You can get the AT&T Prepaid sim card on Amazon here.

 

T-Mobile

Prepaid plan overview:

Monthly cost excl. taxes

Internet

Minutes

Texts

45/50USD (59.02/65.58CAD)

4GB/10GB

Unlimited to US

Unlimited to US

60USD (78.70CAD)

Unlimited

Unlimited to US

Unlimited to US

70USD (91.82CAD)

Unlimited

Unlimited to US

Unlimited to US

 

What T-Mobile lacks in international minutes and texting options, it makes up for in an addition of two plans for the traveler who prefers a little bit of flexibility.

You can get a T-Mobile Prepaid sim card on Amazon here.

 

Pay as you go

Starting at only 3USD a month, this plan best suits those who only need to make occasional use of their smartphones and consider an unlimited plan to be a waste of money. Per month this plan includes 30 messages and 30 minutes for domestic use, with 0.10USD more per addition. A data plan is available with the purchase of a data pass.

You can get a Pay as you go plan on Amazon here.

 

Tourist SIM

This is the plan for you if you are only traveling to the US for 3 weeks or less. You pay 30USD for 1000 minutes of talk as well as unlimited texts and data at 2GB. This plan is not renewable and will expire automatically after 3 weeks of use.

You can get a Tourist sim card an Amazon here.

Verizon

Prepaid plan overview:

Monthly cost excl. taxes

Internet

Minutes

Texts

30USD (39.35CAD)

500MB

Unlimited to US

Unlimited to US and 200 international countries incl. Canada

40USD (52.47CAD)

3GB

Unlimited to US

Unlimited to US and 200 international countries incl. Canada

50USD (65.58CAD)

7GB

Unlimited to US

Unlimited to US and 200 international countries incl. Canada

60USD (78.70CAD)

10GB

Unlimited to US and 200 international countries incl. Canada

Unlimited to US and 200 international countries incl. Canada

75USD (98.37CAD)

Unlimited

Unlimited to US and 200 international countries incl. Canada

Unlimited to US and 200 international countries incl. Canada

 

At a glance, Verizon might instantly seem less interesting than the previous ones but we would recommend contacting this provider you want to make use of the Verizon Prepaid Family Account. This way you can have up to 5 prepaid lines on one account, making it easier to manage multiple prepaid lines.

You can get the Verizon Prepaid plan on Amazon here.

 

MetroPCS

MetroPCS is a provider owned by T-Mobile and is a highly respected low-cost provider, offering unlimited data from 50USD and for 40GB for 40USD including taxes. One of the biggest plusses is that here you will not have to endure possible sales pitches or problems regarding annual plans or contracts since this provider does not offer them! They work on prepaid plans only.

 

What about an MVNO?

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) are alternative providers that work on the networks of the major providers and offer services that are a whole lot cheaper. They are generally considered to be a rather watered-down version of the services offered by the bigger providers so this option is really only interesting when you are not a big smartphone user. FreedomPop, for instance, offers a rather limited service free of charge with 500MB of data, 200 minutes and 500 texts for one month.

 

For more info on buying a sim card for other countries, click the area on the map below. 

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Conclusion

The cheaper option for a Canadian traveler is the purchase of a US SIM. There are several options available and it is important to sort out your priorities before making a decision. You can go for a more costly plan with the bigger providers if you are a frequent smartphone user and will need to make full use of unlimited plans and international minutes. This makes these top providers perfect for those traveling for business. If you only make occasional use of your smartphone, make sure to explore the Pay as you Go or MVNO options further. In short, simply consider what you value the most and go from there!

 

If you enjoyed our buying a sim card in the USA guide, have a look at all our travel gear guides here:

 

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