eSIM for USA Travel: Best Plans Compared + Costs

This guide on eSIM for USA travel will help you get Internet access, avoid the hassles and make travel-friendly arrangements for the USA before you depart.

Below you will learn:

  • Reasons why you should choose United States eSIM over other connectivity options?
  • Should you buy eSIM online before traveling or on arrival?
  • What to prepare before buying?
  • Best plans compared
  • How much does it cost?
  • Cheapest eSIM plans for USA
  • more

I. Is eSIM available in the USA?

Yes, eSIM is available in  the USA. Most major US mobile network operators, namely T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, provide eSIM services. 

As long as your mobile device is compatible with an US eSIM, you can use an eSIM for USA.

II. What is an eSIM for USA travel?

What is eSIM for USA
eSIM is an evolution of the traditional SIM card

An eSIM is a digital or virtual SIM card embedded into the motherboard of a mobile device. With an eSIM, you do not need to use a physical nano-SIM Card. No more swapping out the old SIM card and inserting a new one when using eSIMs. Just simply buy the eSIM plan that fits your needs, scan a QR code sent from the eSIM provider to activate the eSIM plan, and get ready to stay connected and in touch in the USA.

To use an eSIM, you need to have a carrier-unlocked, eSIM-supported device.

► You can learn how to check if your phone is unlocked and supports eSIM by yourself with our guide. Or, this eSIM-compatible device list for a quick check.

III. Why choose eSIM for USA travel?

eSIM is the easiest way to stay connected while traveling in  the USA this year. You can buy it online and set up everything within 5 minutes.

The biggest advantage of eSIM is that you can stay connected as soon as the airplane lands at USA airport when you can connect to a local network. 

Below are the most appreciated advantages of USA eSIM:

  • Avoid roaming fees: Easily purchase local data plans to avoid paying exorbitant international roaming fees.
  • Secure your SIM card: You do not have to remove your personal SIM card and risk losing it to use a local SIM card.
  • Dual SIM setup: Dual SIM setups are possible with eSIM cards, allowing you, for instance, to use the same device for both your personal and professional phone numbers.
  • Undepend from wifi: There is no need to look for Wi-Fi or to be offline.
  • Cost-saving: Compared to purchasing local SIM cards, you will receive better pricing.
eSIM vs SIM cards
Differences between eSIM and physical SIM card

US eSIM vs. Other Internet Connectivity Alternatives

FeaturesUS eSIMSIM cardData RoamingPocket Wifi
Buy and activate onlineAvailableNot availableAvailableNot available
PriceReasonableCheapExpensiveExtra expensive
Data/ConnectionExtensive data (based on plans)Stable connectionFast connectionFast and shareable connection
Call and SMSAvailable (based on plans)AvailableAvailableNot available 
UsageTrip in less than 3 monthsTrip more than 3 monthsTrip in less than 1 monthFamily trips
RisksUnstable connectionLong-days registration Out of budgetFine for loss misplacement
Comparison between eSIM and other internet connection alternatives

Pro Tip: eSIM is ideal for vacations in the US between 3 days and 3 months. If it’s more than that, you might be better off purchasing a standard local SIM.

IV. Which types of eSIM for USA travelers should choose for their trip?

When it comes to eSIM, it is usually about eSIM plans. 

An eSIM plan is basically available in 02 common forms:

  • Data-only eSIM plan
  • Data, voice, text eSIM plan

The data only eSIM plan is preferred by most travelers who just need to stay connected during their trip while maintaining contact with people back home through voice apps. 

The data, voice, text eSIM plan is suitable for business travelers and those who need to make analog calls and  SMSs. 

► Our recommendation: If you travel to the USA and do not have any specific needs for communication, choose a data eSIM plan for the best cost.

V. How much does an eSIM for the USA cost?

eSIM is an important item when traveling to US
eSIM is an important item when traveling to US

The cost of eSIM for the USA are verified depending on the provider, data included, validity and additional features. The cheapest data eSIM for the USA is an USA eSIM offered by Gigago with 1GB/day used in 5 days for $14.

VI. Where and How to Buy eSIM for USA?

You can buy eSIM for USA in 02 ways:

  • Buy online from eSIM providers 
  • Buy directly from official stores of USA mobile network operators (which offer eSIM services)

1. Buy USA eSIM online

This is the most convenient way to get eSIM for USA because you can activate it instantly.

It is worth noting that none of the local cellular internet operators in the United States sell tourist eSIM on their official websites. Thus, you can only buy eSIM plans online through eSIM providers.

Though there are many eSIM for USA providers, it is recommended to go with the one offering a variety of eSIM plans, covered by major USA mobile networks, with competitive prices and good customer service.

As a specific recommendation, we suggest Gigago as the reputable eSIM provider for traveling to the USA this year.

What to prepare: only an active email address. No ID registration.

Pros:

  • Convenient (100% online)
  • Multiple plans to choose from 
  • Affordable price (compared with buying directly from local operators)
  • No ID registration
  • Being supported when encountering any problem and easily claim a refund if things get worse

Cons: higher risk of errors if buying region plans that cover the USA.

2. Buy on arrival in USA

After arriving in the USA, you need to find an official store of either AT&T or T-Mobile which supplies eSIM for tourists to the USA..

What to prepare: ID for registration

Pros: authentic buying experience

Cons:

  • More expensive than buying online
  • Less options to choose from if buying from a single network operator
  • Need to show ID

Advice: You should buy eSIM for USA online. from a prestigious provider, before departure to get the best value.

VII. Best eSIM plans for USA travel – cheap, affordable and worth-value data plans

When choosing eSIM plans for USA travel, you can choose eSIM plans offered by either United States mobile network carriers or eSIM providers.

Here are details about best eSIM for USA given by each of the mentioned-above providers:

1. T-Mobile eSIM for USA

eSIM provider in US - T-Mobile
USA Mobile network carrier supplying tourist eSIM for USA – T-Mobile

eSIM by T-Mobile is not sold online by the carrier itself, but only in an official T-Mobile store. The good news is that a eSIM plan bought in T-Mobile stores comes with unlimited calling/texting in the US.

Activation fee: $10 USD

eSIM card fee: $4.99 USD

Plans (not including tax):

  • 10GB of data costs $40 USD
  • Unlimited data + 3G hotspot costs $50 USD
  • Unlimited data + 10GB of 4G hotspot: $60 USD

Note: T-Mobile eSIM is not sold online by the carrier itself.

2. AT&T eSIM for USA

Mobile network carriers - AT&T
USA Mobile network carrier supplying tourist eSIM for USA – AT&T

Similar to T-Mobile eSIM, an eSIM from AT&T carrier just can be bought in the official stores of this network carrier. 

Activation fee: $14.99 USD

eSIM card fee: $4.99 USD

Plans (not including tax):

  • 5GB of data costs $30 USD
  • 15GB of data costs $40 USD
  • Unlimited data and calls/SMS costs $65 USD

Note: AT&T eSIM is not sold online by the carrier itself.

3. Verizon eSIM for USA

Mobile network carriers - Verizon
USA Mobile network carrier supplying tourist eSIM for USA – Verizon

Verizon eSIM is also not available online, but in stores in the United States. So if you want to buy the Verizon eSIM directly from the network carrier, you can only buy it on arrival.

Activation fee: $25 USD (but often waived)

Plans (not including tax):

  • 15GB of data + unlimited calls/sms costs $45 USD
  • Unlimited data and calls/sms + 5GB hotspot costs $60 USD
  • Unlimited data and calls/sms + 25GB hotspot costs $70 USD

4. Gigago eSIM for USA

Gigago USA eSIM - best plans eSIM for USA
Gigago USA eSIM

Gigago is the eSIM provider, not network carrier for USA eSIM, which supplies eSIM for more than 200 countries and territories all over the world.

Unlike eSIM from local network carriers, the good news is that you can buy United States eSIM online on Gigago.com. eSIM plans for the USA of Gigago are covered by AT&T and T-Mobile. 

For the USA, Gigago offers multiple data eSIM plan options as followings:

Data
Validity
Price
20GB
5 days
$74.00
2GB/day
7 days
$34.00
1GB/day
15 days
$39.00
20GB
30 days
$86.00
5GB
5 days
$20.90
10GB
5 days
$37.90
1GB/day
5 days
$14.00
2GB/day
5 days
$24.90
5GB
7 days
$21.00
10GB
7 days
$39.50
20GB
7 days
$77.50
1GB/day
7 days
$19.00
5GB
15 days
$22.50
10GB
15 days
$42.90
20GB
15 days
$82.90
2GB/day
15 days
$71.50
5GB
30 days
$23.50
10GB
30 days
$44.50
1GB/day
30 days
$76.50
2GB/day
30 days
$141.50

If choosing Gigago eSIM for USA, you just need to select the plan that suits your need, make a payment, scan the QR code sent to your registered email upon purchase to activate the eSIM. The whole process takes 10 minutes or less.

What is great about choosing eSIM for USA from GIGAGO:

  • 24/7 customer support, in 5 languages: English, Chinese, Japanese, French, Vietnamese
  • Easy to use with detailed instructions
  • Multiple plans to choose from that suit different needs and budgets

VIII. How to activate and use eSIM for the USA?

Installing and activating an USA eSIM card is easy. 

Just make sure that you prepare enough essential things before starting the process. Here is a pre-install checklist:

  • Make sure your phone is carrier-unlocked and eSIM-supported
  • Prepare a stable internet connection for smooth setup
  • Prepare the QR code and other needed information before installing

1. Install and activate USA eSIM on iOS iPhone

To install and activate Europe eSIM on iPhone, you have 2 methods: QR code method and manual method.

► QR code method

To ready your iPhone for eSIM activation in USA:

  • Connect iPhone to a stable Wi-Fi network to ensure smooth downloading and installation.
  • Go to Settings > Cellular/Mobile data
  • Tap on Add a cellular plan to add eSIM
  • Use the phone’s camera to scan the QR code sent in your email by the eSIM provider
  • When the Cellular Plan Detection notification appears, tap Continue. After scanning, tap Add cellular plan again, wait 15-20 minutes to allow the eSIM to completely activate on your device.
  • Name your eSIM: Go to Cellular Settings > label the new eSIM with a personalized name like “USA eSIM”
  • Choose Data Source: choose your newly installed eSIM your default mobile data option over the primary SIM. Toggle off the cellular data if necessary
  • Switch mobile data: enable this option to allow the switching function between physical SIMs and eSIMs.

► Manual activation

  • Go to Settings > Mobile/Cellular section
  • Add eSIM > Enter details manually
  • Import the SM-DP+ Address and activation code for the eSIM
  • Tap Next
  • Follow the on-screen prompts (similar to the QR code method)

After arriving in USA, to activate your eSIM on Android in USA:

  • Activate eSIM and data only: Turn ON the eSIM and Data roaming
  • Manual APN setup: manually set up the APN sent into your nail. 

You can now use calling, messaging with eSIM for USA.

2. Install and activate USA eSIM on Android (Samsung, Google Pixel)

Installing a USA eSIM on Android devices like Samsung and Google Pixel phones follows a similar process to iOS.

You also have 02 methods to install and activate your eSIM USA: QR code method and manual method.

► QR code method:

  • Go to Settings Connections to start the eSIM installation.
  • Tap SIM Card Manager (where you can see the SIM cards that are already on your device).
  •  Tap Add mobile plan (your phone will look for an active plan with the operator already).
  • When your mobile plan is found, tap the Scan Carrier QR code and scan the QR code using your camera.
  • Select Confirm/Add to save your eSIM profile (depending on your phone)
Set up eSIM on Android Samsung - qr code method
Set up USA eSIM on Samsung using QR code method – steps 1-3
Set up eSIM on Samsung using QR code method - steps 4-6
Set up USA eSIM on Samsung using QR code method – steps 4-6

► Manual method

  • Go to Settings Connections to start the eSIM installation.
  • Tap SIM Card Manager (where you can see the SIM cards that are already on your device).
  • Tap on Add eSIM (your phone will look for an active plan with the operator already).
  • Tap on Scan QR code from service provider > Add using activation code.
  • Enter the Activation code information that your carrier provided. 
  • Select Confirm/Add to save your eSIM profile (depending on your phone). Then, turn ON your eSIM to start to use.
Set up eSIM on Samsung using manual method - steps 1-3
Set up eSIM on Samsung using manual method – steps 1-3
Set up eSIM on Samsung using manual method - steps 4-6
Set up eSIM on Samsung using manual method – steps 4-6

After arriving in United States, to use your eSIM for USA, take these steps:

  • Go to Settings Connections.
  • Tap SIM Card Manager, select your eSIM, turn it on, and select your eSIM as Mobile data.
  • Go to Settings, and select Connections Mobile networks to turn on Data roaming of your phone.

IX. When to buy eSIM for the USA?

You can buy United States eSIM anytime you want. Most eSIM plans can be installed within 30 days – 90 days after purchase. However, it is best to buy the eSIM plan for USA one day before your departure date or even on the day departure to USA to avoid wasting your validity time. 

Pro Tip: If you want to maximize your validity, it is recommended to activate your USA eSIM upon arrival after getting connected to the free WiFi at the US airport. Don't worry, all international airports in the USA have free WiFi. 

X. FAQs

Can I keep my primary phone number with an eSIM card for the USA?

Yes, you can maintain your contact through the phone number from home while still using eSIM. Your eSIM-compatible phone can work with both your primary physical SIM / eSIM card and eSIM at the same time. No need to buy a dual phone for using an eSIM.

Can I make calls with eSIM for USA?

The function to make calls/ text SMS or not when using an eSIM for the USA depends on the features of the eSIM plan you bought. If the plan includes calling and texting credits, you can make analog calls/SMS with it. If not, you can only make calls, text messages through voice apps.

Does eSIM for USA have a phone number?

This depends on the type of eSIM plan you buy. eSIM that supports calls and texts will come with a phone number. But some data-only eSIMs do not support calls and texts but come with a phone number. This type of eSIM allows you to receive calls/SMS but does not allow you to make calls/SMS.

Should I buy a USA eSIM with unlimited data?

It depends on you. There are some eSIM providers offering so-called unlimited data eSIM plans. However, it is not as “unlimited” as it seems. Unlimited data is nearly never unlimited data at max speed.There is always a speed throttling called Fair Use Policy (FUP). It means after a certain amount of high speed mobile data, you can still continue using data for Internet access but the speed will slow down. So, pay attention to the eSIM card specifications. 

What is the cheapest e-SIM card for the USA?

Cheapest eSIM card for the USA is USA eSIM Gigago. They have an eSIM plan that offer 1GB/day used in 5 days with just $14. It means 1GB/day equals less than $3. You only get 1GB per day but that is still adequate for basic Internet habits (navigation for directions, using WhatsApp to stay in touch). If data runs out, you can still buy further. 

Can I use the eSIM in the US to transfer data across devices?

You can transfer data among devices using an eSIM from Gigago, allowing your family and friends to connect as well.

How is the eSIM for the USA activated?

Your eSIM will function once you activate mobile data and data roaming, install the eSIM using a QR code from your email, and select it as the default mobile data medium. If you have any issues, get in touch with the business.