Best USA SIM Cards for Tourists with Data: Updated Prices & Where to Buy

If you’re planning a trip to the United States, don’t rely on roaming or free WiFi to stay connected. As a tourist, one of the best things you can do is to get a local USA SIM card. Using the ‘best USA SIM cards‘ will give you stable and affordable cellular data during your travels.

Local SIM cards allow you to make calls, send texts (either analog or via apps) and have reliable internet without surprises. In this guide,  you will learn everything about SIM card for the USA, from which type of SIM to choose, updated price for USA SIM plans, where to buy, what to prepare, our recommendation on which mobile operator in USA to go for, and more. Let’s take a look!

USA sim cards for tourists

I. Should You Get a SIM Card in the USA?

Can Foreigners Get a SIM Card in the USA?

Yes, foreigners can get a SIM card for the USA without hassle. But, if buying in stores in USA, you need to go through the registration process, which requires you to show your passport and possibly a photo. 

Should you get a SIM Card for traveling in the USA?

Yes, again.

Free WiFi? You will not want to rely on free WiFi which may not always be available on the road, not counting for the risk of unsecured connection. Assume that you need an Internet connection to navigate the maps, order a taxi, book reservations, find nearby restaurants, check emails while on the road. Staying connected stably with the Internet will make your trip much easier and safer as well. 

Roaming? You can think of it when it comes to getting the Internet while being abroad, but it is expensive, especially in the USA. 

Using pocket WiFi? This option may help you stay online but it is still inconvenient because you have to rent or buy the device, always bring it along with you to have Internet connection, or have to maintain the essential distance so as to share the Internet with other devices. 

Buying a prepaid SIM card for the USA will solve all the mentioned problems. It takes a few minutes to set up and get connected almost instantly. 

Important Note: before buying a USA SIM card, make sure that your phone is unlocked if you want to use prepaid SIM cards or eSIM cards in the USA or other countries.

II. Which Types of Prepaid USA SIM Cards is the Best for Tourists?

Types of USA sim cards for tourists

There is nothing so-called the Best for tourists when it comes to means of staying connected. It depends on the trip, the needs, and the destination. However, there will be a better option that gives a good overall experience. 

Basically, there are 02 types of prepaid USA SIM cards for tourists: Physical and virtual SIM.

Here is a comparison table on physical and virtual SIM cards for USA travel that help you decide which is the best (for you):

CriteriaPhysical SIM CardVirtual SIM Card
FeaturesComes with nano/micro SIM chip card that gets inserted into your phoneNo physical chip. Data account can be accessed over any supported device using app
Plan typeData-featured and data + voice + textData-featured and data + voice + text
ConvenienceRequires visiting a store to purchase and activateCan be purchased and activated online easily from anywhere
How to useInsert card into SIM slot and power on phoneDownload app, sign up, and connect devices over WiFi/cellular data
ProsWorks without any app, universally compatibleVery portable, can share one account on multiple devices
ConsNot as portable, need separate card per deviceRequires compatible device and internet to activate service

As in the table above, it can be said that physical SIMs are more universal but less convenient to obtain while virtual SIMs are highly portable but need internet/apps to activate service.

Our recommendation:

If your phone is not equipped with eSIM technology, and that you need to stay connected and do not mind making analog calls/texts, use physical prepaid data-only USA SIM cards. 

But if your phone is eSIM equipped, consider a prepaid data-only eSIM for the USA because it will eliminate all weaknesses associated with physical SIMs.

Important Note: To use eSIM, your mobile device must be unlocked and eSIM-compatible. Check the updated eSIM-supported list of devices.

III. How much does a USA SIM Card Cost?

Prepaid SIM cards price for the USA is not cheap at all. The average cost of a prepaid SIM card for the USA is around $50

The reasons can be that there are not many mobile operators in the USA so the prices are not competitive.

For more affordable USA SIM card deals, consider buying international prepaid SIM card plans with data or eSIM for the USA to get connected during your trip in 2024. 

IV. Buying Best USA SIM Card Packages for Tourists + Price

In the USA, there are only 03 main mobile internet operators: T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon and many MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) of these major operators.  

Below are some packages for USA travel of the major US cellular internet operators:

1. Buying USA T-Mobile SIM Card Plans and Price

Here are some prepaid plans for tourists to USA of T-Mobile:

  • Cover USA only: 10GB of high speed data + unlimited talk, text, valid for 30 days = $40
  • Cover USA, Canada, Mexico: 10GB of high speed data + unlimited talk, text, valid for 30 days = $50

2. Buying USA Verizon SIM Card Plans and Price

Some prepaid plans for USA travel of Verizon include:

  • 6GB of high speed data + unlimited call/text using Verizon’s 4G/5G network (auto renew each 30 days), valid for 30 days = $40
  • 15GB of high speed data + unlimited text from USA to specific countries ,valid for 30 days = $50

3. Buying USA AT&T SIM Card Plans and Price

Prepaid plans for tourists to USA offered by AT&T are:

  • 3GB of high speed data on AT&T’s 4G and 5G network nationwide + unlimited talk, text, used for 30 days = $35
  • 15GB of high speed data + 500MB high speed data used in Mexico and Canada + unlimited talk/text, used for 30 days = $50

Note: The plan offerings and pricing are subject to change at any time based on the mobile network operator’s business policies.

IV. Where to Buy a Tourist SIM Card for the USA?

Where to buy a SIM card for USA

Here are the details about buying a tourist SIM card for USA in simple points:

1. Buy online before departure

  • How: Purchase from websites of USA carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or other travel SIM retailers, etc. Can ship to international addresses.
  • Requirements: Valid passport details (if buying from mobile network operators). May require VPN if buying from abroad.
  • Cost: Starting around $30 for basic plan. Shipping may apply.
  • Convenience: Can be used right away upon arrival. Saves airport trip.
  • Pros: Pre-planning, no hassle upon arrival. 
  • Cons: Non-refundable if plans change. Network coverage uncertainty.

2. Buy at airports after arrival

  • How: Purchase at airport kiosks of carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile etc. at the airports like LAX, SFR,…
  • Requirements: Valid passport, cash (possibly), unlocked phone.
  • Cost: Around $30-50 for basic plan. Activation fees may apply.
  • Convenience: Can be used right away. No shipping delays. Try before buying.
  • Pros: Instant activation, see network coverage firsthand. 
  • Cons: Limited options, higher prices.

Important Note: In fact, buying a prepaid SIM card at international airports in the United States can be overwhelming. Some airports (like JFK in New York) do not have kiosks for mobile network operators. You just can buy SIM cards through vending machines.

3. Buy in US cities at official stores, convenience stores

  • How: Visit carrier stores in major cities. Amazon sells some cards too.
  • Requirements: Valid ID mostly.
  • Cost: $20-40 for basic plans on average. Discount stores available.
  • Convenience: Wider options than airport. Return policies vary.
  • Pros: Cheaper options, coverage support. 
  • Cons: Delayed activation, extra travel effort.

4. Buy eSIM online

  • How: Register for eSIM on carrier websites without physical SIM.
  • Requirements: Compatible smartphone, ID verification.
  • Cost: Around $30 for average plan currently. Rates vary.
  • Convenience: Instant activation, no shipping. Limited device compatibility.
  • Pros: Contactless, global use. 
  • Cons: Wastage if plans change. Device compatibility.

It is estimated that buying online before travel is most convenient but airports kiosks offer instant options with 17% higher average rates. 

Our recommendation: The best, easiest and cheapest way to get data for Internet connection for USA travel is a prepaid USA eSIM card. Gigago recommends ordering an eSIM for the USA through online retailers instead of network operators because the latter will require you to register with an ID or passport. 

V. How Much Data is Enough for a Prepaid Tourist SIM Card for USA?

Here is a summary of data usage and plan recommendations for your USA trip:

User TypeApproximate Monthly Data Usage
Heavy User10+ GB
Medium User3-5 GB
Light User1-2 GB

One gigabyte (1GB) of data should allow for light activities like checking email, using maps, and light browsing on your phone during your trip. You may want to get more if taking lots of photos or videos to share.

For a medium user, it is suggested to get a plan with 3-5 GB. This will let you use apps, browse online, and share photos without worrying about going over your limit.

This provides good value and flexibility for your U.S. trip.

Pro Tip: Consider your travel duration. Long stays suit 120GB annual SIMs while short trips pair well with 1-2 week smaller data bundles.

VII. USA eSIM – Alternative to Physical SIM Cards to Get Internet in USA

Gigago usa esim - usa sim cards
Gigago USA esim plans

Now, you know that an eSIM for the USA has many advantages over the physical one. There is no reason not to choose eSIMs if your phone supports it. 

If you wonder which eSIM provider for USA travel is the best, consider Gigago eSIM. Gigago offers multiple data plan options for the United States, starting from a 5-day plan with 1GB per day for $14 as their most minimal plan. They also have 7-day, 15-day, and 30-day plans ranging from 1GB to 20GB of total data, or 1GB to 2GB per day, with prices from $14 up to $141.50.

Apart from varied data plans, some benefits of their plans that you can reap if buying:

  • Works on AT&T and T-Mobile networks all over the USA for reliable service anywhere.
  • Instant delivery by email within 5 minutes. Fast and easy setup by scanning the QR code.
  • Live support via chat if issues come up on trips.
  • Reviews show it gives good coverage and value compared to expensive roaming fees from other options

To see more details, visit United States eSIM by Gigago.

VIII. Which USA Mobile Networks Are The Best for Tourists?

1. T-Mobile

  • Rank: T-Mobile is the third largest wireless network operator in the USA by subscribers.
  • Coverage: T-Mobile’s network covers over 306 million people across 1.6 million square miles in the USA. Its 5G network reaches more than 210 million people.
  • Speed: LTE 30-50Mbps, 5G 100-200Mbps depending on location and network congestion.
  • 5G Network: T-Mobile has deployed its 5G network on both low-band and mid-band spectrum frequencies. This provides widespread 5G coverage as well as faster speeds.
  • Pros: aggressively lowering prices. Provides good coverage in many metropolitan areas. Mid-band 5G spectrum provides faster average speeds.
  • Cons: coverage is generally lower in remote areas compared to Verizon and AT&T. Capacity in very dense areas could be challenged at times without C-band or mmWave spectrum.
T-Mobile coverage map - USA sim cards
T-Mobile coverage map (source: nperf)

2. Verizon

  • Rank: the 1st in the U.S by wireless subscribers.
  • Coverage:  covers over 262 million people across 1.8 million square miles in the USA. This includes rural and remote areas with 4G LTE coverage.
  • Speed: average LTE download speeds around 50-150 Mbps depending on location, 5G speed range from 200 to 1000Mbps with mmWave coverage.
  • 5G: utilizes low-band, mid-band and high-band mmWave spectrum for fastest speeds
  • eSIM: Supported on most recent phones
  • Pros: Best coverage overall, fastest 5G speeds, reliable network performance.
  • Cons: Most expensive plans compared to rivals like T-Mobile and AT&T. 5G is still not available in some locations even in major markets.
Verizon coverage map - USA sim cards
Verizon coverage map (source: nperf)

3. AT&T

AT&T is the second-largest wireless carrier in the United States.  It is one of the “Big Three” wireless carriers in the US, along with Verizon and T-Mobile.

Coverage: has one of the most extensive networks in the US, covering over 99% of the country’s population

Speed: generally fast, with average download speeds of around 30 Mbps, according to Ookla’s data

5G access: AT&T has rolled out 5G coverage in many parts of the US, including major cities and suburban areas

Pros: Extensive network coverage, fast network speeds, access to 5G network, strong global presence


  • Network can be congested in some areas
  • Pricing can be higher than some competitors
  • Limited international data roaming options
  • Some customers have reported issues with billing and data throttling
  • Controversies over data privacy and net neutrality
AT&T coverage map - USA sim cards
AT&T coverage map (source: nperf)

In summary, in terms of coverage and speed, three network operators give similar performances in urban areas.

Verizon comes at a higher cost compared to other carriers. 

AT&T and T-Mobile are for on-budget travelers. 

Our recommendation: Choose T-Mobile SIM cards after all because this network has an extensive 5G network over all the country and offers cheaper plans than AT&T and Verizon. 

IX. How to Use USA Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM

1. Using prepaid USA tourist SIM Cards

Here are the steps to use a USA tourist SIM card:

  • Check if your phone is unlocked by your current provider before arriving in USA
  • Purchase a tourist SIM card online from a provider like AT&T, T-Mobile, etc before traveling. Choose a data-only plan.
  • Read the instructions to see if your phone model is compatible with the SIM provider
  • Insert SIM card into your phone as soon as you land in USA and power on
  • Turn on cellular or mobile data in your phone settings
  • You may need to select the SIM provider’s carrier in settings for data and calls

2. Setting up and activating USA eSIM 

Here are the steps to use a USA tourist eSIM card:

  • Check if your phone supports eSIM on the provider’s website
  • Purchase the eSIM plan online from the provider before travel
  • The provider will email you the eSIM profile within minutes
  • Ensure your phone is connected to wifi before installing
  • Go to settings, tap eSIM and Import a profile
  • Scan the QR code from the email using your camera
  • Follow the on-screen prompts to activate the eSIM profile
  • Once activated, enable roaming on your phone settings
  • You can now use data, text/calls when connected to partner networks
  • To remove eSIM, go to settings and tap “Cancel Subscription”


What kind of SIM card do I need for the USA?

If your phone does not support eSIM, You need a micro-SIM card (3FF form factor) to use in the USA, which is the standard size for most unlocked phones. Regular SIM cards will not work.
If your phone supports eSIM, go for it.

Do I need an unlocked phone to use a SIM card in the USA?

Yes, your phone needs to be unlocked by your current carrier to be able to accept a SIM from another provider like AT&T or T-Mobile.

How much data do I need for a SIM card in the USA?

1GB of data per week is usually enough for basic maps, messaging and social media. Heavy streamers may want 3GB or more. It depends on your usage habits.

Can I keep my home SIM while using a USA SIM?

Yes, go for USA eSIM so you can keep your regular home SIM in the phone and don’t miss important calls/texts from contacts back home.

XI. Conclusion

In conclusion, using a USA SIM card for tourists is highly recommended to stay online conveniently while traveling. Both physical and eSIM options are easily available online from providers at affordable price points. Travelers can purchase data-only plans catered to their usage while maintaining privacy with a separate local number.