How to buy a sim card in the United States (2022)

Zorica Lončar

Planning a trip to the US? If you’re staying a while or are worried about overseas roaming charges from your mobile operator, you could look into getting a US sim card for your UK phone.

But how easy is it to buy and use a US sim card, and how much do they cost? We’ll answer these questions and more here in this handy guide. With our help, you’ll be all set with data, calls and messages for your trip.

We’ll even throw in a handy tip to save you money on your holiday spending. Get a Wise international debit card and you can spend in USD just like a local, with your GBP automatically converted at the fairest exchange rate.

But more on that later. First, let’s get you sorted with a US sim card.

Can I get a sim card in the USA?

You can buy a sim card in the US, simply picking one up from a store when you land in the US. Here’s where to head to¹:

  • Walmart
  • Walgreens
  • 7-Eleven
  • Target
  • CVS.

And of course, you can pick one up at a mobile operator’s retail store. The three major networks in the US are AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon.

AT&T has over 5,000 retail stores across the US, and offers the option to order online and pickup at a store². Find the nearest store to where you’re staying here.

T-Mobile USA has around 8,000 locations³ across the country, and you can find your nearest store here.

Verizon also has several thousand stores across the US, but it may not be the best option for visitors from the UK. This is because Verizon sim cards don’t tend to work in phones purchased in the UK¹.

Can I get a US sim card in the UK?

Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to buy your US sim card in advance of your trip. This is because mobile network operators in the US don’t tend to ship their sim cards to addresses in the UK¹.

How much is a USA sim card?

It all depends on the operator, sim type and what’s included in the plan, but you can expect to pay around $30 USD⁴ (approx. £25 GBP) a month for a prepaid US sim card. This is a flexible plan, where you pay in advance for a bundle of data, minutes and texts. However, you aren’t tied into a contract, so you can cancel or switch any time.

Prepaid is the most popular option in the US outside of a contract. If you’re looking for USA sim cards with Pay As You Go, you might find that your options are limited to prepaid plans only.

Bear in mind that if you want a US sim card with unlimited data, you can expect to pay a lot more per month.

Best prepaid sim cards for tourists

Let’s run through a couple of the best and cheapest prepaid sim cards for tourists visiting the US for a relatively short stay:

PlanBundleMonthly costOther details
AT&T Prepaid 5GB⁴- 5GB high speed data- Unlimited text to 230+ countries- Unlimited calls (within US)$30Free sim card for the USA and no activation fees when you bring your own phone and sign up for a plan online.⁵
T-Mobile Simply Prepaid 10GB⁶- 10GB data- Unlimited calls and text$40Pay an additional fee and you can use this US sim card for international calls⁶.

The plans above are available to buy online, and in some cases you’ll be able to order online and pick up in person. But be aware that the prices and plan details may not be the same as the sim card deals available to buy in stores.

And in addition to the monthly cost, there may also be activation fees and other charges to pay. However, you can avoid some of these by bringing your own phone (as many plans otherwise come with a device included).

Save on holiday spending with the Wise international debit card

As well as getting a sim card sorted for your phone, you’ll also need to find the cheapest way to spend while in the US. The Wise debit card could be the ideal solution, especially if you travel between the UK and US regularly.

Open a free Wise multi-currency account online and you can get a Wise debit card for spending in 200+ countries, including the US. This contactless card automatically converts your GBP to USD at the mid-market exchange rate whenever you spend. There’s just a tiny currency conversion fee to pay, or it’s free if you already have USD in your account.

Plus, you can withdraw up to £200 in cash from US ATMs a month - for free. And it works with Google Pay and Apple Pay too.

So, if you want to spend in USD for less, without the need to change money or carry cash around, it has to be Wise. Get started here.

Join Wise today

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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