SIM card USA: which plan to choose?

USA SIM CARD: WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE? FIND RATES, INFO, PACKAGES…

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You are about to visit New York or another region of the United States, and you need to keep using your phone with no limit nor risk of overpriced bills? Good news: it's possible! By choosing the right USA SIM card, you can continue to use your smartphone to contact both friends and family, but you will also be able to use mobile data to post on social networks, browse the internet and use online applications.
I will explain everything right now!

HOW TO STAY CONNECTED IN THE USA?

stay connected usa

To stay in touch and connected on your phone while travelling in the USA, several solutions are available. These solutions all work in different ways and do not all allow the same usage. The most suitable offer will vary depending on your needs – but as you will see soon, some options that stand out from the rest if you’re looking to use your phone fairly frequently.

The best plan to stay connected in the USA

In my opinion, the best plan to stay connected during your stay in the USA (whether for a few days or 2 months), is to opt for a Holafly prepaid sim card. It is very easy to use and provides not only Internet connection, but also free incoming and outgoing calls anywhere in the USA. Holafly offers a number of prepaid plans to suit all uses (starting from €29 for 10 days) and the card will be delivered to you free of charge within 7 to 10 working days. Note that if your phone is compatible, you can also opt for an eSim card.

CONTINUE TO USE YOUR CLASSIC PACKAGE

Let's start with the simplest solution: use your sim as usual. It is perfectly possible to use your phone in the United States even with your regular cell phone plan. The only problem is that if you don't have an international phone plan or a business phone plan, chances are that your cell phone plan will only provide you a very small amount of data – if any at all. And in that case, using supplementary mobile data on US soil will incur roaming charges. In other words, you'll be paying for out of bundle usage, and the bill can go up VERY quickly.

Here are some examples:

  • With a THREE classic package, the mobile data rate is 1p per MB (up to £45 data roaming limit)
  • If you have a phone plan with O2 , the mobile data rate is £7.20 per MB;
  • With a EE phone plan, you will pay £5.02 per day for 500MB;
  • A phone plan with Virgin Mobile will cost you £5 per MB.

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This means that posting a handful of holiday photos on Instagram could easily cost you the price of a good restaurant! (And let's not even talk about videos...)

Incoming or outgoing calls, and sending or receiving SMS/MMS will also be charged as extra. In short, you will still be able to use the Internet in an emergency thanks to data roaming – but certainly not frequently!


THE THREE operator

Among the classic plans of the major British operators, Three plans still stand out very clearly. Indeed, the rate is only 1 p/MB. This offer is therefore much more interesting, even if its plans are subject to a commitment.

Two things should be noted, however:

  • First of all, this seemingly attractive offer does not allow unlimited use of the Internet in the United States... For example, watching a VOD film in HD on Netflix or another platform consumes about 3 GB per hour. Watching a 2-hour movie therefore costs about 6,000 MB, but it is not possible to exceed 4,500 MB. Moreover, if additional charges apply, the operator is supposed to alert you well before this limit is reached. But as you can see, even if THREE offers a tariff almost 100 times lower than its competitors, in reality it is still an offer that clearly has its limits.
  • Secondly, even though the price is much lower than those of the competitors, it comes with a less optimal coverage. You can therefore expect lower speeds, and even connection problems in some places.

Fortunately, some operators such as EE or Vodafone have offers that can be added to your standard package. These add-ons allow customers to use their phone abroad, by sending SMS, making calls, but also using mobile data.


OPT FOR AN INTERNATIONAL ROAMING PACKAGE FROM A ENGLISH OPERATOR

international package usa

As for professional packages and the more upmarket packages that provide a lot of international data, they often offer quite interesting rates and will allow you to use your phone practically at will during a stay in the USA.

Unfortunately, some of these offers do have a downside:

Some operators (such as O2 and THREE) provide customers who buy a phone from them with packages, or with a sim only, which allows them to use their data within a certain number of MB. In return though, you have to commit to a phone for 1 to 3 years.

As you can see, unless you have to go to the United States several times a year (and even then...), changing for an international package can be quite restrictive and is not really suitable for tourists and occasional travellers.

USING A PREPAID SIM CARD

Opting for a prepaid SIM card has several advantages, the most notable one being that you will be virtually guaranteed to be able to connect to the network of one of the U.S.’s largest operators (AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile), and therefore enjoy a high quality service, with consistent speeds and very wide coverage. It’s also the best way to get online and avoid expensive roaming costs. 

The concept is simple: you buy a card, choose a package that suits your needs, and that's it! Once in the United States, you will be able to make and receive internet calls thanks to applications like WhatsApp, consult and send emails, use your GPS, publish on your networks…

Depending on the package, you will even be able to make and receive classic calls, thanks to the prepaid SIM card’s American phone number. Note that very few operators propose prepaid SIM cards including calls and texts. Three U.K., for example, offers prepaid SIM cards providing one of the best internet network coverages in 3G/4G speed throughout the USA, but does not include calls or texts. It’s fine if you plan to do everything (calls and texts included) through the internet, but do take care to check which package suits you best depending on your needs.

One of the big advantages of these packages is that with them, there will be no bad surprises. For example, if you have paid for 6GB of mobile data and used it all up, you will either no longer be able to access the Internet or your bandwidth will become very limited. Some packages even offer unlimited data.

In any case, you will never be charged an extra fee for a simple mistake (like going online without noticing you’ve already used up your available data). The only things you may be charged for out of the package are international calls and text messages. VOIP calls and messages sent with applications like WhatsApp or Messenger use mobile data, so they are safe.

There are two ways to get a prepaid SIM card:

  • The first is to buy it locally in the US – though only two operators offer these prepaid SIM cards: T-Mobile and AT&T. There are many offers and some of them are quite interesting, but choosing option 1 means waiting to land in the U.S. to buy your card, which will prevent you from using your GPS, making a call or using the Uber application as soon as you arrive at the airport. Do note that prepaid SIM cards need an activation fee before they can be used (from $10 to $15, generally).
  • The second option is to order your card online. This is the most interesting solution for several reasons. Firstly, it won’t be more expensive, and you might actually even pay less than if you waited until you were in the US, thanks to certain discounts or promo codes. Secondly, you can use your phone as soon as you arrive.
    Holafly offers prepaid SIM cards for the USA which allow you to connect to the networks of the best operators in the country (I'll tell you more about these packages below). To enjoy these offers, the only precaution to take is to order your USA SIM card early enough to receive it at home before your departure! 

USING AN E-SIM CARD

esim stay united states

An eSIM card works pretty much like a prepaid SIM card, with a few differences: you won't have a smart card, instead the card will be in digital format, using a QR code. This means that you don't need to remove your regular card if your phone only has one SIM card slot, and you won't even need to go out and buy a prepaid SIM card, or wait to receive it by post.

Since your usual card remains in your phone, you will keep your number – therefore an e-SIM card does not allow regular calls nor sending or receiving SMS/MMS for free. It is only for mobile data (internet browsing, email, WhatsApp, Messenger...).

After purchasing an e-SIM card, you will immediately receive an email containing your QR code, and your package will be ready to use right away! For the e-SIM option, I actually also recommend Holafly. You can find a detailed description of their offer in the rest of this post.

SIM CARDS USA HOLAFLY

sim card usa holafly

THE PREPAID SIM CARD

This is undoubtedly one of the most suitable and practical offers for many travellers who go to visit the United States for a few days or for a stay of up to 2 months. The Holafly prepaid sim card is:

  • Very easy to use – insert the card, activate roaming and you're all set!
  • The assurance that you won't pay a penny more than you're supposed to (excluding eventual international calls and SMS),
  • A working phone number so you can call anywhere in the US and receive calls for free,
  • The ability to keep your WhatsApp number by logging into your regular account,
  • Free delivery within 7-10 business days (48 hours with paid delivery).

You can find 7 different Holafly prepaid sim cards for the US:

  • 10 days 6GB $31,62 USD
  • 15 days 8GB $37,08 USD
  • 20 days 10GB $42,53 USD
  • 30 days 12GB $47,98 USD
  • 20 days Unlimited data $64,34 USD
  • 30 days Unlimited data $94,87 USD
  • 60 days Unlimited data $184,29 USD

Even the most basic package will be more than enough for fairly intensive Internet use – as long as you avoid all video content. And being able to enjoy real unlimited data consumption in the US for £50 is undoubtedly much more interesting than the offers of the big British providers. Note that this SIM card does not allow you to share data with other devices, unlike the e-SIM card.

THE FASTEST : THE E-SIM CARD

Here is the simplest formula of all, which does not require any manipulation, and thanks to which you will not even need to anticipate and place an order a week or more before your departure date.

With the Holafly eSIM card, you will enjoy:=

  • Instant delivery,
  • A very simple setup – you just need to scan a QR Code,
  • Keeping your WhatsApp number and your regular phone number,
  • Data sharing with the people you travel with.

Here are the different Holafly eSIM card packages:

  • 5 days, 3GB $19 USD
  • 7 days, 5GB $27 USD
  • 10 days, 7GB $34 USD
  • 15 days, 12GB $44 USD
  • 20 days, 16GB $54 USD
  • 30 days, 20GB $67 USD
  • 60 days, 25GB $84 USD
  • 90 days, 30GB $104 USD 

This eSIM card package is really more convenient, and I find it especially interesting for short trips. The $19 offer for 5 days and 3 GB may suit many travellers who will spend a few days in the US – but from a week onwards, the prepaid SIM card becomes more advantageous (and unlimited data is only available with the Holafly prepaid SIM card).

If you are travelling with a partner, family or friends, the possibility of sharing the connection with an e-SIM can make all the difference. Being able to use the Internet with several people on one card is a real plus! 😉

For more detailed information on the Holafly prepaid e-SIM and SIM cards, do check out their official website! You will for sure find one of their offers interesting 🙂

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auteurs blog new york
Amélie
A first trip to New York, and a new favorite city! 30 years old, city dweller and good-plan finder, I share my New York discoveries on this blog to help you visit this magnificent city with me. With each new trip, there are more activities to discover!

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