Are you planning your trip to the United States and looking for an e-sim card to stay connected? This is a complete guide with everything you need to know before ordering an e-sim card for traveling to the USA.

In this guide you can find a comparison of the best e-sim cards for the United States, up to date prices as per April 2024, all the USA e-sim card specifications, my recommendation and the advantages and disadvantages of e-sim cards. I will show you where and when to order an e-sim card, a comparison with local prepaid sim cards and of course links to directly order your e-sim card for the United States on the internet.

Already since 2012 I am a full time nomadic travel blogger traveling the world continuously and I constantly get to different countries. Pretty much every week I need to look for a new sim card. In 2022 I visited for example 62 different countries and in 2023 I traveled to 34 countries so imagine how many different prepaid and e-sim cards I used over the last two years.

In the past I used to buy a local prepaid sim card on arrival in every country, but nowadays I mostly use e-sim cards for staying connected when traveling abroad.

Helping fellow travelers to save money while traveling the world is one of the reasons I started this travel blog. Providing essential travel tips is how I started writing sim card guides from every country I visited and now on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world.

Of course I also wrote a complete guide for buying a tourist sim card for traveling to USA in 2024 and you can also find guides for buying a sim card on arrival at Miami Airport, Newark Airport, New York JFK Airport.

Traveltomtom also wrote specific guides for buying e-sim cards for: CanadaTurkeyFrance, Spain, Greece, Germany, Portugal, ItalyEurope, TurkeyAsiaThailand, China, Australia, Hong Kong, Singaporeinternational e-sim cards and many more.

So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your holiday destination.

In this guide about the best e-sim cards for the United States I will tell you everything you need to know about staying connected with an e-sim card when traveling to the USA in 2024. 

First I will give you my recommendation, then a comparison of the best e-sim cards for the USA with up to date prices as per April 2024, explain you how e-sim cards work, more about the network coverage and 4G/5G network, some FAQ about e-sim cards and I will also explain the difference between e-sim cards and local prepaid sim cards.

My recommendation

Traveltomtom recommends the following e-sim cards for traveling to the USA in 2024:

1. Change e-sim card for the USA from Airalo

  • $26 USD
  • 10 GB data-only e-sim
  • Valid in USA only
  • Valid for 30 days
  • 5G ready
  • $2.60 USD per Gigabyte

Airalo is the only e-sim card provider that offers USA e-sim cards that support 5G network. For $26 USD you get 10 GB data, for $16 USD you get 5 GB data and for $42 USD you get 20 GB data. Click on the link for all USA e-sim card plans from Airalo.

Click here for more info or to directly order an Airalo e-sim card for traveling in the USA.

2. Three HK e-sim from SimOptions

  • $34.90 USD
  • 20 GB data-only e-sim
  • Valid in USA, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand
  • Valid for 30 days
  • 4G/LTE
  • $1.75 USD per Gigabyte only

SimOptions sells USA e-sim cards that go down as much as $1.75 USD per Gigabyte. There are 2 e-sim cards from Three HK, but the other e-sim gives you only 10 GB data for $24.90 USD best e-sim deal you can find is the e-sim card for $24 USD and you get 20 GB data. These Three HK e-sims that you order via SimOptions are not 5G ready, only 4G/LTE is supported.

The above e-sim cards for the USA are data-only and do NOT support local calls and sms.

If you want an e-sim card for the USA including calls and texting then Traveltomtom recommends looking into buying an e-sim card on arrival in the USA in an official mobile internet store. For $65 USD you get unlimited data, calls & sms in the USA for 30 days. But you can only buy these e-sims in person in the store.

A bummer is that you can NOT buy an e-sim card at any international airport in the USA. You have to locate a phone store nearby your hotel, get in line, bring your passport for registration, etc.

Much more work then just ordering an e-sim card on the internet. It is up to you!

There are 2 very important things to check before ordering an e-sim card for the USA.

Unlocked phones only

Make sure your phone is unlocked. E-sim cards only work in unlocked phones. If you are not sure if your phone is unlocked then contact your mobile internet provider in your home country. 

In general phones from Europe, Asia and the Middle East tend to be unlocked. Phones from North America are often locked.

If your smartphone is locked that means it does not allow another prepaid sim card or e-sim card to operate in the device. You can easily unlock your phone, but depending on your mobile internet provider you will be charged a fee for unlocking your phone.

E-sim compatible phones only

Second, and equally important: a-sim cards only work if your smartphone supports e-sim cards, also called e-sim compatible. All newer smartphones support e-sim cards. If you are not sure if your phone is e-sim compatible then simply go to Google and type in your mobile phone model in the search bar and ask if it is e-sim compatible. You will get the answer instantly.

If your phone is NOT e-sim compatible then there is no other solution and you can NOT use an e-sim card for traveling to the USA. 

However, you can still order a sim card for the United States on the internet before your trip. Check out Traveltomtom’s complete guide for buying a sim card for the USA in 2024 or read my guide with everything you need to know before ordering an international sim card for traveling abroad in 2024.

USA e-sim card comparison for 2024

There are multiple website on the internet that sell e-sim cards for the USA. Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for traveling in the USA from one of the well-known e-sim card providers that have proven to be reliable operators.

These are the 3 big e-sim card providers and they sell great USA e-sim card plans: 

  1. SimOptions
  2. Airalo
  3. Nomad

You can buy an e-sim card for pretty much every country around the world from the above trusted providers. Order directly from one of the above e-sim card providers and instantly receive your e-sim card in your email. But before you buy an e-sim card first read all my tips below.

SimOptions also offers international prepaid sim cards for USA. These are pre-activated physical prepaid sim cards and will be delivered to your home address before your trip to America and it is plug and play when you arrive in the US. 

Airalo and Nomad only sell e-sim cards for the USA. 

SimOptions

SimOptions is a very reliable e-sim card provider and Traveltomtom has used SimOptions uncountable times in more than 50 countries around the world. I can totally recommend using SimOptions for ordering your USA e-sim card.

Their best USA e-sim card gives you 20 GB data for $34.90 USD. That is $1.75 USD per Gigabyte. But SimOptions has several e-sim card plans for traveling in the USA in 2024.

Why does Traveltomtom recommend SimOptions? They often have a wide array of e-sim cards for sale, including international e-sim cards valid in multiple countries.

simoptions esim card plans for usa 2024

Here are the SimOptions e-sim card plans for use in the USA only:

  • 1 GB data for 30 days = $4.9 USD
  • 6 GB data for 10 days = $17.9 USD
  • 10 GB data for 15 days = $19.9 USD

Click here for more info or to order a Simoptions e-sim card for the USA.

SimOptions does not specify which network they use in the USA on the above e-sims and they are also NOT 5G ready, only 4G/LTE network is supported. The SimOptions e-sim cards are data-only and they do not come with a phone number. Incoming and outgoing calls and sms are not supported.

three hk esim card plans for usa 2024

SimOptions also sells international e-sim cards that are valid in multiple countries. These e-sim cards are from Three Hong Kong and are valid in Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and in the USA:

  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $24.90 USD
  • 20 GB data for 30 days = $34.90 USD

Click here to order an international e-sim card for USA from SimOptions

The best buy e-sim card for the United States from SimOptions is the Three (3) HK e-sim card. The Three HK international e-sim card with 20 GB data for $34.90 USD comes down to $1.75 USD per Gigabyte.

Also the Three e-sim cards for the United States are the only e-sim cards from all the USA e-sim cards available on the internet that come with a phone number from Hong Kong that starts with +852.

Which means you can receive calls and sms. Making calls and sending sms is not supported.

On the Three e-sim cards from Hong Kong, Traveltomtom readers have recently reported that TikTok is blocked, due to regulations in Hong Kong, as it is a Hong Kong based e-sim card.

The Three e-sim cards are valid for 1 year, meaning you have to install/activate the e-sim card within 1 year. Therefore it could be a perfect travel gift for someone traveling to the USA. Once activated the validity of 30 days start immediately, even if you are not yet in the USA.

Having any problems with a SimOptions e-sim card then contact their helpdesk. SimOptions has a live chat on their website during business hours. For more info check out the SimOptions website.

Airalo

Airalo is another very reputable e-sim card provider that is very much recommended by Traveltomtom. Ordering your e-sim card for the USA through Airalo is done fast and easy. Traveltomtom has used Airalo uncountable times for staying connected when traveling abroad. Very reliable, never an issue and often some of the cheapest e-sim card deals.

Why using Airalo? I found out that Airalo has sometimes cheaper e-sim card deals compared to SimOptions. 

Especially if you only use a little bit of data while traveling and need just 1 or 2 GB data to stay in touch through WhatsApp, check your email sometimes and get directions from Google Maps, then Airalo is also great e-sim card for traveling in the USA.

airalo esim card plans for usa 2024

Here are the USA e-sim card plans for 2024 from Airalo:

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $4.5 USD
  • 2 GB data for 15 days = $8 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $11 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $16 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $26 USD
  • 20 GB data for 30 days = $42 USD

Click here to order an e-sim card for USA from Airalo.

The above Change e-sim cards are only valid in the USA (and Puerto Rico) and they operate on the 4G/LTE/5G network of Verizon and T-Mobile. Big advantage of the Airalo e-sim cards compared to SimOptions and Nomad is that the Airalo e-sim cards for the USA are 5G ready.

The Airalo e-sim cards do NOT support calling and texting and they do NOT come with a phone number. You can not receive calls and text on these e-sim cards.

The USA e-sim cards from Airalo have to be installed/activated on your phone within 1 month after purchase otherwise they lose their validity. After installing, the e-sim cards starts its validity from the first moment when it connects to a supported network, basically the moment the plane lands. For more info check out the Airalo website.

Nomad

Nomad has proven to be a reliable e-sim provider and ever since Traveltomtom started using them they have improved their service, products and very important their e-sim card deals.

Nomad has now some of the cheapest e-sim card plans for traveling to the United States in 2024.

nomad esim card plans for usa 2024

Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for the USA:

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $6 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $11 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $14 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $16 USD
  • 20 GB data for 30 days = $25 USD

Click here to order an e-sim card for USA from Nomad.

Nomad always has a lot of e-sim card deals and sales on their e-sim card plans. At the moment it looks great to buy an e-sim from Nomad for traveling to the USA in 2024.

However, Traveltomtom has also ran into some concerning issues with Nomad e-sim cards that has put me a bit off to be honest. In general you should not run into problems, but I was unfortunate already 3x and had to wait for about 24 hours until my issues were resolved.

All the Nomad e-sim card plans for the USA are from eSIM Go and they operate on the 4G/LTE network of AT&T and Verizon. These eSIM Go plans are NOT 5G ready and are data-only sim cards. Incoming and outgoing calls are not supported.

nomad usa esim card specifications

The Nomad USA e-sim cards have to be installed/activated on your phone within 1 month after purchase otherwise they are automatically activated. After installing, the e-sim cards starts its validity from the first moment when it connects to a supported network, basically the moment the plane lands in the USA. For more info check the Nomad website.

T-Mobile

An e-sim card from T-Mobile can only be bought on arrival in the USA and only in an official store of T-Mobile. The activation fee for a new costumer is $10 USD and on top of that T-Mobile charges another $4.99 USD for an e-sim card and then you can choose from one of the following plans excluding tax:

  • 10 GB data = $40 USD
  • Unlimited data + 3G hotspot = $50 USD
  • Unlimited data + 10 GB 4G hotspot = $60 USD

The good thing about buying a T-Mobile e-sim card on arrival in the USA in a phone store is that it comes with unlimited calling and texting in the USA.

Again, a T-Mobile e-sim card is not available online, only in stores in the USA.

AT&T

An e-sim card from AT&T can only be bought on arrival in the USA and only in an official store of AT&T. The activation fee for a new costumer is $14.99 USD and on top of that AT&T charges another $4.99 USD for an e-sim card and then you can choose from one of the following plans excluding tax:

  • 5 GB data = $30 USD
  • 15 GB data = $40 USD
  • Unlimited calls/sms and data = $65 USD

The good thing about buying an AT&T e-sim card on arrival in the USA in a phone store is that it comes with unlimited calling and texting in the USA.

Again, an AT&T e-sim card is not available online, only in stores in the USA.

Verizon

An e-sim card from Verizon can only be bought on arrival in the USA and only in an official store of Verizon. Verizon offer 3 prepaid plans for tourists that are available as e-sim cards. These are the prices exclusive tax:

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

The official registration fee for a Verizon prepaid plan is $25 USD, but is waived away often. A Verizon e-sim card is not available online, only in stores in the USA.

Why did Traveltomtom already use hundreds of e-sim cards? I travel the world full time and I am on the road constantly which seriously means I use about 40 to 50 different sim cards per year.

Traveltomtom is also on the road to 197, meaning I would like to travel to every country in the world. As of April 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, still more than 40 to go and there is absolutely no rush!

Personally, traveling is not supposed to be a race or a competition. Enjoy life should be the spirit!

What is the cheapest e-sim card for the USA

The cheapest e-sim card plan for America is a USA e-sim card from Airalo. They have a sim card plan for just $4.5 USD. You only get 1 GB, but for some travelers that is enough. Especially if you only need it for directions and staying in touch through WhatsApp. Top Up is possible, may you run out.

Why ordering an e-sim card for traveling in the USA

E-sim cards are the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to USA in 2024. You arrange everything online in just a couple minutes. No more visiting a sim card shop and swapping physical sim cards in your phone. Order online, scan the QR code, follow the steps and you are connected in less than 2 minutes.

The most important reason is because we would like to stay connected on our trip to USA. Our smartphones are pretty useless without a working data connection. Think about ordering a taxi through an app (Uber is Grab in USA), finding nearby friends, restaurants, bars. Get directions from Google Maps or simply stay in touch with family back home, check out social media apps on long bus rides or check your banking apps when paying contactless.

One of the best things about arriving in the USA with an activated e-sim card is that you are online as soon as the plane lands and you connect to a network. More about when to instal your e-sim card later. 

There are so many reasons to stay connected when traveling to the USA, but the most important reason is that it makes your trip to USA so much more convenient and fun!

At the same time we don’t want to waste money on high roaming charges. Many mobile internet operators still charge $2 USD per MB for data roaming, that means just opening the Instagram app will already cost you 25 MB * $2 USD = $50 USD! Not kidding… it still is reality in 2024.

E-sim cards are the easiest way to avoid high roaming charges!

International data roaming plans

So what about overseas data roaming plans? Well, not recommended! Why? Did you read the small letters at what speed you can use data roaming? Pretty much all mobile internet operators limit the data speed for overseas data roaming plans, which means you end up with 3G data speed, but there is 5G in the USA everywhere!

Uncountable times (mostly American) travel friends asked me: “can I use your hotspot? My data roaming plan is so slow, it is barely working!” Trust me, get yourself an e-sim card or an international prepaid sim card for traveling abroad.

Where to buy an e-sim card for USA?

Online

You can only buy an e-sim card for USA on the internet through an e-sim card provider. There are multiple e-sim card providers for the USA. Traveltomtom compared 6 e-sim card providers and determined that the above mentioned ones (SimOptionsAiraloNomad) are the best e-sim card providers for traveling to USA in 2024.

None of the mobile internet operators in the USA sell tourist e-sim cards on their own websites. 

When buying an e-sim card for the USA through one of the above recommended e-sim providers you only need your email address and the e-sim card is instantly ready to use after installation. There is no ID registration needed. 

On arrival in USA

When you arrive in the USA and you want to buy an e-sim card for tourists then you will have to find an official retail store of either T-Mobile or AT&T nearby and you will have to go in person to buy an e-sim card in the USA. In the store you can buy a tourist sim card and only in the official retail stores of AT&T and T-Mobile they are able to provide e-sim cards for tourists.

But keep in mind that this takes time and it is NOT cheaper at all! It is in fact even more expensive, hence why Traveltomtom recommends to order your e-sim card for traveling in the USA online.

For the best prepaid sim cards for tourists in the USA in 2024 click on the link to read my complete guide and comparison of all the mobile internet providers in USA, including a comparison of the 4G/5G network.

How to activate an e-sim card

Installing and activating an e-sim card is made as simple as possible. Everyone can activate an e-sim card and the instructions on how to are very detailed and will be send to you instantly by email.

When you order an e-sim card plan for the USA you instantly receive a summery of your order including a QR-code after the payment is processed.

You will see a summary of your e-sim card order including a QR code on your screen and at the same time you will also receive an email with the same QR code. The email contains instructions on how to instal and activate your USA e-sim card.

But installing an activating an e-sim card is as easy as scanning the QR code with the same phone where you want to activate the e-sim card on. The QR contains all the information about your USA e-sim card.

Once you scan the code you will be guided through a couple simple steps and within less than 1 minute your e-sim card is successfully installed. Very important is that you are connected to the internet when installing your e-sim card otherwise you will get an error and issues can occur.

Tip: if you order an e-sim card with the same phone where you want to instal the e-sim card on then ask a friend or someone nearby to take a photo of the QR code and then you scan the QR code from his/her phone and start the installation. 

When to order/install an e-sim card for the USA?

You can order an e-sim card for USA pretty much any time you want. Most e-sim cards have to be installed on a phone within 1-3 months after purchasing, so you have time.

More important therefore is when do you instal the e-sim card. The validity of some e-sims start straight after the installation, other e-sim cards only start their validity when they connect the first time to a supported network.

Traveltomtom advices to instal your e-sim card on the day departure to the USA at home. Or if you want to maximise your validity then activate your USA e-sim card on arrival after you connect to the free WiFi of the airport on arrival in the USA. All international airports in the USA have free public WiFi.

Things to know before ordering an e-sim card for USA

Here are some general tips for using e-sim cards when traveling abroad. These tips do not only apply for USA e-sim cards, but are things you have to know before buying an e-sim card in general. 

Make sure your phone is unlocked

To make sure you didn’t miss this, let me say this again: e-sim cards only work in UNLOCKED phones. If your phone is unlocked then you can use any e-sim card without any problems.

If your phone is locked then ask your mobile internet provider from your home country to unlock your phone before your trip to USA. It is likely that your mobile internet provider will charge you a fee for unlocking your smartphone. 

If you are unable to unlock your phone you can look into getting a pocket WiFi for staying connected when traveling to the USA or bring a second unlocked phone on your trip to the USA and use it as a portable WiFi device.

Which smartphones support e-sim cards?

Another very important thing you have to check before buying an e-sim card is if your smartphone supports e-sim cards. If you have any of the latest mobile phones then there is no need to worry, all new smartphones support e-sim cards. 

The fastest way to find out if your phone is e-sim compatible is by asking Google the question: is my (your phone model) e-sim compatible? Simple as that!

Can I trust these e-sim card providers?

All the e-sim card providers for USA recommended above (SimOptionsAiraloNomad) are reputable e-sim card providers reviewed and tested by Traveltomtom. All of them are licensed third party companies and resellers that partner or work directly with the mobile internet providers in the USA.

Traveltomtom has successfully partnered for several consecutive years with SimOptions and Airalo. Nomad is a fairly new partner of Traveltomtom, but has so far proven to be a reliable e-sim card provider. All e-sim card providers have their own Helpdesk which you can contact may you encounter any problems or in case you want to claim a refund. 

Traveltomtom does NOT sell USA e-sim cards, only recommends you to use e-sim cards for traveling to the USA.

Can I keep my phone number from home with a USA e-sim card?

Yes, you can and this is for many people a reason to order an e-sim card to stay connected when traveling to the USA. An e-sim card can be used next to your physical or e-sim card from your home country at the same time. You do not need a dual-sim phone for using an e-sim card.

So you can have multiple e-sim cards installed on your phone? Yes, no problem at all! 

For example: you can turn off the mobile data from your sim card from home but still use it for texting and calling. The USA e-sim card you can be used at the same time just for data to ensure you are not wasting money on high roaming costs.

If your USA e-sim card also allows you to make phone calls and you want to make a local call in USA, you simply switch between the sim cards and make a local phone call with your USA e-sim card.

Switching between sim cards is a matter of turning them on/off in the settings. 

Can I make phone calls with a USA e-sim card?

This depends on the type of USA e-sim card that you buy. The Traveltomtom recommended e-sim cards for the USA do NOT support calls and sms, see the above comparison for specifications of every e-sim card. There are few e-sim card providers on the internet that offer USA e-sim cards including calling and texting. Traveltomtom has never tried these specific e-sim cards.

As recommended before if you are looking for an e-sim card for the USA including unlimited calls and sms to local numbers then buy your e-sim card on arrival in the USA in an official phone store from either T-Mobile or AT&T. More hassle, more expensive, but calls and texting is included in these e-sims.

Does a USA e-sim card come with a phone number?

This also depends on the type of e-sim card that you buy. E-sims that support calls and sms they come with a phone number, but also some data-only sim cards that do not support calling and texting but still come with a phone number. These type of e-sim cards can only receive calls and sms, but not make phone calls/send sms.

The Three HK and the AIS Sim2FLY e-sim cards from SimOptions they come with a phone number and therefore these e-sim cards for the USA support incoming phone calls and sms, but unfortunately not outgoing phone calls and sms. In the above USA e-sim card comparison you can find all the specifications per e-sim card.

Can I use 5G on a USA e-sim card?

It completely depends on the type of e-sim card that you order. In my comparison of the best e-sim cards for the USA I specified per e-sim card if you can use 5G or only the 4G/LTE network. Sometimes e-sim operators even specify the max data speed.

Are there e-sim cards for the USA with unlimited data?

Traveltomtom is in general not a fan of data sim cards with unlimited data. Why? Well, there is always a restriction, mostly called FUP (Fair Use Policy). Sometimes that is already 2 GB data per day, which means that after 2 GB usage your internet will be slowed down. Other e-sim cards have a FUP of 30, 50, 80 GB data. It depends on the e-sim card specification.

In general, unlimited data is pretty much never unlimited data at max speed. And trust me the reduced data speed will creep you out as it barely works!

So yes, there are e-sim cards for the USA with unlimited data but always read the fine print for more details, terms & conditions. The recommended e-sim card providers by Traveltomtom do NOT offer e-sim cards for the USA with unlimited data. No hidden fees, no Fair Use Policy. Clear terms & conditions!

Holafly is an e-sim card provider that sells e-sim cards with unlimited data, but does NOT specify what is the exact so-called Fair Use Policy (FUP).

Traveltomtom does NOT recommend USA e-sim cards with unlimited data plans. There are always restrictions. And on Holafly sim cards I experienced a reduce in data speed after using more than 2 GB per day. When I contacted support they explained me that I had to wait for 24 hours until my data speed was restored to normal.

Those 24 hours were a nightmare as my data speed was barely enough to use WhatsApp. Social media apps were not even loading! 

Again, Traveltomtom does NOT recommend e-sim cards for USA with unlimited data. But if you think you will not use more than 2 GB per day, then this might be your favorite e-sim card. However, what is then the point of having an e-sim card with unlimited data, right?

For truly unlimited data on an USA e-sim card it is best to buy your e-sim card in person, in store in the USA. Go to a T-Mobile or AT&T retail store for these sim card deals or check out Traveltomtom's complete guide for buying a prepaid sim card for the USA in 2024

There are a lot of different specifications per e-sim card. Another reason why I advice you to take a close at my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to USA in 2024.

Best way to stay connected when traveling to USA

buying a sim card for the usa

E-sim cards are the easiest and fastest way to get data on your phone when traveling to USA, but are they also the best way to stay connected when traveling to the USA?

There are 3 ways to stay connected when traveling to USA: 

  • Local prepaid sim cards
  • International prepaid sim cards
  • E-sim cards

Let’s compare e-sim cards, local prepaid sim cards and international prepaid sim cards for you to make understand what is your preferred way to stay connected. 

Local prepaid sim cards

If you use a lot of data then local prepaid sim cards are probably the cheapest way to stay connected depending on the length of your trip. Local prepaid sim cards often offer bigger data plans than e-sim cards. However, local prepaid sim cards can only be purchased on arrival in the USA.

If this sounds like something you want then prepare to find a sim card store on arrival because buying a sim card for the USA on an international airport is very overpriced or often not even possible. 

On Traveltomtom you can also find sim card guides for: Miami Airport, Newark Airport, New York JFK Airport.

More info about the best USA sim cards for tourists can be found in my complete guide for buying a sim card for USA in 2024.

The advantage of local prepaid sim cards is that you buy them directly from the mobile internet provider. You get the cheapest prices, unlimited local calls & sms included, the biggest data packages and the fastest data speed. Local prepaid sim cards in USA all offer 5G. 

International prepaid sim cards

international prepaid sim cards for usa 2024

If your smartphone is not e-sim compatible there are many international prepaid sim cards for traveling abroad that you can use in the USA and you can easily order them online.

A pre-activated physical sim card will be delivered to your home address before your trip. You put this physical sim card in your phone and as soon as the plane touches the ground and the sim card connects to a supported network you are online. Plug and play! 

Click here to order an international prepaid sim card for USA directly online.

The advantage of an international prepaid sim card is that it often includes calling and texting. E-sim cards are mostly data-only sim cards. 

E-sim cards

There are two different e-sim cards:

  • E-sim cards that you buy on the internet through a third party
  • E-sim cards that you buy in the USA in a mobile internet provider store 

The big difference is that e-sim cards provided by the mobile internet operators in the USA: T-Mobile and AT&T can only be purchased at one of their phone stores around the USA.

The e-sim cards that you buy in the United States include unlimited texting and sms in the USA and e-sim cards that you buy on the internet do NOT support calling and texting.

However, on arrival in the United States you will need to find a T-Mobile or AT&T phone store, wait in line, bring your passport for registration, buy a sim card, pay the registration fee and convert it into an e-sim. Precious holiday time will be lost, but on the other hand you get a great USA sim card deal for tourists with unlimited calling and texting included.

You can NOT buy an e-sim card for the USA on arrival at an international airport in the United States.

E-sim cards vs. local prepaid sim cards

Buying an e-sim card on the internet is the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to USA, no doubt! You arrange everything online within just a couple clicks. Right here, right now if you want and you are all set for your trip to the USA. You arrive prepared and there is no need to visit a sim card shop. As soon as the plane lands, you are online.

But what is cheaper? An e-sim card or a local prepaid sim card? When we compare USA e-sim card prices with local prepaid sim cards for USA Traveltomtom comes to the conclusion that in fact e-sim cards for the USA are better value for money.

On USA e-sim cards you get more data for the same price. However, if you want a sim card for traveling in the USA with unlimited data or you want a sim card that includes calling and texting in the USA then buying a local prepaid sim card in the USA is a better deal.

After a long flight you just want to go to your hotel and it is often a big task to go to a sim card store and get connected. Especially since in the USA there are no sim card stores at the international airports.

Therefore a lot of travelers simply get an e-sim card for the USA. Faster, easier and less stress!

Data speed

Another difference between a local prepaid sim card and an e-sim card is that e-sim cards are often through a third party, a so called MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). These MVNO’s operate on the network of one of the main mobile internet operators and basically buy bandwidth.

This may sound a little bit too technical, but what it means is that e-sim cards through an MVNO are the last ones in line when the line is busy. Especially during peak times, the performance of an e-sim cards is less compared to a local prepaid sim card from a mobile internet operator.

Bottomline: the data speed of e-sim cards can be less compared to a local prepaid sim card. 

I am sure some of the above tips for finding an e-sim card for your trip to the USA were helpful. I hope that after reading through my comparison of the best e-sim cards for America it was easier to make a decision and order your e-sim card right away. 

If you still have any questions then please leave me a comment below or reach out to me on social media and I am more than happy to help you out.

Curious what the life of a full time nomadic traveler looks like? Go check out my 610K Instagram account or 1.2 Million TikTok account both called @traveltomtom. Follow along with daily updates from around the world about the good, the bad and the ugly about traveling.

Traveltomtom is on the road to 197, meaning I would like to travel to every country in the world. As of April 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, still about 40 to go, but no rush.

Enjoy your trip to USA!

Some links in this article about the best e-sim cards for the USA are affiliate links. If you buy any product after clicking on an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry this is at absolutely no extra cost to you!