Straight talk phones have SIM cards

Prepaid SIM card for the USA - information & comparison

If you go on a trip to the USA, you usually have your smartphone with you. In order to be able to make calls or surf the web domestically, it is worthwhile to have a SIM card from a provider for the USA, as it makes calling and surfing much cheaper. Prepaid SIM cards have the advantage over a contract that with a prepaid card, on the one hand, you have full cost control and, on the other hand, you do not have to wait for a contract period after booking.

Table of Contents
Why should I get a prepaid SIM card for a vacation in the USA? | Which prepaid card for the USA? | Cellular provider in the US - which one is recommended? | What costs should I expect? | How and when do I have the card activated? | Roaming in the USA | Alternatives to the prepaid card | How do I make calls to Germany as cheaply as possible?

Here we have compiled the most important information about prepaid cards, network providers, data usage, basic charges, tariff term, standards, numbers and co., Which will hopefully help you to buy the right prepaid SIM card for your smartphone and your USA - Plan your trip even better. After all, it is most convenient if you know before you leave for the United States how and, above all, with which network provider and with which prepaid card you can make calls there as cheaply as possible and with good reception after the start of your journey.

Click here for a selection of the best prepaid SIM cards for your USA trip

Why should I get a prepaid SIM card for a vacation in the USA?

The main argument in favor of a prepaid card in the mobile phone is definitely the lower cost. Another advantage of a prepaid card is the better overview, which promises time savings. As a tourist, for example, with a US SIM card you can save yourself the trouble of fighting your way through the jungle of basic fees, tariffs and roaming charges. By the way, you can keep your WhatsApp number during your trip to the USA, even if you travel to the place of your choice with a foreign SIM. The phone number changes, however.

Remember to give the number to your friends and relatives before you leave so they can call you on the correct number for calls.

Most packages and prepaid cards allow tourists to top up their credit online while in the United States. The same applies, of course, to business travelers. The credit is usually loaded directly onto the SIM card within 24 hours. After the credit has been topped up, the phone number is usually valid for another two months (60 days).

Danger: If your current mobile phone has a SIM lock, you cannot use the phone with a prepaid SIM card. You then need a smartphone without a SIM lock as a solution.

Buy prepaid cards online - the right prepaid SIM card for your trip to the USA

There are now a number of suitable prepaid cards for the USA. In around 30 years of travel experience in the United States of America, however, we have decided on this product:

USA prepaid SIM card from Simly

  • Own USA prepaid phone number
  • No credit check or contract term
  • Activation is carried out by the provider
  • Perfect for iPhone, iPad and all other tablets & smartphones
  • Step-by-step instructions are enclosed
  • SIM card in the best 4G / LTE AT&T network
  • To the provider

Which prepaid card for the USA?

Before you decide on a prepaid SIM card for your vacation in the USA, you should first compare and evaluate the individual providers before you start your journey, as well as the basic charges and costs for telephony and SMS, network, data volume, Tethering, speed, cost control and, if applicable, flat rates have been ordered. In principle, it is advisable to order the prepaid SIM card before starting your journey in Germany. The reason for this recommendation is that you can then make calls with your smartphone in the USA immediately after arrival.

In terms of network coverage, AT&T and T-Mobile are the largest providers in the United States. When it comes to prepaid SIM cards, TracFone is currently at the top of the list. The network coverage of the network operators AT&T and T-Mobile can generally be rated as extremely high, but you may have to expect connection problems in less populated areas. Unfortunately, reception is not available everywhere in the USA, the land of opportunity.

Cellular carriers in the USA - which one is recommended?

The well-known providers are to be regarded as equally serious and only differ in terms of network coverage and tariffs. You can choose between the network operators AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Verizon, Sprint, TracFone, USCellular, MetroPCS and other, smaller providers. Check carefully to find the best option and network provider for you before you leave Europe.

Note: Verizon Wireless and Sprint cards are not compatible with all European smartphones.

Important: Check the frequency bands

Unfortunately, not all devices work reliably in the US and Canada. The reason for this is that the technology and the frequencies are different. Whether a device in the USA and Canada even meets the requirements to function reliably depends on the technology and the frequencies. In America, other standards, namely GSM 850 MHz and GSM 1900 MHz, are in use with regard to the frequency bands. Therefore, only tri or quad band phones work reliably in America. Because tri-band cell phones support GSM 900 MHz and GSM 1800 MHz and quad-band cell phones even support GSM 850. Only tri- or quad-band phones work reliably in America.

Conclusion: So it is best to check before your stay whether your device is compatible with regard to the frequency bands. If the respective frequency bands are not supported, the cell phone will not work in the USA and Canada.

Attention: UMTS may soon no longer be possible

In 2020, there were reports that T-Mobile US may want to exclude smartphones from its network from 2021 that do not support the VoLTE standard when making calls. The reason for this is that the telephone provider wants to do without GSM and UMTS in the future. AT&T, on the other hand, has not offered GSM since the beginning of 2017 and announced some time ago that it would also discontinue UMTS at the beginning of 2022. It therefore makes sense to keep these points in mind when buying a mobile phone and deciding for or against a provider.

What costs should I expect?

Anyone who, as a tourist, opts for a prepaid SIM card for their vacation in the USA, of course, would like to have full cost control and would like to know what monthly costs can be expected from the telephone provider. After all, it doesn't come as a pleasant surprise to suddenly find a bill that is many dollars high. In principle, the receipt of SMS is free of charge in all tariffs.

In order to save money when making calls with the prepaid card, it is generally worth making calls via VoIP in WLAN / WiFi. Such calls are possible, for example, via WhatsApp-Call, Skype or Facetime. Hotspots are abundant in the United States, so you have the opportunity to conserve your data volume. Because the volume can be quite expensive depending on the provider and tariff and the costs can be 35 US dollars / 1 GB and more. Prepaid SIM card providers include T-Mobile USA, Simly, Tourisim and TravSIM.

tip: Before leaving for the US, do a thorough comparison to find and order the option with the best flat rate and the phone provider with the best expected reception.

our recommendation

In a comprehensive comparison of providers and tariffs, the Simly prepaid card emerged as the clear winner in terms of function, price and performance.

When you buy a prepaid SIM card from Simly, you have access to the best network (AT&T), you can make unlimited calls within the USA and can also select up to 10 phone numbers in the landline network of Germany, Austria or Switzerland. You can then call these numbers free of charge. This telephone provider also offers up to 70 free minutes for calls to the German mobile network. With this card you don't have to worry about the duration of the contract or additional costs.

Simlystore offers three different tariffs:

  • Data plan: If you as a tourist only need data volume for surfing and do not necessarily need a flat rate for calls to landlines or tethering, this cheap tariff should be sufficient for your smartphone, tablet or router while traveling. The tariff includes data volumes of up to 12 GB with 4G LTE speed and VoIP for WhatsApp, Skype and Co. The price is 29.90 euros for 60 days. Perfect for all those tourists who only need one way to use offers such as Google Maps, Facebook or Instagram in America. However, the tariff also has some disadvantages. Because the card cannot be topped up, the card is only valid for two months and after the data volume has been used up, the mobile Internet is blocked, not just throttled.
  • default: If you want to enjoy even more advantages and combine data and telephony, you should compare this tariff with flat-rate telephone. Here you can make calls with the telephone card (SIM) in the network of the provider AT&T and use a flat rate for these calls for the states and Germany, Austria or Switzerland. In addition, you can surf the Internet with 4G LTE data up to 30 GB with your mobile phone or tablet. VoIP can also be used with the standard tariff. Tethering is not included in this offer from the mobile operator. The price is 39.90 euros for 30 days.
  • Premium: Would you like to enjoy even more advantages with your mobile phone during your trip? Then you should take a look at the premium tariff of the mobile operator. Here you can get the calling card for your mobile phone directly from the provider AT&T, you can use tethering (hotspot) and surf the Internet at a speed of 4G LTE data up to 22 GB. The price for this calling card in the AT&T network is 45.90 euros for 30 days.

Click here for a selection of the best prepaid SIM cards for your USA trip

It is best to estimate roughly in advance what data consumption you expect.

Some examples of common activities on the Internet and the associated consumption:

  • Receive or send an email: 0.2 MB
  • Calling up a website on the Internet: 0.2 MB
  • Access Facebook: 0.3 MB
  • Receive or send a WhatsApp message (without pictures): 0.1 MB
  • Download an app: approx. 15 MB
  • Watch a YouTube video (approx. 3 minutes): 8 MB

Possible alternatives to Simlystore

There are several alternatives to Simly. One of the most famous is likely to be Tourisim. On the Tourisim website you also have several tariffs to choose from.

Including one with the mobile operator h2o. h2o offers its service with low tariffs in the recommended network of network provider AT&T. This network provider gives you coverage in most places in the USA with an h2o wireless card after your arrival in the USA. In terms of data usage, the h2o card offers a data volume of 2 GB to 30 GB. The h2o card also gives you free minutes to the European landline and mobile network. A flat rate to the landline network of Germany, Austria and Switzerland is also available at h2o. The data usage is throttled with h2o when the data volume is used up.

But note: Except for the h2o promotional tariffs, Tourisim only has a duration of 30 days. If your departure from the USA is more than 30 days away and you do not remember to top up your credit in time, your phone number will no longer be valid after this time. Therefore, always keep the tariff term with h2o in the back of your head.

How and when do I have the card activated?

The SIM cards can usually be activated on the Internet. You can usually find out how activation works in the instructions that come with the card. In our experience, if you buy the prepaid SIM card in an American store, it can usually be activated directly there. A well-known shop for this purpose is Walmart, for example.

Things to know about the settings during commissioning

Many SIM cards dial in automatically after inserting them without you having to change the settings. If this is not the case, you will have to make some adjustments in the settings.

At Simly these are for example:

  • iPhone: Settings => Mobile network => Data options => Mobile data network APN: prodata
  • iPad: Settings => Mobile network => Data options => APN settings => APN: prodata
  • Android: Settings => Mobile Networks / Connections => Access Points => Add => Name (choose yourself) => APN: prodata

Roaming in the USA

Roaming refers to using a SIM card in a country other than the country the SIM card came from. The fees for this international tariff can be quite expensive, which is why the EU guidelines state that the provider must notify the user before using the smartphone for the first time abroad.

It is thus possible for the traveler to actively opt for roaming and the associated costs when traveling to other European countries or the USA or not. Receiving SMS is also free in this case. The roaming charges can amount to several euros or dollars per minute, so that you have to reckon with around 8 euros for a 5-minute call. The fees apply regardless of the tariff term for contract mobile phones as well as for prepaid contracts. But you should definitely find out more about roaming charges.

What is the difference between active and passive roaming?

When roaming you have to differentiate between active and passive roaming. Active roaming means that the traveler calls their home country. Passive roaming occurs when the called party has to pay for someone from the country of origin of their SIM card to call them. Since the caller cannot know that he is calling abroad, the roaming costs for this have to be borne by the called party. Such calls with the mobile phone to Europe or the USA can result in high bills.

Danger!Make sure you deactivate your voicemail box in the settings before your flight abroad in order to avoid horrendous costs after your arrival. Incoming calls are subject to charges for active roaming and for forwarding to the voicemailbox in the home country for passive roaming.

Alternatives to the prepaid card

Another quick tip from us. If you do not want to purchase a prepaid SIM card, which is recommended, the cheapest way to call home is via VoIP. Whether you prefer to use WhatsApp, Facetime or Skype here depends on your own preferences. There are plenty of hotspots and free Wi-Fi in the USA and are available in every café. However, you can only be reached without mobile communications if you have access to the Internet. So think about whether you really want this early on.

How do I make calls to Germany as cheaply as possible?

Conclusion: As already mentioned, making calls with a prepaid card from Simlystore, which includes free minutes to the German mobile network and covers the fixed network at no cost, is the cheapest way to stay accessible while on vacation. As an alternative solution for mobile communications, the purchase of a cheap cell phone could be mentioned, but this is not advisable in terms of environmental protection and waste avoidance.

Note: Prepaid cards in the USA do not have their own area code. Instead of an area code, the smartphones receive landline numbers, which means that the caller pays the same price as when he starts a call on the American landline. The costs for the forwarding to the cellular network are borne by the person who is called.