In order to be able to surf comfortably with your smartphone on a trip across the USA, you have to take care of a suitable SIM card so that you are not overwhelmed by the roaming fees.
Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones that support digital SIM cards, eSIM, you no longer have to go to the nearest Walmart to buy a SIM card after landing. Thanks to eSIMs, you can do this conveniently before you travel and choose a suitable fare for your trip.
How It Works
There are now numerous providers of eSIM fares on the Internet. You usually buy a prepaid fare once for a certain number of days and data volume. Once the duration or data volume has expired, there are no further costs, and you do not need a subscription. The eSIM, more precisely the eSIM profile, is usually available free of charge and only has to be stored in the smartphone. To do this, you have to scan a QR code after purchase and the profile will be set up on your smartphone.
Unfortunately, not all smartphones support an eSIM. You’ll have no problem with an iPhone 11 / 12 / 13, but also with an Android smartphone, e.g. Google Pixel 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 or Samsung Galaxy S20, S21, or Note 20. You can find a list of smartphones that support eSIM here: Which devices support an eSIM
If your Android smartphone does not support eSIM profiles, eSIM.me is a physical SIM card that you can use with eSIM profiles.
Most eSIM providers only offer data volume and no free minutes. Since these are also prepaid fares, outgoing calls are generally not supported. With some smartphones, e.g. iPhones, you can still be reached via your normal SIM card and make calls.
Fares for the USA Compared
We looked up selected eSIM providers and compared the prices for sensible combinations of data volume + duration. All providers provide the eSIM free of charge and can be booked online:
|1 GB for 7 Days||3 GB for 30 Days||5 GB for 30 Days||10 GB for 30 Days|
|KnowRoaming||US$3.85 (~€3.55)||–||US$22.00 (~€20.29)||US$50.00 (~€46.11)|
AT&T / T-Mobile
|Nomad (3$ promo code)|
|Airalo (3$ discount code)|
|USD4,5||US$11.00 (~€10.14)||US$16.00 (~€14.75)||US$26.00 (~€23.97)|
|–||US$10 (~€9)||US$14 (~€13)||US$25 (~€23)|
|Holafly (5% discount code)|
10 days + unlimited data
|BNESIM (20% coupon)|
|€7 (~USE 7)|
Currently, RedteaGO Airhub almost always offers the cheapest fare in the AT&T network for our combinations. Even 10 GB for 30 days is really affordable with a one-time fee of US$25 (~€23).
With Unlimited Data Volume
If you don’t want to worry about data, Holafly offers plans with unlimited data on the AT&T network for 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60, or 90 days. But for 30 days, you’d pay €69.
Airhub also offers prepaid plans with unlimited data on the AT&T network for 10, 15 or 30 days. 30 days here cost US$57 (~€53).
Data Volume without an Expiration Date
If you instead travel to the USA several times and are unsure how much data volume you need, you can buy 1, 3, 10 or 20 GB from BNESIM, which has no expiration date and is therefore very flexible. However, it is important to select plans –> One Time under Choose data.
The vast majority of eSIM prepaid fares do not offer any outgoing or incoming calls (which are also subject to a fee in the USA). However, Airhub offers some fares where unlimited minutes are included, e.g. 6 GB for 30 days for the price of US$20 (~€18). For this, you need the iOS app of the provider.
With Canada 🇨🇦
If you also want to visit Canada on your trip to North America, it may be worth choosing a fare that covers the USA and Canada.
With Discover Global, Airalo offers a fare for 84 countries, including the USA, Canada and Mexico, e.g. 5 GB for 30 days for the price of US$35 (~€32). KnowRoaming’s global fare is more expensive, 5 GB costing US$50 (~€46) for 30 days.
But you should always check whether two national eSIM fares are cheaper. If you buy both fares from one provider, you can often use both at the same time via the same eSIM. Do some research before you buy.
The Correct Network in the USA
In the USA, there are three major network operators, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, each of which operates its own mobile network. The quality of the networks varies. AT&T offers by far the best network. In the big cities, you will get along well with T-Mobile and Verizon. On the other hand, if you are travelling specifically to rural regions and want to always have reception there, you should look for a fare in the AT&T network. Even if there is a national roaming agreement between the providers.
All modern smartphones bought in Europe can usually be used without any problems in the 4G and 5G networks of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. Verizon used to have restrictions on 2G and 3G networks, but those networks have already been switched off.
If your smartphone is eSIM-compatible, eSIMs are the most convenient way to provide you with data volume on your trip to the USA. You can buy it in advance, set it up and start surfing immediately after arriving in the USA. The prices for eSIMs are also so cheap in the USA that it is only rarely worth going to the nearest Walmart.
Cover Picture: © annas.stills.gmail.com (Deposit Photos)
The Airhub seems like a scam. Bought the esim, never received any QR code to the email and the support does not respond as well. I will try the chargeback with my bank company. Anyway do not recommend them at all.
Not sure why you guys don’t mention 3HK roaming packages.
Which one do you mean exactly?