Best SIM Cards for Using Your Smartphone in the USA

February 5th, 2016

If you’re travelling to the United States, having the right SIM card can save you a lot of money. We review the best value SIM cards for using your smartphone in the US.

USA Flag

Each year, almost 4 million Brits visit the USA. Whether you’re travelling to New York to do a bit of shopping, touring California to enjoy the beautiful scenery or visiting Florida to enjoy the theme parks with your family, you’ll probably want to use your phone when you’re there.

Having a smartphone in America can make it a lot easier to stay in touch with friends and family who are back in the UK. It can also be useful for navigating around (e.g. finding nearby restaurants and attractions with Google Maps).

The good news is it’s really easy to take a UK smartphone and to use it in the US. You can either roam on your UK SIM card or you can buy a US SIM card upon your arrival in the States. In this article, we’ll review and compare the best SIM cards for using your smartphone in the US. We’ll also look at the cost of using different SIM cards and the network compatibility with your UK handset.

Using a UK Smartphone on US Mobile Networks

AT&T and T-Mobile USA: Compatible with UK Handsets

Most smartphones sold in the UK will work on AT&T and T-Mobile USA.

Almost all UK smartphones sold in the past 10 years will work in the US without any problems. There’ll be two US mobile networks on which you can use your UK handset: AT&T and T-Mobile USA.

If you’re using a very old handset or if your smartphone was purchased from outside the UK, you should double-check to make sure you have a quad-band GSM device. Your phone will need to support one of the following frequencies for it to work in the US:

  • For AT&T, your handset will need to support one of the following:
    • For 2G: GSM 850 or GSM 1900
    • For 3G: WCDMA/HSPA 850 or WCDMA/HSPA 1900
    • For 4G: LTE bands 2, 4 or 17
  • For T-Mobile, your handset will need to support one of the following:
    • For 2G: GSM 1900
    • For 3G: WCDMA/HSPA 1900 or WCDMA/HSPA 1700/2100 (AWS)
    • For 4G: LTE bands 2, 4 or 12

You should check your manufacturer’s spec sheet to see a list of frequencies supported by your handset. It isn’t normally possible to use a UK smartphone on Sprint or Verizon Wireless. This is because Sprint and Verizon use a different technology that’s incompatible with most UK smartphones.

The Two Ways Of Using Your Smartphone in the US

Going Abroad

There are two ways of using your smartphone in the US: you can either roam on a UK SIM card or you can buy a new US SIM card upon your arrival in the States.

  • Roaming on your UK SIM card. Through international roaming, you can continue to use a UK-based SIM card when travelling in the US. You’ll continue having a UK-based phone number and you’ll be charged by your UK network. You’ll also normally be able to access coverage from both AT&T and T-Mobile USA. This is our recommended option for the majority of users. With a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three UK, you can use your smartphone in the US for just £10 for up to one month. It comes with inclusive data and inclusive calls back to the UK.
  • Buying a new US SIM card on arrival. If you’d like a local phone number in the US, you can buy a US SIM card upon your arrival in the States. This can either be from AT&T or T-Mobile USA. You should expect to pay at least $40 plus tax (that’s £28 plus tax). This will give you unlimited US calling and an allowance of data to use on your phone (additional charges will apply for calling back to the UK). Typically, it will only be worth getting a local US SIM card if you regularly travel there for extended amounts of time.

Roaming On Your UK SIM Card

The simplest and easiest way to use your smartphone in the US is via international roaming on your existing UK SIM card. The prices for using your phone in the US can vary depending on your home UK mobile network:

Network Making a Phone Call Receiving a Phone Call Sending a Text Accessing the Internet
BT Mobile £1.40/minute £1.25/minute 40p/text £5/MB
EE £1.00/minute £1.00/minute 40p/text £3/day for 20MB
giffgaff £1.00/minute £1.00/minute 30p/text £5 per MB
O2 £1.10/minute 90p/minute 40p/text £6 per MB
Orange £1.20/minute £1.20/minute 40p/text £3/day for 20MB
Tesco Mobile 89p/minute 89p/minute 40p/text £8/MB
T-Mobile UK £1.20/minute £1.20/minute 40p/text £20/week for 100MB
Three Included Included Included Included
Virgin Mobile £1.50/minute £1.00/minute 30p/text £5/MB
Vodafone £1.35/minute £1.00/minute 35p/text £3 per MB

Comparison of roaming charges when using your UK-based SIM card in the US. The costs shown are for calling the UK and for sending a text message to the UK. It’s always free to receive a text message anywhere in the world.

If you’re roaming on a UK-based SIM card, you can benefit from the coverage on both AT&T and T-Mobile USA (your smartphone will automatically choose the network offering the strongest coverage).

The Best Network For Roaming in the US

ThreeThree is by far the cheapest mobile network for roaming in the US. When travelling to the United States of America, customers on Three are able to use their normal UK allowances at no extra charge. The offer is open to all customers, including those on Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go. For more information, please read our full review of the Feel At Home offer.

If you aren’t currently a customer of Three, you can benefit from the offer by signing up for a Three Pay As You Go SIM card. A £10 top-up will give you 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB of internet (up to 30 days usage in the US). A £20 top-up will give you 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 12GB of internet (also available to be used in the US).

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Three 100
to UK
3,000
to UK
1GB £10.00
Three 300
to UK
3,000
to UK
12GB £20.00

The “All in One” Pay As You Go tariffs can be used on Three’s Feel At Home offer. The inclusive minutes, texts and internet can be used abroad in a Feel At Home country. The £20 bundle has a fair usage policy of 12GB/month when you’re travelling abroad.

Your inclusive minutes and texts can only be used for calling a UK-based phone number. This includes any friends or family members who are also abroad at the same time with a UK-based phone number. Phone calls to a US-based phone number will cost you 13.8p/minute extra.

As an alternative to the Feel At Home offer, customers on Vodafone Pay Monthly can save on their normal rates by opting in to Vodafone’s WorldTraveller offer. For an extra £5/day, the offer will allow you to use your normal UK allowances when travelling in the US.

Buying A US SIM Card On Arrival

If you regularly travel to the US for an extended amount of time, you might be better off with a local SIM card from one of two US networks. If you’re using your unlocked UK smartphone, you have the option of a SIM card from either AT&T or T-Mobile USA. Unfortunately, the Sprint and Verizon networks will not work on a typical UK-purchased smartphone.

You can buy a US SIM card upon your arrival in the States. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to buy one online as the US mobile networks will not only ship their SIM cards to the UK. You’ll be able to buy a SIM card in retailers like 7-Eleven, CVS, Target, Walgreens and Walmart. Alternatively, you can get a SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile retail stores.

AT&T

AT&T LogoAT&T is the largest mobile network in the US. They’re a longer established network than T-Mobile USA which gives them better coverage (AT&T claims to have 99% population coverage).

On AT&T, the prepaid plans are known as GoPhone packages. You can get a GoPhone package for your smartphone from $40/month plus tax ($30/month plus tax if you don’t need data on your smartphone).

For the average visitor to the US, we’d recommend the $40 plan (this is approximately £28/month plus tax). This will give you 2GB of data, unlimited calls & unlimited texts within the US. Phone calls back to the UK will cost you 49¢/minute (34p/minute) plus tax, or you can buy the $5/month GoPhone International Long Distance Package which gives you 250 minutes for calling a UK landline (£3.44/month plus tax).

The following table shows Pay As You Go tariffs available from AT&T:

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost (USD)
Approx
Cost (GBP)
AT&T Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
None
$5 for 100MB
$30.00
plus taxes
£20.64
plus taxes
AT&T Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
2GB $40.00
plus taxes
£27.52
plus taxes
AT&T Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
5GB $55.00
plus taxes
£37.82
plus taxes

You can get a free GoPhone SIM card from your nearest AT&T store. Alternatively, it will cost you $9.99 plus tax at most other retailers (approximately £7 plus tax).

The exact price you pay will depend on local tax rates (see a list of wireless tax rates for each US state). Before getting an AT&T SIM card, it’s also worth checking the coverage for the places where you’re staying at (see AT&T’s online coverage map).

Finally, it’s worth being aware that your GoPhone SIM card will expire automatically after 90 days if you don’t top it up again during this period. For this reason, you’ll only be able to re-use your SIM card on subsequent trips if you expect to visit the US at least once every 3 months.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile USAIn the US, T-Mobile is the third-largest network as measured by the number of subscribers currently on their network. T-Mobile USA is a totally separate and independent network from T-Mobile UK.

On T-Mobile, there are two types of prepaid package: Simply Prepaid and Simply Choice Prepaid. Simply Prepaid is the more basic package: it starts from $40/month plus tax for 3GB of data, unlimited calls & unlimited texts within the US. Simply Choice Prepaid is a more expensive package with unlimited music streaming and the Binge On service.

In general, for the average visitor to the US, we’d probably recommend the $40 Simply Prepaid tariff. It’s worth noting, however, there’s also an additional upfront cost of $15 plus tax to get your T-Mobile SIM card. You’ll also need to pay an extortionate $1.99/minute plus tax for calling home to the UK (about £1.38/minute plus tax). You can side-step this with a T-Mobile international calling add-on ($10/month plus tax will give you unlimited calls to a UK landline; $15/month plus tax will give you unlimited calls to UK landlines and UK mobiles).

The following table shows Simply Prepaid tariffs available from T-Mobile USA:

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost (USD)
Approx
Cost (GBP)
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
3GB $40.00
plus taxes
£27.55
plus taxes
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
5GB $50.00
plus taxes
£34.43
plus taxes
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
10GB $60.00
plus taxes
£41.32
plus taxes

The following table shows Simply Choice Prepaid tariffs from T-Mobile USA:

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost (USD)
Approx
Cost (GBP)
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
3GB $50.00
plus taxes
£34.43
plus taxes
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
5GB $65.00
plus taxes
£44.74
plus taxes
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
10GB $80.00
plus taxes
£55.09
plus taxes
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
Unlimited $95.00
plus taxes
£65.39
plus taxes

You can get a T-Mobile USA SIM card for $15 plus tax at any of their retail stores.

The exact price you’ll pay for the SIM card and bundle will depend on the local tax rates in the state where you’re staying (see a list of wireless tax rates for each US state). Before getting a T-Mobile USA SIM card, it’s also worth checking the coverage for the places where you’re staying.

Finally, it’s worth being aware that your T-Mobile USA SIM card will expire automatically after 90 days (this is unless you top it up again during the 90 days). For this reason, you’ll only be able to re-use your SIM card on subsequent trips if you expect to visit US at least once every 3 months.

Our Recommended Deal

For the majority of visitors to the US, we’d recommend roaming on a UK-based SIM card. Three is by the far the best UK mobile network from which to get a Pay As You Go SIM card: the SIM card is free and a £10 top-up will get you up to 30 days usage over in the USA.

The following table gives a quick summary of the two options we’ve discussed in this article:

Roaming on your UK SIM card Buying a new US SIM card on arrival
Best option for the majority of users. Best option for frequent travellers to the US.
You’ll have a UK-based number (beginning with +44). You’ll have a US-based number (beginning with +1).
We recommend the Pay As You Go SIM card from Three. There is no charge for this SIM card. SIM cards are available from AT&T and T-Mobile USA. The SIM card is free or up to $15 (£10) plus tax.
Starts from £10 for 30 days usage. Starts from $40 (£28) plus tax for one month usage.
Coverage from both AT&T and T-Mobile USA. Coverage from one network only.
Inclusive calls to UK-based phone numbers. Calls to a US phone number are 15.6p/minute. Inclusive calls to US-based phone numbers. Calls to the UK start from 49¢/minute (34p/minute) plus tax.
You can continue to use your SIM card in the UK after the end of your trip. Your US SIM card will expire after 90 days unless you top it up again during this time.

On Three, you can choose from two different Pay As You Go bundles with which you’re able to use their Feel At Home offer:

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Three 100 3,000 1GB £10.00
Three 300 3,000 12GB £20.00

You’ll get the SIM card sent to your UK address so there’s one less thing to do when you arrive in the States. The SIM card will also work on both the AT&T and T-Mobile US networks. You’ll get a UK-based phone number and you’ll be able to use the inclusive minutes and texts to contact other UK-based numbers (this includes your friends and family who are also abroad with a UK-based number). Customers of any UK mobile network can sign up for a SIM card from Three (all you’ll need to do is to make sure your handset is unlocked).

  • US Roaming Price: £10/month for 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB of data
  • Overages: 10p/MB once you’ve used 1GB (or choose the £20 bundle for a 12GB allowance)
  • £10 top-up buys: Up to 30 days of smartphone usage in the US

Order Three Pay As You Go SIM Card (£10 for 30 days) »

We would only recommend buying a local SIM card upon your arrival in the States if you’re a frequent traveller requiring a US-based phone number. Of the two possible networks, AT&T has slightly lower prices so is our recommended network for anyone choosing a US SIM card.

Other Top Tips For Travelling To The US

Samsung Portable Battery Pack

You’ll need to make sure your electronic devices have sufficient amounts of power before boarding the flight. Portable chargers can therefore be a great investment.

When travelling to the US, it’s also worth bearing in mind the following things:

  1. You’ll need an ESTA to fly to the US (it costs $14 or approximately £9.63 per person). If you’re travelling to the US by air or by sea (even if you’re only transiting to a third country), you’ll need to complete an online ESTA form (from the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). It’s $14 per person and it lasts for two years (approximately £9.63 per person). There’s more information on the Foreign Office website (GOV.UK) and on Money Saving Expert. You should always apply for your ESTA on the official website run by the US Department of Homeland Security.
  2. Make sure your electronic devices have power before boarding. As of July 2014, there are extra security measures for travellers to the US. All electronic devices being carried in your hand luggage should have sufficient amounts of power for you to be able to be turn them on. This includes your smartphone, tablet, laptop and e-book reader. You could be asked to turn on the device and to demonstrate its function when passing through airport security. As there are only limited charging points available at the airport, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a portable charger (prices start from around £12).
  3. Use TSA approved locks for securing your baggage. If you’re using a lock to secure your baggage, it must be TSA approved (see Amazon.co.uk for a list of TSA approved baggage locks). If you use a non-TSA approved lock, security teams at the airport may take a bolt cutter to your lock.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 127 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Andy said:

    Hi Ken,
    I’m traveling to Chicago from the UK for a weeks stay.
    My biggest need will be data so I can navigate the transport system from an app I have. I will make a few calls back home but that’s not that important.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks….Andy

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Andy,
      I think you’ll probably be best off getting a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three. You can top-up £10 to buy the ‘All in One 10’ bundle which gives you 100 minutes to the UK, 3000 texts to the UK and 1GB of internet (all available to be used when you’re in Chicago).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  2. Matthew said:

    Hi Ken
    I’m heading to the US for a month and I’ll need a 4G data connection up to 5GB. What do you feel would be the best deal for this? As far as I can tell it would be beneficial to get a US sim.
    Matthew

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Matthew,
      Yes, if you need 4G, you’ll probably be best off getting a local SIM card when you’re there (e.g. from AT&T or T-Mobile USA). You could use a SIM card from Three under the Feel At Home offer for up to 12GB of data, but this is limited to 3G speeds and will not be comparable to a local SIM card for serious downloading, etc.
      Ken

  3. Richard said:

    Hi Ken

    My daughter leaves for Texas on a 4 year university degree course in January (she’ll return at Xmas and for the summer months). She has an EE contract i-phone.

    What do you recommend she do regarding a mobile in the States. I’m guessing a US sim card?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Richard,
      As your daughter is going to be visiting the US for a prolonged amount of time, I’d suggest she gets a local SIM card from one of the mobile networks there (probably on a pre-pay basis as she won’t have any credit history in the US). There are deals from AT&T and T-Mobile, which will be compatible with her iPhone once she unlocks it. There might also be some cheaper from the US MVNOs, but you’ll have to ask someone who’s much more knowledgeable about this than me!
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  4. Kari said:

    Hi Ken,
    I’m from the UK, going to Florida soon, for around 2 weeks. And to be honest, I only want to play Pokemon Go there, will it be better for me to buy a local sim?
    Thanks,
    Kari

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Kari,
      Thanks for your comment. My recommendation would probably be to get a £10 SIM card from Three UK. This will probably work out substantially cheaper and will be much less hassle than getting a US-based local SIM card.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  5. Jose said:

    Im using a 3 pay as you go sim. Buy a add ons of £10 or £20. As long as you have Internet data you are fine. You can use the minutes, sms and data as you were in the UK at no extra cost. If you need to call a US number download an app like ‘textme’ you will get a virtual US phone number. From this app you can make and receive calls and texts to/from any US number. Im sure there is similar apps given you virtual US numbers. Phone tariffs here in the US are very expensive.

  6. Abdul said:

    Hi Ken,
    I am travelling from UK to the US with my wife for a week to visit my brother in the US and think the both of us will need a phone connection there for a week. What do you recommend in terms of a phone connection for us over there? Will it be cheaper and better to get a SIM card over there when we land? We recon we will need some data (around 500 MB +) and very few minutes (200 mins or so) between us.
    Please let me know
    Abdul

    1. Abdul replied:

      Just to add, the both of us are on EE Pay monthly contracts at the moment.

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi Abdul,
        Thanks for your comment. My recommendation would probably be to get some SIM cards from Three. If you make use of the Feel At Home offer, you can pay just £10 for 1GB of data in the US. You’ll also get 100 minutes and 3000 texts to other UK-based numbers (so if you’re both using a Three UK SIM card, you’ll be able to use this allowance to stay in touch with each other).
        Hope this helps,
        Ken

  7. Sath said:

    Hi Ken,

    Great article and nice website. I’m due to go to the USA for 1 year from November. I’ll start with 1 week in New York and then the rest of the time in Boston (with trips to other states when work allows).

    Would you advise getting a local USA sim for this sort of trip or the 3 sim? Does it cost Americans to ring a UK number in this instance? If I were to get a sim in NY would it cost more once I’m in Boston?

    Keep up the good work! A great resource.
    Sath

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Sath,
      Thanks for your comment. I’d definitely recommend getting a US-based SIM card as you’re going to relocating to the USA for a fairly long amount of time (i.e. this isn’t just a short-term trip). The benefit of this is you’ll get a US-based phone number making it easier for other people in the US to call you (as you say, they’ll otherwise need to pay a huge amount to call your UK-based number).
      The Feel At Home SIM card from Three UK can only be used abroad for 2 complete months per year. Hence, it will not be suitable for the entirety of your trip as you’re going to be spending a whole year in the US. It can however be worth picking up a Three SIM card anyway as you can possibly use it for the first couple of weeks (i.e. so you won’t need to rush and immediately find a new SIM card the moment you arrive).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  8. Tim said:

    Hi Ken
    I am based in the UK and am now travelling once a month to the US / Mexico for about a week. What would you recommend for me for local calls and data usage (US more important)?
    Thanks

  9. Adrian said:

    Presumably, if I roam with my smartphone and BT Mobile sim in the USA, I will have to dial the full international telephone number of the people I want to contact in the USA? Whereas, if I buy a local sim card (AT&T or T-Mobile), I just dial the local number of my USA friends?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Adrian,
      Yes – that’s right. If you’re using a UK-based SIM card, it’s best to add a +1 at the start of the phone number. On a US SIM card, there’s no need to do this (but you can still call with a +1 at the start and it will work as expected).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  10. GA in SH said:

    For anyone living in the US who travels abroad often, you really can’t beat T-Mobile with its free unlimited data worldwide. We moved Asia in 2014, but kept one T-Mobile line active in order to maintain that service. It’s well worth it with all the traveling we do. We’ve had good coverage all over Europe (including the UK) and Asia. I can’t vouch for call quality though. T-Mobile coverage used to be no good in NYC where we lived (Verizon offering the best cell svc) but by the time we left it was working very well.

  11. Ray said:

    Hi Ken, I am living in US and traveling to Europe. Would like to go for UK sim. May I know how to get UK sim delivered to US my home address. Can you please provide URL to buy UK sim that can be delivered to US home address.

    Thanks
    Ray

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ray,
      Thanks for your comment. In my opinion, there’s no need at all to get a UK SIM card sent to a US address – you’ll find it much easier and cheaper to simply pick up a SIM card when you’re here in the UK (you can buy one from pretty much any supermarket or phone shop).
      Ken

  12. Dawn said:

    Hi Ken,
    thank you for this useful article. I arrived yesterday for a 3 month stay in the US and will be travelling east coast to West and back again. I will buy a US sim card. The T-mobile coverage chart seems a bit better than the AT&T- is that correct so you think? Any advice welcome, thank you.

  13. Paul R said:

    Ken
    I have an I Phone 5S and will travel to the USA soon.I use BT mobile .Is it worth buying a Small data add on bundle from BT,i will use the phone to text home to the uk and others in the USA along with a small amount of looking at the web and getting my e mails?
    Paul

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. I’d definitely have a look at how much BT will charge you to use your phone in the US. If you’re likely to spend more than £10 whilst you’re there, it might also be worth having a look at Three’s Feel At Home SIM (for £10, you’ll get 1GB of data along 100 minutes & 3000 texts to UK-based phone numbers).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  14. Iain Wallace said:

    Hi Ken,
    Great website.
    I’m off to spend two months in a Florida home, which surprisingly doesn’t have an internet connection. What would you recommend for a mobile hotspot?
    It’s mostly for emails, browsing, etc but maybe some streaming.
    Cheers,
    Iain

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Iain,
      Thanks for your comment. As you’ll be travelling to the US for a fairly lengthy amount of time and as you’ll be streaming video on that connection as well, I’d probably recommend getting a US-based Pay As You Go mobile broadband connection. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in this area so I wouldn’t be able to advise you on the best deal. Instead, I’d probably recommend looking at some US-based websites (alternatively, perhaps another reader of this article might be able to suggest a good deal?)
      Ken

  15. Karen Moore said:

    AT&T is definitely the best network in the USA as the frequencies it operates on are much more compatible with non-USA phones. You might want to try something like usapayasyougosimcard.co.uk and get a sim card before departure Also in the USA I found that using boingo.com was good for getting free access to otherwise paid wi-fi networks.

  16. Chris Finlay said:

    Hi Ken,

    Great article, I’m having a bit of a hard time processing all of it!

    I live on the Isle of Man so I already need to use a UK PAYG SIM when I visit the UK, or roam on my Manx SIM. I’m visiting Denver in September and am thinking about getting a US SIM – I will pretty much only be using data, no SMSs or calls – but unsure what to get.

    Is it worth me getting a US one, or getting hold of a UK one (I’ve actually lost the old Vodafone one I had, so I’m going to be getting a new one anyway) and just living with the roaming costs?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, this would depend very much on your requirements and how long you’re travelling to the US for! If it’s a short-term trip over to the US and if data speeds aren’t your top priority, then Three’s Feel At Home offer could be a good solution for getting data on your trip. Their £10 All-in-One bundle gives you 1GB of internet (available to be used in the UK & US), as well as 100 minutes & 3000 texts to UK-based numbers.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  17. Ian said:

    Hello Ken,

    China Unicom sells US sims for about 21.50 including delivery to the UK. Data is speed limited after 2GB is exceeded, but it still seems like a good deal:

    http://www.cugstore.com/uk/data-card/us-30days-unlimited.html

    What do you think? Do you see any significant compromises with this deal?

    Thanks.

  18. Tom Hardy said:

    Some comments from an American who frequents Europe and the UK:

    1. I use 3’s “feel at home” plan mainly for data in the UK. In the US it is extremely slow about 1-2 MB/S in the Washington DC area. US to US calls are £1.40/minute and you will have a UK number. An interesting calling alternative is the UK’s Lycamobile’s Toggle plan that works in the UK, US and several European countries. At no cost you are assigned a local number for the country you are visiting and calls are 3p/min. In addition, your balance does not expire after 30 days. A similar plan is Truphone with 9p/min calling, but local numbers are not free. Data are relatively expensive in both cases.

    2. Phone compatibility is important. The US and UK work on entirely different 2G/3G and LTE bands: Europe 2G/3G 900/2100, Europe LTE 3/7/20 and US 3G+ 850/1900, US LTE 2/4/5/12/17 (AT&T 17, T-Mobile 12). AT&T is dropping 2G and moving to 3G for calling. The website willmyphonework.net is a good source for checking phone/network compatibility.

  19. Peter said:

    Hi Ken – can I just say how useful this page has been in planning for my trip to the States this summer! I’d just like to clarify something about the 3 Feel At Home deal. As I understand it, the included minutes and texts are only used in calling back to the UK (calls/texts to US numbers being subject to roaming charges), but the data allowance is used as though it was a local deal. Is this correct?

    And if that is the case, do you have to put extra credit onto the card to pay for US calls, or does that come out of the initial ‘top-up’ amount (say, £10)?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you’ve found this website to be useful 🙂 You’re right: your inclusive minutes and texts can only be used for calling a UK-based number (just like as it is in the UK where you can only use your minutes & texts to call other UK numbers). Data usage is treated just as if you’re in the UK. If you’d like to call a US-based number, roaming charges will apply for this.
      If you’re buying one of the All-in-One packages, your credit will be converted into a 30-day bundle (e.g. £10/month becomes 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of data). If you want to call a US-based number, you’ll need extra credit on top of the £10.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  20. Shayne said:

    Ken,

    Just found this and it goes on sale tomorrow – http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-international-tourist-plan?icid=WMM_PD_Q216TRSTPL_05RK4SWSO755015

    I will try it next week and let you know.

    Thanks,
    Shayne

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Shayne,
      Thanks for the heads up about this! Looks like an interesting plan for short-term visitors to the US, though at $30 plus tax for 3 weeks, it doesn’t look hugely different to their ‘Simply Prepaid’ tariffs (I presume however you’re saving money in that you don’t need to pay an upfront cost for the SIM card). Do let me know how you get on with the SIM card next week! 🙂
      Ken

    2. rob replied:

      hi shayne
      did you use this simcard.any advice would be great

  21. biltong said:

    Just been to New York using the Three SIM and Nokia Lumia 925. Only got H and H+. Coverage was not great and pretty disappointed. You will not get anything like 3G / 4G speeds. H+ speed is pathetic in this day and age, good enough for emails and slow browsing.

    In Charleston, SC it did not work at all.

    Calling and SMS worked well though, to other UK numbers roaming in the US.

    1. vzzbuckz replied:

      Agreed. I’ve been to New York and to Florida on multiple occasions over the last year and data speeds have been very poor. It’s worth swapping networks (between AT&T and T-Mobile) to see which is best but really, both are poor.

      The signal quality is fine so it’s obviously something on the back end (some sort of bandwidth throttling).

  22. Malcolm said:

    Thanks for the comprehensive article.
    I’m going to the US soon and want to have a cheap Pay As You Go SIM, mainly for local calls within the USA.
    The “3” site now seems to say that calls to numbers in the US will cost £1.40 per minute on a PAYG deal – which would surely burn through a £10 or £20 top-up very quickly!

    Am I missing something here?

    thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Malcolm,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’re mainly going to be using your phone for calling US-based numbers, you’ll probably be better off using a local SIM card from the American networks (this is especially the case now that Three have now increased the prices for calling a US number). The Three UK SIM card will be better suited for people who mainly call the UK and browse the internet on their smartphones.
      Ken

      1. Malcolm replied:

        Thanks for such a speedy response Ken – that makes perfect sense. Such a shame that “3” have raised their prices so much for US calls.

  23. Tom Burke said:

    Ken

    I’ve recently read (on other sites) that the 3 ‘Feel At Home’ doesn’t offer 4G data connectivity when roaming at all – it’s 3G at best, regardless of what your phone can do, or what you get in the UK.

    Do you have any comment on this?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re right: unfortunately, Three doesn’t have any 4G roaming agreements. Instead, you’ll be limited to accessing 3G networks only. If you need higher-speed internet (e.g. for streaming online videos), your best bet would be to get a local US SIM card.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Tom Burke replied:

        Thanks for your reply, Ken.

        My experience was so bad that I won’t use the Three ‘Feel At Home’ package again. Also,I feel that you ought to revise the various documents in which you describe this package to include the fact that data is only available 3G over 3G when roaming. For example, there’s no mention of this in the ‘Limitations & Restrictions’ section of this page:- http://kenstechtips.com/index.php/threes-feel-at-home .

        To be fair, Three didn’t mention any of this to me either! All I can say is that my Feel At Home experience, as described in my earlier comment (on April 29) was very unsatisfactory.

  24. Jennifer Carter said:

    You suggest that the £10 payg card (with +44… number) from 3 is best for a short (in our case one week) visit to USA. It isn’t stressed in the discussions, but I gather that anyone in the US trying to call us (within the same city!) will pay the international price to call us on that card. This changes the picture – unless there are people out there with no friends in the USA! Please let me know if this is right, as many people will be calling us. In that case, is the US payg sim the best deal after all? Thanks!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jennifer,
      You’re right: if you’ve got lots of friends over in the US, this may certainly change the calculus with regards to the best value SIM card. In this article, I’m making the assumptions for a typical UK visitor who’ll probably care more about contacting people in the UK. With the SIM card from Three, you get mobile data and inclusive calls backs to the UK.
      Ken

  25. Gjill said:

    There is an another option you haven’t mentioned for calling US numbers while you are in America. Several years ago I bought a GO phone from Best Buy for $10, very simple Samsung but exactly right for me – I only wanted calls and texts within the USA.

    Each time I travel to the States I go to an AT&T shop, they give me a new SIM free of charge, and I load it with enough money for my stay – for $2 a day I get unlimited phone calls and texts. (It can do data but that’s not included in the $2 a day.)

    I recently got a message to say that this 2G phone will no longer work so I’m going to buy another one – an AT&T one will now cost me only $7.49 at Best Buy, and should last for a few years. I think this is a really good solution for going on holidays.

  26. Tom said:

    Just returned from a 9-day trip to New York state & NYC. I bought a new Microsoft Lumia 550 phone (unlocked) and a 3 Pay as you Go SIM on the Feel at Home deal, plus a top-up from 3 to allow phone calls to US numbers, before I left. My aim was to be able to do the following: a) SMS with my wife (not on the trip with me); b) call her; c) call US numbers (hotels, contacts, etc) and d) use data, e.g. Facebook, MS Maps, etc.

    It didn’t work out very well. The only one of those functions that worked every time was the SMS, which was reliable. The worst was trying to dial a US number – I was never able to achieve a connection. Calling a UK number sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, and data was either very slow or failed altogether. MS Maps in particular was a big disappointment.

    I’m not sure if this was the phone (which was cheap) or the arrangements I made, but I found the experience frustrating.

  27. chickendippers said:

    Hi,
    Thanks for your article, it was most influential in choosing a solution prior to my trip to Manhattan, New York City earlier this month.

    I choose a Three PAYG card for my unlocked handset. I didn’t have cause to use much calling or texting, but I thought I’d share some real-world speed tests I performed randomly during my week’s stay:

    http://www.speedtest.net/wp/49975113.png

    http://www.speedtest.net/wp/50103498.png

    http://www.speedtest.net/wp/49974892.png

    http://www.speedtest.net/wp/50099569.png

    http://www.speedtest.net/wp/50103652.png

    So as you can see the results make for grim reading; all tests obtain a ping so there is a modicum of connectivity at all times, but there is clearly some rate-limiting going on. Furthermore the poor results are spread across Three’s two partner networks; AT&T and T-Mobile.

    All tests were performed with 4 or more bars of H or H+ signal, so I find it hard to believe these are the speeds native New Yorkers are receiving themselves.

    Hope this helps!

  28. Paul Coffey said:

    Hi Ken

    I am going to Orlando in June with my 2 sons and partners.
    Would it be possible to by three pay as you go SIM cards so we could text each other whilst in Orlando.
    We would not need to call the UK or need any data.

    It would be easier for us to check where everyone is by text

    Regards
    Paul

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes – you’d be able to use the Feel At Home SIM card for calling and texting each other when you’re in Orlando!
      Ken

  29. Cliff said:

    Hi–
    Your write-up is February, it’s now April. AT&T does not give SIM cards free at their stores, I just spoke to a rep. They are 9.99.

  30. titus said:

    Hi ken
    A quick updats for the ATnT payg If you buy 100dollars of credit it’s valid for one year, also the 10c a call does not have data but if you chose the 2 dollars a day pricing you do get data
    Cheers
    Titus

  31. Mark said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your really informative article, can I ask an question please? We are travelling from Guernsey (Channel Islands) to Orlando for a two week holiday. Normally we avoid all mobile use due to roaming costs, but like the idea of temporary sim for calls/data whilst over there. But it’s the fact that we’d be calling Guernsey which makes things a problem for us? I’ve looked at the prices for Three and it looks like it could be vey expensive calling 01481 (land) and 07781 (mobile) from the USA, not part of the package. Any tips would be welcomed.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment! I’ve taken a deeper look into this for you and chances are it will still be cheapest to use a SIM card from Three UK. With an All in One bundle and the Feel At Home offer, you’ll get all of your data in the US included and you can call other people in your family (assuming you all have SIM cards from Three UK, you’ll have mainland UK numbers that are included in the offer). For when you’re calling home toa Guernsey-based number, it’ll be 15.6p/minute. You might therefore want to add some extra credit to your SIM card or you can side-step this by calling home on Skype, WhatsApp or similar services.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Mark replied:

        Thanks for all your help Ken. I ordered 2x £20 PAYG SIMs last week which arrived shortly after and are already setup ready for the holiday. These will really help out and it’s thanks to your post.

  32. Jason Alderton said:

    Hi Ken

    I am about to relocate to the states for three months. I plan to get an AT&T sim only package as I need a US based number for work purposes. I was thinking about the UK Three sim for my wife as this would enable us to communicate with the UK at fairly low cost.

    Am I right in saying that the three sim would infact have a UK number therefore if I was to call my wife from my US sim whilst in the US it would be classed as an international call even though the three sim is US based? Or would it be classed as a national call as AT&T carry the three calls?

    Hope this makes sense and your web page is very informative so thank you.

    Jason

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jason,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes: if you’re calling a UK-based SIM card from a US-based network then this will be classed as an international phone call. This is regardless of where the UK SIM card actually is in the world (so even if it’s roaming in the US, you’ll still be charged for a US-to-UK phone call).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  33. Georgina said:

    Hi.
    I am going to Florida for a month with my family. I have an unlocked IPhone 5 and need a SIM card just for making US calls . I am on Virgin network and don’t want to use there roaming as the charges are expensive.
    Any recommendations.
    Thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Georgina,
      Thanks for your comment. Unless you’re going to make a huge number of phone calls, your best option might be to use a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three UK. You can call US phone numbers for 13.8p/minute and for either £10 or £20, you’ll get inclusive minutes for calling UK-based phone numbers (this includes other people in your family with a UK-based SIM card when travelling in the US).
      If you’re going to make a large volume of calls when you’re in the US, you might consider buying either an AT&T or T-Mobile USA SIM card on arrival (this is likely to cost you about £25 for one month’s service).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Georgina replied:

        Thanks Ken.
        Should have asked how much data will the Three £10 sim give me for just USA use. All I really want my phone for in Florida for is using the Uber app for getting a ride to and from places.

        I purchased a AT&T phone a few years ago just for uses in the USA but last year struggled to get a payg sim card that worked and wasted £25 .

        Thank you for your help so far.
        Georgina

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Georgina,
          You’ll get 500MB with the £10 SIM card and 12GB with the £20 SIM card. More information above here in the article.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

          1. Georgina replied:

            Thank you Ken your advise is very helpful.
            Regards
            Georgina

  34. Mr Naidu said:

    Hi Ken
    I was very recently in US and I wanted to buy a sim card to call within the USA. So I went to Best Buy…..there are sim cards in CVS/Walgreens/7-11, etc but they will just sell the sim card and they do not know how or if it works! Best Buy in Washington DC …. they sold a H2O card for $10/- but this did not work…..H2O are unclear if $10/- is just the price of the sim card which I felt was atrociously high on top of which one needed to top up with prepayment to make calls. Furthermore the customer service of H2O kept one waiting for EVER and if the phone still did not work all one could do was beat myself on my head in utter despair at how the companies swindle the common public! Best Buy’s assistant was a dodger after having sold the H2O card he simply vanished from the scene knowing “this was a trouble”. I chased after the manager who kept ducking around and finally I cornered him after getting hold of the overall senior manager. Then he took away the H2O card and gave me a Go phone sim card which charges $2/- a day unlimited calls within the USA and texts but does not have data….one could contend with this if there is WiFi in the hotel but it could be a pain on the move as if I am looking for an address then data is helpful if not necessary.
    I was staying in the US for a week did not want expensive roaming on my O2 network and wanted to be able to call or text who and when I wanted : how could I add data to this please?
    There is a company called MetroPCS but they are interested only in selling the more expensive T mobile options amounting to about $40/- a month; they are not interested in cheaper options.
    Three (3) is good but one can ONLY call the UK and one cannot use it for calling within the USA! Nor can one use it to call international as I do call India too….for the latter I use LocalPhone and use the mobile number in US as the phone number and it worked well though it can be temperamental at times.
    Thank you
    Mr Naidu

  35. Anna Seager said:

    Hi Ken
    I have been reading through lots of your articles – great website btw! And I wondered if you could just clarify that I have understood everything correctly and what i am planning to do would be the best option.

    My son is travelling to the US in April. He will be there for 6 weeks. He is then coming back to the UK for 3 and a half months – and will then be back in the States for another 6 weeks (well actually 3 weeks in Oregon and 3 weeks in Hawaii).

    He has an apple iPhone 6s – unlocked bought from apple. Whilst in the States I want to be able to communicate with him from here in the UK – most of the time will be over wifi – Skype/facetime/whatsapp etc – but I want him to have access to getting hold of me whenever he wants/needs. He will also possibly need to make local calls to us numbers – but not a huge amount. and use mobile wifi. I think the school he is attending use whatsapp to communicate mostly anyway so I am thinking local calls will be minimal.

    On this basis I am planning on getting him a PAYG simm from three and putting the feel at home bundle on it. This will mean he will be able to call/text me within his allocated three allowance, use his data, communicate with his US school on whatsapp. and for any calls he makes locally – he would get charged 16p a minute – not too bad – I will just have to tell him to make them quick! This seems to me better for him/easier (he is only 13) than messing around with getting him to get a US sim when he gets there and using that which would then cost more to call/text back to the UK.

    Have I understood everything correctly? and do you agree this is probably the best way to go? This would then mean he could stick with his 3 sim too when he is back in the UK – as he is going to be back and forth studying. The one thing I am a bit unsure of is the length of time – i.e. will three penalise him if he is using his 3 simm for six weeks duration april-may and then again sept-oct? will this be too much – I don’t quite understand the 2 month rule. And is Hawaii covered in the feel at home countries.

    Sorry for the VERY long comment – I just want to make sure I am doing the right thing before I purchase!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Anna,
      Thanks for your comment and it sounds like you’ve hit the nail on the head! This will probably be the best value way of him using the phone abroad in America. As you say, the two-month rule could potentially become a bit of a problem later, though the restriction is against spending more than ‘2 complete months in a rolling 12 month period’. I’m not quite sure how Three defines a ‘complete month’ (e.g. is it a calendar month, or any 30-day period) so the answer is I don’t really know! You can see more information on Three’s help page here (see the section titled ‘Usage restrictions’). Anyhow, you should receive a notification if anything were to happen, and there’s always the option of changing to a different SIM card for the second trip.
      Ken

  36. Janison said:

    Hi Ken,

    First comment here but been reading your posts for ages, keep it up!

    Are you able to do a comparison like this for people travelling to Brazil please?

    Thanks
    Janison

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Janison,
      Thank you for the kind feedback and for taking the time to comment on the website! A guide for Brazil is definitely something I can bear in mind for the future (it will obviously depend on the demand and the number of visitors there, however)!
      Thanks,
      Ken

      1. Steven replied:

        Forget Brazil for local sim cards. I live there and the phone shops are a total nightmare: hours of queuing, you need local id and proof of residence, no sales literature, there is no affordable roaming within Brazil and the charges are among the highest in the world. I doubt if using a UK sim card is much better.

        Your best bet is to rely on Skype and wifi in your hotel, restaurants and bars. There is not much free wifi in shopping malls, airports, parks etc.

  37. M Dance said:

    Hi Ken

    My family and I are visiting the US in July (2 weeks) this year. We are all on Vodafone. We may split up during the day to visit different venues and would like to stay in touch. vodafone offers global roaming at £5 per day per person and you can then use your own data package (20G and unlimited calls and messages). I will use that as I need my UK number but, from what you say, the best option for the other members of my family would be 3s “Feel at Home £20 or £10 offer”. All ones were bought directly from Apple so I am sure they are unlocked.

    Thanks

    Mike

  38. Benjamin said:

    Hi Ken, I’m travelling to the US for two months, and then to Spain for other two months, do you know if the 60 days limit applies in this case? I mean, once you change countries, does is reset? the limit? So I would get 120 days in total abroad? Thank you for your post!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Benjamin,
      Thanks for your comment. With Feel At Home, the fair usage limit is defined as “2 complete months” where “you use your allowances exclusively in a Feel At Home destination”. So yes: the two months spent in the US will add to the two months spent in Spain.
      One further note on this however: if during a given month, you use your phone in the UK or in a non-Feel At Home country (e.g. Canada, Mexico or Portugal), it won’t actually count toward the two month limit. You must spend the complete month abroad for it to even count towards this 2 month limit (so in reality, it’s actually very different from a 60-day limit).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  39. Jess said:

    It is also possible to hire a smartphone once you arrive in the US with unlimited data. That way you don’t have to worry about data roaming and buying a US Sim card for your unlocked phone.

    1. mark c replied:

      i traveled to the u.s for 3 months and bought a pay as you go rolling contract costing $25 a month with 400 minutes to us call and 400 text no data but 250 minutes to uk land lines , extra data of around 2-3gb will probably cost around $40-60 a month with alot more call and text time

      no need for roaming charges

      hope this helps

  40. Lisa said:

    Hi Ken I plan to emigrate to the states next year and have a uk iPhone 6s what would your advice be in respect of sims should I buy a us sim or buy a 3 sim?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’re planning to move to the US, I would highly suggest buying a US-based SIM card. This will give you a US-based phone number, which is much more convenient than roaming on a UK SIM. Also, with the SIM card from Three, you’re limited to a maximum of 2 months using the phone exclusively abroad in a Feel At Home country.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  41. Gary page said:

    I am going to america for four months and need a sim only contract that is the best for this amount of time. I understand 3’s contract is limited to 60 days? What would be the best for both local calls texts and calls texts to the UK

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gary,
      Thanks for your comment. For a long-term trip over to the US, you’re probably best off getting a local SIM card there. This can either be a Pay As You Go SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile (see above for more information).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  42. John King said:

    Hi Ken,

    I’m going to NY for one month and the Three is sounding good. What about calls within USA what would they cost?

    Best
    John

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi John,
      Phone calls to a US-based phone number will cost 13.8p/minute on the SIM card from Three. You can see a full list of charges on this page. If you’re using a Pay As You Go SIM card, you’ll need to have extra money on the SIM card to pay for these calls. As an alternative, you can also consider using apps such as Google Hangouts and Skype (they’ll normally be a lot cheaper for calling a US number).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  43. Katharine said:

    Hi,

    I’m travelling to the US in October and intend to meet up with people while I’m over there, due to them travelling some distance (i’ll be in Missouri and they’ll be travelling from Oklahoma) the plan is to keep in touch via mobile, would it be easier for me just to get a US sim considering otherwise we’ll both be calling what are technically both international numbers? (i’m on o2 in the UK)

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Katharine,
      Thanks for your comment. Indeed: having a US-based phone number will make it easier for you to call your friends in the US and also for them to call you when you’re there. You can buy a Pay As You Go SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile in the US (prices typically start from around $30 for 1 month usage). The other option is a Feel At Home SIM card from Three: this will work out cheaper if you’re mainly calling to the UK or if you’re mainly using data when you’re there.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  44. Mark said:

    It looks like the £15 deal has had a slight increase to £20, as I can’t see the £15 deal you are all talking about :), should have bought it earlier… hehe

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mark,
      You’re right: the cost of the £15 deal has unfortunately now been increased to £20. I’ll update the table above once I get back from holiday 🙂
      Ken

  45. John Thomson said:

    Ken,

    If my wife & I both use our UK smartphones our new 3 PAYG SIM number whilst in the USA, would we be able to phone each other on our temporary 3 PAYG numbers & it be included in the “allowance” Is the data allowance valid whilst in the USA. SO if I went with the unlimited data & could use it without issue or other charge?
    Thanks,
    John

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi John,
      Sorry for the delay in replying to your message (I was myself away on holiday for the past couple of weeks!). Your SIM cards from Three can indeed be used to contact each other (Feel At Home allows you to call UK-based phone numbers at no extra charge… as your SIM cards from Three have a UK-based number, you can call each other with the inclusive allowances). The data allowance can also be used when travelling in the US (up to a maximum of 25GB/month if you’re on the £20 bundle).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  46. Ran said:

    Just wanted to leave a quick comment to thank you for this informative, useful post. It has probably saved me a fortune on my upcoming trip to NYC (not to mention future ones).

    Thanks Ken.

  47. Paul Wenman said:

    Ken, thanks for the article. Can you please confirm that the Three Feel at Home deal does not offer local US calls from the UK minutes package – the main benefit is to send/receive calls to/from UK without extra charges.

    For making calls in the US to US numbers, a local sim or maybe a Skype subscription/number would be better – am I right?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      That’s correct – the main benefit is being able to browse the internet at no extra charge as well as calling and texting UK-based numbers. For calls to a US-based phone number, you’re better off with a VoIP provider. Alternatively, you can call a US number for a semi-reasonable rate of 13.8p/minute using Feel At Home (most UK networks will charge you £1.50/minute).
      Ken

  48. David Howarth said:

    Have ordered and received a 3 All in One sim – considering buying the £15 package to cover us for our up and coming holiday in US so should be ideal – however really need to be able to use the phone to call numbers in the US from within the US – how does that work with the Feel at Home option – do I need to have an additional top up at home to cover the usage charge of 16p approx per minute

    Hope you can clarify situation for me

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. That’s right – the Feel At Home offer only includes phone calls to a UK-based phone number. The good news is if other people in your party have a Feel At Home SIM, they’ll have a UK-based number and you’ll be able to call them at no extra charge.
      If you’d like to call a US-based phone number (+1 international dialling code), you’ll need to add extra credit to your SIM card for this purpose. On Pay As You Go, Three currently charges 13.8p/minute when you call a US number. Hence, an extra £5 top-up should give you about 36 minutes of calling to a US number.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  49. Debbie gosling said:

    Hello Ken
    Please can you help me!
    I live in the UK and I am travelling to Los Angeles on August 21st for a 10 day stay, as I will be staying in Anaheim for the Disneyland 60th celebrations I wish to FaceTime my family in England! Also post on Facebook (would also like to phone home if possible) I am totally confused with all the SIM cards available, not sure about the roaming costs as I am quite new to I phoning!
    Please could you advise me as you seem very helpful to others
    Many thanks
    Debbie

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for your comment. As discussed in the article above, the easiest way to use your phone in the USA is probably to order a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three. For a £10 payment, you get 100 minutes for calling back to the UK along with 500MB of data and 3,000 texts. You can use the SIM card in the USA at no extra charge through the Feel At Home offer.
      For a local SIM card that’s based in the USA, you’d probably need to pay at least $30. You’ll also be charged additionally for calling the UK.
      Before using any of these SIM cards, you’ll need to make sure your handset is unlocked. For more information, you can take a look at my article on unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  50. Carole said:

    Dear Ken,
    I’m an American living in the US, so I do want a USA number when I travel to the US, so my US family and friends there can easily call me. I’ve gone to purchase a SIM on AT&T but see no place to specify it’s an Iphone (I have the 5c). Also, can I unlock this anywhere, or should I go to an Apple store. Thanks, Carole

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Carole,
      Thanks for your comment. The iPhone 5c uses nano-sized SIM cards. For this reason, you need to order a Nano SIM from AT&T. I’m not quite sure how it works in the States, though I was able to find this page where you can buy an AT&T nano-SIM. With regards to unlocking, you should go to the mobile network to whom your iPhone is currently locked to. They’re the only ones who’ll be able to unlock the iPhone.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  51. Tom said:

    Hi Ken

    Thanks for a great article. I am an O2 customer and it would have cost me a fortune to use my phone in the USA with their roaming charges. I am in the US for 4 weeks and use my phone a lot for both voice calls and data. I will certainly be using the £15 per month three package.

    Another tip that might help UK customers and perhaps you could confirm if this would work.

    If I get a three sim card, the number will be a UK based number. I therefore plan to divert all of my calls from my o2 number to my new three sim. To do this I just dial:

    ** 21 * number to divert to # send

    This will divert all calls from my o2 number to my new three number. This will mean that I can receive all my calls on my regular number. As I am a pay monthly customer with o2 the cost of the divert will come out of my monthly call allowance. If you have enough minutes this will be free as both numbers are UK numbers. I assume this option will not use any of the allowance on the three sim as receiving calls is included in the £15 bundle and appears unlimited.

    So if you have inclusive minutes on your original pay monthly phone and want the three sim for use in the USA, then this could work for you and you do not need to give everyone a new number to call. Plus it’s free if you have monthly minutes on you usual number.

    Ken please tell me I have not missed something important here. Perhaps you could confirm if this will work for customers on other networks too.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe the call divert should work without any problems (just in case, it’s worth testing this before you leave home). Once you’ve set up the divert, I would also avoid using your O2 SIM card when over in the US. This is because some mobile networks charge you for an international incoming call when the call gets diverted (if your phone connects to a network in the US, it’s possible you’ll be charged the rate to receive phone calls in the US). Leave your O2 SIM card here in the UK and the calls should be diverted just as if you were still in the country.
      On your other point, as you say, it’s free to receive incoming phone calls in a Feel At Home country.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  52. PAUL JOHNSON said:

    Hi Ken, good work, good man. 3 it is…. But

    I also want to buy a personal wifi/mifi gadget …. do you know if these can be unlocked so I can bring back from USA and use anywhere else without a USA provider contract?

    Thanks

    Paul

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Which network or company are you planning to buy your MiFi from? You’ll need to check directly with that company (since they’ll be responsible for actually unlocking it). If you choose the buy the MiFi on a SIM-free basis, it will already be unlocked at the point of sale. If you choose to buy your MiFi from Three, I believe it’s already unlocked (Three certainly sells all of their handsets unlocked, I’m assuming this also applies to their MiFi devices).
      Ken

  53. Julie Harrison said:

    Hi Ken
    I am travelling to Florida in the next couple of weeks for around 8 weeks. I have an unlocked iPhone 6 and am currently on O2. I Would like to be contactable by phone and have data available. What would be my best option? Thank you

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Julie,
      Thanks for your comment. Your options for a SIM card in the US are listed above: my personal recommendation would probably be Three’s All in One SIM card with the Feel At Home offer. You’ll get a UK-based phone number with 100 minutes to the UK and 500MB of data in the US. With the £15 SIM card, there’s 300 minutes and 25GB of internet. Phone calls made to a US phone number will cost you 13.8p/minute.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  54. Ciara said:

    Hi Ken, I am leaving to go to the USA on friday for 5 weeks but my free Three sim only arrived today- would it be ready to work when I arrive?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ciara,
      Thanks for your comment. All Pay As You Go SIM cards from Three are activated immediately for roaming in another country. For Pay Monthly, I think they normally enable this immediately as well but it’s always worth double-checking to make sure. You can do this by logging in to your My3 Account: more information over on this page.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  55. Graham said:

    I always get a T-Mobile sim via telaway all you can use to USA and UK numbers. Free data. And a uk number assigned to divert UK calls free to your mobile. Not the cheapest but by far the best. Imho

  56. Charlie said:

    If I’m on a 12 month contract with another network (in my case O2), would I need to terminate that contract before I could use the Three sim. Or is it simply a case that if I get the 3 Sim I just plug it in and it will give me a new number.

    Just confused how this would work for me as I assume you cannot have the same number at the same time with 2 different networks.

    Thanks.

    BTW, this is a great article and the most useful one I have found to date

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Charlie,
      Thanks for your comment. When you order a new SIM card from Three, you’ll be assigned a new phone number to use on the SIM card (your handset will need to be unlocked). If you want to transfer your phone number from O2 to Three, you can do this using a PAC Code. Transferring the phone number will automatically close your account on O2 so isn’t recommended unless you’re permanently switching networks.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  57. Jayne said:

    Hi Ken

    I’m flying to the U.S. in August and travelling on my own so need the security of a phone. I have just bought an iPhone 5s as I think that is the right band width to use and my phone company will unlock the phone before I go … I will be travelling mostly by car and need to access my google maps so will need plenty of data – which sim would you recommend?

    My son will be in a different part of the U.S. at the same time as me and we will meet up for his wedding part way through my holiday so will need to be able to contact each other. If he also gets the three sim deal – are we able to call each other whilst we are both in America?

    Cheers Jayne

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jayne,
      Thanks for your comment. I would indeed recommend the SIM card from Three. You can either get the £10 SIM card with 100 minutes & 500MB of data or you can get the £15 SIM card with 300 minutes & up to 25GB of data. For a short trip abroad, the 500MB deal should probably be fine. However, you could choose to upgrade to the unlimited data package if you’re a heavy user or if you’d like extra peace of mind.
      With regards to calling on the SIM card, you can use the inclusive minutes to call a UK-based phone number. Hence, if both you and your son had a SIM card from Three then you would both have a UK-based number. Hence, you’d be able to call each other free of charge using the inclusive minutes on the plan.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  58. Jeff said:

    Ken,

    The Three package looks ideal for me travelling to New York and then later this year to Florida and would probably go for the £15 deal – the two trips are at different times and the way I have read this is a sim would have 30 days usage in the states (per sim card). I am happy to buy 2 sims (no plans on using for incoming calls, so the tel number is not important), have I understood this correctly?
    Also, my phone is currently ‘locked’ to Vodaphone, do I need to get my phone either unlocked or buy a new unlocked phone for this to work (I am assuming I cannot use a Three sim in a Voda mobile.

    Thanks for any help you can give

    Jeff.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for your comment. The All-in-One bundle from Three is for 30 days of continuous usage. Unfortunately, for this reason, you can’t split up your 30 days between two trips at different times in the year. You can, of course, re-use an existing SIM card but you’ll need to buy a new 30-day bundle (this will cost you another £10 or £15).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  59. Jax said:

    Hi, I am visiting New York for 6 days and I have an iPhone on ee network (unlocked), ee don’t give a decent deal for USA as thy don’t provide bundles etc. last year I used telaway but they are asking £50 for 10 days which if only using for 6 works out steep…. Anyway my question is I wish to be fully switched on for the duration phone, text, Internet, Facebook etc without being worried if I gave enough data useage to last and not get any surprises…. Could you please advise what you think would work best for me and obviously the cheapest would be good too
    Many thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jax,
      Thanks for your comment. As you say, EE is incredibly expensive if you want to use your phone abroad in the USA. My recommendation would probably be to buy a £10 Pay As You Go SIM card from Three. You can use the Feel At Home offer whilst you’re out there in New York (it’ll give you 100 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of internet). You could also buy a SIM card locally in America but it’s likely to be much more expensive ($30 or more plus tax). With a US SIM card, you’ll also need to pay extra to call back to the UK.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  60. Bill Temple said:

    Ken. I am planning on making a 30 day US road trip in June which will take me from Washington DC to Seattle. I’m planning to take an unlocked Galaxy Ace 2 with me to use only for calls within the US (my calls back to the UK will be through Skype on my Ipad). I’m not particularly worried about having internet access on my phone but would like a 100 minutes or so of call time to make or confirm reservations at hotels , restaurants etc. Which SIM card would you recommend for this purpose?

    Regards

    Bill

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Bill,
      Thanks for your comment. Your best options would probably be either to get a SIM card from Three or to get a SIM card whilst you’re out in the US. With Three, you get inclusive calls back to the UK and you can browse the internet on your Galaxy Ace 2. Calls to a US phone number are 15.6p/minute (approximately £15.60 assuming you make 100 minutes of calls).
      With an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card, you’d be looking to pay at least $30 plus tax for the basic package. This approximately works out as £23 for one month of usage.
      Ken

  61. Max said:

    Hello,
    i will grab a £15 SIM card with 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 25GB of mobile internet.
    But i live in Germany 🙁 Where i can buy it? it is not possible that Three send the sim to Germany?

    Best regards

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Max,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the SIM card from Three is only available to people in the UK (it won’t be shipped outside the country). It might be worth checking the networks in Germany to see whether any of them have good deals for roaming in the US. If not, your best bet would probably be to grab a SIM card locally in the US.
      Ken

  62. Ian said:

    Hi Ken
    Would the £10 Three deal be ok just for a 2 week holiday in Florida ? Don’t want to committ to regular monthly charges as happy with existing provider when in the UK ?
    Many thanks,

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comment. The Feel At Home offer would be perfect for your trip to the Florida – I recommend getting the £10 deal on Pay As You Go (it’s a prepay tariff so there’s no commitment to any regular monthly charges after you finish using the SIM card).
      Ken

  63. Debs said:

    Hi Ken im going to New York for 4 days then onto Arizona for 22 days which would be the best SIM card for me to use? I have a galaxy s 2 which has been unlocked and where can I purchase yThe sim
    Thankyou

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Debs,
      Thanks for your comment. I would almost certainly recommend a SIM card from Three in the UK. You can grab one here for only £10 which gives you 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of internet (it’s a Pay As You Go SIM card with no commitments). Alternatively, grab a £15 SIM card with 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 25GB of mobile internet. You can use the allowances as normal when you’re in the US (i.e. you can browse the internet, use WhatsApp, check maps, call & text home to the UK, etc).
      It’s also possible to buy a SIM card from the US. However, this is substantially more expensive and requires a bit of time on your arrival in the States.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  64. Martin said:

    Thanks very much

  65. Martin said:

    Hey ken im moving to the usa and I have been looking on the apple Web site to see which cell provides would work with my fully unlocked(thanks for the unlocking walkthrough in your other post by the way) iphone 6 plus . But it says I can’t use at&t or t mobile on my model (A1524). But does say I can use sprint, c-spire, us cellular etc. So I’m really confused and need help

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Martin,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve just taken a look at Apple’s website – is it the page here that you were referring to in your comment? If so, the good news the iPhone 6 Plus (A1524) also supports AT&T and T-Mobile USA. There’s a small bit of text under the A1524 sub-heading (“Models A1586 and A1524 also support LTE networks listed for models A1549 and A1522”) – though blink and you’ll probably miss it!
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  66. Catherine Cameron-Martin said:

    Hi Ken, I like the Three option of the sim card with monthly cost of £15 giving 300 mins, 3000 texts and 25GB. When I go to Orlando I am normally there for 4 – 6 months at a time. I am getting ready to leave on 28th Jan 2015, usually I use AT&T 250 mins $25 plus taxes and include $5 for international calling to UK which gives 250 mins which I find very useful. So total a month is $30 approx £20. I don’t think Three offers the option of the $5 international option. Can you advise which you think is my best option. I also found with AT&T whilst I was outside a WiFi area I could not get internet access, is that right?

    Kind Regards
    Catherine

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Catherine,
      Thanks for your comment. The $25 deal from AT&T includes 50MB of mobile internet every month (to put this into context, it’s only 0.05GB). So you’re almost right in saying that internet is only available when you have wi-fi connectivity (in fact, you can use the mobile internet but you’ll probably run out of data after only a couple of days).
      With regards to the deal from Three, please be aware that the 300 minutes are only for calling a UK phone number (this is similar to the AT&T international calling plan). There are *no* included minutes for calling a US number (calls to the US will cost you 15.6p/minute). Also, it’s important to be aware that the SIM card from Three can’t be used exclusively abroad for more than three months in any given year. Because of this, it won’t be suitable if you’re going abroad for 4-6 months.
      Ken

  67. David Astley said:

    Ken, going to Florida next week. Have iPhone6+ & 3Three monthly plan. Do I still have to switch “data roaming” on my iPhone when I land in Orlando?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi David,
      For Feel at Home, you will indeed need to turn on the data roaming feature after landing in Orlando. Remember to turn it off when leaving the US if you want to avoid roaming charges in other countries.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. David Astley replied:

        Thanks Ken. Very useful site.

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