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 mobile phone whilst 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 or attractions with Google Maps).

The good news is it’s now 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 compare the cost of using different SIM cards and will discuss 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 in the USA.

Almost all UK smartphones sold in the past decade will work in the US without any problems. Typically, you can get 3G coverage from AT&T and both 2G & 3G coverage from T-Mobile USA. On a limited selection of newer handsets, it may also be possible to get some 4G coverage from the two mobile networks.

If you’re using a fairly old handset or if your smartphone was purchased outside the UK, you should double-check to make sure your handset will work. Your phone will need to support at least 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: AT&T switched off their 2G coverage in January 2017.
    • For 3G: WCDMA/HSPA 850 or WCDMA/HSPA 1900
    • For 4G: LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 12 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, 12, 66 or 71

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 for their mobile networks (CDMA/EVDO) which is incompatible with most UK smartphones.

The Two Ways Of Using Your Smartphone in the US

There are two ways to use your smartphone in the US: you can either roam on a UK-based SIM card (setting it up before you go) or you can buy a new US-based SIM card upon your arrival in the States.

  • Roaming on a UK-based 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 will be charged for usage through your UK network. You’ll 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 from just £10 for up to one month. This comes with inclusive data and inclusive calls back to the UK (including to other UK-based mobile numbers travelling abroad with you).
  • Buying a new US-based 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 $30 plus tax (about £21.45 plus tax of around 10%). This will give you an allowance of US minutes and also an allowance of data to use on your phone (additional charges will apply for calling back to the UK). You’ll need to buy your SIM card in person when you arrive in the US (typically, you’ll also need either a US-based credit card or cash to pay for your top-up). 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 £1.20/minute £1.00/minute 60p/text £4/day for 40MB
giffgaff £1.00/minute £1.00/minute 30p/text 20p per MB
O2 £2.00/minute £2.00/minute 50p/text £7.20 per MB
Orange £1.44/minute £1.44/minute 60p/text £3/day for 20MB
Plusnet Mobile £2.50/minute £1.00/minute 50p/text £8/MB
Sky Mobile 96p/minute 96p/minute 42p/text £5/day to use UK allowance
Tesco Mobile £1.29/minute 89p/minute 40p/text £5/MB
T-Mobile UK £1.44/minute £1.44/minute 60p/text £4/day for 20MB
Three Included Included Included Included
Virgin Mobile £1.80/minute £1.20/minute 36p/text £20/week for 50MB
Vodafone £6/day to use your UK allowance of minutes, texts & internet

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

If you’re roaming on a UK-based SIM card, you can normally benefit from 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 can use their normal UK allowances at no extra charge. The offer is open to customers on both Pay Monthly (Advanced plans only) and Pay As You Go. For more information, please read our full review of the Feel At Home offer.

If you’re not currently a customer of Three, you can benefit from the offer by ordering a Three Pay As You Go SIM card. For instance, a £10 top-up will give you 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB of internet (up to 30 days usage in the US). You can upgrade this to 5GB of data for a £15 top-up or 12GB of data for a £20 top-up:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimited
to UK
Unlimited
to UK
2GB
in UK & US
£10.00
ThreeUnlimited
to UK
Unlimited
to UK
5GB
in UK & US
£15.00
ThreeUnlimited
to UK
Unlimited
to UK
12GB
in UK & US
£20.00

With an “All in One” Pay As You Go bundle, the inclusive minutes, texts and internet can be used abroad in the United States at no additional charge.

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 with you at the same time and using a UK-based phone number (your friends or family members could also be using another SIM card from Three). Phone calls to a US-based phone number will cost you £1.40/minute extra.

As an alternative to the Feel At Home offer, customers on an EE Max tariff will also get roaming in the US included with their plan.

Buying A US SIM Card On Arrival

If you regularly travel to the United States for an extended amount of time, you might be better off buying 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 most UK-purchased smartphones.

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 biggest mobile network in the US. They’ve been established for a longer amount of time than T-Mobile USA, which gives them better nationwide coverage. At present, AT&T claims to offer 99% population coverage on 3G and 4G (their 2G service closed down in January 2017).

On AT&T, you can get a prepaid plan from $35/month plus tax. AT&T’s prepaid plans were historically known as “GoPhone” and as such, may still be referred to by this name in some places.

For a typical smartphone user visiting the US, we’d recommend the $45 GoPhone plan (approximately £32/month plus tax). This will give you 6GB of high-speed 4G data along with unlimited calls & unlimited texts within the US. Phone calls back to the UK will cost you 49¢/minute (35p/minute) plus tax, or you can buy the $5/month International Long Distance Package which gives you 250 minutes for calling a UK landline (approximately £3.58/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
1GB $35.00
plus taxes
£25.01
plus taxes
AT&T Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
6GB $45.00
plus taxes
£32.15
plus taxes
AT&T Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
Unlimited* $65.00
plus taxes
£46.44
plus taxes

* On the $65/month AT&T prepaid plan with unlimited data, you’ll get full download speeds on the first 22GB of data usage. Thereafter, download speeds will be capped at 3Mbps.

You can get an AT&T prepaid 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 worth checking the coverage at places where you’ll regularly visit (see AT&T’s online coverage map).

If you’re staying in the US for an extended amount of time, you may be able to get a $5/month discount by enrolling in AT&T’s AutoPay programme. We wouldn’t recommend this if you’re a short-term visitor as it means your AT&T SIM card will be topped up automatically every month.

Finally, it’s worth being aware that your AT&T prepaid SIM card will be deactivated automatically if you don’t top it up again within 60 days of your previous bundle expiring. For this reason, it will only be possible to re-use the SIM card on a subsequent trip if you plan to visit the US again within a 60-day period.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile USAIn the US, T-Mobile is the third-largest mobile network when measured in terms of number of subscribers. It is a separate and independent network from T-Mobile UK, and the two should not be confused with each other.

On T-Mobile, there are two types of prepaid package. For short one-off trips, you can choose the 21-day International Tourist Plan. Meanwhile, regular visitors and customers who want to stay for more than 21 days can choose a regular prepaid package like Simply Prepaid or T-Mobile One.

For short-term visitors, we’d currently recommend the 21-day International Tourist SIM card. This comes with 1,000 US minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of 4G data (beyond that, you’ll still be able to use the SIM card but speeds will be restricted to 150kbps or 0.15Mbps). The International Tourist Plan costs $30 plus tax (£21.45 plus tax). It cannot be renewed at the end of the 21-day period.

If you choose a regular prepaid package, it’s possible to get a larger allowance of data. The following table shows available options from T-Mobile USA (prices and allowances are shown on a per-month basis):

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost (USD)
Approx
Cost (GBP)
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
4GB $45.00
plus taxes
£32.17
plus taxes
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
6GB $55.00
plus taxes
£39.32
plus taxes
T-Mobile Thumbnail Unlimited
to US
Unlimited
to US
Unlimited* $75.00
plus taxes
£53.62
plus taxes

You can get a T-Mobile USA SIM card for $20 plus tax at any T-Mobile retail store.

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 worth checking the coverage for the places where you’re staying.

If you choose the International Tourist Plan, your SIM card will expire after 21 days. Meanwhile, with other prepaid plans, you’ll be able to renew the bundle to continue using it. However, your SIM card will expire if you don’t top it up for a period of 90 days. 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.

Our Recommended Deal

For the majority of visitors to the US, we’d recommend roaming on a UK-based SIM card. Three is by far the best UK mobile network from which to get a Pay As You Go SIM card. The SIM card is free and a top-up from £10 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 $20 (£16) plus tax.
Starts from £10 (including tax) for 30 days usage. Starts from $35 (£25) plus tax for 30 days 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 £1.40/minute. Inclusive calls to US-based phone numbers. Calls to the UK start from 49¢/minute (40p/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 (T-Mobile International Tourist SIM will expire after 21 days).

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

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimited
to UK
Unlimited
to UK
2GB
in UK & US
£10.00
ThreeUnlimited
to UK
Unlimited
to UK
5GB
in UK & US
£15.00
ThreeUnlimited
to UK
Unlimited
to UK
12GB
in UK & US
£20.00

You’ll get the SIM card sent to your UK address so there’s one less thing to worry about 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 need to do is to make sure your handset is unlocked). You can choose your All-in-One bundle when ordering your SIM card (for most people, we’d recommend the £15 bundle).

  • US Roaming Price: £15/month for 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 5GB of data
  • Overages: 1p/MB once you’ve used 5GB (or choose the £20 bundle for a 12GB allowance)
  • £15 top-up buys: Up to 30 days of smartphone usage in the US

Order Three Pay As You Go SIM Card →

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-based 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 the following things in mind:

  1. You’ll need an ESTA to fly to the US (it costs $14 or approximately £10 per person). If you’re travelling to the US by air or by sea (even if you’re only transiting through the US to another country), you’ll need to complete an online ESTA form (from the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). It costs $14 per person and lasts for two years (this is approximately £10 per person). There’s more information about this on GOV.UK and 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 turn them on. This includes your smartphone, tablet, laptop and e-book reader. You could be asked to switch 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. Make sure you have the relevant adapters for charging your electronics. You’ll need a UK-to-US plug adapter for charging your electronic devices (besides your mobile phone, consider whether you might need additional adapters for your laptop, hairdryer, shaver, etc).
  4. 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.

Your Comments 292 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 292 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Great advice. A very big thank you.

    These are great ways of phoning back home. Without buying a us SIM card, I am not sure of the best option for ringing USA from within USA for booking hotels, taxi and arranging things. £1.40 pm will soon add up. Would it be possible to use data on the 3 SIM and an app like Rebtel to make internet calls within USA?

    Good stuff, thank you

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re right: the SIM card from Three isn’t great for making phone calls directly to a US-based phone number (+1). However, like you said, you can side-step this by using a voice-over-IP app like Rebtel, Google Voice or Skype 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Great information. The advice on tsking a UK sim and recommending Three was perfect. That was just what I was looking for. Already bought mine!

  • A wonderfully clear, well constructed site with excellent information. You’ve helped take the mystery and uncertainty out of all things travel/phone related.

    Thank you so much.

    Greeting from Ireland!

  • Hello. I just wanted to say thank you so much for your wonderfully clear and helpful website. I’ve only had a smartphone for three months and am planning my second ever trip abroad, with the first having been thirteen years ago when even my laptop wasn’t portable enough to travel with! I had become thoroughly confused by all the information out there, so your site has really helped.

  • Hi Ken,
    I want to take an old iPhone 4 to an elderly relative in the USA. I bought the phone here in the U.K. but have not used it for years. My relative is in a nursing home and will generally have access to WiFi there. I would like to be able to send her iMessages and to FaceTime with her. I’m not sure how much more than that will be possible since it is such an old phone. I am planning to buy a SIM card once I am in the USA. Will I have to pay a monthly fee for her to be able to use it or is there some other alternative? Are there any other issues I should be considering?

    • Hi Merideth,
      Thanks for your comment. There would be no monthly fee if the iPhone was purely used at home over a Wi-Fi connection (it would simply work like an iPod Touch). You would only need to get a SIM card if you’d like to use the iPhone over a 2G/3G connection, for which there would be a regular monthly fee.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • I live in the UK and need to have a US cellphone number to receive calls and texts, but don’t need to make any calls, send texts, or use data. (Why: I have bank accounts in the US, they use texts or autocalls for verification, and they require a US telephone number.) What’s the cheapest way to do that? I need it for more than a few months and visit the US infrequently, so need to be able to do top-ups from abroad. I will be able to pick up the SIM card in the US.

    • Hi Don,
      Thanks for your comment. Does Google Voice work for you? I believe they’ll give you a free US-based phone number, which you can use through an application for calls, texts, etc. You could simply use that application on your normal UK SIM card (therefore allowing you to have access to a US phone number at the same time).
      Ken

  • Are the T-Mobile prepaid sims purchased here in UK before travel, for local use in USA a good idea? I don’t fancy the idea of trying to find a shop on arrival, yet want to be up and running with a USA service/number. My own UK i-phone is unlocked.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for your comment. I don’t believe the T-Mobile USA SIM cards are officially exported to the UK. For this reason, if you decide to order one online, you would need to trust the seller of that item. Assuming the SIM card is fine, however, I believe this should probably also work as a solution.
      Ken

  • Hi, any idea how I would call from one uk mobil to another UK mobile if we are both in the USA? last time we were in the US this seemed to be an issue and we couldn’t work out how to call each other.

    • Hi Duncan,
      Generally, you can call each other the normal way on your smartphone (simply find the entry in the address book and tap on it!). However, it’s best to make sure the phone numbers are stored in an international format (to get this, replace the zero at the start with +44). For instance, 07123 456 789 would become +44 7123 456 789.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Gill,
      You can use the maps application via roaming in America. If you’d like to save some data, it might be worth downloading the maps before you go and having them available offline without the need for an internet connection.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken ,
    I’m heading over to the states for 7 weeks for my medical elective. Ideally I’d like an offer with unlimited wifi, decent deals for calling within the states as I’ll need it for day to day activities incase. I doubt I’ll be phoning back to the UK much. I am currently on the £20 deal for three. Do you think i should get an AT&T sim card or stick with three? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re probably going to be best off using a local SIM card from the USA, given you’ll mainly be using it for US phone calls over an extended amount of time. A prepaid SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile USA should work in most unlocked UK smartphones. Your current SIM card from Three UK can help to bridge the gap until you get your new SIM card, and could always come in handy again if you’d like to call friends and family in the UK.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • You could also try getting a Rebtel account for free calls – it take a small bit of management but it enables you to call US numbers for free by patching them through an access number (or via an app) so on your three sim card you’d phone a UK number then input the US number and not get charged at all. (They also offer wifi calling but I found that to be unreliable.) This iswhat I used last time I was in the US – link below and at the time US calls weren’t free!

  • BEWARE if getting the Three SIM that the company heavily throttles the services in the USA. I’ve experienced this on several trips. When I was in New York over the holidays, the throttling was so severe that I could not even check email or open a map.

    The American SIMs are more expensive but far more reliable.

  • Cheapest USA SIM (IF you travel there a lot – AND want to keep the same USA number) is at AT&T – by switching PREPAID plans when you return to UK (after you buy a plan & use their SIM).

    AT&T have 8 PREPAID plans, from 25c/min (min $10 spend/mo) – up to $85/mo for a gazillon Gb & international whizzbang.

    https://www.att.com/prepaid/plans.html (scroll down for all 8 plans)

    Dec 2018 took my unlocked iPhone 6s (O2 sim) to California for 5 weeks. At AT&T store they gave me a US number sim and I chose a PREPAID PLAN that suited me ($35/mo for unlimited calls/texts & 1Gb data/no international). On the day I left I switched (online) to 25c/min PREPAID PLAN ($10 min cost/mo). Best to setup an AT&T online account to do this – so you can switch back when you return.

  • Hey Ken,
    Really appreciate the advice, explained really clearly. Only discrepancy I found was the info on 3’s website contradicting your claim that with their pay as you go sim in the US that a call to an American number will be charged at £1.40/minute. The woman I spoke to today in store claims that this is now charged at the UK rate of 3p per minute. See three.co.uk/paygint thought this might be an update since this was posted that could be helpful to other readers.
    Thanks, this post helped me rule out buying a sim over there

    • Hi Mel,
      Thanks for your comment! You can see the page here on Three’s international roaming charges in the USA. They’ll currently charge you £1.40/minute if you’re calling a US-based phone number whilst in the US. I believe the page you linked to refers to something a bit different – that’s the cost of calling the USA whilst you’re in the UK.
      Ken

      • Is there anything I need to do to use my 3 SIM in the states? Currently on unlimited everything and would like to use it for calling home on messenger and WhatsApp.

        • Hi Donna,
          Many thanks for your comment. There’s no special need to do anything to use your phone in the USA, except from to make sure that data roaming is enabled on your device.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  • I spend 5 months in Florida and have been looking for a US sim only deal with a payg arrangement to put in my UK Iphone. Any ideas .? $35 a month is a bit more than I’d like .I was given a basic cell phone with a payg sim but the phone broke & T Mobile denied any knowledge of the sim even though it had $30 credit on it & had a T Mobile login associated with it.

    • Floyd Behr replied:

      I was given this SIM for free as part of my package when I bought Disney passes from Attraction Tickets Direct Online https://smartsimusa.com/shop/valencia-orange-sim/ This firm has unlimited everything plans on the T-Mobile network. My iPhone 7 worked brilliantly but had trouble in spots with my wife’s older Moto as it didn’t have all the frequencies. Will definitely bring a newer phone next time I go on holiday to Florida.

  • Ken,

    Very refreshing to read a site that is informative and easy to understand.
    I already knew most of the information you had as I’m with 3…but my partner needed some clear and concise instructions and information.

  • Hi Ken
    My daughter will be studying in Queens NY from January to June 2019. She has a month to month UK contract on O2, but she has friends in New York she will need to keep in contact with along with texting me in the UK. What would be the most cost effective way to do this?

    • Hi Clare,
      Many thanks for your comment. As she’ll be going out to the US for half a year, it’s probably best for her to get a local SIM card whilst she’s there. This will come with a US phone number, which is also better for staying in touch with friends who are there.
      With regards to texting home, the cheapest way to do this is to use something like WhatsApp. Otherwise, she will need to check the cost of sending international text messages from the US, and this will be charged extra on top of her normal plan.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are any discounts for taking multiple SIM cards (it might be a case of getting fewer SIM cards and then sharing them amongst yourselves). Alternatively, if you’ll all be staying together for the duration of the trip, you could look into getting a wi-fi hotspot (“Mi-Fi”) and sharing the data plan on that.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I’m going on a 5 day trip to New York and with the help of your site I’ve decided to get a £15 pay as you go sim from Three so I can use my UK based phone.

    I just wanted to say thank you for giving your time and sharing your expertise, its helped me greatly and given me one less thing to worry about.

    Rik.

    • Hi Saleh,
      I’m not personally aware of any operators that do this, though various networks might offer an international calling add-on or something (where you’ll pay an extra fee each month for an allowance of international minutes). Perhaps someone else reading this article might be able to add some light?
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Reports from the US suggest that both AT&T and T-Mobile would like to shut down 2G and 3G services within the next three years – AT&T have already switched off 2G. Both operators want to move their customers to an all-LTE service.

    It is my understanding that a 4G phone switches to 2G/3G to make a voice call. When 2G/3G services have been ‘sunset’, will travellers to the US be unable to make voice calls on their smartphones if they are not configured for Voice over LTE?

    • Hi Jay,
      Many thanks for your comment. I’m aware the US networks have an intention to switch off 2G and 3G, though I’m not sure what timescales they’ll actually be able to achieve on this. The issue you mentioned is definitely one blocker to this, as even today, lots of handsets do not properly work on 4G Calling/VoLTE. This is probably exasperated for international visitors to the US, who are even less likely to have a compatible handset & tariff. I suspect this will need to be resolved before they can finally switch off 2G and 3G, but given it’s not going to happen for another few years, it’s likely things will evolve in the meantime before that.
      As an aside, I believe European networks are going about things slightly differently. The alternative approach is to start by switching off just 3G networks, leaving the 2G network running for embedded-SIMs and for voice/text fallback.
      Ken

    • Hi Sue,
      Many thanks for your comment. Which SIM card are referring to specifically? Three’s smartphone SIM cards cannot be used in a MiFi, but the policy may differ for other networks. Alternatively, on Three, you may also want to take a look at the mobile broadband SIM cards which do allow usage inside of a MiFi.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken
    I’ve been reading with interest in your tips for US travel, and used your experience and knowledge in progressing with our plans. We’re doing a near-3 week tour across the States in the classic Route 66 trail. We will require a good data signal as a lot of our ongoing data/info will be drawn from the web and google maps. We also stream music through our phones to the car. So a 4G signal would be required most of the time. Calls can be made through IP sites such as Skype and WhatsApp.
    I’ve just had my O2 iPhone unlocked, free of charge, by O2. It was done very quickly and easily using the online chat service on their website.
    My partner and I will buy a SIM on arrival in Chicago. The question I have for you is; do you know if AT&T are better generally than the other providers across the states? We’re driving 2500 miles so want the best accumulation of connected masts as possible.

    • Hi Karl,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on how AT&T compares against T-Mobile USA for coverage. Anecdotally, I do believe this is probably the case but it might be worth checking on a US website/forum to see what the locals actually think 🙂
      Ken

  • Hi I have recently been on holiday to Mexico. The hotel had a ip/telephone system whereby you could dial the uk for free. I had my mobile roaming switched off but used my mobile on the WiFi. I did receive a couple of calls but did not answer as I didn’t want to incur charges but the callers have told me my phone rang with a uk ring tone. This sounded strange but I’m thinking it was picking up the WiFi signal and connecting over the telephony up system somehow ?? I am going back soon, and am curious if this is correct and if I use my iPhone to other iPhone users whether the call will be free ?

    • Hi Jo,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say based on the ringtone alone so I would probably avoid reading too much into it! I believe most networks restrict Wi-Fi Calling so it only works in the UK, so this typically won’t allow you to make phone calls for free when abroad. The IP/telephone system provided by the hotel is also entirely separate, and shouldn’t change the operation of how your phone connects to the mobile network. Your best bet when travelling abroad is to connect to wi-fi and to use voice-over-IP apps like WhatsApp or Skype for your phone call.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken.

    Do these suggestions for local USA is cards apply to phones from South Africa, and will this work for an iPhone?

    • Hi Vis,
      Many thanks for your comment. The US-based SIM cards from AT&T and T-Mobile USA are available to anyone who visits the US, so this would also apply to you. However, the UK-based solution is for UK residents, so you’ll need to substitute this for research on your local mobile networks and how much they’ll charge you for using your phone in the States.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • My daughter has secured a student work placement in Phoenix, Arizona and we are looking at the best phone options for her. It seems that she will need a US telephone number as many of the forms require that, e.g. Bank account, accommodation etc. If she is telephoning home she will use Skype or WhatsApp. Her current phone plan gives her unlimited calls and texts and 6G of data which she generally uses. Anything similar send to be much more expensive than her uk plan with O2. Your suggestions would be helpful. Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Sandy,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, for a longer-term trip to the USA, I would definitely recommend getting a local US-based number.
      Sadly, the state of affairs is simply that US mobile networks will charge a lot more than mobile networks here in the UK. This is due to a number of different reasons, but a key one is they don’t have the same amount of choice and competition between mobile networks in the US. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a similar deal in the US offering anywhere close to the same amount of data for the same amount you’d pay in the UK.
      Ken

  • I understand that it is normal practice for US networks to charge the *recipient* per minute for a phone call, as well as the person who made the call.
    How does this work with say the T-Mobile and ATT packages above? If someone in the UK dials the US number, do the minutes in the call come out of the US phone’s monthly allowance/

    • Hi Paul,
      That’s a very good question! As you say, the US has a “receiving party pays” (RPP) system where you’re charged for both incoming and outgoing phone calls. For customers with an inclusive minute allowance, the usage will be deducted from this allowance.
      I believe an incoming international call is simply charged at the normal rate for receiving incoming calls (so it’s possible to use the inclusive minutes from your plan without paying a surcharge). All of the additional international calling charges are paid by the person who initiates the phone call. For more info, see the AT&T website or this discussion on Reddit.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • My daughter is going to be in the US for 10 months on a study program, the Three deal looks good but the small print will tell you that it is limited to two consecutive months in any rolling 12 months. I can either sign up for a new sim every two months and post it out to her or sign up for an expensive US sim. I’m also concerned about the Three coverage in Iowa.

    • Hi Richard,
      Many thanks for your comment. For a 10-month trip out the USA, it’s probably best to get a SIM card from a local provider. It’s likely she may want to make local phone calls, and be contactable on a US-based number by other people (something that isn’t that easy, or possible using the Three UK SIM).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Stanley Richards said:

    Hello Ken,

    This is good, solid information and especially relevant for people like me who are only here in the USA for a short period. Three is a realistic option to have and well worth it for the visitor who doesn’t any to re-mortage their property when they get back to the UK! Once again thanks for this website

  • Fatboyslcik said:

    This information is incorrect.
    EE and O2 now offer inclusive usage on many of their plans
    Three’s Feel at Home DOES NOT allow you to call and text UK numbers that are also abroad and NOT on Feel at Home. For example if you are on Three and your Partner is on Vodafone and both on holiday in the USA, it will cost the THREE user Xp to contact the Vodafone user.
    Vodafone on the other hand is free to any network no matter where they are

    There’s no mention of the fact only VF and EE offer 4G services and Three’s is throttled 3G service with bars on hot spots and streaming. Nor any mention of the data usage limits for the other networks (13GB for three, 50mb a day on O2)

    There’s also no mention of coverage. The reason Three is so cheap is that their Roaming Agreement hardly covers any spectrums and as i said above, is only throttled 3G. With limited spectrum, uses will not have much coverage compared to EE and VF (O2 is also limited)

    There’s also no explanation of the fact Giff Gaff, Tesco, Sky etc are just MVNOs for the core networks and so coverage is based on their parent networks roaming agreements

    • Hi there,
      Thanks for the feedback on this article. You’re right in saying that EE and O2 now offer inclusive roaming in the USA on some of their plans (e.g. EE includes this on their EE Max plans and O2 on a selected range of Pay Monthly plans). However, a large number of people don’t have one of these plans (specifically, because they’re priced at a premium) and are probably unlikely to take one of these plans just for their trip abroad. This means if you’re not already on one of these plans with inclusive roaming in the USA, the SIM card from Three will probably be a cheaper & much more flexible option.
      With regards to the inclusive calling, Three allows you to call UK-based phone numbers as you normally can with your allowances in the UK. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a problem calling a Vodafone UK number, as it’s just treated as a UK call (additional charges, if applicable, will be charged by Vodafone for receiving the incoming call e.g. via Vodafone’s £6/day Global Roaming service).
      The feedback around data speeds & lack of 4G is very valid. Three isn’t always that clear on how they restrict data speeds and usage abroad, but I’ve prepared a summary here based on some of my understandings.
      Do let me know if you have any other thoughts/suggestions!
      Thanks,
      Ken

  • Free wifi in theme parks. Restaurants almost everywhere. All set up a whats app account andcyou can call each other free via wifi. I found the three sim very hit and miss to uk numbers whilst i was in Florida.

  • Simon Houlton said:

    Hi Ken,

    I’m going on holiday at the end of July for 2 weeks with my wife and daughters. We currently have 4 mobiles with O2 business and have found that we will need to pay £7.50 per day per phone to use them in the USA via some ‘Rest of the world’ bolt on which will cost us £420 in total assuming we send 1 text to one person on any given day (sounds crazy to be honest!). We only want to be able to keep in contact with each other whilst out there and have no need to call the UK, so wondered if there is an obvious pay as you go option that will give us enough minutes and texts to do that rather more cheaply!
    Thanks
    Simon

    • Hi Simon,
      £420!?! Ouch, that’s absolutely extortionate! It might be worth having a look into the Pay As You Go SIM cards from Three. You can use the allowances for calling another UK-based number at no extra charge when you’re travelling in the USA. Therefore, if you each have a SIM card from Three, the £10 top-up with 3,000 minutes should more than cover all of your calls to each other whilst you’re there (along with your text messages and mobile data usage).
      Hope this helps and have a lovely trip!
      Ken

      • What happens after the initial 30 day period with the Three SIMs in terms of top up, is this manual or do they take payment automatically from the card used to purchase the SIM – I only need for 3 days and want to prevent any recurring payment.
        Also if I ordered today and activated next week, I assume my 30 days start when I activate next week and not at time of purchase?

        Lastly, with regards to calling US numbers. If I buy a calling card from the UK, with an 03 access number, I should be able to use this in the same way as if I was in the UK (using the Three SIM to dial the access number as this would be within the allowance)?

        Thanks in advance.

        • Hi HP,
          Many thanks for your comment. When you buy a bundle, you simply top-up your phone with £10 of credit (or however much the bundle costs) and you then convert that credit into a 30-day bundle. It’s not a contract so there’s no obligation to continue using the SIM card, and your card will not be charged again automatically unless you set-up an automatic top-up feature on it.
          With regards to calling the US numbers: yes, you can absolutely do this through a UK-based access number. As far as Three are concerned, you’re simply calling a UK-based number.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

          • Pete Beech replied:

            As the OP also asked, do you know when the 30 days starts? The Three website is totally unclear about this. I have looked through the whole add-on FAQ, but can’t see an answer to this. Does it start when you purchase it, or do you have to do something specific and explicit to actually activate the add-on. Basically, do I have to time the purchase of the add-on, or can I buy it and activate it later, to start the 30 days usage?

          • Hi Pete,
            I believe it begins when you activate the SIM card, as opposed to when you order it online. It’s therefore a good idea to activate your SIM card close to the beginning of your trip.
            Hope this helps,
            Ken

  • Hi Ken
    I understand that you will need ESTA for UK tourists landing in US soil
    What do you need for Canada for UK tourist?
    As i am planning a round trip , I want to ensure that all the documents / visas are in hand.
    The trip plan looks like this
    Outbound : UK to US
    Internal trip : US to Canada
    Inbound : Canada to UK

    Will be good if you or someone in this forum can help?

    Thanks

    • Hi Thani,
      Thanks for your comment. I recommend having a look at the GOV.UK page for visiting Canada – specifically the section on entry requirements which should answer your question. If you’re travelling from the US to Canada via road, rail or sea, it shouldn’t be necessary to get any additional documents. If you’re flying, you’ll need to get an Canadian equivalent of an ESTA (called an eTA or electronic travel authorisation).
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    My son is going to be working at a US summer camp for 2 months from June to August. He will be calling home though, so I’m really not sure which way to go. None of the 3 options seem to last for more than 30 days. And yet the US sim option doesn’t seem very cost effective when phoning home.

    • Hi Heidi,
      The bundles listed will last for a period of 30 days, but you can renew them when they come to an end and buy another 30-day bundle. For instance, Three charges £10/month on their entry-level All-in-One SIM card, so it’s £20 for two months of usage.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Ken what about South America, my daughter is going travelling for 3 months around South American countries, what would you suggest.

    • Hi Philip,
      Many thanks for your comment. I know Three’s Feel At Home offer includes a couple of South American countries, so it might be worth having a look into that to see if it’s suitable for her usage (the caveat being you can only use it for up to 2 months abroad). If not, it’s possible she’ll be best off buying a local SIM card in the countries she visits.
      Ken

  • Pete Beech said:

    Hi Ken,
    Thanks for a great site. Really useful info.

    One major factor when choosing which way to go (US SIM or roaming on UK SIM) is whether you’ll be making mainly local calls in the US, or mainly calls back to the UK.

    The Three plan is really expensive for making local US calls, whereas it’s included on US SIMs. This is a major difference.

    It’s not clear on the T-Mobile International Tourist Plan whether you can make calls back to the UK at all, but you indicate in the summary that for US SIMS in general “Calls to the UK start from 49¢/minute (40p/minute) plus tax”. Could you clarify whether you can do that with the T-Mobile Tourist Plan?

    My situation is that we’re going on holiday to the US for 3 weeks in August, and I’m looking ideally for something that will give me data, and mainly for local US calls – but with the possible option of making a UK call if required (but this will be unlikely). The T-Mobile International sounded great, until I got the impression you can’t do a UK call at all, even if you were prepared to pay a lot. Do you know the best way of doing this? A regular T-Mobile plan?

    Thanks,
    Pete

    • Hi Pete,
      Thanks for your comment: this is a great round-up of the pros & cons of choosing each solution. I don’t know if the T-Mobile International SIM allows you to make international phone calls. On their website, the only thing I could find is this:

      Does the Tourist Plan include international talk and texting?
      The Tourist Plan includes unlimited international and domestic texting and 1,000 minutes of domestic talk, but does not include international talk.”

      I couldn’t find a price list for international calling. Either way, you might be better off using a voice-over-IP app such a Skype to make your phone calls to UK number (you’ll pay just a couple of pennies per minute, so it may work out to be substantially cheaper as well). If you were to choose a UK-based solution such as the SIM card from Three, you could also use a solution like Skype to call US phone numbers at a very low rate.

      Ken

      • Pete Beech replied:

        Thanks Ken for the really useful ideas. Do you think the data-rates you get using the SIM card from Three would be fast enough for using Skype to call the US phone numbers?

        • Hi Pete,
          That’s a very good question. To be totally honest, I don’t really know – we get some mixed feedback about data speeds on Three in the USA. Assuming there are indeed some problems with the data speeds, you may be able to get around it by:
          (i) using wi-fi to make your phone calls over VoIP (this is OK if you’re making the call from your hotel or something)
          (ii) calling a UK-based number, which allows you to call out to a US-number (e.g. Skype to Go will give you a UK-based number for the phone call).
          Ken

  • Hi Ken
    My wife will be travelling to Fort Worth for 7 days in September. We are traveling from U.K..
    Which sim would you suggest for us.?
    Basically we want to use our phone for google maps. We will not be phoning home.
    Many thanks
    George

    • Hi George,
      Many thanks for your comment. For a 7-day trip, it probably isn’t that worthwhile getting a SIM card from the US. Instead, I’d probably recommend choosing a UK-based SIM card, like Three’s Pay As You Go SIM with a £10 bundle.
      Ken

  • Hello.. just want your opinion/suggestion..what if i come from the philippines? For a stay of 3 to 6 months what sim card will you recommend that is not expensive? Thanks

  • I used a 3 SIM from the UK in the USA last year and found it had quite limited coverage in the mountains of Oregon, Colorado, etc when using the Trans Am tourist trail. Do you know if any of the US-based SIMs would provide any better coverage in these areas? I definitely saw networks but couldn’t use them. I’m guessing Verizon is better but it won’t work in my UK phone due to it being CDMA. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    • Hi SB,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on coverage across the USA, but I know we’re probably relatively lucky in the UK with our coverage (we have a smaller landmass, higher population density & also better regulation so you’re more likely to get coverage even in rural areas). The same is not really the case in the US, especially in some of the mountain and desert areas. If you’re planning on visiting a specific area in the US, your best bet might be to visit a local forum or website for residents of that area and leaving your question there instead as the answer is likely to be very location-specific.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Dr.Simantan Basu said:

    Hi Ken , I shall be visiting the West Coast for three weeks …starting from LA and ending at the same location…taking in Vegas , Grand Canyon, SF and the PCH in between . I am from India . Would want a sim with call options and data . Can you please suggest something for me ?

  • T Mobile Tourist Sim, I have bought this plan twice now on visits to the USA from the UK in the last 12 months. both times I have had to pay extra for the SIM card and of course the usual extra unmentioned tax, total price $43.20, an extra 43%.
    Additionally it only works spasmodically and I had to keep rebooting the phone to get service. RUBBISH DEAL

  • Hi Ken,
    I like the idea of an American number, plus a lot of places need an American number to validate a reservation etc.
    Can you tell me what the AT&T 60day and the T-Mobile 90day minimum top up amount would be so I can keep my US number whilst I am not in the US.

    • Hi Larry,
      I believe it’s a $10 minimum top-up on both networks. However, you should be aware, that the top-up may also have it’s own expiry date (e.g. I believe a AT&T “re-fill” will only last 30 days from the date you top-up).
      Ken

  • Hi Ken
    Great advice! I’m travelling with my husband to the US this year, and the last time we were in the US we bought a mobile hotspot device and tethered both our phones to it. The package we bought (in a US Best Buy store) was ideal, allowing us to message and phone via WhatsApp, navigate, use the usual web/ apps on our smart phones. And as we swapped drivers on our road-trip, the navigator always had satnav, on their own familiar phone. Always tethered. It was also good for occasional use on i-pad/ laptop – again via tethering.
    This year we’re in the US again, and would like a similar arrangement. Is there a three mobile hotspot device we could use? Or are we better sacrificing one phone (or buying a cheap one) to use as a mobile hotspot device?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Mary,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, Three doesn’t allow you to tether on Feel At Home in the US. For this reason, you’ll need to get a separate SIM card for each of your handsets (though of course, this doesn’t allow you to access the internet from your iPad/laptop). If you do want to get all of your devices connected whilst you’re in the US, it’s probably best to go with the US-based mobile hotspot solution again.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hey Ken!

    I want to buy a Three sim, but I won’t be leaving on my travels for a month and there is nothing on their website about activation… Can you help me?

    • Hi Miah,
      Many thanks for your comment. You can activate your SIM card whenever you want, so I’d probably just do this a couple of days before you go abroad (or you can do it earlier and benefit from the rates in the UK as well). Activation occurs when you put the SIM card into the handset.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Mandy Naulls said:

    So basically if i get the 3 pay as you go sim for £10 i can text or call my son who is travelling with us on a EE max contract for nothing (other than the initial outlay and within text limits)? We will only need to contact each other in emergencies or for a change of plans etc so really didnt want to have my virgin mobile turned on and risk it downloading emails etc just for the sake of a quick text……
    Presumably i can activate it whilst still in UK then just turn it on when we arrive and it will just connect to best available network?

    • Hi Mandy,
      That’s right – a Three Pay As You Go SIM card should be perfect for this purpose. You’ll be able to call & text your son using the inclusive minutes (and vice versa, he’ll be able to contact you using his EE Max allowances). I’d definitely recommend ordering the SIM card when you’re in the UK, and activating it before you leave.
      Ken

  • I am interested in getting the three sim card for america this summer as I’m participating in camp america and will thus be in the usa for three months. I do not need a sim for the first two months as I’ll be on camp where we have access to wifi 24-7 however for the last month I plan on going travelling. I was wondering how the activation of the three sim works, would it be possible for me to buy one now for 30 days and not activate it until i start my post camp travel or is this not possible.

    • Hi Ellie,
      Yes – I think this shouldn’t be a problem! You just need to activate the Three SIM card when you’re in the UK. You can buy a 30-day bundle at any time, so this can be 2 months later (i.e. after the camp has finished).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken. I live in the UK but am fortunate enough to own a holiday home in California. There are a number of times when a US phone number would be a help when I am back at home in the UK. e.g. The US bank require a phone number for authentication and I cannot use a UK number. Is there a SIM plan that will allow incoming calls or texts for when I am in Europe? I do not need Data, its just a number that works that I can enter into the appropriate form. Also there will be next to zero calls but to have a US number is important.
    Hope you can help.
    Thanks
    Ian.

    • Hi Ian,
      Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to this question but hopefully someone else reading this might be able to help out! From my side, I wonder if it might be worth considering a VoIP-based service that gives you a US-based number (e.g. Skype’s online phone numbers)?
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, I don’t see how 3’s deals are the best, If i’m going to New York state for like 7 days and i need to call friends, while im there, it’s £1.40 per minute as the calls to American mobiles and landlines are not included in the Feel at Home bundle. Only calls back home are. So buying an Amerian sim is the cheapest way to go if your phone is unlocked.

    • Hi Colin,
      Thanks for your reply. If your phone calls will typically be to US mobiles & landlines, it’s possible a US-based SIM card will offer better value. Typically, however, most people want to call other UK mobiles (including friends & family back home, and also other people with which they’re travelling together) which is why we typically recommend this. It’s also possible to use services such as Skype to make fairly cheap calls to US phone numbers (I believe Google Hangouts even gives you free calling to US & Canadian phone numbers).
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, beautifully detailed information here. I’ve a question that might help other.

    I visit the US 1x per year, for several weeks. I take my smartphone from the UK, and use it for all calls to the UK, using apps on wifi. That’s not a problem in a hotel or office. I’ve paid for T Mobile PAYG monthly before, but to make less than 5 local US calls per month it’s a waste of money when averaged (US local calling is free). To use my Vodafone plan in the US (receiving or making calls) is £5 per day.

    This time I’m returning for 3 months, and wonder if it’s better to take a cheap old (non-smart) phone and insert a SIM for the US. In that case, is the 3 package still the best? Or is there another option you’d recommend?

    Thank you so much for this effort; 5 stars!

    • Hi Gina,
      Many thanks for your comment. For regular calls back to the UK, you’ll normally be best off using a SIM card from Three UK. Having said that, Three limits your usage abroad to “two complete months” per year so this will potentially catch you out if you’re travelling for 3 months.
      Because of this, I don’t really have a strong recommendation to make (having a US SIM will be much more expensive for calling the UK). You can possibly side-step the limitation from Three if you have multiple SIM cards (or you could combine usage of different SIM cards over the three-month period). Perhaps someone else reading this article might have some other ideas?
      Ken

  • Thank you for this helpful post. Do you know if Three allows you to use your device as a mobile hotspot when abroad? Last time I went I purchased the a T-Mobile sim as they offer this and AT&T doesn’t. My son likes to connect his iPad at times. I didn’t know the Three sim was available for pay as you go customers. Also, o. The USA they sometimes charge you with a one time activation fee.

  • Hi Ken, I am going to New York on the 14th March for 7 days only looking for a cheap phone and sim to use as my Son is also going the same time and it’s for us the be in touch when we are there as we can use our iPads to phone home could you suggest something we can buy please. Mary .

  • Hi Ken, my daughter is in the US for three months. I noticed you said the 3 Sim option only lasts for a month so assume this isn’t an option.I’ve seen some sims for calling back from US to UK.

    • Hi Simon,
      Many thanks for your comment. Regarding the SIM card from Three, you can buy further subsequent one-month bundles (e.g. you could buy another £10 bundle in the following month). Having said that, however, there’s a fair usage policy of two complete months per year in a Feel At Home country, which would probably make this unsuitable for her. Given she’s spending three months in the US, it’s likely a US-based SIM card will be more suitable here.
      Ken

  • Sid Rodrigues said:

    Hi Ken,

    Have you tried the Google Project Fi? My friend is in the US and was thinking about ditching her Three sim for a US one. Seems like the UK tariffs are a lot better than the US ones.

    • Hi Sid,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I haven’t… I think you need to be US resident to get it? Definitely a really interesting concept however, and would love to see it coming to the UK!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, my fiancée and I have just relocated back to the UK from the US and due to work we wanted retain our US cell number for any calls that we could receive to the US number back here in the UK. Is there a SIM only potion that we could merge our existing cell number to so that we can keep the number active? Our present carrier Sprint says that this is not an option.

    Thanks

    • Hi Jonny,
      Many thanks for your comment, and that’s a very good question. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any UK mobile services that will allow you to retain a US phone number. It’s possible there might be some US-based VoIP solutions (e.g. Google Voice) that will allow you to keep a US phone number, and you can use an application to receive calls on that number?
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    My sister and I are spending two weeks in Provincetown in June/July and we want to be able to call my uncles, who we are staying with, and are not fussed about making calls home. We would also need some data for directions when out and about. What would you recommend?

    Thanks

    • Hi Madi,
      For a short two-week trip, it may not be worth the hassle of getting a local US SIM card (especially given the amount you’ll need to pay to get started). For this reason, it’s potentially better to roam on a UK-based SIM card e.g. Three’s All in One Pay As You Go SIM which starts at £10 for one month of usage.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Jacqueline replied:

      T-Mobile now do a special rate for international travelers. The rate is cheaper than a normal tariff. Alternatively, if you have an iPhone, you can purchase magicJack. It’s an app that gives you a US based number for calls and texts. It is £1.99 for the month or £7.99 for the year. I think this time I go my best bet will be a UK Three sim and the app for calls and texts. It uses mobile data to run.

  • Are you aware of any unlimited data SIM’s that allow the user to tether devices to? Spending a month in California and then to Washington and Chicago

    • Hi Ian,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I can’t answer this specific question about US SIM cards & tethering policies, but perhaps another reader of this website might be able to help?
      Ken

    • Jacqueline replied:

      Ian only T-mobile offers that in the USA. AT&T and Verizon don’t. I asked this specifically as I went for a long time with my children and had their iPads run off my data. If you read the small print when reading plan details it should say.

      • Thanks for the pointer in the right direction. Am posting what I find on here so others can make their own mind up.

        1st I found about the T-Mobile tourist card which gets some scathing reviews about speed and coverage.

  • Hi Ken,

    I am going to Florida for a week shortly, though i am not too fussed about making calls on my mibile whilst there, I need to use it for Uber taxis so, I will be using data. However my network provider is manx telecom ( Isle of Man) I was thinking of getting a THREE pay as you go / pre paid simm from UK airport on the way through to USA. But now I see others have experienced problems with THREE over there. What do you recommend

    • Hi John,
      Many thanks for your comment. I think Three’s Pay As You Go SIM card is still one of the cheapest ways of using your phone in the USA, but I haven’t experienced the data speeds myself recently in the USA. Several years ago, I found speeds were OK (a little on the sluggish side but usable for most things). The comments from other readers of this website are much more recent, but again I don’t know how representative this is of the network everywhere in the States.
      I suppose it therefore really depends on how much you plan on using your phone whilst there, and whether it’s worth paying the much higher fees to get a US-based SIM card.
      Ken

  • Three simply does not work. I have tried it in New York and also in San Francisco. If it does not work in these two places, I’d be surprised if it works elsewhere. Its a con!

    • I travel to the US frequently, and last year out of curiosity I tried a Three pre-paid sim… it let me down in Florida – from Miami to Orlando… but next year I am living in Virginia for one maybe two years…. now I’ve head Three has a two month cap (read comments) I’m thinking I better get a US sim but it’s so expensive…. is T-Mobile really the cheapest for anything over 8gb data, and what does the Three 2 month cap entail? Thanks so much, this is really is a fab tech tip Ken! Regards Scott

      • Anthony King replied:

        One tip is to manually set the roaming partner. It seems to default to T-Mobile and the coverage and 3G keeps dropping. AT&T seems to hold on better albeit data rates on any roaming network are terrible!

  • Hi Ken

    A caveat re Three. I’m currently half way through a 4 week driving trip around New England, with. three Feel at home monthly package. I’m struggling to even get phone reception in most of the locations we’ve visited (currently in Portman, Maine, with very sketchy service, previously, driving down from Bar Harbor, had none till Portman.

    And data is a joke. When it’s available, it’s so slow it’s like using an old first generation handset even for Google!

  • Great website! Super helpful – thanks!
    I’m going to work in NYC for 4 months. Currently have Three Rolling monthly contract with unlimited everything. Works fine when abroad using feel at home (if somewhat slow on the data front). As I’ll be outstaying the 2 month Feel at Home limit, is there a way round that?
    What if one was to post their phone back to the UK and get someone to turn it on so it registers on the UK network again, and then post back to NYC. Would the 2 months start again?

    I’ll definitely be getting a local sim ( prob at&t) for making local calls and using data when there, but would be great to keep my UK phone alive whilst there too!
    Thanks for the tips!

    • Hi Jonny,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, when using Feel At Home in the USA, Three’s fair usage limit is 2 “complete months” in a rolling 12-month period. More information here on the exact wording of the policy. Unfortunately, I think this means you’ll probably go over the two month limit, unless of course you could somehow get your usage under the 2 “complete months” limit. My advice would probably be to call Three customer services to explain your situation, and to ask them how you can make sure you’re compliant with their policy.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, We will traveling in usa in nov in 2 cars. It would be nice to keep in touch by phone my son @ his family has a u/k phone with free calls including usa,My daughter and myself will be in another car. We can take a unlocked phone or a talk talk phone, with us.The talk talk is £1 50 per call per min/75p to receive, What would you reccommend. Any help please.Harold.

    • Hi Harold,
      Many thanks for your comment. I’d probably recommend getting a Three Pay As You Go SIM card. It’ll be a UK-based SIM card with free roaming in the USA, so both of you will be able to call & text each other free of charge. You’ll also get a data allowance that you can use in the US.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • I am travelling to Florida for 2 months. I have one virgin mobile and one 3 mobile. Will I be able to text between these phones while in the USA and, if so what will the charges be and what prefix should be used on the numbers?

    • Hi RG,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, you should be able to send text messages between the two handsets (you just need to replace the zero at the start of the phone number with +44).
      On Three, it shouldn’t cost you anything to text a UK number as long as you’re able to access the Feel At Home Around The World offer (excludes Pay Monthly customers on an Essential price plan).
      On Virgin Mobile, you’ll need to pay around 30p per SMS to other UK numbers.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Time to update this article. EE now offer USA, Canada and Mexico for their pay monthly contracts on the Max plan. You get to use all your UK mins and Text and 4G data (capped at 15gb if your data allowance is more then that).
    The contract price ranges but I pay £15 a month which gives me unlimited texts and mins plus 20gb per month.
    The Plan also includes USA to USA mobile and landlines so handy when calling restaurants and hotels.

  • Peter Lindholm said:

    Good advice, but read the fine print at Three: “You can’t use your phone as a personal hotspot (tethering) while you’re abroad.”

    Peter

  • Hi

    I read about your TSA locks, but last time I used them the airport staff cut all them off on all cases, even though I paid for TSA locks with TSA highlighted, so be careful paying for the locks only to find them not still being attached to your cases.

    Seems all mobile companies are charging a minimum of £5 per day for calls and unlimited data, so since I have an iPad and mobile would mean minimum £10/day to use my phone across the pond etc, meaning some £300 extra onto my holiday, seems this occurred after 2016 since the network owners decided to get their money back from the customers. This is only quotes for after you have registered with your network or if you do not then prices already quoted will be true.

    Thanks for the info, so tad puzzled to either pick a sim over there or see if I can find a three store and see about getting two sims and see if I can only activate them for 1 month only for the time I need, spins that possible?

    Kris

  • Hi

    really great thorough article. i travel to the US alot and mainly use my phone on WiFi as there are plenty of hotspots around the Orlando area I visit. That said i do rely on turn by turn navigation to get about which is not easy using Google Maps. So i have found that “Here WeGo – Offline Maps” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.here.app.maps – is the best alternative to Google Maps navigation as you can download full maps of states as well as countries.

    Not any affiliate just wanted to help out if someone was try to save money by not worrying about getting a SIM

    I might go for the US sim approach though from above as that sounds like the best of the 2 options

    anyway hope it helps

    Glen

  • Really well detailed article. The only vital thing that it fails to mention is that if you take the 3 sim option you will not get 4G abroad even if your phone supports the LTE bands. When you roam with 3 they always limit the speed to 3G. I used this in Malta and found the speed unbearable. For me personally the Att and Tmobile sims would be the way to go just for the extra speed.
    Also I’d rather take advantage of the USA to USA free calling then then the free U.K. To U.K.

  • Hi Ken,
    Really helpful site. I will be doing a road trip in california for 2wks in April. Was looking to get the 3 sim as suggested but in case of poor coverage was thinking of the AT&T in my wife’s phone as back up. Will be relying on data and Google maps to get around. Going to Vegas, grand canyon, yosemite, san francisco & LA.
    Also thought having one US sim might be helpful for some local calls.
    Are t-mobile usa and at&t both giving 4g data on their payg plans?

    • Hi Irfan,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I believe they both provide 4G coverage as part of their Pay As You Go plans. However, if this is an important feature for you, I’d make sure to double check your handset compatibility before leaving for the US. This is because the US mobile networks use a very different set of LTE bands to what we use in the UK (so many UK-purchased handsets will not be able to connect to the 4G networks in the US).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Hi Ken,

        Just to give you an update, returned safely from our US trip. The 3 sim worked great. Got the 10 gb data for £20 and used only about 1gb despite using google maps for 2500miles worth of driving!
        We also got a sim from T mobile as a back up and that worked equally well.
        Planning a trip to Vancouver and Calgary in August and was wondering if you have any suggestions what to use for going there as the 3 sim card does not cover Canada.

        Kind Regards

        Irfan

        • Hi Irfan,
          Many thanks for your comment and glad you had a nice trip over in the US 🙂 Unfortunately, I’ve never actually looked into the options for the best SIM card when travelling to Canada. Therefore, I wouldn’t be able to give you a very good answer on this. However, seeing as you already have a T-Mobile USA SIM card, it might be worth investigating the costs on this (as I believe they offer free roaming in Canada & Mexico). Otherwise, perhaps another reader of this website might be able to shed a little more light?
          Ken

  • Zsolt Varga said:

    Hello!
    I’m interested in the the thrre network sim only deal with the £20 bundle.how long before the trip i should request one,because it’s only for 30 days.i actually will be little bit more than 30 days,probably 33-34.when should i top it up as i don’t want the clock ticking down in the Uk and not be able to use the phone on my last days in the US!
    Thanks,Zsolt

  • Hi there Ken. You may have answered this elsewhere, if so apologies.

    Situation:
    – I’m going to be based in the US full time from the end of this month
    – but will be making of lot of calls back into the UK
    – and will be spending about 1 month a year back in the UK
    – I also use a lot of mobile data.

    Current Position:
    – I currently have international roaming with EE
    – this is fine for calls into the UK
    – but is hopelessly expensive for data in the US
    – plus I need a US phone number for people to call

    My plan:
    – Samsung S7 edge dual Sim
    – continue plan with EE for calling into the UK
    – add AT&T plan using the 2nd SIM slot for use for data and calls into the US.

    What do you think?
    Giles.

    • Hi Giles,
      This certainly sounds like a fine plan! Before you go ahead, however, it’s worth comparing the cost against just getting a normal US phone plan with low rates for calling the UK. This will potentially be cheaper than buying a new dual-SIM handset and then having to pay for two separate plans (one in the US and one in the UK). If you simply want to keep your UK phone number at minimal cost, you can transfer it to a Pay As You Go SIM card with no regular monthly cost (you just need to watch out for the minimum activity requirements).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Richard,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, if you’re visiting the US on a short-term trip then I think this is a good solution for making calls to US-based numbers. It’ll allow you to bypass the £1.40/minute charge from Three (you just need a sufficiently fast data connection, and may incur a small charge for using SkypeOut, etc).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • We used 3 SIMS in San Francisco recently and once it registered properly with the network – which took a full day – it eventually worked, however it didn’t do so when it was needed most. Service was patchy and unreliable even up and down silicon valley and in the city itself. In fact it was disappointing in the extreme. It also had the habit of draining battery very quickly – both an an iPhone 6 and iPhone 7+.

    In the end it was simpler and easier to switch off the data and just use the many free wifi spots around.

  • Hi Ken,

    Came across your very helpful website – keep up the good work. If I buy a 3 Pay as you go SIM card for a trip to the states later this year. Can I use call forwarding to forward calls to my normal UK mobile number to the one on the 3 SIM?

    Thanks

    Paul

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you can indeed use call forwarding from your normal UK SIM card to your SIM card from Three. However, to prevent additional charges on that SIM card, you should leave it here in the UK (or if you decide to bring it with you to the US, you should make sure the normal SIM card doesn’t connect to a US mobile network). If your normal SIM card connects to a US mobile network, you’ll be charged roaming rates for the forwarded phone call.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, three questions for you about USA calls.
    1 – When calling emergency numbers 999/911 in the US, where does the call get answered, the UK or US?

    2- How much do Toll free numbers cost on mobiles when roamingin the US? 1-800 etc

    3 – Can you use short code dialling when roaming on Three in the US. 424 + number and how much would that cost? http://bit.ly/TGVtmN

    • Hi Jpac,
      Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay in approving it.
      1. I believe this will always connect to the local emergency number. In fact, in many countries, you can make an emergency phone call even without having a SIM card in your phone (your phone will be able to connect to other mobile networks for making an emergency call).
      2. Unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer for this. I believe toll-free numbers only work when you’re calling from a phone number in the same country (not sure whether it’ll work on a UK SIM card, or whether you might just need to pay the cost for calling a US number).
      3. Again, I don’t have a definitive answer for this, but I suspect you won’t be able to use SMS shortcodes when abroad. I’d probably recommend getting in touch with Three Customer Services if you’d like a definitive answer to this question!
      Thanks,
      Ken

      • Thanks for reply Ken. It looked like my post had been deleted when I checked to see if it had been answered. Then it came back after I posted again, strange.

        I’ll check with 3 about those points. What do you think about using a dual SIM phone when roaming, one 3 SIM / one local SIM, probably AT&T? Maybe a cheap supermarket phone instead?I read 3 slows down internet speed when roaming and there’s no 4G. Not many phones sold in the UK have US 4G bands anyway.

        I usually get a local SIM because I dread getting a massive bill, easily done when data can be up to £8/MB. This was before 3 at home etc.

        Thanks.

        • Hi JPAC,
          Thanks for your comment. It would definitely be a great combination having both a 3 and AT&T SIM card when travelling in the US. Your Three SIM card would allow you to stay in touch with friends and family from the UK more easily, whilst also providing some 3G internet for use in the US. Meanwhile, your AT&T SIM card is likely to give you faster 4G download speeds, and will also allow you to call US phone numbers from the inclusive minutes there. Of course, you’ll need to weigh up the benefits of doing this against 1) the cost of a dual-SIM handset and 2) the cost of getting an AT&T SIM card. Given you’re looking at $45 plus tax for an AT&T SIM card, this would only really be worthwhile if you were to make extensive use of the SIM.
          Ken

          • Well it’s coming up to phone renewal time and I’m looking at either Lenovo P2 or Moto G5 both dual SIM. It’s the £8/MB that scares me, I usually pay cash for the SIM so as to completely avoid any future surprises. Have you done an article on mi-fi/hotspot, here and abroad? Thanks again.

          • Hi JPAC,
            Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet done any articles on Mi-Fi/hotspot, but it is on the list (something I’d really like to do in the future). Using a PAYG SIM to avoid “bill shock” is a great call. You’ll also be protected by the legally-mandated €50/month+VAT data roaming limit (more useful on Pay Monthly contracts where you aren’t able to set a cap on additional charges).
            Ken

  • I’ve used the 3 sim before and it’s great but does it work in Mexico? Website says not but since lots of USA deals include Mex I thought it worth asking

    • Hi Joe,
      Many thanks for the heads up about this. I’ve just done a full review of the article with the latest 2017 prices and exchange rates – it now mentions the increased rate for calling US-based numbers on Three. Of course, you can continue to side-step these charges either by using a VoIP application or by using something like the Skype To Go service.
      Thanks again,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I’m traveling to USA and heard about Arieli Mobile sim cards, can you tell me anything about that? A few comments on Trip Advisor seem to say the service is good so im not sure whether to get them.

  • Hi Ken.
    I will be travelling to the US every 3 months and staying for around 3 months each time with family in Utah, hopefully for many years. I have a iPhone 6 and only need a sim but I will not normally ring back to the UK as I will use my families phone or internet. I need a sim so I can contact my US family when I am out and about only and they can contact me. I tend to use face time more than phone numbers and only occasional use of data for other things when I am out and about. In the UK I tend to use less than 250mb a month on data. The 3 sim sounds ok, what are your thoughts

    • Hi Ivan,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on what you’ve said in your message, you’ll be spending about 6 months per year out in the USA. Unfortunately, this probably means you’ll need to use a US-based SIM card as the Feel At Home offer can’t be used by people who are living abroad. Having a US-based SIM card will also give you a US-based phone number, which should hopefully be much more convenient for people who’d like to contact you when you’re there!
      Ken

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

      • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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)?

    • 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

    • 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

  • 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.

    • 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).

  • 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

    • 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

      • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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

      • 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:- https://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.

  • 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!

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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

      • 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.

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

      • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

      • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

    • 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

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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 🙂

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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,

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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?

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