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SIM Cards for New York City and the USA

Updated: April 21, 2024

If you are traveling to NYC from overseas, chances are that you are considering getting a SIM card for your phone.

This post covers some of the best SIM cards and plans available to visitors who bring their unlocked phones.

We include prices, what you get with each plan and where you can purchase these cards.

When we wrote this post we gathered information from our local tour guides who lead thousands of travelers and locals around NYC.

Our tour guides have the opportunity to talk to our guests from overseas about many NYC topics, including SIM cards and eSIMs.

Also, at the bottom of this post, we include thoughts from the more than 225,000k members of our popular NYC Travel Tips Facebook group about which options they liked most for use in NYC.

The group consists of locals, travelers from all over, and those new to the city.

You don't need to become a member to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

So check out the group after you've read this post!

For visitors to NYC, check out these posts -- you may find them helpful!

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small commission of sales through the links below at no extra cost to you.


BEST NYC AND UNITED STATES SIM CARDS

Note: Prices are as of January 2024.


T-MOBILE PREPAID SIM CARD 

This card has unlimited talk, text, and data bundles available in 7-day, 14-day and 30 days.

You can purchase it online, at a T-Mobile store, and from retailers, grocery stores, and convenience stores.

Features of all plans

  • unlimited data, calls, and SMS/text messages within the United States only
  • Nano size only
  • data is 4G LTE on T-Mobile’s network
  • your phone must be GSM-compatible
  • SIM card works with cell phones only, no other devices can be used
  • no ability to use mobile WiFi hotspots
  • Activation may take up to 24 hours
  • must be activated within 90 days of purchase

Prices 

Note that the 14-day card and 30-day card have the same price when purchased online, as of March 2024.


ULTRA MOBILE TALK & TEXT PLAN & SIM KITS

This SIM card offers 30-day plans available with different levels of GB (gigabytes). The more GBs, the higher the price. 

Plus you get unlimited talk & text and other features

They also offer SIM cards for 3 months, 6 months and 12 months.

Although Ultra Mobile is not one of the major wireless carriers in the U.S. it is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) and uses T-Mobile’s network so you will get great coverage

Before purchasing, make sure you check that your phone is supported by this SIM card.

Features of all plans

  • Valid for 30 days
  • Free Unlimited Nationwide Talk & Text
  • Free Unlimited Talk & Text to 80+ International Destinations
  • Free Wi-Fi Calling
  • 3-in-1 SIM sizes (nano, micro, and standard size)
  • e-SIM on an e-SIM-capable device
  • No Activation Fee
Photo from Ultra Mobile website

Prices

$15 Plan & Sim Kit     

  • Limited to 250MB of 5G - 4G LTE Data

$19 Plan & Sim Kit

  • 3GB of 5G - 4G LTE Data
  • Free Mobile Hotspot
  • Monthly $1.50 International Call Credit
  • One-Time $5 INTL Roaming Credit

$24 Plan & Sim Kit

  • 5GB of 5G - 4G LTE Data
  • Free Mobile Hotspot
  • Monthly $1.50 International Call Credit
  • One-Time $5 INTL Roaming Credit

$29 Plan & Sim Kit

  • 10GB of 5G - 4G LTE Data
  • Free Mobile Hotspot
  • Monthly $5 International Call Credit
  • One-Time $5 INTL Roaming Credit

$ 39 Plan & Sim Kit

  • 15 GB of 5G - 4G LTE Data
  • Free Mobile Hotspot
  • Monthly $5 International Call Credit
  • One-Time $5 INTL Roaming Credit

$ 49 Plan & Sim Kit

  • 40GB of 5G - 4G LTE Data
  • Free Mobile Hotspot
  • Monthly $5 International Call Credit
  • One-Time $5 INTL Roaming Credit
  • Mobile Hotspot up to 10GB

Purchase any plan here


LYCAMOBILE

Lycamobile's SIM card options are a lot like Ultra Mobile. It offers 30-day plans available with different levels of GB (gigabytes)—the more GBs, the higher the price.

Plus you get unlimited talk, unlimited texts and other features. It operates on the T-Mobile network.

Before purchasing, make sure you check that your phone is supported by this SIM card.

Image from Lycamobile website.

Features of all plans

  • Good for 30 days
  • Unlimited National Calls and SMS/Texts
  • Unlimited International Talk & Text to 100+ Countries
  • Data at up to 5G speeds
  • 3-in-1 SIM sizes (nano, micro, and standard size)
  • Some plans have additional features

Prices

  • $15 - 500 MB (not 5G compatible)
  • $19 - 3 GB + $1.50 Calling credit
  • $23 - 5 GB + $1.50 Calling credit
  • $29 - 10 GB + $5 Calling credit
  • $39 - 15GB + $10 International Credit
  • $49 - 40 GB + $5 International credits

Find a Lyca Mobile Store near you. You can also purchase online at Amazon.


CRICKET WIRELESS SIMPLY DATA

If you do not expect to make any phone calls on your trip, then one of Cricket Wireless’s data-only plans might be right for you. 

You’ll get lots of high-speed data and be able to use apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Skype to communicate with family or friends. 

Cricket Wireless uses the AT&T network so you can expect broad coverage in the United States.

You’ll need an unlocked and compatible device. Be sure to check your device compatibility before purchasing. 

You can do this on their website. You will need your phone's IMEI number. You can find the number in your device settings.

Both plans include high-speed data, nationwide 5G access and usage in Mexico and Canada. 

Prices

  • $30 - 5 GB
  • $40 - 10 GB
  • $55 - unlimited data + hot-spot $10 for 10GB with compatible device.

Purchase this data-only SIM card plan from Cricket Wireless.


MINT MOBILE 

Mint Mobile has a SIM card valid for 3 months (90 days) with different levels of GB (gigabytes). The more GBs, the higher the price. 

Plus you get unlimited talk & text and other features.

If you are staying in the US for 3 months, the 15 GB card is a great deal at just $20 per month.

Even if you are not staying in the US for that long, you may find these prices good for you given what the plan has to offer.

Features

  • 3 months of unlimited talk & text
  • 5G-4G LTE data in the amount of your choice
  • Free mobile hotspot
  • Wi-Fi calling
  • Free calls to Mexico and Canada 
  • 3-in-1 SIM card (standard/micro/nano sizes)
  • 7-day money-back guarantee

Prices


eSIMS OPTIONS

Unlike SIM cards which are actual cards you insert into your phone, eSIM cards are digital SIM cards already embedded in many models of mobile devices.

Using an eSIM has many conveniences. You can't lose it, as there is no physical card. If ordering the service online, you don't need to wait for a SIM card to arrive in the mail.

It’s easy to get an eSIM. Just buy a plan online and you can activate it immediately.

If your phone is lost or stolen, tracking it is easier since, unlike a SIM card, an eSIM can't be removed from your phone.

Many travelers may find that the eSIM option is the best way to get data, talk and text.

Not every phone is compatible with eSIMs, so be sure to check your phone model before purchasing an eSIM.

Here are a few eSIMs that are popular with travelers to the U.S.

Check the companies’ websites for other plans.

Airalo Change Plan for U.S. only

All plans are 5G compatible. Data only, no talk or text.

  • $4.50 / 7 days / 1 GB
  • $8 / 15 days/ 2 GB
  • $26 / 30 days / 10 GB
  • See Airalo’s website to see all the plans.

Nomad for U.S. only

Data only, no talk or text. 5G supported.

  • $6 / 7 days / 1 GB
  • $11 / 30 days/ 3 GB
  • $14 / 30 days/ 5 GB
  • $24 / 30 days / 10 GB
  • See Nomad's website to see all the plans.

Holafly for U.S. only

Data only, no talk or text. 4GLTE only. All plans have unlimited data, hence the higher prices.

  • $19 / 5 days
  • $27 / 7 days
  • $34 / 10 days
  • Other number of days increments are also available

See Holafly’s website to see all the plans.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where can I buy SIM cards in NYC and the US?

Official retail stores of most carriers are found all over big cities. You can also purchase many SIM cards online from Amazon or the carrier’s website.

You can find many SIM cards in popular chain shops such as Target, CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, and Best Buy, as well as supermarkets, electronic stores and even small grocery shops.

Can I buy a SIM card in airports?

Unlike many other countries, especially those in Europe, it is uncommon for airports to have SIM card shops or resellers for various mobile carriers.

In NYC, the two international airports (Newark and JFK), there are places to purchase SIM cards but we do not recommend this as prices will be much higher.

Can tourists get a SIM card in the USA?

Yes. When you purchase a SIM card at a shop, you may be asked to show your passport and complete a straightforward registration process.

The shop will make a copy of your passport, and your name and passport number will be linked to your new SIM card.

Does a prepaid SIM come with a phone number?

Generally yes. Sim cards have new phone numbers. Some plans may allow you to port your phone number, but if you aren't traveling for a long time, it may be simpler to keep the number that comes with the SIM card.

What about companies like Sprint, Verizon and AT&T?

Both AT&T and Verizon are major wireless carriers in the US but do not offer easy-to-purchase pre-paid SIM cards with plans for tourists.

You must purchase a SIM card, and then choose a plan from their websites or stores, making these companies ill-suited for travelers.

Sprint no longer exists as it was merged with T-Mobile.

What countries are typically covered in international plans?

Before purchasing a card, check each plan to see what countries are included.

This is not a full list but you will likely find the following countries covered: Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and many more. Some cards will include Africa and Australia. 


ADVICE ON SIM CARDS FROM TOURISTS AND LOCALS

Here are some thoughts on the best SIM cards in NYC from locals and tourists who are members of our New York Travel Tips group on Facebook.

You don't have to join the group to read posts and comments. You can search for advice on just about any NYC topic.

So when you are done reading this post why not have a look? Perhaps even ask some questions yourself!

By far, T-Mobile was the most recommended SIM service.

Lycamobile was recommended by a few members of the group.

Ultra didn't come up much, but the purchaser thought it was decent.

As for eSims, the most frequently recommended was Airalo.


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About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker in love with the city’s history, culture and food. She's a world travel as well and enjoys sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined Free Tours by Foot in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She still leads tours on a part-time basis. READ MORE...
Updated: April 21st, 2024
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