Best SIM Cards for USA

Choosing the best SIM card that’s not only compatible with your Samsung Galaxy or other phone model, but also offers reliable service is not easy to do. That’s why we spent more than 10 hours researching all the cost-friendly options out there to choose the 6 best SIM cards. Every SIM card on the list is designed for prepaid users, which means you don’t have to pay a monthly fee or sign a contract. You just pay for what you need upfront, and if you end up needing more you can always reload. Also, all cards are nano and micro-sized, which means they are compatible with the most recent cell phones and smartphones. Finally, all cards are designed to work with, at the least, 3G networks and up. Everything we selected does support 4G, as well. You may also want to upgrade to the best iphone battery cases for more juice.

The top pick is AT&T’s Prepaid SIM because it offers the best coverage — in the U.S., Canada and Mexico — and it comes with unlimited calling, unlimited texts and data for a specified period. Of course, it’s not the only option that made our best SIM cards list. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about the top pick, and all the other cards we selected.

Top 6 Best SIM Cards Compared

 #1  AT&T Prepaid SIM – Top Pick

WHY WE LIKE IT: Starting at 7 days (up to 30 total) you get unlimited talk, text and data within the U.S., Canada and Mexico. AT&T’s GSM unlocked SIM is both 3G and 4G compatible. All of that comes at an affordable price making it an ideal option for everyone from travelers and temp locals to mainstay prepaid customers.

Pros
  • Unlimited everything 7 to 30 days
  • Works in the U.S., Canada and Mexico
  • International Roaming included within the above countries
Cons
  • Must be set up at least 3 days before a trip or activation
  • No international phone support outside three main countries
  • Supports Nano-SIM size only

AT&T’s network is not just well known, it’s reliable in many areas within the United States, Canada and Mexico which means this temporary phone SIM is a great option for anyone spending time within said borders. AT&T is as well known as Samsung. (See our Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ Smartphone Review )For a one-time payment, you get unlimited talk, text and data for a specified period. Starting at 7 days, you can purchase up to 30 days of use at a time. Although, you will need to register the SIM through AT&T’s network, at least three days in advance, so remember that if you’re planning a trip. Speaking of travelers, the best portable phone charger is another must have.

The SIM works with GSM and CDMA networks and supports 3G 4G and 4G LTE on most bands. Roaming is included, provided you remain within the supported countries. Of course, that’s the biggest drawback of this card, it does not offer international sim cards support outside of North and Central America. Anyone that’s traveling abroad will need to look elsewhere for mobile network access.

 #2  Verizon 3-in-1 Postpaid/Prepaid SIM – Honorable Mention

WHY WE LIKE IT: While the Verizon 3-in-1 postpaid/prepaid SIM card does not include service out-of-the-box, it’s designed for existing or aspiring Verizon wireless customers. Just plug in the SIM, register through Verizon’s site — choosing whichever prepaid plan you want — and off you go. All cell phone plans are plans with unlimited talk, text and data. Plus, you can subscribe to international plans, with support for over 185 countries outside the U.S.

Pros
  • International coverage support
  • Supports Nano/Micro/Standard-SIM sizes
  • All postpaid and prepaid plans offer unlimited talk, text message and data
Cons
  • Verizon only; not compatible with MVNO services
  • No plan/service included; just the SIM card (plans start at $35)

The Verizon 3-in-1 postpaid/prepaid SIM card is for customers that don’t already have an active Verizon subscription; most notably anyone wishing to travel or gain temporary access to supported mobile networks. The SIM does not come with service, instead, you’ll have to register and choose a plan via Verizon’s website. It’s also not compatible with any other networks, including MVNOs — wireless operators that don’t own the network like Cricket, Boost, etc.

The good news is that all of Verizon’s postpaid and prepaid plans offer unlimited talk, text and data through supported 4G LTE networks. For the most part, coverage is available in the United States, Canada and Mexico. However, international connectivity is available for an added price, with support for over 185 countries worldwide. You may want to check out the best smartphone.

As a final note, the card can be modified to fit in nano, standard micro and standard size SIM card slots. It comes attached to a larger card, and you punch out the size you need.

 #3  SpeedTalk Mobile Preloaded SIM – Most Inclusive

WHY WE LIKE IT: While the SpeedTalk Mobile Preloaded SIM only works in the United States, it does come with up to one month of service free — the equivalent of 250 units in the company’s mobile currency. Plus, the card supports Nano, Micro and Standard SIM sizes, and connects to 3G, 4G and 4G LTE GSM networks.

Pros
  • Free month of service
  • Supports Nano/Micro/Standard-SIM sizes
  • “Port-in” or keep an existing phone number
  • Works with 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks on GSM band
Cons
  • U.S. only, with no international support
  • Requires debit or credit card to activate

The SpeedTalk Mobile Preloaded SIM is a Nano, Micro and Standard-size compatible card. It will work with most unlocked phones, and also supports additional devices like smartwatches, tablets, GPS trackers and more. The SpeedTalk SIM connects to the company’s 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks via GSM bands. Unfortunately, it only supports coverage within the United States — a coverage map is available to double-check what areas are supported. That means you’ll need to get a different card if you want access to international or non-domestic (Canada and Mexico) networks.

At just over $5, SpeedTalk’s SIM is the cheapest buy-in on the list, especially since it includes the equivalent of one month of free service. SpeedTalk employs a unit-based system. The card comes with 250 units, and each unit counts for a single increment of talk, text or data. So, for example, 1 unit is a minute of talk, 1 text, or 1MB of data. There is no contract, no credit check or no activation fees to use the card. You will, however, need to provide a credit or debit card during the time of activation to cover overages and continue service. A good reason to read about the best smartphone plan.

 #4  Cricket Wireless Prepaid SIM Card Kit – Most Convenient

WHY WE LIKE IT: Boasting some of the best coverage for an MVNO, Cricket Wireless’ Prepaid SIM offers support for up to 99% of all Americans. It also offers 4G LTE speeds in the US, Mexico and Canada and you can load up units all via Cricket’s mobile companion app.

Pros
  • Supports Nano/Micro/Standard-SIM sizes
  • Works in the U.S., Canada and Mexico
  • Bring along or keep your existing phone number if not under contract
Cons
  • No plan/service included; just the SIM card (plans start at $30)

The Cricket Wireless Prepaid SIM is a universal card that allows users to bring their existing unlocked phones to Cricket’s contract-free network. It supports Nano, Micro and Standard SIM sizes. It also offers 4G LTE speeds. Service is available in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and texting or calling to the latter countries is included with any of the unlimited plans.

No complimentary service is included with the card. Unlimited talk and text plans start at $30 per month, however. Once you activate the card — which is done via Cricket’s Breeze-Thru mobile app — you can choose your subscription plan. Cricket boasts coverage for up to 99% of all Americans, which is impressive for an MVNO. Cameras are also important, so read our best smartphone cameras list.

 #5  SpeedTalk Mobile SmartWatch SIM – Most Versatile

WHY WE LIKE IT: Unlike many of the other SIM cards on the list, SpeedTalk Mobile’s SmartWatch SIM is meant for wearable tech. That makes it ideal for use with location trackers, smartwatches and similar gadgets. It includes complimentary units — 50 minutes, 100 SMS or 100MB of data — for up to 30 days. Unfortunately, the service is only available in the United States.

Pros
  • Best for Wearables
  • Includes either 50 minutes, 100 SMS, or 100MB of data for up to 30 days
  • U.S. number auto-generated upon activation
  • Supports Nano/Micro/Standard-SIM sizes
Cons
  • Works only in the United States, roaming included
  • May take up to 24-hours after activation for GPRS and data settings to sync properly

The SpeedTalk Mobile SmartWatch SIM is meant specifically for wearable devices, smartwatches and GPS trackers. It supports all SIM sizes including Nano, Micro and Standard. Besides, it works with 2G, 3G, 4G and 4G LTE GSM networks.

When you activate the card — which requires a debit or credit connected to your account — a U.S. phone number will be auto-generated. That also means this SIM card is not meant to sync up existing phones if you already had a number assigned. You’ll be starting from scratch.

Each card offers up to 30-days of service, but you can also extend your subscription via SpeedTalk Mobile’s services. It can also take up to 24-hours for GPRS and data settings to sync properly, so plan accordingly. Alternatively, some people just want to use the best unlocked phone.

 #6  T-Mobile Prepaid SIM Starter Kit – Best Unlimited Data Opportunities

WHY WE LIKE IT: In terms of functionality, T-Mobile’s prepaid SIM is remarkably similar to the others on the list. It offers some of the best prepaid unlimited data plans bar none, starting at $40 for unlimited talk, text and up to 10GB LTE data. Like tmobiles tourist plan. Plus, it’s compatible with Nano, Micro and Standard SIM slots.

Pros
  • Best for GSM gsm sim card unlocked devices
  • T-Mobile offers some of the best prepaid unlimited data plans
  • Works with T-Mobile’s nationwide (U.S.) 4G LTE network
Cons
  • GSM Band II (1900MHz) or Band IV (1700/2100MHz) only; no CDMA compatibility
  • Meant for U.S. only, but works in Mexico and Canada if you have a credit card with a U.S. address.

T-Mobile’s Prepaid SIM starter kit includes a tri-compatible card — Nano, Micro and Standard-SIM sizes — meant for use with the wireless carrier’s 4G LTE networks. That also means the card is only compatible with GSM bands, so CDMA-based phones are out.

It’s mainly for nationwide coverage within the United States, however, several Amazon reviewers have reported success in Canada and Mexico — you will still need a credit or debit card with a U.S. address.

Furthermore, no service is included with the purchase of the SIM. You will need to choose a subscription plan through T-Mobile upon activation. That said, there are no activation fees, no contract obligations, and you can select unlimited talk, call text and data plans if you want them. T-mobile also has some of the best plans available for mobile data hoarders, starting at $40 per month for unlimited talk, text and up to 10GB LTE data to use however you want. It is perfect for those using the best android phone.

How We Decided

When choosing the best SIM cards for our list, the first thing we looked for was 4G LTE network support. All of the cards you see here will work with the latest mobile connectivity speeds and networks. They’re also compatible with just about any modern smartphone or mobile device thanks to tri-size support; they can be used in Nano, Micro and Standard SIM slots.

Network coverage within the United States was most important, followed by Canada and Mexico. Only one card on the list supports international usage, so it’s the exception.

Finally, even though not all the cards include complimentary service, we made sure they do support some form of unlimited talk and text, several even include unlimited data. Just keep in mind you will need an active subscription, whether pre or postpaid to take advantage of the said connectivity.

Best Sim Card Buying Guide

The Most Important Features to Consider

  1. Coverage
    Most of the cards on the list offer coverage in the United States. There are a few that support network coverage in Mexico and Canada, as well. International coverage is much rarer, so if you’re traveling abroad there aren’t as many options. While it is a crucial feature, the coverage you need will depend on where you’re spending your time. If you’re going to be in the contiguous United States then you won’t have any trouble finding a suitable provider. Mexico and Canada aren’t difficult to find coverage for either, including from within the United States — if you’re calling someone located in one of the aforementioned countries.
  2. SIM Card Size
    We tried to select 3-in-1 or universal cards that support Nano, Micro and Standard SIM card sizes. That ensures compatibility with a variety of cell phones and smartphones. You’ll have to double-check compatibility with any phone(s) you’re using, just to be sure.
  3. Unlimited Talk and Text
    While not every card in the list offers complimentary service — you’ll need to subscribe to a plan during activation — they do all offer some form of unlimited talk and text. Several of the cards provide unlimited data too, depending on the plan(s) you select.
  4. Network Speed
    The most common and fastest network speed is 4G LTE, which is an improved continuation of 4G networks. Both network types offer data speeds up to 100 megabits per second, or about 1 gigabit per second for stationary use, like mobile hotspots. Although 4G, depending on the network, doesn’t quite reach that peak, while LTE does more often. If you have a phone that was released within the last four or five years then you can take advantage of 4G LTE network speeds. Slower networks like 3G and 2G are meant for older devices. Most 2G networks have been phased out by now, replaced by 3G or 4G LTE. It’s worth noting that a lot of GPS trackers, wearables, and other wireless-ready devices — that aren’t phones — still use the older 3G network bands. Anything from 3G and up is suitable for talk and text. 3G is also acceptable for simple data coverage, like promptly syncing apps or downloading multimedia messages. If you’re doing anything data-heavy, however, you’ll want at least 4G, with LTE the ideal choice. That includes social network browsing, web browsing, streaming videos and music, video calls and more.

FAQs

  • Do All Prepaid SIM Cards Include Service?
    No, and neither do most SIM cards on this list. The top pick, AT&T’s prepaid SIM starts at $20 for 7 days of unlimited talk, text and data. After the time is up, however, you either have to resub or buy a new top-up card. The closest to “included” service you’ll get is with Speedtalk’s 1-month or 30-day free service. Generally, you buy the SIM card and choose your payment or subscription plan during activation. Keep in mind, this is completely different than signing up for a contract-based plan. You are not obligated to continue with your subscription when it ends.
  • What’s the Difference Between Nano, Micro and Standard SIM Card Sizes?
    The size difference is relatively straightforward. Depending on the phone you’ll be using, you’ll need to choose the appropriate size SIM. Standard SIM cards are the largest, followed by Micro, and Nano. You’ll find that a majority of SIM cards are designed to be compatible with all sizes. They come attached to a larger casing, and you pop-out or trim down the size to match what you need. That’s where the “3-in-1” moniker comes from. Provided you have a standard SIM, there are workarounds available to trim down the card so it matches a smaller size. You cannot go backward, as Nano-sized cards are much too small to fit in standard SIM sockets.
  • Does the Network Provider Matter?
    Yes and no. Depending on the coverage area, it doesn’t matter what provider you go with, be it Verizon, AT&T or an MVNO. The most important thing to ensure is that the provider you choose offers coverage where you are visiting, or where you will be using your mobile device. Some prepaid providers do not offer international service, for instance. If you’re traveling abroad then the provider does matter, and you’ll need to choose one that offers service in that particular region or country. You should be aware that there is a clear difference between MVNOs and full carriers when it comes to service. Going with a company like Speedtalk or Boost Mobile over Verizon, for example, may present some challenges. MVNOs do not own the networks or mobile bandwidth they use, which basically means they are leasing the space. Theoretically, that would mean a Boost Mobile customer connecting to a Verizon tower is going to be of a lower priority when it comes to quality and reliability. Data connections are affected the most by priority complications. One exception to this is for emergency calls, as they always take priority.
  • What’s the Difference Between These Prepaid Cards and a Contract SIM?
    More often than not, nothing is different. For instance, if you already have a phone with a Verizon SIM installed, you should be able to take advantage of Verizon’s non-contract and prepaid plans without buying a new SIM. The Verizon SIM included in this list would be redundant. However, if you wish you take your Verizon phone and use it on another compatible network you will need to purchase a new SIM, which is precisely where these prepaid cards come in handy. Ultimately, it depends on the network, what kind of coverage you need, and whether or not you want to go contract-free.
  • Why Go Prepaid?
    Traditionally, you would need to sign-up for a contract with one of the major wireless carriers to activate and use a mobile device. This was especially the case if you wanted to access mobile data for things like checking your social networks or streaming videos. Most prepaid plans just didn’t offer reliable data options and when they did they were behind the curve. That is no longer the case. In fact, many prepaid plans now offer data at 4G LTE speeds, the latest available. Since prepaid plans eliminate the need to sign a contract, often don’t have any activation fees, and have virtually no obligations, they are an excellent option for temporary mobile use. That’s precisely why many people will purchase and activate prepaid phones and plans when they travel. If you don’t want to sign a contract and you don’t want to be locked-in to a particular carrier or network, prepaid is the way to go. It also enables you to pay-as-you-go, or pay only for what you need so you can save money.

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Briley Kenney

Briley has been a freelance technology writer and entrepreneur for over a decade now. You might know him from his work with Ideaing, Lifewire, or Smartwatches.org. He has a strong background in all things tech and loves to learn the ins and outs of new gadgets and platforms. He loves to share his knowledge with others just as much.

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