Today’s vacationers need their mobile phones – not just for calling home, but also for browsing the internet and checking online maps. And while you can use your German SIM card in the US, this comes with high costs. In most cases, buying a prepaid card in the US is the cheaper option. In this article, you will learn all about different providers, where to buy SIM cards in the US and how to reduce the costs.
CELLPHONE COVERAGE IN THE USA
Unlike in Germany, there is no network in the USA that covers all regions. On average, the three big companies AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon provide the best coverage. And while there are still some thinly populated areas in the Midwest where coverage is poor, you will not have this problem in big cities and tourist places. Surfing with UMTS and LTE speeds is also possible along the highways. However, users of 2nd generation networks (GSM) will have to upgrade soon, as these networks are going to be switched off in the near future.
DO GERMAN CELLPHONES WORK IN THE US?
If you want to use your German phone in the USA, you should first check the compatibility, as different frequencies are used overseas. Luckily, most modern cellphones like iPhone, Sony Xperia and Samsung Galaxy support the frequencies of the two biggest providers T-Mobile and AT&T. To find out whether or not your phone is compatible with US networks, you can visit this website: www.simlystore.com/usa-geraeteliste/
GERMAN SIM CARDS IN THE USA
The good news first: Thanks to cooperation between German and American providers, using your German SIM card in the US is no problem.
As soon as you land at the airport, you will likely receive a message from your German provider, asking if you want to use International Roaming. If you do, you can select calling and data options. Of course, these do not come free. Even though roaming fees within the European Union have been abolished in 2017, you still have to pay the full price for sending and receiving phone calls outside the EU. You will even be charged double if someone leaves a message on your mailbox. Only receiving text messages is free. You can also buy data options, but expect high costs. The International Roaming Pass of German Telekom can serve as an example. Customers have to pay:
- 50 cents for a text message
- 1,50 Euros/minute for phone calls to Germany
- 3 Euros/minute for phone calls in the USA
- 15 Euros for 150 MB of data, valid for 7 days.
The price policy of O2 is similar. Vodafone customers have it slightly better: If you are using a Red or Smart L, L+ or XL plan, you can buy the US Flat for 5 Euros a month. This flat rate lets you use your cellphone in the US at the same costs as in Germany. However, you will not be able to cancel the US flat for 12 months. Alternatively, there are daily and weekly flats available for 6 and 20 Euros. Please note that Vodafone will automatically book the daily Easy Travel Flat unless you have deactivated this option beforehand. If you are using a cheaper cellphone plan, you are not eligible for Vodafone´s international flat rates. In this case you have to fall back on the “Reisepaket Plus” with 50 minutes of phone calls and 100 MB of data for 6 Euros a day – hardly a viable option.
USING YOUR CELLPHONE WITH A US SIM CARD
Unless you can strike a deal with your German provider, there is only one reason for using a German SIM card in the US: Keeping your old number. Most people, however, fare batter with a US Sim card that can be bought either before or during your vacation. If you are traveling in a group, Tethering might be interesting for you. This option lets you create a hotspot for your friends. However, it is mostly high-end cellphone plans that allow for Tethering.
BUYING A US SIM CARD IN GERMANY
Vacationers who want to be on the safe side can buy their SIM card for the USA in Germany. This option is more expensive, but it allows you to use your cellphone right after landing at the airport. Delivery usually takes 1-2 days. Here are several companies that provide this service:
This company offers SIM cards for a wide range of countries, among them the United States. The USA Prepaid Sim Card for 30 days includes unlimited calls and text messages in the US. Customers can choose from different data packages: The XS option, for example, comes with 1 GB of LTE data and costs 39.90 Euros. Keep in mind, though: While more expensive options let you continue surfing with reduced speed once your data is used up, this is not possible with the XS option. On the other end of the price range is the XL plan with 30 GB for 79.90 Euros. This option includes 20 USD for phone calls to German mobile networks (10 USD with the XS and S option). There are data only plans available as well. Simly customers access the network of AT&T.
Tourisim is another provider of SIM cards that can be ordered prior to your vacation in the USA. A good option for most customers is the H20 Wireless-SIM, valid for 30 days. Just like Simly, Tourisim provides data packages from 1 to 30 GB – for 5 Euros more, that is. On the upside, even the cheapest plan for 44,90 Euros, lets you go online with 2G speed after you have used up your data. Tourisim cards also use the AT&T network.
If you want to share a hotspot with your friends and make free phone calls in Canada and Mexico, you should choose the more expensive premium options.
If you are looking for a bargain, this provider is worth checking out. Beachsim offers sim cards with 1 GB of data as well as free phone calls and text messages in the US for just 29,90 Euros. The 40 GB package for 79,90 is comparatively cheap as well. On the downside, the provider uses the T-Mobile network, which cannot quite compete with the coverage of AT&T – especially in rural areas. Alternatively, you can buy Beachsim cards for the AT&T network. Expect to pay the same price as for Simly products, though.
Similar products can be found at Prepaid Global. Their SIM cards are valid for 30 days. Data packages start at 1 GB for 37,90 Euros. The biggest package comes with 30 GB and costs 79,90 – the same as a comparable Simly card. Just like Simly, Prepaid Global uses the AT&T network. The SIM cards come with unlimited calls to European cellphone networks – perfect if you want to call home frequently.
All the aforementioned products can be purchased directly from the respective company. You will also find them on Amazon.
BUY A SIM CARD IN THE USA
Of course, you can also travel to the US first and purchase a SIM card there. For vacationers, prepaid cards are the only sensible choice, as cellphone plans would require residency in the country. When it comes to US providers, T-Mobile and AT&T are ideal for holiday guests, as their networks are compatible with most smartphones. There is no shortage of mobile phone shops in the US. Sometimes, you can even find cheap deals at the airport or at Walmart.
One of the biggest providers in the US offers SIM cards for tourists. These are available in every T-Mobile Shop and have a validity of 3 weeks. Included in the price of 27 Euros (without taxes) are:
- 1000 minutes of phone calls in the USA
- 100 minutes of international calls
- unlimited text messages in the USA and 140 other countries
- 2 GB of LTE data.
The downside of this cheap option: It is not possible to extend the SIM card or buy additional data. Once you have used your data, the internet speed is reduced to 2G. If this is enough for you, T-Mobiles Tourist SIM might just be the perfect choice – and one that you can purchase straight at the airport.
This provider does not explicitly advertise SIM cards for tourists. However, you will have no problem buying an AT&T card – just make sure your cellphone is compatible with their network. Prepaid cards come with free calls and text messages to US mobile phone networks. The price for 1 GB of data is 32 Euros per month. 8 GB are available for 45 Euros. The latter option is perfect if you want to create a hotspot for your friends.
TO SUM SUP
Using your German SIM card in the USA still comes at a high price. Therefore, it pays to buy a US SIM card – either at home or in the country. Before selecting a product, you should check the compatibility of your phone and the network coverage of the provider. If you want to save money, you should get a prepaid card from T-Mobile. However, in rural areas AT&T is the more reliable option.