So Hard To Get a USA SIM…American Telecom Companies suck!

In usa by Michael Michelini4 Comments

Seriously, one of the worst things about coming to USA each time is figuring out a phone plan….I think almost any other country I have been to in the world, and I have been to UK, Italy, China, Philippines, Thailand, etc….I just go to a 7-11 or a newspaper stand and buy a SIM card for like around $5usd and then load it up for another $5usd, have a phone number, have data on my phone, and am good to go. Get it right in the airport when I land, call my local friends in that country, meet them for drinks, dinner, whatever.

Now, coming to USA….maybe its regulation, maybe its taxes, maybe its just because they can do it…but I have so much trouble figuring out the best phone plan, carrier, etc – so I asked my facebook friends (below):

Michael Michelini
OK, flying to USA today….any ideas on a HEAVY DATA user like me for 3 weeks in USA…last time got trapped into t-mobile contract flexi-plan….that lost me $200usd to break the contract or $80usd/mo…

Some people say ATT gophone…..but can i take the SIM and pop into my own Asian 3g phone?
Like · · Share · Wednesday at 7:18am

Minji Xu, Jojie Estrella and Babya BiBi like this.

Jansen Pongos-Doyon Inggat sa byahe.
Wednesday at 7:23am · Like

Brian Bartos You can get a prepaid phone or prepaid wifi hotspot at Walmart or target
Wednesday at 7:25am · Like

Michael Michelini i only really care about data….i can’t take the SIM out and put into my phone?
Wednesday at 7:30am · Like

Ben Liong I used to buy t-mobile monthly package for my girlfriend when she’s there for a month. It’s a subscription plan that you can cancel any time before the month ends. unfortunately t-mobile uses a different frequency of 3G that iPhones don’t support and you’ll probably be stuck with Edge, but the data is unlimited.
Wednesday at 7:33am · Like

Andrew Leyden I was able to use AT&T gophone with my iPhone but it took a few ricks like registering a different phone imei for the account and setting up the apn myself. Google will show you how.
Wednesday at 7:37am · Like

Brian McKeon you could pop it into the asian gsm phone provided: the phone has no subsidy lock (its an unlocked gsm, if you got in china im guessing your good) and if it has the right freq bands. ATT does NOT use global standard freqs, (850, 1900, 850 is non standard one if mem serves right). Tmobile uses the global bands on their network so you should be able to use one of their pre-pay plans and use your existing phone. I’ve never had issues with an IMEI reg on ATT, but when I hacked a Verizon phone with the ATT rom on my treo the gsm radio never connected, course it did go through the washing machine with the ATT treo…
Wednesday at 7:43am · Like

Brian McKeon if you get one with Internet on it too, you would have to look how to setup for Tmobile/ATT network usage, but not complicated to do at all. I used to swap between my t616 and treo never letting ATT know the IMEI had changed, never an issue. they just get pissy when you update your contract account info, and you get the wrong SMS messages about available phone upgrade downloads
Wednesday at 7:46am · Like

Brian Bartos They have prepaid phones now for like $40/mo with unlimited data.
Wednesday at 7:56am · Like

Regine Romayla If I were u just use prepaid….everything in here is always about contract cept for prepaid.
Wednesday at 8:11am · Like

Michael Michelini ‎Brian Bartos i checked the metropcs site, seems i have to buy one of their phones too…..
Wednesday at 8:16am · Like

Brian Bartos Yah I’d imagine that’s how they make money lol
Wednesday at 8:36am · Like

Donna Zakarevicis-Villar Welcome to the good ole USA Mike! hehehe
Wednesday at 8:36am · Unlike · 1 person

Jojie Estrella have a safe trip
Wednesday at 9:30am · Unlike · 1 person

Maggie Joella Lam hey mike, i used T-mobile 4G prepaid, only $50/mo… unlimited data, calling, and text, good deal… and it’s prepaid, so no contract. and it works on my 3GS.
Wednesday at 9:38am · Like

Minji Xu Good trip Mike! and Enjoy home road show! =)
Wednesday at 9:58am · Like

Michael Michelini thanks everyone! Maggie Joella Lam do i need to buy their phone or can i use my HK one?
Wednesday at 10:09am · Like

Maggie Joella Lam no need, I m using my HK iphone.
Wednesday at 10:17am · Like

Michael Michelini wow, that is amazing and so far the best option I have heard! i’ll go to t-mobile when I land in LA!
Wednesday at 10:33am · Like

Maggie Joella Lam FYI:*Vzbpmwzygt*VzbpmwzygtHETkblt*FBEftkYS7Vzbpmwzygt
No Annual Contract Plans | T-Mobile
Get the 4G freedom you want with our no annual contract plans. Say yes to Monthly4G, and say no to annual contracts, forever.
Wednesday at 10:36am · Like ·

Michael Sanderson It doesn’t sound as good as the T-Mobile unlimited prepaid for $50 option – I heard iPhones aren’t compatible with T-Mobile 3G network and have to use edge, but Maggie above said it worked with 3GS and you didn’t specify iPhone anyway – but anyway, wanted to add I just had a good experience with AT&T, signing up for normal service but with ‘bring your own equipment,’ there’s no contract and if you cancel in less than 30 days it’s prorated. Still came to about $90, but worked great with iPhone4.
Wednesday at 1:15pm · Unlike · 1 person

Zhenzhen Qi safe trip and see you soon man : )
Wednesday at 2:32pm · Unlike · 1 person

Ruediger Doppler asfaik 3G is by definition also called UMTS and should work fine… IF US also has UMTS. I give no warrants for that though.
Wednesday at 5:03pm · Like

Michael Michelini i’m on android….thinking to go to T-mobile and getting unlimited Attila Steven C sent me some more info to pay $70usd for unlimited data…why is this all so complicated.
Wednesday at 7:46pm · Like

Attila Steven C well in Phoenix, Arizona, it was $70 for the unlimited. They had $30, $50 and $70 plans…not sure in other parts of the country but if its $50 elsewhere, then we’re getting jacked 🙁
18 hours ago · Like

Michael Michelini landed in LA late….t-mobile closed, going there in the morning…
15 hours ago · Like

Attila Steven C = there you go, $70 a month for unlimited talk, text, surf
Monthly4G Prepaid Plans | Prepaid Data Plans | T-Mobile
T-Mobile No Annual Contract. Say no to brick phones and yes to the latest smartphone…
See More

that is a pretty cool thing about social media, you can crowdsource to get the best answer from your friends and people you trust….it was awesome to get so many perspectives and ideas on this topic….and you can see how complicated it is in America just from all these long comments to my post!

So before I left China, it seemed obvious t-mobile is the place to get my SIM card in USA. Lets talk about the options

1) Verizon – not even an option… they don’t offer SIM cards.
2) AT&T – my parents are on AT&T so I was thinking about being added onto a family plan, but I’d have to sign a 2 year contract anyway, but it would only be $10usd a month…but then again, do I have to do it when I’m in Florida?
3) Metro PCS – seems good, Brian told me about it, but I hear their coverage sucks, and I have to buy one of their phones and probably can’t use it in my own phone
4) T-Mobile – SIM cards, yes, prepaid, yes, data, yes. Unlimited plans.

So I landed in LA last night (about 20 hours ago) and wanted to get a T-mobile SIM when I landed…..but they don’t sell any SIM cards in the airport…I went to a payphone to call Lisa, from who was picking me up from the airport….and needed to get change from the Starbucks to get 50 cents (wow, 50 cents now!) to call her….and got her voicemail! This is just unreal….In America and I can’t do anything because I don’t have a USA sim card and they don’t sell them in the airport.

Luckily I found Lisa in the airport and then we drove to t-mobile store (about 15 minutes away by car) but it closed at 9pm! So I had to wait til today to get one…but when I went there, the store didn’t open until 12 noon!! (see photo)

So I waited by the door for it to open, and discussed the plans… luckily I was already educated, got the $60usd/month plan….but

  • I had to buy a SIM CARD for $30usd! I had a t-mobile from last year, but they said it doesn’t work for other plans, or something like this…that if i turn it off, I cannot re-activate that SIM….
  • I upgraded $10usd for unlimited International – hey, that is a good deal!
  • 9usd for me to use my credit card…they told me to go to the ATM to save this money…

And then it was 4G – but my phone is only 3G!!!! So I cannot use the fast data, and am on Edge internet…..

Crazy really… can America be so horrible for foreigners traveling here, Europeans and Asian really complain about American phone system…..

Land of the “free”…. hahahahaahahah, this is really a conflict of interest in my opinion!

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  1. I have a Verizon Plan in the US, with a Verizon phone. When I’m not in the US I suspend the line.

    I use sim cards for everywhere else in the world for my iphone.

    There are many many great options for prepaid if you want to use a non-smartphone. Boost- $50 and Straightalk – $45 unlimited talk/text/web

    There is a prepaid MVNO of Tmobile (Simple Mobile) that is much cheaper. They use sim cards, and have unlimited packages. However you aren’t going to get the 4G, and the service won’t be as good as Verizon. Tmobile uses 1700 for most of it’s 3G towers in the west, so it’s also possible your phone won’t support this. Probably why you are on Edge right now instead of 3G.

  2. I found it cheaper to roam on my China Unicom (without data) in the US than to buy a local plan.  Unreal…  I do hope China Unicom gets their data roaming in order, which they claim they will by the end of the year.

  3. You konw? The USA SIM is difficult to be identified

    Rotary Dryer

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