The AT&T sim card is a great option if you’re travelling throughout North America. This sim card gives you the best coverage in the USA and there is the option of activating this sim on a tariff that gives you discounted roaming in Canada and Mexico.
The AT&T sim card features:
- Know your US mobile phone number in advance of your travel date
- Excellent coverage with fast 4G LTE data across the USA
- No additional charge for roaming in Canada and Mexico
- Unlimited calls to US landline and US mobile phones
- Unlimited incoming calls
Activating your AT&T sim card
You need to activate your AT&T mobile service yourself, however it is easy to activate your sim card and you can do this at home prior to travelling to the USA.
Activating your sim card is a straightforward two-step process:
- Go to the activation page on the AT&T website and enter your sim card number (printed on the back of your sim card), then enter your name, email address, a US ZIP code (which will determine the area code of your US mobile number) and the IMEI number of your phone (which will determine which tariffs you are eligible for). This process should take around five minutes at which point you are given your US mobile number.
- Once you have your US mobile number you have a couple of weeks to top up enough credit to cover the monthly cost of your mobile service. Your sim card will become inactive if you do not top up credit within this timeframe so it is best not to activate your sim card any earlier than two weeks prior to your travel date. You can top up your credit online at several websites including ding.com, recharge.com and topup.com. You can also top up by purchasing top up vouchers from thousands of shops throughout the USA. You will be able to use your US mobile service as soon as you have topped up enough credit to cover the monthly cost of your service.
Activation instructions are included with your sim card.
Activate on your choice of mobile tariff
AT&T has several mobile tariffs that can you can choose from when activating your mobile service. The choices available to you will depend on what type of phone you have (AT&T will work this out when you enter your IMEI number during the activation procedure).
The two most popular options are the $45/month (6GB) plan and the $65/month (22GB) plan. We recommend that you activate your service on one of these tariffs as they offer the best value with the large data allowance and will also work in Canada and Mexico for no additional charge.
Note: Tethering (using your phone as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot) is not possible with this service
There are several add-on packages available (depending on which tariff your sim card has been activated on). These add-on packages give you a bundle of international calls (if you’re on the $65/month Unlimited Nationwide Talk, Text & Data plan).
International Long Distance add-on package
If you have the $65/month Unlimited Nationwide Talk, Text & Data package you can add the International Long Distance package for an additional USD $5 per month. This add-on package will give you 250 minutes of calls per month from the USA to landline phones in over 50 countries including the UK.
The International Long Distance add-on package covers calls to the following countries:
|Country||Calls to landline phones||Calls to mobile phones|
Free international calls only apply while using your phone on the AT&T network in the United States of America. Calls will be charged at AT&T’s standard international rates after you have used your first 250 minutes each month.
AT&T’s standard international call charges are as follows:
If you have the $65/month Unlimited Nationwide Talk, Text & Data plan you can add the International Long Distance package for an additional USD $5 per month. This will give you 250 minutes of calls to landline phones in over 50 countries including the UK.
If you don’t add this add-on feature or if you plan on making international calls to mobile phones in the UK, we recommend that you use an app such as Localphone, Rebtel, Skype or Viber when you make international calls.
Topping up your credit
You can buy AT&T prepaid refill cards from 90,000 locations across the United States including AT&T retail shops, independent mobile phone dealers, convenience stores (like 7-Eleven), discount department stores (like Target and Walmart), electronics shops (like Best Buy and RadioShack), pharmacies (like CVS and Walgreens) and supermarkets.
You can also top up online at ding.com, recharge.com and topup.com.
The rate plan that we recommend includes 22GB of 4G LTE data access in the USA as well as Canada and Mexico, however not all AT&T rate plans include data access and most other plans that do include data only give you data access in the USA. You should check the details of your chosen rate plan carefully if you decide to choose a different plan to what we recommend.
The plan that we recommend gives you unlimited data access in the USA with a 22GB high speed data allowance that works in Canada, Mexico and the USA. For the first 22GB, your data speed is as fast as AT&T’s network will allow (in most cases this will be at 4G LTE data speed). Once you have used this data allowance, your data access speed will slow down to 128 kB/s. The slower speed is fast enough for messaging, email and Google Maps, but the higher speed is preferable if you need to use VoIP apps such as Facetime, Skype or Viber.
In most cases your phone will automatically configure itself to work on AT&T’s network. If it does not work you need to ensure that your APN setting is set to att.mvno (leave the username and passport fields blank) in order for data access to work properly. If you are using an iPhone you can go to unlockit.co.nz, then choose USA and AT&T to automatically download these settings to your phone.
What is the total cost of using the AT&T sim card?
We sell the AT&T sim card for £18, but you also need to budget the cost of adding enough credit to cover the monthly cost of your chosen rate plan.
If you opt for the $65/month Unlimited Nationwide Talk, Text & Data plan the cost for your first month will be around £70 (that is £18 for the sim card plus USD $65 to cover your first month of service on this tariff).
The cost may be slightly higher if sales tax is added to the cost of your prepaid top up voucher. You can avoid this by topping up online through sites such as ding.com, recharge.com or topup.com or by buying refill vouchers from shops in states where there is no sales tax (such as Delaware, New Hampshire or Oregon).
Note: this total cost covers the cost of the sim card and your first month of service. In many cases you won’t need to pay anything else unless you continue using your sim card beyond your first month. You will need to add more credit, however, if you plan on making international calls or if you add multiple add-on data packages.
AT&T has the best coverage of any GSM mobile network in the USA. It has coverage to 99% of the USA’s population including fast 4G LTE data access to over 308 million people. This means that is a great option if you’re making a road trip that takes you to rural areas and national parks where other networks may have limited coverage.
You can check AT&T’s coverage maps here.
Will my phone work in Canada, Mexico and the USA?
You need an unlocked smartphone that is compatible with the 3G (and 4G) mobile networks in Canada, Mexico and the USA. Your phone must work on the following bands:
|Country||Your phone needs to work on these bands|
|Canada||850 MHz and 2100 MHz 3G bands|
|Mexico||1900 MHz 2G band|
|USA||850 MHz and 1900 MHz 3G bands
You will get faster data speeds if your phone also supports LTE band 17 (with better coverage if it also supports LTE bands 2, 4 and 30)
You need to ensure that your phone is unlocked and compatible with AT&T’s US mobile phone network. It is also preferable to have a smartphone as the advertised rate plans may not be available on other devices.