Cells Phones When Visiting The US

Our family is planning the  2013 Kashman US Tour, and we’ve been discussing our need for cell phones.  We’ve been out of the States for three years, but our phones are (allegedly) on a military hold with Sprint.  I refuse to reactivate them for the months we’ll be home, as it took me six months to get them cancelled when we left last time.  So, we’re looking at either putting a US sim card in our UK phones, or adding a phone to a relative’s plan, or pay-as-you-go options.

It seems like using a US sim card would be the least expensive option.  You can get a sim card for around $10, but then you’ve got to get the service.  The best price I can find is $50 per month.

Adding a phone can work well if you have a relative with a good plan, and who is willing to add you.  However, be careful of extending their contract if you add a phone, and make sure you aren’t adding the phone for a long term.  That’s going to end up expensive!

In my experience, America isn’t as pay-as-you-go friendly as Europe.  The phones are expensive, and so is the service.  We’re hoping that some of our old phones are still usable, so that we can save the cost of the phone.   If we can’t, we’ll be looking at $30 or more for the phone, then $2-3 per day for service.

This whole thing is frustrating, and even more so because I need a phone when we land.  I’d love to hear if any of you have great tricks for inexpensive, short-term cell phone service.  I’d rather avoid buying a new phone, as that seems environmentally unfriendly.  All suggestions welcome!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Azure Tyr

    I spend a lot of time in both the UK (my home) and the US (my family’s home) so I kept an inexpensive PAYG phone with ATT (their cheapest phone picked up from Walmart). I use ATT only because that is what my family has so all calls to them are free. Otherwise the tariff is $1/day and $0.10/minute. $25 top up lasts about a month provided I don’t use data or call the UK ($0.25/minute).

    I tried using the ATT PAYG SIM in my unlocked UK smart phone. Worked fine but cost was not so good. Data and Texting are VERY expensive with PAYG ATT and I ended up spending almost $100/month.

    Now I’m using Virgin (America). It is a much cheaper option than the ATT. PAYG for $35/month for 300 minutes talking, nearly unlimited texts and data. I had to get the Virgin smart phone package (also from Walmart) since I can’t find a place that just does the SIMs.

    So far, Virgin is working great. I pay the $35 for the months I’m in the US and don’t pay when I’m not there. You keep the phone number so long as you top up once ever 6 months (it might even be a year). Used this for about a year now and so far, so good.

  • Summer0f1966

    Try Straight Talk. It is from Wal-Mart, but uses Verizon’s network. No contract, no activation fee, you can use your own handset and it is $30 a month for unlimited talk and text and $45 a month for unlimited talk, text and data.