esims.ioesims.io logo

Blog

AT&T Prepaid eSIM plans for Travelers: What to Know Before You Purchase [2024]

Understand the different options to get a prepaid travel plan that will work on the AT&T network, whether directly from the provider itself, or from third party travel eSIM providers

Published: May 5, 2024

Traveling to the United States as a foreigner is fun. However, choosing your regular voice and data plan during your trip could turn your anticipated enjoyable vacation into a nightmare because of high roaming charges. This is because using your phone in the US without switching to a local network is considered international roaming, which is really expensive.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You will save a lot of money if you use a prepaid eSIM or a prepaid SIM card that is tailored for being used in the USA, and which will be roaming on one or several of the local US Mobile Networks : Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Dish Wireless, U.S Cellular.

Being able to use one of those local US networks will either be possible if you purchase a prepaid eSIM or SIM directly from them, or if you purchase your prepaid eSIM or SIM through an international MVNO that has roaming agreements with those networks.

Today, we'll focus on AT&T, the US telecom operator which offers the overall best coverage : how might travelers to the US get a prepaid eSIM that works with AT&T ?

Are AT&T's prepaid eSIM plans cheap ?

While most AT&T offerings are focused on US residents, the network also offers prepaid SIM cards and prepaid eSIM plans (without contract) that could be suitable options for tourists & short-stay travelers.

The provider offers several prepaid data plans starting from $25 (for one month), and that can be sold either on SIM card, or eSIM. Prepaid AT&T plans (whether SIM based or eSIM based) can be acquired in-store, but also online. For online purchase, AT&T will deliver a SIM card within a few days. If you choose to go with a prepaid eSIM, it should be delivered to you by email shortly after your purchase.

Plan Type

Monthly Cost with AutoPay

Data

Additional Features

Unlimited

$40 $50 without Autopay

30GB at max 3Mbps, then throttled

Unlimited talk, text; Includes Mexico & Canada; AT&T ActiveArmor mobile security

Unlimited + 5GB Hotspot Data

$50 $65 without autopay

High-speed until limit, then reduced speeds; 5GB hotspot

Same as Unlimited; includes 5G access

Unlimited + 10GB Hotspot Data

$25/mo (But you have to Prepay $300 for 12 months)

Throttled : High-speed up to 16GB, then 1.5 Mbps

Same as above, plus 10GB hotspot

8GB Plan

$33/mo (But you have to Prepay $99 for 3 months)

8GB per month

Unlimited talk, text; includes Mexico & Canada; 5G access on compatible devices

5GB Plan

$30

5GB high-speed data, then throttled

Unlimited talk, text; 5G access

15GB Plan

$40

15GB high-speed data, then throttled

Unlimited talk, text; Includes Mexico & Canada; AT&T ActiveArmor mobile security

Summary of AT&T's prepaid plans

Those plans might not be the best value for tourists though :

  • Some plans offer lower monthly rates when enrolled in Autopay, where payments are automatically renewed at the end of each plan cycle. If you don't go with Autopay (likely your case as a traveler), then those plans get more expensive.

  • Some prepaid plans are only available if you make an upfront payment worth several months. Ex: $300.

  • Not all plans offer 5G access, and those that do might have a fair usage policy, where speeds significantly decrease after reaching a specified data limit (e.g., after 16GB, speeds may be reduced to 1.5 Mbps for the remainder of the month).

  • Furthermore, activation fees are applicable, with $15 charged for in-store purchases and a $5 fee for eSIM activations. It's crucial for travelers to closely read plan details and understand these conditions to select the most suitable option.

How can I purchase a prepaid eSIM plan online directly from AT&T ?

[WARNING] Buying an AT&T eSIM as a non-us resident is not straightforward :

  • There are two ways to get AT&T eSIM while visiting the US. First, buy an AT&T virtual SIM via the website, any AT&T store, or an authorized agent.

  • If you choose to purchase your eSIM online (ex: before you travel - this is likely why you're here), you will need a US based phone number, a US based address, and device verification, to be able to complete the purchase flow.

  • We digged in AT&T's forums and we found out that the eSIM activation online process is not always convenient as you might have to visit an AT&T store to get your activation complete. Some users said it's fine and they were able to do the activation remotely, though.

eSIM activation_screenshot

If you're not blocked by the above, here is the purchase guide :

Here are steps on how you can buy an AT&T eSIM online:

Step 1. Go to the AT&T website, prepaid plans section. 

Step 2. Type “eSIM” on the search bar located on top of the website. 

Step 3. Click the FAQ: How can I get a new eSIM for AT&T Prepaid?

image1_screenshot

Step 4: The next page will advise you to go to AT&T Prepaid BYOD. 

step 4_screenshot

Step 5. Enter a US-based ZIP code (any ZIP code in the US will do!)

Step 6: Choose a prepaid plan. 

Step 7: You will be prompted to get an eSIM activation card (with prepaid plan). 

STEP 7_screenshot

Also, once you click the question mark shown in the screenshot, a pop-up message will appear letting you know that you can receive your eSIM and activate it via email.

activation_screenshot

Step 8: Your device must be unlocked and needs your IMEI number to ensure compatibility with the network. You can do so by clicking the green text as stated in the photo below. 

step 8_screenshot

Step 9: Click “Go to cart.”

go to card_screenshot

Step 10. Fill out some details on their form, such as US address, contact number, and other personal information. We have tried using a local number and address, and it didn’t work. 

Local phone number:

local_screenshot

US phone number:

us_screenshot

Tip: If you have a friend or relative residing in the US, you can use their phone number (we did this!), or feel free to buy a US virtual phone number online if you have the budget.

Meanwhile, while attempting to input the US state where we plan to visit, the text field provided suggestions to complete the address, indicating that only US addresses are acceptable for their purchase form. Alternatively, you can either give the address of your hotel accommodation or use a US-based mail forwarding service. 

address_screenshot

 Step 11. You’re almost done! Now, it’s time to pay online.

Step 12. Go to your email account to receive and set up the virtual SIM card.

The alternative: purchase from a 3rd party travel eSIM provider

If you're not willing to or can't purchase an eSIM directly from AT&T, you're not done yet !

There are still - prepaid plans - options to be able to use the AT&T network on your US trip using an eSIM MVNO or third parties.

eSIM MVNOs don't operate a cellular tower in the US but piggyback off AT&T network or other major carriers like T-Mobile or Verizon.

Some popular and reliable international eSIMs in the market are Nomad, Maya, Holafy, Airalo. If you're a frequent traveler, you might have used any or all of them in your previous adventures.

Some of those prepaid eSIM providers have roaming agreements with AT&T, which we will cover below.

Airhub: The cheapest

Airhub, in general, provides a user-friendly app that easily lets you get an eSIM and data plans. You don't need to be tech-geek, as purchasing any of their products is as straightforward as online shopping.

Airhub also uses the AT&T network and offers affordable eSIM data plans, making it a perfect alternative to other telecommunication giants.

While the best prepaid package will depend on your budget and how much of an internet user you are, we find this 15 GB / 30-day plan suitable for any tourist, whether you're spending a holiday for a week or serious business for a month.

Data

15 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡ș🇾 United States

Data only

Network(s) : T-mobile (4G)

$12.72

$0.85/GB
Learn more â€ș

For just $11.90, this package is equivalent to the price of a quarter-pounder burger and an espresso at McDonald's. Plus, it's consumable for a month. If you exhaust your data, you can subscribe to another plan using the Airhub app.

Airhub: Best for Worldtravellers

If you’re a globetrotter, a global eSIM suits you best. Airhub, again, is one of our top recommendations in this category because they seem to have the cheapest global data plans compared to other international providers we’ve used.

Data

15 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡ș🇾 United States

Data and Phone number*

Special Offer: 10% OFF

$23.85

$26.50

$1.59/GB
Learn more â€ș

This 15 GB / 30-day package works the same as the previously mentioned Airhub plan. The difference is that they can be used in more than 80 countries. Sure, this particular data package won’t be enough to use when travelling the world. After all, you might want to share your travel experience online.

Data

Unlimited

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡ș🇾 United States

Data only

$65.00

Learn more â€ș

In that case, you should use an unlimited package from the same provider. This eSIM plan is also attractive for world travellers who use data for more than just checking email and social media browsing.

Nomad: Best AT&T 5G Network

Nomad is a well-known stalwart among international eSIM providers because of their collaborative local network providers, ensuring that every user can easily access the most liable internet service wherever they are.

For their US eSIMs, they work with AT&T & T-Mobile to provide a 5G network for travellers who live on smartphones.

If you’re constantly running against your data limit, look no further than this 20 GB plan, valid for 30 days. It’s a $28 eSIM package offering high-speed data - which means you can surf the internet without experiencing any slowdown until you consume the 20 GB data limit.

Data

15 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡ș🇾 United States

Data only

Network(s) : T-mobile (4G)

$12.72

$0.85/GB
Learn more â€ș

With this plan, you can tether other devices, stream videos, attend Zoom meetings, or be an Instagram influencer without worrying about internet slowdowns.

GlobaleSIM: Best for both long-term and short-term travellers

If you want to go off the beaten path during your US travels, you can never go wrong with a 20 GB / month plan from GlobaleSIM.

Data

20 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡ș🇾 United States

Data and Phone number*

Special Offer: 10% OFF

$28.80

$32.00

$1.44/GB
Learn more â€ș

Like the eSIM package mentioned above, this one also costs $28 and has the same validity period. The catch? You can use the three leading telecommunication providers, AT&T, TMobile, and Verizon.

Having many network choices from your eSIM guarantee that travellers can stay connected with their loved ones around the clock, no matter which states they go to.

Are you a short-term traveller? Feel free to avail of this 15 GB plan from the same brand at a more affordable price yet for the same validity period.

Data

20 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡ș🇾 United States

Data and Phone number*

Special Offer: 10% OFF

$28.80

$32.00

$1.44/GB
Learn more â€ș

FAQs

Can I replace my AT&T SIM card with AT&T eSIM?

Yes! As an existing AT&T customer, you’re free to convert your SIM card to eSIM through the steps provided below:

iPhone

  • Step 1. Go to Settings.

  • Step 2: Tap Cellular.

  • Step 3. Choose to Convert to eSIM.

  • Step 4. Tap Convert Cellular Plan and Convert to eSIM

  • Step 5. Your SIM is already converted to eSIM. Try a test call to find out if it works. If so, you’re free to discard your physical SIM.

Android

  • Step 1. Check your Device’s IMEI and EID numbers through Settings → General → About

  • Step 2. On your phone’s browser, go to myAT&T account and choose the Device you want to replace with eSIM.

  • Step 3. Tap → Manage Device → Manage your SIM → Swith devices → Get Started

  • Step 4. Enter the IMEI and EID numbers from your phone and follow the prompts.

  • Step 5. You will receive a QR code via email. Scan it and install your eSIM.

  • Step 6. Almost done! Try a test call to find out if it works.

Is AT&T the best network provider in the US ?

AT&T is the leading telecommunication company in the United States and offers various services such as mobile phones, TV, and the Internet. A majority of US residents are using this network because of its wider coverage and reliable connectivity.

So, if you’re travelling around the US, whether in a city or the countryside, it's generally a good option you select to roam with AT&T over Verizon, or T-Mobile, but note there is not an absolute rule and that this can vary : some providers will obviously offer better connectivity in different areas compared to others.

What is an eSIM?

eSIM, also known as Embedded Subscriber Identity Module, is the electronic version of the microchip SIM card we used to know.

Like the plastic SIM, eSIM provides information that allows your phone to connect with local network carriers. Yes, with an “s” because, unlike the traditional SIM, eSIM allows your phone to connect with the most reliable cellular networks available in a certain location.

Therefore, you have the option to switch between carriers and eSIM plans without having to inject a physical SIM card. This means you can easily choose a data plan that suits your needs, whether you’re travelling to the USA for work or leisure.

Like other eSIM providers, AT&T eSIM will work on newer smartphone models, smartwatches, and tablets. Here’s a complete list of phone devices that support eSIM.

What are the best carriers for travelers in the USA?

You’re not limited to AT&T network carriers when travelling to the USA. However, AT&T is known to be the most low-cost carrier with solid unlimited prepaid options among other telecommunication giants.

Verizon and T-Mobile are also contenders in the local telecommunication industry, vying for dominance alongside AT&T. But if you don’t want to burden yourself with choosing the most reliable service, we suggest you use an international eSIM.

With your eSIM international provider, you might have access to all three major local network giants.

Meanwhile, here are the best local providers among the big cities in the USA to help you choose the best eSIM MVNO or local network carrier to use on your visit.

City 

Provider

Coverage Score

Chicago, IL

AT&T

91/100

Houston, TX

T-Mobile

99/100

Los Angeles, CA

AT&T

99/100

New York City, NY

AT&T

99/100

Philadelphia, PA

Verizon

47/100

Phoenix, AZ

Verizon

47/100

Source: www.whistleout.com

The Bottom Line

Having a reliable eSIM provider is essential when travelling anywhere in the world. You may have the latest iPhone, but with bad service, your adventure of a lifetime may be ruined. Again, you can use a local network such as AT&T as soon as you arrive in the US. But if you want a more low-cost option, you can choose the best eSIM plans we’ve provided above or browse other plans here to discover more affordable data package.

What is an eSIM?

Let us explain how an eSIM works

Access FAQ

Here to help

Our customer support is available 7 days a week to help you

Contact us