T-Mobile's new US prepaid SIM: good for tourists, not business travellers

By David Flynn, June 2 2016
T-Mobile's new US prepaid SIM: good for tourists, not business travellers

US carrier T-Mobile has rolled out a new prepaid SIM plan with free domestic calls plus 'unlimited data' for just US$30.

But as the package’s name indicates, the T-Mobile Tourist Plan is far better for tourists than it is for business travellers – especially if you intend to return to the US on even a semi-regular basis.

One reason is because the SIM expires after 21 days: it’s a single-use SIM which can’t be topped up, extended or re-activated on a subsequent visit.

That’s fine if you’re unlikely to be coming back to the USA, but less so if you want to use the same number on return trips so that US clients and other contacts can easily call you the next time you’re visiting stateside.

There’s also a catch to the ‘unlimited data’ bit: you’ll get 2GB at 4G speeds, after which the connection is caped at significantly slower and barely useful 2G speeds.

The T-Mobile Tourist Plan lets you turn your smartphone into a WiFi hotspot which can be used by your laptop or tablet, but such habits are likely to see you reach that 2GB/4G ceiling even faster.

You get 1,000 minutes of calls and unlimited texting within the USA  plus unlimited texts to some 140 countries (including Australia) but there’s no overseas call allowance, although you can of course fire up the likes of Skype or FaceTime over 4G.

On the whole, business travellers are better off choosing a more conventional T-Mobile plan, such as one of the carrier’s Simple Choice Prepaid SIM deals.

Read more: The best USA SIM card for travellers to the United States

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 117

Just 2GB at 4G speed?  Might be good for a week.  I went through more than 5GB on my last trip with an AT&T sim card - lots of Google Maps, uploading photos and hotspot to my laptop.  Many hotels still charge $10USD/$15USD each day for wifi (significantly more at some Las Vegas hotels) so using hotspot saved even more money.  I'd suggest for business travellers to check out Boingo.com which roams onto many "paid" wifi networks.  Also, if you're doing a lot of internally flying in the USA, get a monthly wifi pass with whatever wifi provider supplies your airline eg GoGo for American Airlines, with a monthly pass of unlimited inflight internet for $50USD.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1379

For the ocassional visitor to the US who is more after data and the ocassional calls its a pretty good package i think.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Oct 2013

Total posts 93

Just a heads-up, there's a better plan to this one that's been around for a while, provided that you have time to stop by a local Wal-Mart: 100 US call minutes, unlimited US texts, and 5GB 4G data (unlimited 2G data) for US$30 per month - perfect to hooking up to Skype/your Aust.-based corporate PBX.

Been doing it for years, and I actually just picked another one up on Tuesday at US$38 with a brand new sim & state sales tax (A$53).

Catch is it's only for new SIM activations, so you'll need to get a new SIM each time if your trips are a few months in between as T-Mo does have a spotty low balance service cancellation policy.

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