While the costs of international roaming continue to fall, pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards still have their advantages – whether that’s having a local number for clients to call in the same country or even for longer trips or periods of heavy usage where roaming fees become impractical.
One of the best options in the United States is T-Mobile’s range of Simple Choice Prepaid SIM plans.
It works like this: you either visit a T-Mobile store to grab your SIM card and choose your pre-paid plan after arriving in the USA, or can pick up your USA SIM at the airport or online before leaving Australia through retailer SimCorner.
The latter proves the best value with A$59 getting you a T-Mobile SIM card connected to the standard Simple Choice Prepaid 2GB plan, which lasts for up to 30 days.
Buying the same from a T-Mobile store costs US$65 (A$92.50) being US$15 for the SIM and US$50 for the pre-paid plan, so plan ahead to save more than 35% on the usual sticker price.
Either way you’ll get unlimited calling to numbers in the USA, Canada and Mexico; unlimited texts to any number (including to Australia) and unlimited data, although only the first 2GB is delivered at 4G speeds, with any more throttled back to 2G (although that's still enough for emails on the go or ordering an Uber).
Add to that: free and unlimited inflight SMS within North America on all Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta and Virgin America aircraft fitted with Gogo connectivity.
Calls back to Australia do clock in at US$1.99/minute unless buying an additional pack, so you may find better value in using your Australian mobile for these, particularly with the sluggish exchange rate.
Local SIM vs roaming
Compare that to the roaming charges of the Australian networks and you’ll almost certainly come out ahead for anything more than a quick trip.
Telstra for instance charges $105 for a seven-day ‘international travel pass’ but which includes only 525MB of data.
The same week-long trip on Optus sets you back $70 in ‘travel pack’ fees but with just 350MB of data Included, while Vodafone’s $5/day roaming – which uses your Australian plan's data, voice and text allocation – would come in at $35 for the week.
(Of course, the upside to roaming with your Aussie-based telco – if you can afford it! – is that you can still receive calls and text messages on your regular mobile number.)
When you do return home, stash your T-Mobile SIM in a safe place for use when you next visit the United States, where a simple recharge – or ‘refill’, in American vernacular – gets you going where you left off.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT