Over a million Canadian “snowbirds” cross the border every year to escape the cold winter months and spend them in the warmer southern US states.
I’m writing this post from Mexico right now, so I’m one of the snowbirds that chose to go even further south!
One of the more complicated parts of travelling internationally is finding a temporary phone plan that allows you to stay in touch with all your friends and family. While most major Canadian phone companies offer international roaming plans, these can often be expensive.
Below, I’m going to show you some of the best temporary US SIM cards in Canada, so you can stay connected without breaking the bank.
Let’s say that you have an unlimited data plan from a large Canadian company like TELUS or Bell. If you were to cross the Canadian border into the US, your service would likely fall out of the range of towers within a few minutes of crossing the border.
Sure, you can always rely on a wifi connection to make calls and send messages. However, you won’t be able to find wifi wherever you go, which could leave you stranded. This is especially true if you’re travelling and need data to use your GPS/mapping app to get around.
Those who don’t mind shelling out some extra money to their provider can sign up for an international roaming plan through their existing cell phone provider.
The primary benefit of this is that you get to keep the same phone number and don’t have to worry about your friends and family getting confused when you try to call or text them from a different number.
The following Canadian SIM cards work in the US, providing you sign up for roaming charges or a roaming data plan:
TELUS, in particular, has an international Canada-US roaming plan designed for frequent travellers.
The unlimited data plan costs over $95/month, though, so it’s definitely a bit pricey. It could be worthwhile for Canadians who frequently travel to the US, though.
If you’re a frugal liver like myself, then you’re probably more interested in saving money during your travels. The good news is that you should be able to keep your phone and simply purchase a temporary US SIM card that works with your Canadian phone.
As long as your phone has a traditional design that allows you to swap SIM cards, then you should be able to use any of the following Temporary US SIM Cards in your Canadian phone.
1. Prepaid T-Mobile SIM Card Plan
- Learn More: T-Mobile Prepaid Plan
- Best Prepaid Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and 5G data (up to 100 GB) – $40/month
T-Mobile is one of the largest cell phone providers in the US. The provider also has a deal with TELUS in Canada, allowing T-Mobile customers to tap into its network when they’re traveling in Canada.
In terms of overall service quality and coverage in the US, you can’t go wrong with T-Mobile’s prepaid plan. They’re one of the few prepaid plans that offers ultra-fast 5G service with nationwide service.
You can purchase your prepaid T-Mobile plan online or by visiting a T-Mobile store. Additionally, many Walmart locations in the US also sell prepaid T-Mobile SIM cards and plans.
You’ll be billed on a month-by-month basis, so you can schedule your service around your trip to the US, and cancel anytime.
The SIM card kit the company sends you makes it easy to swap your existing Canadian SIM out for the new T-Mobile SIM card, so you shouldn’t encounter any issues as long as your phone is unlocked for service.
2. Metro By T-Mobile Prepaid SIM Card
- Learn More: Metro by T-Mobile Prepaid Plans
- Best Prepaid Plan: Unlimited 5G data plan with up to 15 GB of 5G hotspot data – $60/month
Formerly Metro PCS, T-Mobile recently acquired the affordable prepaid phone company, renaming it Metro by T-Mobile. The merger now allows all Metro customers to tap into T-Mobile’s fast, reliable 5G data network.
Metro makes it easy to swap your SIM card with its SIM card kit, which you can either order online or pick up at a Metro by T-Mobile retail store in the US. The carrier has retail locations in most major US cities.
The service is a bit more expensive than going directly through T-Mobile. However, Metro does offer some additional perks, including:
- Free 5G hotspot data
- Free Amazon Prime Video
- 100 GB of Google One cloud storage
These perks make the extra monthly bill a bit more reasonable.
3. Mint Mobile Prepaid SIM Card
- Learn More: Mint Mobile Prepaid Plans
- Best Prepaid Plan: Unlimited 5G/4G LTE data, plus talk and text for $30/month
On various online ads, you may have seen actor Ryan Reynolds promoting his prepaid cell phone company, Mint Mobile.
The company has received fairly high ratings in terms of overall reliability, coverage, and ease of switching. If you plan on staying for a long time, Mint Mobile even allows you to keep your existing cell phone number that you can use with a prepaid plan.
Mint Mobile runs off of the T-Mobile data network, seamlessly switching between 5G and 4G data (depending on whichever signal is stronger). Compared to other prepaid plans, Mint Mobile is definitely one of the most affordable!
4. Google Fi Prepaid SIM Card Kit
- Learn More: Google Fi Prepaid Phone Plans
- Best Prepaid Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and 5G data – $40/month
Google Fi is one of Google’s latest ventures, as the company attempts to bridge the gap from cloud services into an international phone company.
Currently, Google Fi is offering affordable prepaid SIM card plans starting at $20/month and going up to $40/month for 100% unlimited plans.
Most Android devices work fine with Google Fi, as do iPhones with a SIM card slot. You can bring your own phone or get a deal on one of Google’s top-rated smartphones when you sign up (if you want a separate device).
5. AT&T Prepaid SIM Card
- Learn More: AT&T Prepaid Plans
- Best Prepaid Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and 4G/5G data – $50/month
AT&T offers slightly better cell phone coverage than T-Mobile, which is why it costs a little bit extra.
Additionally, AT&T also has a larger 5G network, which means that you’ll be able to take advantage of higher data speeds as you’re travelling (as long as you have a 5G device).
AT&T offers several prepaid SIM card plans that range from $25/month for a simple 16 GB data plan to $50/month for an unlimited data plan.
Plus, if you need a separate device, AT&T has some very reasonable deals on Samsung Galaxy phones that are under $100 each.
Before you swap a temporary US SIM card into your Canadian phone, you’ll need to make sure your device is unlocked.
Thanks to a new Canadian law, all phones sold in Canada must now be sold unlocked. If you purchased a phone prior to this law change, then all you have to do is call your carrier to receive the unlock code, and you’re good to go!
- Related Reading: Full Guide To Unlocking Your Mobile Phone In Canada
Most prepaid SIM cards offer excellent coverage. Before signing up for a specific plan, though, I recommend doing some research online and making sure that the US city you plan on travelling to is covered by the prepaid plan you’re looking at.
Alternative Options to Temporary SIM Cards
Here are some alternatives depending on your needs:
- International Roaming Plans: Many mobile service providers offer international roaming plans. These can be an excellent option for short trips or if you don’t want to change your phone number.
- Wi-Fi Calling and Messaging Apps: With the wide availability of Wi-Fi, applications such as WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Viber, or FaceTime can be used for both calls and messages. Remember, though, that while these services are often free when used on Wi-Fi, they can consume a lot of data if used on a cellular network.
- Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots or Pocket Wi-Fi: These devices provide Wi-Fi access by connecting to local cellular networks. You pay for the data that these devices use, which can be more cost-effective than individual data roaming plans, especially for groups.
- eSIMs: An eSIM is a digital SIM card that’s already built into newer smartphone models. eSIMs allow you to choose from a variety of local data plans from around the world without the need for a physical SIM card.
Canadians travelling to the US have plenty of options in terms of finding affordable, reliable short-term service with a prepaid temporary SIM card plan.
Personally, I’ve used both T-Mobile and AT&T’s prepaid plans in the past and have found that both work about the same. Ultimately, the best plan is the one that offers good data coverage where you’ll be travelling to.
Looking for great ways to put extra money in your pocket while travelling? Keep on reading to see 7 awesome ways that travelling can help you earn extra money!