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My wife and I are going to Las Vegas on a business trip for 5 days. While we're there, we want to be able to keep in touch with mobile phones, and I'd like to spend about $10-20 per phone (including prepaid credit).

This is possible in the UK, where one can buy a Pay As You Go phone for less than £5 and a SIM Card with £10 credit on it. Sometimes you can get them bundled together for £10. That's the kind of price range I'm looking at.

A while ago when I went to Wyoming, a friend advised me to buy a prepaid Tracfone, but that worked out to cost more than $50.

What's the trick to getting cheap temporary phones in the USA?

  • Do you have a GSM phone that is compatible with US frequencies? If so you can just buy a pre-paid SIM. – Peter M Dec 2 '16 at 18:29
  • And if you don't have a compatible one, get a $5 used one on ebay. Old used non-smart phones (talk/sms only) are dirty cheap there. When you hit the states, another option is Good Will. People dump their used phones here all the time. Should be something in the $5 range that is compatible with a prepaid network of your choice. Amazon has phones too... but they start around $20. – maplemale Dec 2 '16 at 19:13
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    Walk in to a Best Buy store and pick up a couple of $10 phones. – Michael Hampton Dec 2 '16 at 19:37
  • The cheapest Tracfones out there are around $10, with airtime costing about an additional $10 per hour. – Mark Dec 3 '16 at 2:41
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You may want to check your existing phone plan, for example quite a few providers in the UK offer free (Three) or cheap roaming with data included, this often has the benefit of roaming over multiple US providers giving you better coverage. Some providers even do this with Pay as you Go plans.

Last time I was in the USA I was flipping between AT&T and T-Mobile which ever offered better coverage. Although doing this calls home will be cheap, calls to US numbers will still be expensive, but we worked out it was cheaper than getting a US SIM.

Most modern phones should work in the USA, I've done this now with UK versions of the iPhone 6S Plus and Nokia Lumia 930, on the data side you only tend to get 3G rather than 4G but I was still able to use it everywhere I wanted to but I found 3G fast enough.

If you decide to get a US sim, quite a few of them are available on eBay so you can buy and get it setup and tested before you leave so if you have to get your phone unlocked you can do it at home, and that will get you more towards your desired pricing but I found they were still much more expensive than UK pay as you go SIMs, also make sure your phone is unlocked IE Not locked to your local phone provider.

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You can find cheap phones in places like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc. Phone start from around $15 to $20 and go up from there. But that is phone only.

You need to add a phone plan and SIM. Expect to pay around $5 for the SIM card and then for a Pay as You Go plan $3 per month 10 cents ($0.10) per minute for both outgoing and incoming calls (so both you and your wife are charged 10 cents each time your talk). The $3 monthly fee gets you the first 30 minutes talk or text time, then 10 cents per additional minute.

If your current phones are relatively recent smart phone models, chances are they cover the North American GSM frequencies (most smart phones cover all four primary bands). Then assuming they are not locked to your service provider, you can get a SIM from T-Mobile or ATT plus the $3 month pay as you go plans I mentioned.

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