Project Fi / US travel SIMs

I know myself & @anon23935806 discussed this before but it was in a different thread so thought I’d make a new one.

I’m here in the US at the moment in Mountain View staying with my cousin who works for Google. He sent me a Project Fi referral code but it turns out you need a US bank card and billing address to sign up! So I’m not able to sign up for that sadly.

Unless anyone knows of a better option, I’m gonna grab a T-Mobile prepaid travel SIM. You get 2GB data and unlimited texts and calls for $30. The downside is that it auto expires after 3 weeks and I’m here for 27 more days.

I’d love to know if anyone knows of any better options!

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When I bought US sims, I used my Amex card and put my US office as the address - it always went through. The local SIMs are much better deal than the travel sims. This was with AT&T - I went into the shop in Palo Alto, but there will be one in Mountain View.

Have you been on the circle bike yet?

You should have taken a three SIM with you, the US is a feel at home destination. Once I got one, I didn’t bother with US SIMS after that.

Can I have your referral code? I can bill it to my brother :wink: [Scratch that, they don’t support iPhones yet!]

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The US seems to be pretty limited in terms of the mobile market. I also struggled when I looked around for a prepaid SIM. It’s not like here where you can just go to the supermarket and pick up a SIM with credit on it. Here are some options I found when researching this, though I’ve not used any in the end (long boring story), so can’t personally recommend them. But one might work for you (also check the coverage):

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I used to have a Project Fi SIM on a friend’s account (extra data-only SIMs are free, you only pay for data used). It was perfect for US travel, but that friend cancelled his account.

T-Mobile’s normal PAYG is ungodly expensive, and one of the cheapest options. Unfortunately, you’ll find almost everyone in the US charges for the SIM card (absurd fees ranging from $5-$25).

I’d honestly consider MVNOs like Lycamobile… cringes at saying that. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, myself, on my next trip to the US.

Excellent life tip - this trick also works for Japanese merchants - and French - and presumably any other country with merchants that only allow local cards. Amex often isn’t region and address checked like other cards :smiley:

I used to use Simple Mobile, getting a SIM from a local Best Buy.

Now I just use my EE MAX plan, 15GB a month of 4G roaming data included in my plan, inclusive calls and texts to UK/EU/USA and saves using a different number, so I can still be contacted.

Look into US-based prepaid card services and see if you can use one of those to set up a Google account for Project Fi.

[shameless plug]If not check out Twilio Programmable Wireless - I’ve got an account with them and all the infrastructure ready to make these work, so if this pricing is ok with you I’ll set that up and get you a SIM delivered in the next few days . :+1:[/shameless plug]

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That pricing seems… Ridiculous. $102.40/GB???

Three and EE both offer reasonable plans with included free US roaming… why bother with other providers?! (Assuming it is not like in China where even free wifi ask you for Chinese phone number for verification, haven’t been to the States yet, but found EE roaming in Canada amazing)

Can’t be that huge, we’re looking at 23$ for the first GB and 15$ per GB afterwards, which seems relatively pricey compared to what we get in the UK but I have no idea how it compares to the US.

A potential problem with this is that you have a UK phone number. So you can’t use it if you need businesses or people there to phone you back. More of a problem for some people than for others.

For business we use truphone - I have local numbers in most of the countries I visit on the same SIM.

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I would have said Three if you don’t need people to call you. Their ‘feel at home’ thing covers the USA.

Roaming calls and data at the same cost as within the UK (in my case, unlimited data at no extra cost!)

Get someone in the UK to pick one up from a shop, activate it and post it over!

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I used Three Feel at Home Roaming. You could use an app like Vyke to get a US number for people there to call you on.


+1 for vyke! It’s a brilliant product, especially due to its “call back” mechanism, which means you can even make VoIP calls, when mobile data is crap! I use it all the time!


In my experience, Three’s roaming service is utter rubbish, barely working most of the time. For some reason in the US, on T-Mobile it is far worse than AT&T (though this may be down to not supporting 4G roaming and T-Mobile’s 3G being quite spectrum-constrained to make room for better 4G). Yet, they prefer roaming on T-Mobile.

Even if you force your phone to AT&T don’t expect it to be good they throttle video, they say. But they also throttle other Google services like Google Maps - a really nice thing when travelling, and it won’t function.

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My experience isn’t great, either. I’m not sure I’d describe it quite as bad, but I’ve been using it in Spain for a few years now and my main issue is that it only supports 3G, and not 4G.

Just to add my experience, in Seattle ‘3 at home’ was unusable in September but I have had minimal issues in Chicago and NYC.

It is 3G only at the moment, but I’ve never had a problem with it (Three). Spain, France, Czech Republic, USA, Australia all been fine.

Often depends on what bands your phone supports. I think older iPhones often weren’t that good at travelling? I’ve always had Androids from Sony and Samsung and they tended to be a lot better at supporting more frequency bands.

Definitely not the issue, my phone has pentaband UMTS. That said, T-Mobile USA has cut 3G down to a very narrow slice of spectrum in order to have extremely fast 4G, so that’s likely a lot - but not all (e.g. the Google Maps issue) of the problem.