Cell Phones

Chances are you will want a cell phone when you arrive in the U.S. Many students no longer have a landline, but rely solely on cell phones.

During new international student orientation a local cell phone provider will be on campus to assist you with selecting the type of plan that is best for you.

Most companies require you to have a contract. Your type of contract with the cell phone carrier is called a "plan", and there are two main types:

Prepaid Plans

Available at stores such as WalMart and Radio Shack, and also from some cell phone providers (e.g. TracPhone)

“Prepaid” monthly plans allow you to pay one rate per month and do not require a contract. Prepaid plans generally provide options for unlimited talk, text, and data, depending on your plan and carrier. Not all pre-paid plans are unlimited. Double-check all the details of your plan before you purchase it to be sure you have the number of minutes, texts, picture messaging, data, etc. that you need.

  • Plans have a set monthly rate for unlimited talking, texting and data.
  • NO contracts, NO credit history required, NO deposits, NO Cancellation Fees
  • You have to buy a phone that is compatible with their company but it's yours to keep
  • You can refill your credit anytime with cash or debit card
  • You can purchase a SIM card and use your UNLOCKED phone from home

Important note: Make sure you always pay your bill on time because if the company does not receive payment they may shut off your service the next day and you will lose your phone number. You will then have to go into the store, reactivate your service and change your phone number.

Contract Plans

Companies like: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint

If you expect to be in the US for more than two years (the length of the typical phone contract), this may be a good option for you.

  • Ability to use your unlocked device
  • Large data package offerings
  • You can pay for either a certain amount of minutes/month, or unlimited.
  • Generally offer free nights and weekend minutes (check what time "night" starts/ends)
  • There is usually a large variety of phones to select from with attractive sales. There are typically several FREE options available when you open an account
  • Most plans require a 2-year agreement/contract. There is usually a fee for early cancellation of your contract. This can be several hundred dollars.
  • Credit history is required - which means having a U.S. credit card for at least 6 months. Otherwise a credit deposit is required, and this can cost around $500.
  • Plans often require a Social Security Number (SSN). If you don’t have a SSN then your cell phone provider might let you open an account but will likely require a deposit of several hundred dollars.
  • Each service is normally charged separately. So if you would like unlimited talk, text, and data, similar to that of a prepaid plan you will see a separate charge for each.

Important note: Monthly charges do not include taxes or additional services charges – please refer to your plan details or speak with a wireless representative for additional information.