Having a mobile device in the U.S. can be very handy. Communication is important, especially for an international student, you will probably want to keep in touch with family and friends back home. So how can we help you? There are different cell phone service providers in the U.S. Each of these providers has different cell phone plans; they can be contract-based, prepaid or both. Contract-based plans mean that you must be locked into a one-year or two-year contractual agreement.
On the other hand, prepaid plans allow you to only pay for the number of minutes, messages and the amount of data that you want at the beginning of each month. Most prepaid services have no annual contracts and you can use the service for as long as you see fit.
The best cell phone providers offer a variety of plans for individuals, families and businesses. Each plan offers a different number of minutes, texting and data amounts to help match your needs and wants.
How to Choose a Cell Phone Provider
When you are trying to look for the best cell phone provider, you need one that offers the widest selection of features without hidden charges and costs. It is critical that you are thoughtful in considering all the options available because the last thing you want to do is pay extra on your cell phone bill each month. Mobile service providers package different features such as the number of voice minutes, text messaging and data in ways they hope they will appeal to customers. They offer a variety of individual plans, or single line plans. These plans allow for only one phone number on the account. Family plans, also known as shared plans, are also quite popular among cell phone users. These plans allow for multiple phone numbers to be included on the same account. With most of these plans, each account user shares the number of minutes, messages and data amount.
When searching for the best cell phone provider, you also need to look for a company that provides coverage in the areas that you visit the most. Many companies provide coverage along the East and West Coasts but lack service in rural areas. Also, if 4G capabilities and international coverage are important to you, look for a cell phone carrier with these features.
Phones and Features
The variety of cell phones available from carriers is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. Most of the cell phones you will find from cell phone providers are smartphones and other advanced devices such as tablets. You can visit the websites of these carriers to find out what kind of phones they have before deciding on a plan. If you have already have a phone that is able to accept a SIM card, providers such as T-Mobile, AT&T or any prepaid plans usually come with a SIM card.
Pros and Cons
If you decide to start a contract plan with any of the above carriers, as an international student you will need a U.S Social Security Number (SSN) for identity and credit checking purposes. Please not that in order to get a SSN, you have to have an on-campus job. It usually takes up to two to three weeks to receive a Social Security card. A large deposit is required in lieu of a SSN when you open up a cell phone plan. But generally speaking, most carriers will refund your initial deposit after 12 months of good standing.
The second popular option is the pay-as-you-go plan. While these plans may have slightly higher rates on outgoing calls, messaging, etc., they are nonetheless convenient for international students; prepaid plans offer the same services and network capabilities as contract plans, but do not require a SSN or a hefty deposit.
In addition, many international students join together to create a family plan. These wireless service plans allow up to five lines to be on the same contract. Keep in mind that it is difficult to add or drop lines once the contract is signed without paying fines or penalty fees. Family plans are inexpensive if you have multiple individuals signing up for a contract plan.