Mobile phones are a necessity for all our international students as the easiest and most cost efficient way to communicate with your friends and family here and back home. Though you may be quite familiar with the plans and services offered in your home country, mobile phone providers and service may be quite different here. Some possible differences include:
There are two main types of mobile phone services: monthly plans with a contract and prepaid plans.
Two-Year Contracts: These are the most common contracts in the United States. Contract plans offer lower monthly rates and very low prices on new phones compared to prepaid plans. Typically, the best prices are offered to customers who sign two-year contracts for phone service. While the rates are lower, terminating a contract early requires the customer to pay a large penalty.
To qualify for a contract plan, a cell phone provider will generally review the applicant’s credit history. Since new international students do not have Social Security numbers or credit history in the United States, they typically require a security deposit which could be $400 to $800. As with any contract, please ensure that you understand all requirements and charges before signing it.
Non-Contract “Pay-As-You-Go” or Prepaid Plans: Prepaid plans are easier for new international students to obtain because they do not require a Social Security number and/or a credit history check. These “pay-as-you-go” plans use the same phone networks and offer the same services as contract plans, but usually at higher rates. Advantages of these plans include no long-term contracts, security deposits, or penalties for cancellation.