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Mobile Phone Service

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:

  • Most providers allow users to call anywhere in the United States for the same flat rate
  • Minutes are consumed for both incoming and outgoing calls
  • International calls can be very expensive
  • You can typically keep the same phone number even if you move to another part of the United States

There are two main types of mobile phone services: monthly plans with a contract and prepaid plans.

Contract Mobile Plan Options

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.

Major Cell Phone Carriers and vendors in the US

The University of Hartford and the International Center do not endorse or recommend any the companies or products offered above - this is for your reference only

Some additional Tips

  • Most cell phone companies charge for all calls, outgoing AND incoming, though many have free calling within their network.
  • Some plans give you a set number of minutes per month. Overage minutes are charged at a much higher rate.
  • Text messaging (SMS) typically carries an additional charge if not included in a plan.
  • Some cell phone companies sell only cell phones that work in their network. If you are planning to get a contract, once the contract is signed, you will be required to pay for the entire length of the contract. If you leave your contract before your contract period ends, you will be expected to pay a high fee. If you pay a deposit and then break your contract, you may not be able to get your deposit back.