U.S. cell phone service have multiple options. You will need to do research which options are best for you, according to your needs.

Prepaid Plans

“Prepaid” monthly plans allow you to pay one rate per month and do not require a contract. If you are bringing an UNLOCKED phone from home, you can just purchase a SIM card upon arriving in the US to set up your plan. Plans are affordable and often unlimited so you won’t have any surprises on your bill.

Contract Plans

Contract "postpaid" plans are a good option for students and scholars if they will be in the U.S. longer than 2 years since that is typically the amount of time for a mobile contract.

Contract Plans typically:

  • Large data package offerings
  • Pay for either a certain amount of minutes/month, or unlimited, ranging from $40-$70.
  • Large variety of phones to select from with attractive sales. Typically several FREE options when you open an account (however, usually you still must pay tax)
  • Coverage tends to be stronger and more reliable
  • Most plans require a 2-year agreement/contract
  • Credit history required for phone which means having a U.S. credit card for at least 6 months. Otherwise credit deposit is required
  • Each service is normally charged separately. So if you would like unlimited talk, text, and data.

Keep in mind:

Most contract plans require that you have 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 LARGE deposit which they return at the end of your contract. They will also likely charge you an early cancellation fee if you go back home before the end of your two-year contract and need to cancel service.

Cell Phone Providers

Major cell phone service providers in the US include Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. These companies provide a variety of contract, pre-paid, and no-contract plans. A US Social Security Number (SSN) is not needed to open an account, but you may be required to provide a deposit.