Getting a Cell Phone in the US

In the US, having a phone is extremely important. Of course, you need it to stay connected with your friends and family, but most importantly, you will need it in emergency situations such as fires, theft, or when you are lost.

As an international student you might wonder, should I get a Cell phone or should I stay with home phone. This section will help you to make up your mind.

Related Links
  Getting a Home Phone
  Getting a Cell Phone
  Buying Calling Cards
  Getting Internet
  Postal Service in the US




Advantages of a Cell phone

Disadvantages of a Cell phone

Getting a Hand set

Selecting a Cell phone plan

FAQ's

I am new student. Can I subscribe for a Cell phone right away after my arrival in the US?

Do I have to sign a contract?

How do I pay for the Cell phone service company?

 

Advantages of a Cell phone

Most students prefer having a Cell phone rather than a having a home phone simply because of the Cell phone's efficiency. It is mobile, it can store phone numbers electronically, and you can use it whenever and wherever you want. With extra fees, you can also access the internet from your Cell phone. In addition, if you don't really care about a fancy phone, you can get the Cell phone hand set for free when you start your contract with the Cell phone service provider. Most Cell phone service providers will offer you a handset free if you sign up for a one or two year contract.

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Disadvantages of a Cell phone

Cell phones do have a couple of drawbacks. First, Cell phones are costlier than home phones. Secondly, if you cannot control the usage time of your Cell phone, you will end up paying even much more. Finally, you have to sign a minimum of one year contract with the company. You will also have to pay some deposit at the time of your contract.

Nevertheless, advantages of Cell phones far outweigh their disadvantages.

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Getting a Cell Phone

You can buy hand sets online as well as in authorized stores. Many service providers will offer you free hand sets when you sign for one or two years contract. If choose to buy the hand set at the store, after you select the phone, you need choose a plan, which determine the maximum usage time per month adn the fee that you need to pay. After you select a plan, the customer service will activate your plan and you can start using your phone immediately.

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Selecting a Cell phone plan

Cell phone service providers (also called as carriers) have various plans to satisfy different needs. You will have to check with individual companies about the different available plans. You can also find information on their web sites.

Generally, most plans will give you certain number of free minutes per month. For example, some plans will give you 500 anytime minutes. You can use these minutes wherever and whenever you want. However once you use up your minutes, then the carriers will charge you for every next minute you use. Some charge as high as 40 cents per minute. Some carriers offer unlimited call time during the weekends. Some even provide free minutes from 9.00 pm in the evening to 6.00 am in the morning. They also provide some other options such as text messages or internet connectivity depend on the type of your plan.

Some plans also have international calling facility, but this plan is costly, so it is always better to use calling cards.

Some companies provide pay-as-you-go services which do not require a contract, but this service can be a bit costlier.

Sometimes some carriers have low signal in certain geographic areas. We suggest that you check with your friends about the quality of their service providers so that you know which carriers have better reception in that area. You can also checkit on the company's website (it is normally called coverage map)

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FAQ's

I am new student. Can I subscribe for a Cell phone right away after my arrival in the US?

Maybe not. This is because most service provider require you to submit your social security number. Some Cell phone service providers also require you to have a Credit card from a major US Credit card company. Also some service providers may refuse you an account because you do not have any credit history and they don't want to take any risk. In this case, you can probably go for pay-as-you-go service. However, nowadays more companies provide service for international student even if they don't have a social security number, so you sould check with your service provider regarding this.

One suggestion we have is to check with your friends who already have a cell phone. You can have a family plan with one of your friends, where by your friend will be the primary account holder and you will be the secondary account holder. In this case you do not need to have a Social Security Number or a Credit card. You will have to share the costs of the plan with your friend. This way you can still get a cell phone.

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Do I have to sign a contract?

Yes, most plans will require you to sign one or two years contract, especially if you want the hand set for free. However, you can also subscribe for pay-as-you-go plans. It all depends on what type of plan you are subscribing for. Sometimes you will also have to pay some deposit before opening an account.

Whatever plan you select, please make sure to read all the terms and conditions of the contract. Because sometimes, even if are unhappy with the service or quality, you will have to keep on using it because of the contract.

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How do I pay for the Cell phone service company?

The service provider will mail you the phone bill every month. They will also send you an envelope with their address on it. You can simply write a check and mail them the envelope with the check. You can also pay the bill online using your credit or debit card. Some providers also have the facility wherein they will deduct the bill directly from your bank account or credit card account. This way, even if you forget to pay, they will make sure that the amount has been deducted from your specified account and that you receive uninterrupted phone service.

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