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Cellphone Service Plans in the U.S.

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man on cellphoneOne of the first tools international students shop around for when they arrive in the United States is a cellphone. In fact, we recommend that if you do not already have a cellphone when you first land into the USA, that you purchase a prepaid cellphone while you are still at the ariport.  Having a phone when you first arrive to the U.S. is important because then you can be in contact with your pick-up person, as well as the school.  Often times flights are delayed so having a way to easily communicate regarding the delays is a necessity.  You can purchase a better plan once you have settled in. 

If you are interested in calling internationally from the United States to keep in touch with friends and family back home, it is recommended you invest in calling cards because they tend to be a less expensive option than adding international fees on a cellphone bill. Another option is to use internet services, such as Skype, Magicjack, Lingo, Ooma, Whatsapp, Truphone or Vonage.  Read more here

Cellphone Options

The most basic option is the USA Sim Card, which can plug into international phones brought over by students. This is a prepaid plan, and provides your phone with a new USA-based number.

The next options are monthly prepaid plans with nationwide coverage. This option is best for students who plan to use the phone for limited calls or emergencies, but the cost of the cellphone itself is separate from the plan. Services providers will offer a set amount of minutes per a specific time period. If those minutes get used up, extra charges could occur.  Cricket, Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are a few companies that don't require a long term contract.

After that, the plans become more complicated, and it's good for students to undertake some research before making a purchase.

Providers often offer a contract, usually for two years.  So, if your program is less than a year, you may want to consider other options.  This contract can cover everything from the cost of the phone itself to minutes, texting and data usage. These plans are more expensive, and really are only recommended for students who need to have a smartphone with Internet access.

For more information, check out the different cellphone service providers, including AT&T, Ting, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular.

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