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Cellphone plans in the US for international students?

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So I'm going to be bopping around the US a bit (play the tourist for some time in NYC, attend a six-week workshop in Seattle, and then finally head to Carbondale to start my MFA), and I'd like a single cellphone plan that could cover me in all three places.

 

I found this thing -- https://www.campussims.com/-- that looks pretty promising, and I was wondering if anyone else has ever used it and can testify to it being legit? Or if you could drop some recommendations for other affordable plans my way, that'd be amazing, too.

 

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all networks provide service throughout us. service bought at one place works in all states. There is no extra charge when you move to different states within US.

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You linked to a SIM card service, which definitely a real thing and people have used it before. However, it's really best used for a temporary purpose, unless you plan on using your phone very little. As the advertising for this service (and many other SIM card services) state, they provide cheap monthly plans without a contract. So, this is ideal for an international undergraduate student who is only in the country for 7-8 months per year, or a tourist here for a few weeks or a few months.

 

But you are going to be here for quite awhile (it sounds like?). This means if you plan on using your phone a lot, you would be much better off getting a phone from a provider like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, etc. and signing onto one of their monthly plans. Depending on the plan and the provider, you may have to sign a contract. Many providers nowadays will allow you to bring your own phone (if it's unlocked) to use in their network -- you might have to pay a one time fee of $10 to $20 for one of their SIM cards, but then you have access to much better plans. 

 

Even if you are not planning on using your phone very much, I think a prepaid plan from a big provider like one of the above will get you better access and better prices than these temporary SIM card services. But shop around! Basically, I'm just saying don't limit yourself to just these SIM card services--look at larger providers too.

 

Finally, just want to reiterate cs_phd's point that US phone system is pretty great compared to what I'm used to in Canada. You can call anywhere in the US without paying long distance and if you are on a big provider network, it should work everywhere!! The big networks are all nationwide.

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You linked to a SIM card service, which definitely a real thing and people have used it before. However, it's really best used for a temporary purpose, unless you plan on using your phone very little. As the advertising for this service (and many other SIM card services) state, they provide cheap monthly plans without a contract. So, this is ideal for an international undergraduate student who is only in the country for 7-8 months per year, or a tourist here for a few weeks or a few months.

 

But you are going to be here for quite awhile (it sounds like?). This means if you plan on using your phone a lot, you would be much better off getting a phone from a provider like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, etc. and signing onto one of their monthly plans. Depending on the plan and the provider, you may have to sign a contract. Many providers nowadays will allow you to bring your own phone (if it's unlocked) to use in their network -- you might have to pay a one time fee of $10 to $20 for one of their SIM cards, but then you have access to much better plans. 

 

Even if you are not planning on using your phone very much, I think a prepaid plan from a big provider like one of the above will get you better access and better prices than these temporary SIM card services. But shop around! Basically, I'm just saying don't limit yourself to just these SIM card services--look at larger providers too.

 

Finally, just want to reiterate cs_phd's point that US phone system is pretty great compared to what I'm used to in Canada. You can call anywhere in the US without paying long distance and if you are on a big provider network, it should work everywhere!! The big networks are all nationwide.

 

Are contracts with these networks hard to finish? Do they do that thing where they will keep charging you after the contract date pass if you don't go personally to end it?

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No, you just call them and tell them you do not want to continue your service anymore. There may be rules in the contract that says how far in advance you can end it (maybe the next billing cycle) but in my experience with Canadian and US companies, they will just end it on the day you ask service to end. Of course, the people you call are trained to retain you as best as possible (sometimes people just call to "cancel" in hopes of getting a better rate from the company) so they will repeatedly ask if you are sure and make you some offers. If you just firmly say that you would like to end the contract -- no, I cannot transfer it to someone else, and no, I am moving away and am not interested in keeping the service, they will end it for you.

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No, you just call them and tell them you do not want to continue your service anymore. There may be rules in the contract that says how far in advance you can end it (maybe the next billing cycle) but in my experience with Canadian and US companies, they will just end it on the day you ask service to end. Of course, the people you call are trained to retain you as best as possible (sometimes people just call to "cancel" in hopes of getting a better rate from the company) so they will repeatedly ask if you are sure and make you some offers. If you just firmly say that you would like to end the contract -- no, I cannot transfer it to someone else, and no, I am moving away and am not interested in keeping the service, they will end it for you.

 

Alright, thank you.

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Also note that if you bring your own phone to these services, you can avoid the 2-year contract altogether. T-Mobile was the first and best-known company to do that. I also think that with a few of the new phone plans - like AT&T Next, where you purchase a phone with no money down and you just make like 18 to 30 monthly payments, depending on the term you choose - you don't have to sign a contract, because you are paying full price for the phone; you do have to continue to pay off the phone even if you discontinue service with AT&T, but you're not necessarily locked into a new contract. The easiest way, though, is probably to buy an unlocked phone from eBay or Glyde or something like that and just buy a SIM card and do a month-to-month plan.

 

However, if you are doing a 3-year MFA program, the contract shouldn't be a huge problem. Most of them are for 2 years, and then after the contract is over you automatically switch over to a month-to-month plan unless you do something to extend your contract (like buy a subsidized phone from the provider). Then you could just pay the month-to-month plan until you graduate and move back home.

 

I loved T-Mobile's customer service but their actual cell service wasn't that great in my experience (and that was in two major cities - Atlanta and New York). Verizon and AT&T tend to have the best call service nationwide. AT&T's customer service has improved greatly since I started with them way back in 2006 or so (after Cingular, which was my original provider, bought them). I don't have experience with Verizon's wireless service but I did have their Internet service when I lived in New York and they had the MOST TERRIBLE customer service I have ever experienced. No experience with Sprint.

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I am on a TMobile plan like juilletmercredi described. After about 1.5 years, my phone broke and I needed to get a new one. I bought it from TMobile with a $50 downpayment and I am paying the rest of it off in 24 monthly installments. This is not a contract though, I can discontinue my service with TMobile whenever I want (however, I will have to pay off the remainder of what I owe on the phone immediately, rather than continue the monthly installments). 

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Hello, I have a question about purchasing a phone from some place other than a phone carrier. For instance, I've seen that Target has cheaper options than the carriers themselves. They are plan cell phones, and I would have to sign a two year contract, which I don't mind since I'm staying in the US for a while. But my question is how do I buy those phones from Target? Do I need to go to Verizon and sign a contract and later get the phone from the store or do I go directly to Target, buy the phone and sign the contract there? 

Could someone, please, explain it to me? Thank you!

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Republic Wireless. Unlimited calls, text and data for less than $35/month including taxes. Only downside is you have to buy their phone.  

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When I went to the US for my MS, I could not get a plan because I had no credit history and I ended up with a prepaid phone which sucked because in the US (different from my home country) cell phone companies charge you to make a phone call and to receive one, same for text and at the end I spent about $30 a month for having much less minutes per month than if I had the chance to sign a contract. Sometimes I ran out of money on my prepaid and could not get more calls or sometimes I was trying to save the last dollar and somebody called me with a wrong number. So you may want to check on that, because at the end, you may not even have the 2 year contract option anyway. Well, that was a few years ago, things may have changed.

 

I lived for a few years in 2 of the places you will be visiting: Seattle and Carbondale, by the way.

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When I went to the US for my MS, I could not get a plan because I had no credit history and I ended up with a prepaid phone which sucked because in the US (different from my home country) cell phone companies charge you to make a phone call and to receive one, same for text and at the end I spent about $30 a month for having much less minutes per month than if I had the chance to sign a contract. Sometimes I ran out of money on my prepaid and could not get more calls or sometimes I was trying to save the last dollar and somebody called me with a wrong number. So you may want to check on that, because at the end, you may not even have the 2 year contract option anyway. Well, that was a few years ago, things may have changed.

 

I lived for a few years in 2 of the places you will be visiting: Seattle and Carbondale, by the way.

 

They charge for receiving too?? That sure sucks. :/ Also, why would they need to see credit card history to get a phone plan?

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For post-paid plans (i.e. the "traditional" kind, where you pay a monthly fee plus any overuse charges), it actually counts as opening new credit. This is because you use the phone, then they figure out how much you owe, then they charge you. So, they want to make sure you are reliable and are actually going to pay the amount you owe. This is also true for utilities (electricity, gas, water, etc.) -- they measure how much you use and then charge you afterwards.

 

It is tough for international students because we don't have any US credit history (note: credit card history is not the same thing, credit cards are one type of credit that is part of your credit history, but not the entirety of it--you don't need a credit card to have a credit history). I don't know what company or when Crafter used in the past, but in 2012, T-Mobile was happy to accept my international student documentation in lieu of a credit history. However, the utility company was less forgiving. They charged me a deposit of $250 to open an account with them ($250 is a year's worth of electricity!) in case I don't pay my bills. Sometimes many places that require a credit history will charge a deposit instead, so be prepared for that.

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I don't know what company or when Crafter used in the past, but in 2012, T-Mobile was happy to accept my international student documentation in lieu of a credit history. However, the utility company was less forgiving. They charged me a deposit of $250 to open an account with them ($250 is a year's worth of electricity!) in case I don't pay my bills. Sometimes many places that require a credit history will charge a deposit instead, so be prepared for that.

 

It was back in 2007 with Alltel, which offered the cheapest options in the midwest at the time. Then, when I moved to Seattle I was able to get a 2 year contract with AT&T, because by then, I had enough credit history to prove I am reliable.

 

I also got charged deposit for my electricity and cable/internet contracts.

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