How to Get a Cell Phone as an International Student in the U.S.

cell phone

Virtually all college students in the United States own a cell phone, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise. If you look around any college campus, you’ll notice students texting, making a call, listening to music, or checking their email. Cell phones allow students to stay connected with their school, classmates, friends, and family – which is especially important if you’re an international student.

If you’re unfamiliar with how to get a cell phone in the U.S., check out our previous post for more information about the different providers and plan options. The basics of the two most popular options – a contract or a prepaid plan – are listed before:

Contract plan

  • Most common option in the U.S. and requires a 1-2 year contract
  • Low monthly rates but a hefty fee if you break or cancel the contract
  • Requires a social security number (SSN) or a security deposit to sign up
  • Receive a free or discounted phone, depending on the plan and provider

smart phones

Prepaid / “Pay as you go” plan

  • Pay monthly bill in advance for a certain number of minutes and texts
  • No contract, SSN, or deposit required, but has higher monthly fees
  • Cheaper phones but with less features

Getting a mobile phone in the U.S. isn’t easy, even for natives. An alternative to the traditional contract or prepaid plans is campusSIMs, which offers an inexpensive, highly flexible wireless service that is tailored specifically for international students. The main benefits of campusSIMs include:

  • No long-term contracts: campusSIMs offers monthly service with no long term contract of any kind. You’re free to pause your service if you’re leaving the country, or even cancel your service without any fee. For monthly fees, you could pay as little as $25 a month.
  • Bring your own phone: campusSIMs uses the same GSM network that is standard in much of the rest of world, so you’re free to continue using your phone from home and never need to deal with moving photos or contacts from one phone to another.
  • No security deposit: Since campusSIMs is contract free, they don’t require any security deposit to sign up.

Between the security deposit, new phone, and first month’s bill, you could be stuck paying nearly $1000 just to get a phone in the U.S. and be locked into monthly payments for the next two years. Make sure you do your research before making a decision, and you can usually ask your school’s International Student Office if you need help or advice.

Leave a Reply