What are the best cell phone plans for international students studying in the US?

There are two main types of cell phone services: monthly plans with a contract or prepaid plans. Due to the large number of providers and plans, it is recommended that you research several options before making a final decision.

Cell Phone Plan Options:

  • Two-Year ContractsThese are the most common contracts in the U.S. Contract plans offer lower monthly rates and very low prices on new phones compared to prepaid plans. Typically, the best prices are offered to customers who sign two-year contracts for cell phone service. While the rates are lower, terminating a contract early requires the customer to pay a large penalty. To qualify for a contract plan, a cell phone provider will generally review the applicant's credit history. Since new international students do not have Social Security numbers or credit history in the United States, they typically require a security deposit which could be $400-$500.  As with any contract, please ensure that you understand all requirements and charges before signing it.
  • Pay-As-You-Go or Prepaid PlansPrepaid plans are easier for new international students to obtain because they do not require a Social Security number and/or a credit history check. These "pay-as-you-go" plans use the same cell phone networks and offer the same services as contract plans do, but usually at higher rates. Advantages of these plans include no long-term contracts, security deposits, or penalties for cancellation.

Major Cell Phone Carriers in the US:

Additional Tips:

  • If you are bringing an unlocked phone from your home country and would like to purchase a SIM card for your phone, the best options are to go to AT&T or T-Mobile.
  • Most cell phone companies charge for all calls, outgoing AND incoming, though many have free calling within their network.
  • Some plans give you a set number of minutes per month. Overage minutes are charged at a much higher rate. Check your plan to see if weekend and nighttime minutes are free.
  • Text messaging (SMS) typically carries an additional charge if not included in a plan. Ask about adding texting to your plan, as well as for any special international calling plans.
  • Check with each cell phone carrier about coverage areas and reception. With some carriers, you have better coverage over a larger area than others.
  • Some cell phone companies sell only cell phones that work in their network. For example, the iPhone┬« can only be used on AT&T and Verizon networks.
  • If you are planning to get a contract, once the contract is signed, you will be required to pay for the entire length of the contract.  If you leave your contract before your contract period ends, you will be expected to pay a high fee. (Early Termination Fee) If you pay a deposit and then break your contract, you may not be able to get your deposit back.
  • Some cell phone companies may ask for a proof of your address if you are signing up for a contract. This includes a letter or a utility bill that has been mailed to where you are currently living in the US.

There isn't a straightforward question to answer. Cell service differs based on requirements, location and network features.

There are four major wireless providers in the United States, each providing excellent service in certain markets, bad service in certain markets, and owning dead spots (no service zones) in certain markets. It is impossible to find a provider who will give you service at all times, the best thing to do is consider where you'll be the most such as college, work and home - find out where those locations will be, and find out if the provider has good service in that area.

I would recommend T-Mobile outright. As all their plans come without being contracted, service plans therefore if you'll only be in the States for six months or a year, then you know you're not tied down and won't be paying for something when you're back home.

T-Mobile would be very good for you if you're based in a city as their network is super fast and typically a five bar experience with cities, this is where they heavily invest in their network. If you will be in studying in a city, but you'll staying at a location in a rural area, then you'll either get no service or Edge connection with T-Mobile. If your rural location doesn't have wifi, forgot Facebooking the guys back home!

I would tell you to stay away from Sprint and Verizon. Sprint's coverage is terrible, to say the least plus their LTE isn't fast at all. Verizon's LTE is very fast, but their extremely expensive. Can you afford them on a college student's budget?

AT&T is good in cities and in rural areas. They use the 850 Mhz frequency for 3G voice calls, and 700 Mhz for LTE (1900/1700 is also used for LTE). The 850 and 700 can travel great distances and penetrate walls + buildings good. So if you are in a building with thick walls, AT&T will give you good service.

My friend in Philly lives in a modern home. In his house when I was on a phone call with my T-Mobile iPhone 6 would only get between 1 - 2 bars, they use the 1900/2100 Mhz for 3G. Whereas, when he was on the phone he would get four bars.

I would say use a website like this to find a plan that's affordable to your college student's lifestyle budget.

I would use a site like Mobile Phones - Compare Tariffs, Deals & Networks - WhistleOut, they can compare cell phone plans in the U.K and in the U.S.A


Depending upon what sort of coverage that the various providers have in your area and the sort of handset that you already own, you have different options. If you are in a large metro area, and intend to spend most of your time in such an area, you should not have coverage problems with any of the carriers. If you are in a more remote or rural area, then Verizon and AT&T will generally have better coverage. You can check the maps on their websites, but even better is to ask people who live there about their coverage. The "best deals" that you will find will be with one of the T-Mobile MVNO's, such as SIMPLE Mobile | No Contract Cell Phone Plans | Unlimited Wireless   There is an AT&T MVNO, like Home | H2O Wireless that also offers International Calling to a lot of different countries, included in the plan. In addition, these are both GSM Carriers, and you probably have a GSM handset, so all you would need to do is to get a SIM Card and activate it in your current handset.


Ok there are lots of answers to this with the general responses including the names of all carriers, pay per talk packages etc. Let me tell you what I did.

I joined a family plan with 5 friends. It cost $60 for 2 lines and $10 for each additional line. A total of $90 + $10 = $100 / 5 = $20 (plus or minus $3)

But this is if you bring your own phone.

We had unlimited talk and text with 3 GB of shared data which rolled over every month when we didn't use it.

I recommend you buy an unlocked phone by paying full price. So you can use it with the carriers in your country when you go home.


Ok there are lots of answers to this with the general responses including the names of all carriers, pay per talk packages etc. Let me tell you what I did.

I joined a sprint phone deals and it gives me excellent rates as it can be compared to in this chart


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Edited and Updated Answer;I understand you want the best coverage for you and your family. It is important to stay connected to the internet and with text/voice services also. As I previously mentioned it more or less depends on where you live. Each wireless

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