Choosing the right cell phone plan when activating a phone in the US can be quite difficult. However, there are little aids that can assist you in “making the right call” when it comes to choosing your provider. The service Expat Offers will also find the best telco deals and send them straight to you.
Coverage is the geographical area within which a cell phone can be used to make and receive calls. The place you live is therefore the most important factor when buying your cell phone plan - you don’t want to pay roaming or get no service where you need to use the phone.
Mobile phone coverage varies a great deal from region to region and between different operators. You should check if your provider covers the areas where you live and frequently travel to. You can also look for the best option here, you only have to enter your address.
Geographical area of usage
Many cell phone providers divide their plans into local, regional and national calling areas. The larger the local coverage area, the higher the rate the customer pays per minute. The largest providers have bigger coverage areas and may therefore offer the cheaper packages when you want to make calls across America. Smaller companies now also offer relatively cheap access to the nationwide networks, in addition to providing reliable coverage and the newest phones.
There are different rates depending on whether you call a landline or mobiles with the same company or different companies. Calls to mobiles with the same operator are the cheapest (or sometimes free) while calls to mobiles from a different company can be more expensive, so it can be worth finding out what operator your friends and family use. In any case, you should research and find the best and most affordable plan for you.
Most providers used to offer packages with different rates based on time usage. Now however, most of the packages include unlimited minutes, whereas data usage seems to be the determining factor when devising the phone plans. Rates vary depending on how much data you need a month, that is, how much you surf the Internet and check in on social network websites, for example.
Here are The Best Cell Phone Plans of 2014, according to the TIME. You can also check the 2014 Best Cell Phone Provider Comparisons and Reviews, or this article from ConsumerReports.org.
If you are looking for a phone to use occasionally or in emergencies only, a prepaid cell phone might save you more money in the long run. You don’t have to sign a long-term contract or pay a monthly bill. Usually you don’t have to pay a deposit for the service either and you can buy new minutes as you need them. A prepaid cell phone is a good way to learn about your usage patterns before committing to a long-term monthly contract.
· No hidden fees
· Better cost control. You know exactly how much you are spending
· No monthly bill - you pay as you use
· No contract to sign and no long-term commitment
· No credit checks needed. Perfect for those with a colorful credit history or travelers
· Ideal if you are a occasional user
Disadvantages of prepaid cell phones:
· More expensive minute rates
· You can not accept collect calls
· You can lose money if you don’t use the minutes you bought
Most mobile contracts require a 1 or 2-year minimum contract length, with a monthly fixed cost that includes a set amount of minutes and data. Every month you get a bill based on the cell phone plan you chose plus any extras you used that month (e.g. data used above your plan, international calls, etc).
The benefits of a contract are lower calling rates (quite significantly in some cases) and better deals on new phones. When evaluating which plan is best for you, be sure to read all the conditions such as the monthly fees, the connection cost and the minimum monthly usage.
If you cancel the contract before it expires, you will have to pay a cancellation fee. Just stopping the payments is not enough to cancel it - you should inform your company that you want to cancel the contract and pay the last month of usage and any fees if applicable. If you are unsure about how long you will be staying in the U.S., signing a contract may not be the best option for you.
Contracts are fairly easy to obtain on an individual basis. Mobile operators generally require some type of identification, proof of residency and a credit card. Charges can be debited directly from your card or bank account. Many foreigners start with a prepaid phone and then switch to a contract once they have sorted out the paperwork and how long they are staying for.
In the U.S., you will see a lot of advertising for amazingly cheap or even free phones. These low prices are generally attached to a contract with a monthly fee. Normal contracts run for a minimum of 1 year. After that you might be able to get another subsidized phone from the same company or just change to a different company.
If you don't want a contract, you will probably need to buy a non-subsidized phone (although there are also some subsidized prepaid phones from time to time). Prices vary a lot depending on the cell phone or smartphone features.