For cell phones, there are typically two types of plans: prepaid/pay as you go, and monthly plans. Below are the differences:
1. Prepaid/pay as you go:
- No contracts or monthly payments—you can purchase a phone and a specific number of minutes. When those minutes run out, you simply buy more.
- No deposit or SSN required.
- Depending on your usage, a pre-paid phone can be more expensive than paying a monthly bill for a plan.
- Phones are cheaper but generally only offer basic features such as calling and text messaging (SMS).
2. Monthly Plans:
- Required to sign a contract (1-2 years) and pay a monthly rate for your plan for the duration of the contract. If you cancel your contract, there is usually a heavy penalty.
- Have to pay a large deposit without SSN (typically several hundred dollars). Even if you have an SSN, many cell phone providers will require that you pay the deposit because you have not yet established “credit history” in the U.S.
- Phones are more expensive but offer more features (e.g. video, camera, internet access, etc.).
- Will need to select a single phone plan/package (i.e. voice calling, SMS/text messaging, internet usage, international calling, etc.)
- The bill will include local and state taxes, surcharges, etc., therefore, ask for an estimate of what your total bill will be before signing a contract.
Some of the providers for monthly plans cell phones include: Verizon, AT&T, Virgin Mobile, Sprint, T-Mobile. If you want to go the prepaid route, you can get a prepaid cell phone at most retail stores (like Walmart or Target). Some providers are: AT&T, Boost Mobile, Straight Talk Wireless, T-Mobile, Tracfone, Verizon, Virgin Mobile