One of the most important things for anyone in America is having a cell phone. It can be a challenge to live in US without a cell phone. One of the things that internationals need to figure out is the best cell phone plan to get. If you get the wrong plan, you may regret it for a long time…The concept of minutes, incoming are different in America and not necessarily same as you would think in your home country. Let me share some of my thoughts.
Prepaid cell phone Plans in US :
People assume many things based on their experience of having a prepaid in their home country. Though prepaid seems simple and easy on the surface, it is not as economical or beneficial. In countries like India, if you get a Prepaid cell phone plan, you get incoming for free. The amount you pay is converted to what you get as talk time in minutes and they are only charged as outgoing minutes. But, this is different in America. Incoming is NOT free in America unless it says so…for most of the prepaid plans, incoming is NOT free. When you buy a plan from a cell phone service provider in US, you get minutes and the trick is, the minutes are charged for outgoing as well as incoming. There is nothing like free incoming concept. It is not the best bang for the buck. You do get any advantages like talking for free over weekends etc. unless you buy a premium prepaid plan over $40 or more. The best thing about prepaid is, there is no credit check, you just walk into store and buy the phone. The charge per minute can vary from 10 cents to 25 cents. There are plans that also say that, you get charged on the day you use with a daily fee, but you get more minutes, etc. Overall, I do not think prepaid is a good investment if you plan to stay in US for over 6 months.
Post paid Cell phone plans in America :
Post paid cell phone plans may not be very common in your home country. But in America, Post paid cell phone plan is the way to go if you plan to live here for over 6 months. Each post paid plan comes with fixed day time minutes. What it means is, you will charged for incoming as well as outgoing from the minutes that were allotted for day time per month. For instance, the plan would say 800 day time minutes. It means that you only have 800 minutes for incoming as well as outgoing in that month during day time. Typically 6 AM to 9 PM is considered as day time. Most of them will have feature like, free mobile to mobile calling, that means you talk for free with someone on the say network. The good things with post paid plan are, you can talk as much as you want after 9 PM with your friends and family and also you talk unlimited on weekends depending on plan you choose. Again reminding, incoming is NOT free unless it is specified in plan. The biggest deal with Post paid plan is, they will do a credit check, that checks your credit history. Unless you have built good credit history, you may not be approved. You may have to pay premium like $200 or $500 depending on the provider (you may be refunded after year or so this amount). The reality is, you will not be approved for post paid cell phone plan if you have just come to US for education or job. You may have to find one of your friends to buy a cell phone on their name, if you do not want to pay that premium upfront. I had 5 cell phones on my name at one point, all of them were for my friends.
Which Cell phone plan to buy in US ? Prepaid or Post paid ?
If you are going to live in US for more than 6 months, then just buy post paid plan. It is totally worth it. You may get a decent plan for $45 to $50. If you are here for just a month or so, then you may just buy the prepaid plan. The best prepaid unlimited plan comes for around $60 dollars that gives you most of the benefits of post paid plans. It is okay to pay some premium if you are here for just a month. Though post paid seems difficult to get and expensive in beginning, it is the best plan to buy if you are going to live here for over 6 months. You just need to find a friend or relative like me who can buy one for you 🙂
I tried to cover the basics of cell phone plans. Hope you got an idea and you will make an educated decision in buying your cell phone after you land in US.
Image Credit : http://img.slate.com/media/1/123125/2134390/2135170/2138875/060415_UndEcon_PhonePlansTN.jpg