Cell Phones and Telephones

International Students – Cell Phones

**Please note that some international students at Rhodes prefer to have two phones.  One smartphone (typically brought from home) they can use to access the wireless internet on campus.  This phone is often not used as the primary device to call or text others from but can be used to access services such as Skype or other internet-based communication (see below).

Students may choose to buy a second, cheaper phone so that they can use that to call and text without having to pay for a data plan.  It can also be common to use this second phone for only calls within the U.S. and only use internet based services for international communication.  In this case you would not have to pay for an additional international plan on your phone.

Cell phone service in the United States is purchased with either a contract plan or a pre-paid plan.

Pre-Paid Plans

Recommended Pre-Paid Plans
“Pre-paid” monthly plans allow you to pay one rate per month and do not require a contract.  Prepaid plans provide options for unlimited talk, text, and data and generally run from $35 to $75 dollar per month, depending on the plan and the carrier.  These plans are IDEAL for international students and scholars!  You won’t get a free phone but you will save lots of money and hassle.  If you are bringing an UNLOCKED phone from home you can also purchase a SIM card upon arriving in the US to set up your plan.
AT&T Go Phone and T-Mobile tend to be the most popular provider options for international students because their plans:

  • Have a set monthly rate (~$35-$75) for unlimited talking, texting and data
  • There are NO contracts, NO credit history, NO deposits, NO cancellation fees
  • You have to buy a phone that is compatible with their company but it is yours to keep
  • Refill your credit anytime with cash or debit card
  • Purchase a SIM card and use your UNLOCKED phone form home
  • Signal is not as strong as with contract plans but in big cities such as Memphis they generally work fine
  • One major advantage to T-Mobile is their data package.  So students who use their smartphones may prefer the 2GB plan. However free Wi-Fi is available in and around all campus buildings as well as in many public places such as coffee shops, bars, and hotels in Memphis.

Other providers that do not require a Social Security Number for all of their plans includes Virgin MobileBoost Mobile, and Metro PCS. Metro PCS usually has the lowest rates of these other options.

**Please note when choosing a plan that often times international calling/messaging is a SEPARATE fee that you will have to pay in addition to the normal monthly fee.  Be sure your bill includes this before starting a plan.**

Contract Plans

Recommended Contract Plans

Contract plans may be a good option for students and scholars who will be staying in the U.S. longer than 2 years since that is the typical amount of time for a mobile contract.  With a contract you will most likely get a HIGHLY discounted or even free phone when you sign-up with the company so that is a great plus if you are planning ot use the same company for more than two years anyway.

  • Most monthly contracts require you to have a Social Security Number
  • 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
  • If you don't have a US Social Security Number, expect to pay a large deposit (about $500).  The deposit should be returned at the end of the contract.  They will also likely charge you an early cancellation fee (about $250) if you go back home before the end of the contract and need to cancel your services.
  • Text messaging (SMS) and data usage typically carry additional charges if not included in a plan.  Ask about adding texting and data to your plan.
  • For most companies, you must have a compatible phone.  Ask specifically if you want to use one you currently have.
  • When subscribing, ask about student discount programs and international calling plans.

** Once a contract is signed, you will be obligated to pay for the entire contract period. Expect to pay a high fee if you break a contract. As contracts generally last 1-2 years, we do not recommend students enter into family plans with other students. **

Other Providers:
Verizon Wireless – Verizon has one of the best networks and coverage but their plans tend to be more expensive and you have the purchase a Verizon phone
Sprint – has less coverage but tends to have cheaper plans
Cricket – Cheap plans but may not have the international options available