The international students’ guide to US cell phones and plans

international student's guide to US cell phone plans

How international students can stay connected in the US

Moving to the US to study is undoubtedly exciting. But it can also be extremely daunting for many students.

However, with phones, laptops and tablets, the world has never been more connected than it is today.

So just because you leave your home country doesn’t mean you have to lose touch with your friends and family.

When you move to the US you’ll have to get used to a new set of cell phone plan offerings.

And with so many options, picking the right plan can get confusing.

So with this in mind we’ve created a useful guide to staying connected when you move to the US.

Bringing your phone to the US

Many modern models of phones do work internationally. However, it does depend on the type of technology your phone uses. If you live in Europe, Africa or parts of Asia, it’s likely that your phone uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). This is not the most common system used in the US (although certain providers such as AT&T and T-Mobile do use it). is a useful tool to use if you’re confused as to whether or not your phone will work in the US.

Still, even if your phone does work, it’s probably not the best idea to use your current provider as it will likely be expensive and you may want to have a local number.

The solution is to get your hands on an American SIM card and sign up to a cell phone plan.

You might be considering treating yourself to a new phone to kick off your US experience with a bang!

But if you would prefer to use your current phone, it’s important to ensure that it’s ‘unlocked’ when joining a US plan.

Phone plans on offer

It’s always a good idea to shop around and choose the most suitable phone plan option for you.

Fortunately, sites like have compiled and compared the offerings of over 50 companies in one place for your convenience.

We’ve picked out some of the best value phone plan options below.

Provider: FreedomPop

Plans: What’s better than free? With FreedomPop you can get 200 talk minutes, 500 text messages and 500MB of high-speed data each month for FREE! Nowadays, it seems that most college campuses, bars, restaurants and shopping centres have good Wi-Fi availability. But if you’d prefer to upgrade your data allowance, FreedomPop have plans that go as high as 4GB per month for $34.99.

What’s more, international students can avail of 100 free minutes a month to call over 50 countries.

Provider: Simple Mobile

Plans:  Their $25 a month plan includes unlimited calling, texting and 3GB of high speed data. If you would prefer higher data caps, they have plans going up to ‘truly unlimited’ for $60.

Simple Mobile is a good option for international students because it includes international texting and calling to a number of countries like Mexico, Canada, China and India. And, for other countries, customers can access low rates by adding a global calling card.

Provider: Tracfone

Plans: For students on a budget or those who do not need to use their phones much, this is a good option. Plans start at $15 per month. The company also offers a reliable service using the AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile networks. Plus, if you’re not happy with the offering you can cancel anytime. There are no contracts.

Provider: Total Wireless

Plans: This is a good option for international students with moderate data needs. By paying $35 a month you can get a plan which includes unlimited call and text, plus 5GB of high-speed data. And you can add another 3GB of high-speed data for $10.

Provider: Verizon

Plans: Verizon is one of the leading providers in the US. Plans range from $40 to $80 a month. All of these include unlimited talk and text. Students can either opt for the U unlimited plan or other more inexpensive options such as S for 2GB, M for 4GB, and L for 8GB cell phone plan. They also have plans with unlimited talk, text and 3GB of high speed data.

Provider: StraightTalk

Plans: StraightTalk offer a variety of plans ranging from $30 to $60 per month. With the $30 plan you can avail of 100MB of data with unlimited texts and 1,500 minutes. However, the $60 option may be more attractive for international students. With this deal you’ll receive 10GB of data and unlimited worldwide calls and texts.

Provider: Republic Wireless

Plans: There are a range of affordable plans here. For $20 you can receive unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data. For every GB of data you add to your plan there is an additional $5 charge (up to a total monthly price of $90).

Provider: T-Mobile Prepaid

Plans: There are numerous plans to choose from here. You can even get a talk and text plan starting at $3 per month. Perhaps the best value option, however, is the unlimited talk, text, and up to 10GB of 4G data offering. This will set you back $40 per month.

Keeping your phone bill down

How can you keep regular contact with your friends and family back home without driving your cell phone bill through the ceiling?

Most college campuses, cafes and other public places offer free and reliable WI-FI connection. And by using free apps like Skype or Whatsapp, you can call or message your family and friends without eating into your monthly data allowance or driving up your phone bill.

Now that you’ve got your phone plan sorted…

It’s time to talk about tax!

Every international in the US is legally obliged to file a tax return.

Sprintax is the only online self-prep tax software for international students in the US. It will help you prepare your fully compliant US tax return in minutes!

Sprintax is the ‘go-to’ tax filing software for numerous major universities in the US including NYU, Columbia, Arizona State University, Illinois Institute of Technology and Cornell. We’re also the nonresident partner of choice for Turbo Tax.

File with Sprintax! File with confidence!

  • Compliant US tax return
  • Save time and stress!
  • Determine your residency status
  • Avail of relevant international tax treaties
  • Avail of personal allowances, credits & tax deductions
  • 24/7 Vita Qualified Live Chat facility
  • Maximize your State tax refund
  • 1040NR Federal e-filing (live since 31 Mar 2021)
  • Over 500k people have used Sprintax to prepare their tax return and get their tax refund.

File your US tax return here.



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