If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will be required to make a deposit before being allowed to sign a contract with a mobile phone company. You will not be able to get an SSN until you have employment. To avoid the deposit you may wish to purchase pre-paid service.
Be sure to check rates carefully, international calls are billed differently than calls made within the country and can quickly cause your bill to grow to very large amounts.
To set up your service, whether it is pre-paid or contract, you will need to visit a provider in person. There are several different mobile phone carriers in South Bend.
Questions to Ask Phone Companies
Below are some suggested questions you can ask a cell phone company to help determine if their services are the best fit for your needs:
- Are pre-paid or Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) plans available? Is this a good option for the duration of my stay in the U.S.?
- What are the rates for calls, text messages (SMS), data transfers, and multimedia messages (MMS)? (Cell phones in the U.S. may charge for both incoming and outgoing calls, texts, and data.)
- Is a deposit required to sign a contract? Will it be returned in full at the end of the contract?
- If there is a contract, is there a penalty or loss of deposit if the plan is terminated early?
- Can I use a SIM card in the phone I already own or does the new plan require a new phone? Is there a fee or monthly charge for a new phone?
- Will there be a monthly charge for a new phone or will I need to pay for the phone up-front?
Cell Phone Plan Terminology
Airtime: Actual time spent talking on the cell telephone. Most carriers bill customers based on how many minutes of airtime they use each month. Airtime charges during peak periods of the day vary from about 20 cents to more than 40 cents per minute, depending on the service plan selected. Most carriers offer reduced rates for off-peak usage.
Bluetooth: A wireless method of communications between devices.
Call Waiting: If your line is busy, callers are asked to wait while you are alerted to their incoming call.
Calling Plan: A rate plan selected by subscribers when they start up cellular service, usually consisting of a base rate for system access and a per-minute rate for usage. Service plans are designed to provide the most cost-effective rates for different types and amounts of usage by the cellular subscriber.
Data: This allows you to access the internet when you are not connected to wifi.
Land Line: Traditional wired phone service. Voice, video and data transmission technology that relies on wires. Also called wireline.
Local Calling Area: The geographical area that a customer may call without incurring toll charges.
Off-Peak Periods: Times when carriers offer discounted airtime charges. Each carrier designates its own off-peak hours, usually after normal business hours during the week, and weekends.
Pay-As-You-Go: Essentially another term for pre-paid, meaning service that is paid in advance, as-needed, instead of billed at the end of each month (post-paid). Since service is paid for in advance, there is no generally no need for contracts or credit checks with pay-as-you-go. One difference from prepaid is that a PAYG plan can be set up to automatically deduct funds from a bank account when depleted, instead of the balance simply becoming zero, rendering the phone unusable until the account is manually replenished.
Peak: Highest-usage period of the business day when a cellular system carries the most calling traffic.
Roaming: The ability to use your cellular phone outside your usual service area - when traveling outside of the "home" service area defined by a service provider. Higher per-minute rates are usually charged for calls made or received while roaming. Long distance rates and a daily access fee may also apply.
Service Charge: The amount customers pay each month to receive wireless service. This amount is fixed, and to be paid monthly regardless of how much or how little customers use their wireless phones.
Service Plan: The rate plan you select when choosing a wireless phone service. A service plan typically consists of a monthly base rate for access to the system and a fixed amount of minutes per month. Service plans are designed to provide the most cost-effective rates for different types and amounts of usage by the cellular subscriber.
SIM card: A Subscriber Identity Module or a smart card that stores data for GSM cell phone users.
Storage: This is the space (gigabytes) that your device has available to keep files directly on it, such as photos and apps.