Cell phones in the U.S. have great calling plans that are offered by brand telecom carriers like the AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. You must be aware that the primary digital cell phone technologies are TDMA, CDMA, iDEN, and GSM. The GSM standard was designed to work across the whole of Europe, and all European nations and some Asian nations chose it as their sole standard for this reason, while in Japan and South Korea another single standard, CDMA, was selected. In the United States there was no such standardization.
Choosing the right cell phone plan when activating a phone in the US can be quite difficult specially if you are new to this place. Though most pricing plans from the above mentioned carriers are complex to understand, but the following six step guide should help in making a right calling plan.
1. Look for coverage
Coverage is the geographical area within which a cell phone can be used to make and receive calls. The place you live is therefore the most important factor when buying your cell phone plan – you don’t want to pay roaming or get no service where you need to use the phone.
Cell phone coverage varies a great deal from region to region and between different operators. You should check if your provider covers the areas where you live and frequently travel to. You can also look for the best option here, you only have to enter your address.
2. Go for geographical area of usage
Many cell phone providers divide their plans into local, regional and national calling areas. The larger the local coverage area, the higher the rate the customer pays per minute. The largest providers have bigger coverage areas and may therefore offer the cheaper packages when you want to make calls across America. Smaller companies now also offer relatively cheap access to the nationwide networks, in addition to providing reliable coverage and the newest phones.
There are different rates depending on whether you call a landline or cell phone with the same company or different companies. Calls to cell phones with the same operator are the cheapest (or sometimes free) while calls to cell phones from a different company can be more expensive, so it can be worth finding out what operator your friends and family use. In any case, you should research and find the best and most affordable plan for you.
3. Look out for the usage
Most providers used to offer packages with different rates based on time usage. Now however, most of the packages include unlimited minutes, whereas data usage seems to be the determining factor when devising the phone plans. Rates vary depending on how much data you need a month, that is, how much you surf the Internet and check in on social network websites such as Facebook.
4. If using cell phone occasionally then go for prepaid phones
If you are looking for a phone to use occasionally or in emergencies only, a prepaid cell phone might save you more money in the long run. You don’t have to sign a long-term contract or pay a monthly bill. Usually you don’t have to pay a deposit for the service either and you can buy new minutes as you need them. A prepaid cell phone is a good way to learn about your usage patterns before committing to a long-term monthly contract.
- No hidden fees
- Better cost control. You know exactly how much you are spending
- No monthly bill – you pay as you use
- No contract to sign and no long-term commitment
- No credit checks needed. Perfect for those with a colorful credit history or travelers
- Ideal if you are a occasional user
The disadvantages of prepaid cell phones are that they are a bit expensive minute rates, also you can not accept collect call and you can lose money if you don’t use the minutes you bought.
5. For low calling rates go for contracts
Most cell phone contracts require a 1 or 2-year minimum contract length, with a monthly fixed cost that includes a set amount of minutes and data. Every month you get a bill based on the cell phone plan you chose plus any extras you used that month (e.g. data used above your plan, international calls, etc).
The benefits of a contract are lower calling rates (quite significantly in some cases) and better deals on new phones. When evaluating which plan is best for you, be sure to read all the conditions such as the monthly fees, the connection cost and the minimum monthly usage.
If you cancel the contract before it expires, you will have to pay a cancellation fee. Just stopping the payments is not enough to cancel it – you should inform your company that you want to cancel the contract and pay the last month of usage and any fees if applicable. If you are unsure about how long you will be staying in the U.S., signing a contract may not be the best option for you.
Contracts are fairly easy to obtain on an individual basis. Cell phone operators generally require some type of identification, proof of residency and a credit card. Charges can be debited directly from your card or bank account.
6. Subsidized phones
In the U.S., you will see a lot of advertising for amazingly cheap or even free phones. These low prices are generally attached to a contract with a monthly fee. Normal contracts run for a minimum of 1 year. After that you might be able to get another subsidized phone from the same company or just change to a different company.
If you don’t want a contract, you will probably need to buy a non-subsidized phone (although there are also some subsidized prepaid phones from time to time). Prices vary a lot depending on the cell phone or smartphone features.
Now just visit the telecom or cell phone carriers and go through their plans and offers for cell phones and keep in mind these six step guide before you go for a calling plan.