Go Back  British Expats > Living & Moving Abroad > USA
Reload this Page >

Cell phones in the US

Cell phones in the US

Old Sep 29th 2015, 12:11 pm
  #1  
Forum Regular
Thread Starter
 
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 85
into_thewild is an unknown quantity at this point
Default Cell phones in the US

Hi all,
I am moving to San Francisco from the UK on Thursday. I was wondering what the best option is with regards to getting a cell phone?
For the time being, I would just like either a pay as you go or monthly option until I get myself settled. My first thought was to just get a SIM card for my current phone (an unlocked iPhone) and use that, however there seems to be conflicting information as to whether or not this is possible.
I have heard that the U.S. does not sell prepaid or pay as you go sims unless it's with a handset.
Is it possible for me just to buy a cheap phone that I can top up when I need to and can use as soon as I buy it ? (my biggest concern is being able to use google maps or something if I get lost!)
I also need to set up a U.S. bank account so I wouldn't be able to use direct debits for a monthly contract like I have in the UK.
Any advice would be appreciated.
into_thewild is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 12:49 pm
  #2  
Often not so civil...
 
civilservant's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2010
Location: The Boonies, GA
Posts: 8,842
civilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Pay as you go is going to be your only option, you won't get a contract off the boat without an SSN or a credit history without a large deposit. Not to mention not having a bank account to set up payments.

You can buy 3G smartphones on Verizon, straight talk or similar (pre-paid with monthly data etc) at any Walmart.
civilservant is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 12:53 pm
  #3  
Forum Regular
 
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 244
LonelyCloud has a spectacular aura aboutLonelyCloud has a spectacular aura aboutLonelyCloud has a spectacular aura about
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

You can always get a US sim before you leave (although timescales are a little tight now). Pay as you go monthly from any account you choose. I did this for my last visit and just topped up online.

Word of Caution, you may find that your unlocked iPhone is not actually unlocked. I bought my old 5 unlocked, but when I went to O2 on a sim only deal, it locked my phone to O2. I was not happy when I found out...
LonelyCloud is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 1:19 pm
  #4  
Forum Regular
Thread Starter
 
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 85
into_thewild is an unknown quantity at this point
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Unfortunately I can not find a Walmart in SF. There is a target however as well as t-mobile and AT&T etc.
Does the phone come with a sim straight out the box, do you know? On the T-mobile website it says they have to ship it (even for prepaid phones)
into_thewild is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 1:46 pm
  #5  
Often not so civil...
 
civilservant's Avatar
 
Joined: Apr 2010
Location: The Boonies, GA
Posts: 8,842
civilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond reputecivilservant has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Not sure about TMobile, but Verizon is a CDMA network and doesn't use sim cards.
civilservant is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 1:57 pm
  #6  
tht
DE-UK-NZ-IE-US... the TYP
 
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 1,690
tht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond reputetht has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Be prepared to pay more than you are used to in the UK if you want data.

I use a iPhone 6 on Verizon, it DOES have a sim card and I switch it out and use O2 in UK and Europe. The band is different so I believe I only get 3G when using non Verizon SIM card.

You need to check your iPhone version, but T-Mobile is probably a good option:

BYOD & Sim Cards | Get a Sim Card For Your Unlocked Phone | T-Mobile
tht is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 1:59 pm
  #7  
Fair and balanced
 
kimilseung's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2006
Location: WA
Posts: 15,892
kimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond reputekimilseung has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Pay as you go phones are in many many super markets.
kimilseung is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 3:06 pm
  #8  
BE Enthusiast
 
Joined: Jul 2014
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 317
loubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond reputeloubiblu has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

We walked into T Mobile the day after we arrived in August. Had 5 unlocked iPhones already. Set up a non-contract family plan there and then. Did have to pay a $110 deposit, but didn't need a SSN. There's a section on the T-Mobile website for non-credit check plans. http://explore.t-mobile.com/simple-c...UOhg&gclsrc=ds

Last edited by loubiblu; Sep 29th 2015 at 3:09 pm. Reason: Add link
loubiblu is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 3:23 pm
  #9  
BE Forum Addict
 
Joined: Apr 2011
Location: Ohio
Posts: 1,817
kodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

I dropped a T Mobile sim in an unlocked iPhone (4, I think it was) upon arrival a few years back. It was a prepaid plan, costing $50 a month for unlimited everything; no deposit necessary as it was prepaid each month with no contract term - if I didn't pay it, the service would just end.
kodokan is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 3:26 pm
  #10  
Austin. TX.
 
petitefrancaise's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 5,777
petitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond reputepetitefrancaise has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

I've had t-mobile since we arrived 2 years ago but I'm about to change over to Ultra mobile - they use the T-mobile network.

You can pay for the level of data you use - I checked our usage and for 3 of us the cheapest data level is enough and 1gb for eldest . This will save me $50 a month and we will all get international sms and calls instead of me paying extra for it with T-mobile.

Bring your own phones if you can - make sure they are unlocked before you leave.

Otherwise - what I did with the kids was go to a microsoft store (online works too) and buy cheap Nokia smartphones ready to use with t-mobile. The phones are about $50 each and you can get them unlocked after you've subscribed to t-mobile for a month since they aren't subsidised at all. Then you can switch to a cheaper service like ultra mobile with your phones.
petitefrancaise is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 3:31 pm
  #11  
Forum Regular
Thread Starter
 
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 85
into_thewild is an unknown quantity at this point
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Originally Posted by kodokan View Post
I dropped a T Mobile sim in an unlocked iPhone (4, I think it was) upon arrival a few years back. It was a prepaid plan, costing $50 a month for unlimited everything; no deposit necessary as it was prepaid each month with no contract term - if I didn't pay it, the service would just end.
Can I ask how you pay it each month? I won't have a US back account set up when I initially arrive
into_thewild is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 3:48 pm
  #12  
Forum Regular
 
Joined: Jul 2014
Location: Northern Atlanta area, GA
Posts: 226
cautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

I got a T-Mobile PAYG SIM. The 'plan' that I am on was only offered in Walmart stores and has since been grandfathered. I get 100 minutes, loads of texts (maybe a few thousand) and 5 GB LTE for $30 /month. It was the best deal that I could find.
cautiousjon is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 3:49 pm
  #13  
BE Forum Addict
 
Joined: Apr 2011
Location: Ohio
Posts: 1,817
kodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond reputekodokan has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Originally Posted by into_thewild View Post
Can I ask how you pay it each month? I won't have a US back account set up when I initially arrive
Um... thinking back, as I'm now on post-paid... I used to do it via the T Mobile website, so I guess I just used a credit/ debit card, like any other online shopping. They used to send me a text a few days before my current 30 days expired, and I'd pop on and pay it then. You can also walk into any T Mobile store and pay it there.
kodokan is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 3:56 pm
  #14  
Forum Regular
Thread Starter
 
Joined: Nov 2010
Posts: 85
into_thewild is an unknown quantity at this point
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Sounds good. One last question - do they give you the sim in store or do they have to mail it out to you?
into_thewild is offline  
Old Sep 29th 2015, 4:04 pm
  #15  
Forum Regular
 
Joined: Jul 2014
Location: Northern Atlanta area, GA
Posts: 226
cautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond reputecautiousjon has a reputation beyond repute
Default Re: Cell phones in the US

Originally Posted by kodokan View Post
Um... thinking back, as I'm now on post-paid... I used to do it via the T Mobile website, so I guess I just used a credit/ debit card, like any other online shopping. They used to send me a text a few days before my current 30 days expired, and I'd pop on and pay it then. You can also walk into any T Mobile store and pay it there.
I think T Mobile offers an 'autopay' option for all PAYG plans, whereby their system will automatically bill a credit or debit card every month without any prompting. Maybe they offer this for post-pay contracts too? I set up autopay for my PAYG plan and it works well.
cautiousjon is offline  

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.