Most cell phones in the United States operate on a contract-based plan. This means that you will be obligated to sign up for a one year or two year contract in order to get the least expensive option. The contract-based plan is prepaid so the student will be required to pay X amount a month for their minutes, texts, and data. All plans vary on price, availability, phone compatibility, service area, and options.
Alternatively, some students choose to use a pay as you go plan. The pay as you go plan involves going online or calling a service number in order to purchase a fixed amount of minutes, texts, and data.
Cell phone provider stores in close proximity to UMBC:T-Mobile Catonsville
Tips from current international students:
Student from Russia: Prepaid plans are always cheaper so if you have a phone in your country, take it with you and purchase a SIM card from T-mobile or other operator. Do not pay more than $70 per month for any plan, the highest that you can pay is for 2-year contract with AT&T when you are having an iPhone.
Student from Korea: Suggest them to try a prepaid card for the first few months:I know that Net10 gives a free phone when they open and buy a monthly card (starting at $25). It can be purchased via online (www.net10.com) or Walmart.
Student from Ghana: Most countries have the GSM phone with SIM Card option. Bring those phones with you. Simple Mobile(www.simplemobile.com) has the US virtually covered and it is $40-$60 per month depending on choice of plan. This includes texting internationally and receiving international call with no added cost. It gives you time to transition without tying you into a 2 year contract. In my experience, by far the best way to call home(at least those from Ghana or West Africa is by using a calling card(Ghana DC, Nigeria DC) which can be obtained from most mini marts and gas stations.