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Buying a mobile (cell) phone & contract in the US

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Brogan, Apr 29, 2016.

  1. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    I figured this is as good a place as any to ask.

    Apparently an SSN is required to take out a mobile phone contract in the US, which we obviously won't have for several weeks after arriving, which is the first problem.
    The second problem is I've heard from others who have moved over there that they demand eye-watering deposits due to not having a US credit history,

    Here in the UK, hardly anyone buys a mobile phone separately from the contract, they are bundled in with the SIM, requiring a small up front fee (e.g. £100) for the phone, and then a monthly contract payment, which you are tied to for 2 years or so.

    Is it the same in the US?
    If so, is it generally better to go the bundled contract route, or phone and SIM separately?

    I'm wondering whether it makes more sense for us to buy the phones/devices outright and then just take out a PAYG or SIM only contract.
  2. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

    I don't know if they are in the area you're moving to, but we use MetroPCS. It's a no contract provider that is owned by T-Mobile and uses the T-Mobile network with no SSN required. You buy the phone and then just pay your monthly fee without a contract. In our case it's $35 a month per phone. If you're looking to call back to England using your mobile phone, this option probably won't work for you. I don't think international calls are allowed. If you're just looking to keep in touch with your family here and using a land line to call back to England, I'd highly recommend them. https://www.metropcs.com

    If you go with a big name phone company like Verizon, they will rape you for everything they can and in our case have a poor mobile signal in our area.
    Brogan likes this.
  3. whynot

    whynot Well-Known Member

    Probably with that plan you have access to the Internet with your phone.
    With Internet access you can use for example Skype, costs only a few cents per minute to call many countries' landlines.
    To call mobiles costs more.
  4. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

    Yes, with the plan we have you get 3GB of 4G LTE internet, after 3GB it drops in speed but is unlimited so far as use goes. Also, unlimited texts and talk.

    Unlimited everything is around $60 month per phone.
  5. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    No, we won't be needing it for that - it's purely for US based calls, GPS navigation, internet via data/wifi, etc.

    If we ever contact family abroad from here in the UK (to Turkey for example), we typically use Skype video.

    Oh, and the area is Raleigh, NC.
  6. whynot

    whynot Well-Known Member

    My GPS app does not need Internet connection, try to get a similar app for the US.
    Even with Google GPS it's possible to use your phone without Net connection.
  7. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

    I think they should be there. Coverage looks good. :)

    Brogan likes this.
  8. Ernest L. Defoe

    Ernest L. Defoe Well-Known Member

    You can always go with a prepaid phone until you do get some kind of credit history built up here. You'll already be getting a start with your utility bill for one. It wouldn't take long to build up a decent enough credit history to be able to go to a contract and get the phones cheaper and do a 2 year contract. I used to work for T-Mobile and when I'd have a customer come in with bad/no credit I'd tell them to go to a store like Belk and get a store credit card and in about a year with on time payments your credit history will build up. Some will disagree with me but when starting to build a credit history carry a balance for a couple of months then pay it off. If you pay it off every month you're not really building a history and will take longer. It worked every time for those I told it to. Back then T-Mobile had the most lax credit policy there was and pretty much everyone could get approved.
    Brogan likes this.
  9. Ernest L. Defoe

    Ernest L. Defoe Well-Known Member

    Raleigh is a great spot to be in as far as coverage with pretty much any cell provider goes. Plus being in that area you'll be able to shop around for the best and cheaper home internet as well since there is plenty of competition in the "Triad" area. I frequent that area pretty often with my job.
  10. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

    We went the prepaid route for a while. Tried most of them. We finally switch to MetroPCS when Tracphone switched to the Verizon network and coverage was really bad. Metro has all of the non-contract benefits of the prepaid phone plus it's unlimited text and talk.
  11. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

    Just checked and MetroPCS is all over the Raleigh area...
  12. Lawrence

    Lawrence Well-Known Member

    @Brogan how long are you going to live in the US for? If it is one year, you will not build up any significant credit in that time. For a cell phone, your best bet is to get whom ever your moving to the states for to purchase the cell phone on your behalf, and pay them back monthly. Otherwise, you may need to fork out up to 1500 per cell phone.

    Here is my experience, and this is for a four year stay on Oklahoma:
    Cell phones: T-Mobile was the only one who would do a credit check outside of the US, no down-payment was required. They offered a no roaming package. I flew from Alaska to New Mexico and everywhere in between. The monthly charge never changed.

    Car Insurance: far worse than getting a cell phone. I received quotes that were four times higher than I paid in Canada. Why? Apparently in Canada we drive on the wrong side of the road. We went with Farmers, their rates were similar to ours and they knew were Canada was located (seriously). Farmers also (at the time), gave rebates back if you paid your insurance on time.

    Customs (for heading back): If you are staying in the States for about a year, don't purchase anything expensive. They take their work at customs very seriously, keep all your paperwork and a detailed list of everything you own that you brought in to the States with you. About a month before you leave the states check that there is no paperwork customs requires two-weeks in advance.

    Also note, your US driver license (if you require one) expires the day your work visa is up, regardless of what it says on the license. I drove home to Canada on an expired license, and didn't know until I was back in Canada, renewing my Canadian license.

    Credit History: If staying for three or four years, tough to do. If you own a UK Amex card you are in luck. Call them and ask them to issue you a US based one. It really helps to establish a credit history in the US as Amex UK already knows you.

    Another thing: if you receive a cheque from the UK, even government ones, the money will not be issued to you in your US bank account for six weeks, while they run it through FINTRAC.
    Brogan likes this.
  13. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    MetroPCS is anywhere TMobile is. There coverage isn't as good as the other 3 but we have it pretty good on the east coast. If you want LTE in the middle of fields get a Verizon based provider. But if TMobile is good in your area get MetroPCS.

    You can BYOD with Metro if you want. The unlimited everything plan is 60 a month or drop to 40 for 3gb then throttled.

    Be aware they tie the simcard to the imei. You can not just swap the sim card into another phone. It's a little weird but oh well. They do have some upsides. You can get an upgrade every 3 months for example so breaking phones doesn't hurt so bad.

    As far as phone choice goes. If you want GPS to work stay the hell away from the LG G Stylo. It's common for theirs to be screwy and I've had 2 bad ones so far. Other than that great phone and the 16gb of storage won't have you hurting trying to install a couple of apps. I'm a step down at the moment after smashing my last G Stylo because the GPS cut out in the middle of a forest. Originally I bought a Nexus 5 and switched from TMo to Metro.

    I frequently deal with cell carriers here if you have any questions feel free.
    Brogan likes this.
  14. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    Brogan to simplify and better answer your question. With about 100 bucks you can walk into a MetroPCS store and walk out with a smartphone powered by a snapdragon 410 1.5gb RAM 8gb of storage and a 5mp auto focus camera. Low end but usable and then have a completely unlimited data plan.

    I honestly can't remember if they asked for a SSN. I don't think so it's a prepaid provider lol. They definitely don't do credit checks and after 3 months you can unlock the phone no hassle.
  15. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    @Lawrence, we're permanently relocating there - or at least we're planning to.

    We've sold our apartment here in the UK and will be buying a house in the area once we've had a chance to look around and decide where we want to live.

    My wife's company has an employee scheme, which seems reasonable as far as prices are concerned, but they only issue a Blackberry and the other half wants the latest, shiniest Samsung Note ...

    I've already been warned about the car insurance costs from others who have moved to the same area from London.
    The first year is going to be extremely expensive and should go down after that.

    We've already got US bank account sorted by HSBC (it's all done while we're in the UK) so that at least will give us bank acocunts, credit and debit cards.
    We're keeping our UK accounts active too - at least for the short to medium term, so we'll be able to accept payments in both currencies without clearing issues, and we can seamlessly move funds between the UK and US accounts online.

    Thanks all for the information and advice so far.
    Amaury and Lawrence like this.
  16. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't compare them to 'prepaid' providers like TracPhone and others. While they are similar, the quality of service that we get is much better than the standard prepaid companies. Plus with most prepaid services if you run out of texts or talk minutes, you need to recharge the phone. That's not the case with metro.

    We have the Samsung Galaxy X6 and the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime phones. The prime isn't top of the line, but it is a good phone. ;)

    They don't ask for an SSN.
  17. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Of course, this is all moot if we don' get our visas - we have the interview next Wednesday.

    The paperwork is all ready ... I kid you not, this is what we have to submit to the US Embassy next week to support our visa applications.

    Liam W, Divvens and Amaury like this.
  18. rainmotorsports

    rainmotorsports Well-Known Member

    Car Insurance high? Raleigh is pretty bad I suppose lol. In Baltimore ID pay twice as much. Maybe 200 a month. I have my vehicles registered on the outskirts so it's less.

    Tracfone isn't really a prepaid provider. Tracfone hasn't changed since cell phones were invented. If it's after the year 2000 then you shouldn't ever go with them for any reason whatsoever.

    Every real prepaid MVNO is nothing like them. MetroPCS for bought out by TMobile and they ditched the old CDMA network so old Metro customers will be pleasantly surprised from a few years ago. Cricket did the same. But they got bought our by at&t. Sprint has Ting. I'm not sure which MVNO is the good one for Verizon... Who cares lol
  19. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

  20. Lawrence

    Lawrence Well-Known Member

    @Brogan you are in for a treat. It will be a pain starting off, but well worth it. It becomes a lot easier when you have a SSN, and a US drivers licence for ID. We found that our Canadian drivers license wasn't considered ID in most places.

    It shouldn't be that expensive starting off, if you take the time and "shop" around so to speak. And if it is, you will get that money back in savings on goods you purchase. Compared to the prices on everything in Canada, the US prices are far lower. I'm not sure how they will compare to the UK, but you may be in for a pleasant surprise.
    Amaury likes this.

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