Best Cell Phone Plans for International Students: 12 Options

Updated on March 6, 2024

At a Glance

  • Consider reputable providers such as AT&T, EE, and Vodafone for comprehensive coverage.
  • Explore student discounts and international features to enhance your connectivity.
  • Thorough research will help you identify the best-suited plan for your academic journey in the US.

If you’re an international student in the US without a cell phone plan, you’re missing out! The growing competition has made US plans more affordable since the early 2010s. With so many options available, choosing can be daunting. We’ve researched to simplify your decision and find the best plans for you.

12 Best Cell Phone Plans for International Students

This section explores telecom options tailored to international students in the United States, ensuring you stay connected effortlessly. Whether you seek affordability, global coverage, or flexibility, we have the right choice for your needs. Discover your ideal connectivity solution for your academic journey in the U.S.

Note: Service providers are presented in alphabetical order.

1. AT&T

Navigating U.S. campuses and cities becomes smoother with AT&T’s extensive network coverage. Their International Day Pass is a boon for students wanting the familiarity of their domestic plan while traveling. Embrace the freedom of flexible data packages and robust connectivity with AT&T.

Key Features

  • Student discount: $10 monthly reduction on AT&T Unlimited Premium.
  • International: Day Pass for usage in 100+ countries.
Learn more about AT&T

2. EE (Everything Everywhere)

For those international students who frequently travel between the U.S. and European destinations, EE offers unparalleled connectivity benefits. Their unique Roam Further feature and student discounts ensure that whether you’re studying or exploring, you’re always connected.

Key Features

  • Student offer: 20% discount every month.
  • International: Roam Further feature for usage in 48 European countries.
Learn more about EE

3. FreedomPop

Navigating the U.S. as an international student? FreedomPop offers budget-friendly plans that ensure you stay connected both locally and internationally. Their free phone plans and additional international calling perks make it a go-to choice for students wanting value without compromising on connectivity.

Key Features

  • Free phone plan: 500 text messages, 200 minutes, and 500MB data.
  • Global Free 100 plan: 100 international minutes to 50+ countries.
  • Wi-Fi calling: Stay connected outside the U.S.
  • Network: Sprint 4G LTE.
Learn more about FreedomPop

4. Orange

Exploring Europe during your breaks? Orange ensures that international students have smooth connectivity throughout. Their Holiday Europe plan is designed for short-term travels, making it perfect for students wanting flexibility without long-term commitments. Experience Europe and the U.S., always connected with Orange.

Key Features

  • Offers: Up to 25% off for students.
  • Plans: Holiday Europe options with varying data limits.
Learn more about Orange

5. Republic Wireless

Budget constraints? No worries. Republic Wireless presents international students with a range of cost-effective plans. With their focus on offering value for money, you can stay connected in the U.S. without any financial stress.

Key Features

  • Plans range between $15 and $90/month with unlimited features.
Learn more about Republic Wireless

6. Simple Mobile

Embrace the simplicity and affordability of Simple Mobile. Catering to international students, they offer plans that ensure you can call and text internationally, especially to key countries like India, Mexico, Canada, and China. It’s straightforward, efficient, and designed keeping your global needs in mind.

Key Features

  • $25 plan: Unlimited talk & text with 1GB high-speed data.
  • International: Calls & texts to India, Mexico, Canada, China, etc.
  • Network: T-Mobile.
Learn more about Simple Mobile

7. Straight Talk

For international students valuing flexibility and diverse plan options, Straight Talk is your ally. With no binding contracts and a variety of plans to fit different needs, you can stay connected with loved ones back home and new friends in the U.S. seamlessly.

Key Features

  • Plans range from $30 (100MB data) to $60 (8GB with international calls).
  • Bring your own phone: Use your device with Straight Talk.
Learn more about Straight Talk

8. T-Mobile Prepaid

Experience the blend of reliability and affordability with T-Mobile Prepaid. As an international student, you’ll appreciate the varied data packages and the ease of maintaining connectivity with home, thanks to their special international calling options.

Key Features

  • Plans from $45 (4GB LTE) to $55 (6GB LTE).
  • International: Stateside calls for $15/month; Unlimited to Canada & Mexico for $5/month.
Learn more about T-Mobile Prepaid

9. Total Wireless

Being an international student means being smart about expenses, and Total Wireless understands that. Their affordable monthly plans cater to students who require consistent and reliable connectivity without the hefty price tag. Plus, the ease of adding more data ensures you’re always online, whenever you need it.

Key Features

  • Monthly plan: Unlimited calls & texts with 5GB data for $35.
  • Additional data: $10 for 3GB (rollover).
  • International calls: Low-cost with $10 global calling card.
  • Network: Verizon.
  • Device compatibility: CDMA phones in the U.S. and abroad.
Learn more about Total Wireless

10. Tracfone

Being away from home requires reliability. Tracfone offers international students a straightforward and dependable way to communicate without overstretching the budget. With flexible plans and compatibility with multiple networks, it ensures you’re always just a call away from home.

Key Features

  • Plans from $15/month.
  • Networks: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon.
  • International: Calls at U.S. rates.
Learn more about Tracfone

11. Verizon

A top-tier choice for many, Verizon offers international students robust network coverage and diverse plans to match varying needs. Whether you’re video-calling home, streaming lectures, or exploring the U.S., Verizon ensures top-notch connectivity throughout.

Key Features

  • Plans from $35 to $80/month.
  • International: Affordable calling plans available.
Learn more about Verizon

12. Vodafone

Traveling between the U.S. and other countries? Vodafone has you covered. Their Global Roaming feature is designed for globe-trotters, ensuring international students always feel close to home. With diverse plans and student discounts, it’s a worthy choice for your U.S. journey.

Key Features

  • Student offer: 10% discount on selected plans.
  • International: 5G connectivity in select countries.
Learn more about Vodafone

How to Choose a Provider: 8 Considerations for International Students

Knowing the options is just half the battle. You also have to know which option is best for your situation. Here are eight considerations to help you decide:

  1. Coverage in the U.S.: It’s crucial that your chosen carrier offers strong network coverage in the areas you’ll frequent, be it your university campus, accommodation, or places of interest. Seamless connectivity in the U.S. is paramount to ensure you’re always reachable.
  2. International Coverage: As you’ll likely communicate with friends and family back home, check if the carrier provides good international coverage and connectivity without exorbitant charges.
  3. Data Limits: Online classes, research, and keeping in touch via social media or video calls can consume significant data. Ensure the data packages accommodate your requirements, especially if you rely heavily on internet-based communication.
  4. International Call Rates: Being an international student, overseas calls will be common. Examine the rates closely and look for plans offering competitive rates for international calls. Some carriers might even have special international packages.
  5. Specific Needs Catered to International Students: Some plans might offer perks specifically tailored to international students, such as discounted rates, special packages, or additional services to make your stay in the U.S. smoother.
  6. Cost-effectiveness: Being on a student budget means every dollar counts. Look for plans that provide essential features at an affordable rate. There are U.S. phone plans specifically designed to be cost-effective for international students.
  7. Contract Flexibility: Your duration of stay in the U.S. might be for a set period or could be extended based on future studies or opportunities. Opt for plans that provide flexibility, allowing changes without hefty penalties.
  8. Customer Support with Multilingual Options: Navigating a new country’s phone services can be challenging. Prioritize carriers that offer robust customer support, and if possible, multilingual assistance to cater to any queries or issues you might face.

7 Tips to Get a Phone Plan Discount as an International Student

As an international student in the U.S., there are a plethora of ways to avail discounts on phone plans, ensuring you stay connected without burning a hole in your pocket. Here’s how you can get the best deals:

1. Student-Specific Discounts

Many mobile plan providers recognize the unique needs and budgets of students. For instance:

  • Verizon Wireless grants reduced rates on select plans and devices for students with a valid ID.
  • AT&T extends exclusive deals on data and smartphone packages for qualifying students.
  • T-Mobile presents discounted plans with benefits such as savings on unlimited data for students possessing a valid .edu email address.

2. Verify Your Student Status

Keep your student ID or university-affiliated .edu email handy. These are often required to validate your eligibility for student-specific discounts.

3. Research Online

Before visiting a store, scout the official websites of mobile plan providers. Many times, they detail special student promotions or packages.

  1. Reach Out Directly

A quick conversation with customer support or a visit to a local carrier store can unearth hidden deals or clarify the applicability of student discounts.

5. Bundle Up

If you’re looking for more than just a phone plan, consider bundling. Many providers offer discounts when you club your mobile plan with other services like home internet or cable TV.

  1. Stay Alert During Promotional Periods

Providers often roll out special promotions during specific periods, like back-to-school seasons or holidays. Be vigilant during these times to snatch the best deals.

7. Smart Comparison

A discount doesn’t always mean the best value. It’s essential to compare the features, coverage, and overall costs of various student phone plans. This ensures you’re not just saving money but also getting a plan tailored to your communication needs while studying abroad.

Armed with these strategies, you can make the most of the available discounts and ensure seamless communication during your academic journey in the U.S.

Read More

Final Thoughts

These were some of the best cell phone plans for international students studying in the US. If you are on a budget, it is highly recommended to go with the cheapest option which meets your requirements.

International Student Phone Plans FAQ

Below, you will find some common questions about international student phone plans and their answers.

Can students get discounts on phone plans?

Yes, many mobile carriers offer discounts specifically for students. These discounts often require verification, such as a valid student ID or a university-affiliated .edu email address. It’s recommended to check with individual carriers to see what student discounts or promotions they currently offer.

What is the best international cell phone plan?

The “best” international cell phone plan can vary based on individual needs, such as data usage, calling frequency, and preferred countries for communication. Major providers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon all offer international plans with varying features. It’s best to compare these plans in terms of coverage, cost, and included countries to determine the most suitable one for your needs.

Which is the best SIM card for international students in the USA?

The best SIM card for international students in the USA depends on several factors including coverage needs, data usage, and budget. Major carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well as MVNOs like Mint Mobile and Simple Mobile, offer plans tailored to the needs of international students. It’s advisable to compare plans and read reviews before making a decision.

How do international students get a SIM card in the USA?

International students can purchase a SIM card in the USA from various outlets:

  • Directly from mobile carrier stores.
  • From electronics or department stores.
  • Online, through the carrier’s website or third-party sellers.
  • At some airports, kiosks may sell SIM cards specifically for travelers and students. After purchasing, you’ll typically need to activate the SIM card either online, via a phone call, or in-store, and choose a suitable plan.

Which countries are included in T-Mobile’s International Plan?

T-Mobile’s Magenta and Magenta Plus plans offer international data and texting in over 210 countries and destinations.

How much is AT&T’s International plan per month?

The cost of AT&T’s international plans can vary based on the type of plan and the included features. AT&T offers several international plans and add-ons, each with different pricing structures. For the most up-to-date pricing and plan details, please visit AT&T’s official website or contact their customer service.

How do I avoid international fees with AT&T?

To avoid unexpected international fees with AT&T:

  1. Ensure you’re on an appropriate international plan or add-on that covers the countries you’ll be communicating with.
  2. Turn off data roaming when not in use.
  3. Use Wi-Fi for calls and data when possible.
  4. Monitor your usage through the AT&T app or website.
  5. Set up usage alerts to notify you of potential overages.
  6. Contact AT&T’s customer service for guidance or to clarify any potential charges before traveling or communicating internationally.

Does AT&T have unlimited international?

AT&T offers plans that include unlimited international texting from the U.S. to over 120 countries. They also provide international roaming plans that allow unlimited texting and data use in specific countries. However, terms and conditions can apply, and “unlimited” might still be subject to certain restrictions or reduced speeds after a certain usage threshold. It’s always a good idea to check the specifics of the plan and read the fine print before committing.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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