Before doing your research about using a cell phone in the US
- Take your time to do some research and talk to current students/scholars to decide whether you would need to purchase a new cell phone and/or choose a contract plan.
- During the first few days to weeks at W&M, you can connect your existing cell phone to the internet and send texts (SMS) using free WiFi. For example, you can easily connect to the W&M WiFi on campus. Free WiFi is also available in most Williamsburg establishments (e.g., DoG St., Prince George St., Target, etc.).
- You can use online apps such as Skype, iMessage, Facetime, WeChat, WhatsApp or Viber to send international messages or make international calls for free.
After doing some research on using a cell phone in the US
- It may be possible to use a cell phone from your home country if it has a SIM card slot and has been unlocked. You can purchase pre-paid SIM cards at selected stores or online.
- If you are staying in the US for a limited amount of time (1 semester or academic year) or if you are looking for a new cell phone, you might consider purchasing a pre-paid cell phone, as the fees to break a cell phone contract (typically several hundred dollars) may be reason enough to avoid signing a contract (see below for chart comparing pre-paid and contract plan).
If you will be staying in the US for an extended period of time
- If you will be staying in the US for more than a year, you might consider signing a contract plan (see below for chart comparing pre-paid and contract plan).
- Cell phone companies (“carriers”) run on different networks (e.g., CDMA, GSM, etc.). If you would like to use your cell phone internationally, you might want to consider buying a cell phone that will work on different networks.
- Once you have made friends at W&M, you can consider joining a “family share plan.” All cell phone carriers offer “family share plans,” which offer discounted rates for families and/or a group of individuals on a shared plan.
Cell Phone Providers in Williamsburg
You can reach all of these stores using the Red Line bus (free with your W&M ID).
4950 Monticello Ave.
Does not offer SIM cards
Cell Phone Providers near VIMS
Straight Talk Wireless
Walmart, 6819 Walton Lane
Offers SIM cards
TCC, Verizon Authorized Retailer
2417 York Crossing Dr., N3, Hayes
Does not offer SIM cards
Popular Online SIM Card Options
You should always call the cell phone company before you visit them in-person, to ask what documents you will need to bring with you to purchase a cell phone. Most companies ask for:
- Passport and I-20/DS-2019
- Government Issued Photo ID (Driver’s License or VA ID card)
- W&M ID
- Social Security Number (if applicable)