Setting up utilities in the US

Setting up the Internet, a phone and utilities after moving to the US

Information verified correct on April 29th, 2017

Now that you’ve arrived in the US, it’s time to get connected.

Setting up your cell phone, Internet and household utilities is a priority once you’ve relocated to the US. Before purchasing that first plan or provider you find, you’ll want to do your research to save time and money.

Verizon Fios Internet, TV, Phone

Limited time online offer: Price includes $10/mo. savings for 2-years and the standard setup charge is waived ($90 value).

Mobile phones

Even if you already have a cell phone, you could consider buying a local SIM and signing up for a phone plan. By getting a local number in the US, you can avoid international roaming charges.

Whatever your needs, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to the plans — and deals for new customers — that each service provides.

To stay connected with friends and family at home, ask specifically about an international calling plan that includes your home country.

How do I apply for a cell phone plan in the US?

With a large cell phone market that includes many carriers, the first time that you buy a cell phone and plan can be challenging.

The US has four national carriers, each with its own network: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. You also have the option of several second and third-tier providers — these are services like Metro PCS, Cricket and Boost Mobile.

While users disagree as to which is the best service, they often agree that Verizon and AT&T offer the best coverage nationwide.

What if I don’t have a Social Security number or credit history?

In the US, you have a choice of two main types of cell phone billing: a monthly plan with a contract or a prepaid plan. Because you are new to the US, it will be trickier to sign up for a cell phone or plan on arrival.

But you don’t necessarily need a contract to get a cell phone. Instead, you could look into:

  • A prepaid phone package. Some providers offer a prepaid SIM card and cell phone together.
  • Unlocked phone with a prepaid plan. This is usually a set combination of data, text and calls with defined limits.
  • Prepaid plan with a separate cell phone. With this type of plan, you can use your own phone.

What should I consider when getting a cell phone or plan in the USA?

When looking at a plan, ask the provider:

  • Will you get coverage at home and at work?
  • Can you add extra services to a prepaid plan, like international calls to family and friends at home?
  • Does your unused data roll over to the next month?
  • Are you able to keep your number if you switch to a different plan?
  • Does the service provider work only on specific brands of devices?

Verizon Fios Internet, TV, Phone

Limited time online offer: Price includes $10/mo. savings for 2-years and the standard setup charge is waived ($90 value).

Setting up the Internet and broadband

If you’re looking to set up Internet at home, you might be able to take advantage of bundle deals that include mobile service, a landline, and Internet in one plan.

How do I get a mobile and broadband deal in the US?

Signing up for a phone or broadband contract can be challenging for a newcomer. But once you understand the process, it’s easier to compare your options for the best deal.

To sign up for a mobile and broadband deal, you’ll need:

  • A US bank account.
  • At least two forms of ID, such as your passport.
  • Proof of employment or study in the US.

With this information in place, you can approach broadband and phone providers to sort out your contracts. Note that application are often accepted both online and in stores.

Home utilities

Once you’ve found a place to live, you’ll need to set up utilities — services like heat, running water and electricity.

Research your local utility providers online and contact them individually to open new accounts. If you have a choice of service providers, talk with your neighbors or friends the US to learn which they might recommend.

After you’ve chosen a provider, you can typically sign up online, over the phone or in person.

How much do utilities cost in the US?

Most household utilities are billed monthly. Here’s a breakdown of monthly expenses you can expect in the US:

UtilitiesDescription
Water and sewage service.Depending on the size of your home, this could cost $10 and $200 a month.
Trash collection services.From $10 a month, with possible additional fees for recycling.
Home and cell phone bills.Between $70 and $250 a month.
Internet service.Up to $50 a month.
Cable and satellite TV.This optional service could run between $25 and $150 a month, depending on the options you choose.

How do I pay for my Internet, mobile phone and utility bills?

Different services provide different options for paying your bills. While most offer the ability to receive and pay bills online, depending on where you live, you could still encounter services that insist on mailed paper checks to pay them.

If you’re unsure how you should pay a particular bill, contact your service provider directly. And to avoid the hassle of paying every month, ask if you can set up automatic deductions or autopay.

Bottom line

Whether you’re arriving to the US to stay or just to study, you’ll likely need to get set up with Internet, cell phone and utilities for your new home or dorm. It’s just one way that you can ensure a softer landing into your new life in the States.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get a phone plan without a Social Security number?

Yes. If you don’t have a SSN or credit history, look into a prepaid cell phone.

What are my rights as a consumer in the US?

Consumer rights in the US are a shared responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Justice. However, consumer laws vary by state. Before purchasing anything in the US, including a cell phone, ask about your rights.

Verizon Fios Internet, TV, Phone

Limited time online offer: Price includes $10/mo. savings for 2-years and the standard setup charge is waived ($90 value).

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