Updated 5 months ago

If you want to make phone calls to your friends or relatives from the United States, you have many options to choose from. Mobile phone coverage is available nationwide and is the most popular way to keep in touch. Landlines are still somewhat used, and various phone companies offer different services and packages to fit your needs.


The traditional fixed telephone is becoming less common in U.S. homes, with some telecommunication providers indicating their intention to terminate their landline telephone services. Still, most, if not all, homes and apartments have phone hookups installed, and it’s quite simple to set up service.

If you’d like to apply for a landline, choose your carrier (telecommunication company) and plan, and then call them to connect service. Most companies offer unlimited local calls and a few different packages for long-distance and international calling. Generally, there is no in-home visit required though you will have to pay a one-time connection fee. Providers often offer multiple services, making it easy to get cable TV, an internet connection, and a landline all in one bill.

Cell phones and service

It is more common to use a mobile phone rather than a landline in the United States. The top four cell phone companies are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. These providers all have nationwide coverage and standard 4G LTE. However, data and signal strength can vary by location, so when choosing a carrier, it is worthwhile to ask coworkers or other locals which carrier they use and whether they’re happy with their coverage.

When you’re ready to purchase a service from the phone company, there are two options you will have to choose from: prepaid and contract service.

Prepaid Cellphones

This is best for travellers visiting the U.S. for a short time or those without an established credit history in the U.S. Before travelling, ensure that your cell phone is unlocked and buy a local SIM card once you arrive. SIM cards can be found at the airport as well as convenience stores and cell phone stores. These SIM cards come preloaded with a certain amount of call minutes and data, and can be topped up as needed. Another option is to purchase a basic cell phone for use while in the U.S. This can be done at any department store such as Target or Wal-Mart and the most basic models start at $15 USD.

Contract Service

Contract service offers different benefits to those staying in the U.S. for longer periods. These cell phone plans require a minimum time commitment based on the type of services you select, usually 2 years, although there are some month-to-month contracts available from certain providers. Common plans are family bundles that allow multiple people to share the same pool of minutes or unlimited calling and data. If you need a new cell phone, contract service allows you to “finance” the cost and make monthly payments on the new phone along with your monthly plan payment. In some cases, the cell phone can be obtained for free if you sign up for a 2-year contract, especially if it’s an older model. It should be noted that you may need to provide a deposit and/or credit check to be approved for these plans.

Making phone calls in the U.S.

In the United States, phone numbers are composed of 10 digits. To make a call within the U.S., you must dial the 3-digit area code, followed by the 7-digit telephone number of the person you would like to call.

To make international calls from the U.S., you must dial "011" followed by the country code, area code and then phone number. However, some countries in the vicinity of the United States do not require an international code.

If you want to find a phone number you can obtain some directory assistance by dialling “411”. Please note that there is a surcharge for this service. For all emergency services, dial “911".

 Useful links:

Cell phone service operators:

Verizon Wireless

Landline operators in the United States:

Century Link

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