Generally speaking, international students and scholars have two options in obtaining mobile phone service in the United States: (1) pre-paid service and (2) contract-based service. Pre-paid service – in which an individual purchases a phone and regularly adds minutes to his or her account – is the more expensive option, but offers more flexibility in that pre-paid service does not require a Social Security Number (SSN) or U.S. credit history and allows for short-term cell phone use. Alternatively, contract-based service provides a lower monthly cost, but requires a commitment of 1-2 years. Additionally, most companies providing contract-based service require individuals who do not have an SSN to pay a security deposit (usually several hundred dollars). Even if a student or scholar is eligible for and has obtained an SSN, he or she may still be required to pay a deposit if he or she has not resided in the United States long enough to establish a U.S. credit history.
A variety of retailers provide cell phones in the Atlanta area. You may find retailer locations in Atlanta by visiting the websites of the major mobile phone carriers: