line = "line of service", or even simpler, "phone number"
If you get a plan that supports hotspot (and enough hotspot for your laptop usage), yes, you can do that.
Any plan is paid monthly. You can cancel at any time.
Hi thanks so so much for your reply this was so helpful! Can I ask sorry, when you say line of service I still don't understand which I should pick? Thanks
Let's see... line.. plan...
*goes to AU cell phone site to translate*
Maybe plan is the word?
Let's see if I can try to explain it in... um... english?
T-Mobile offers cell plans. A cell plan can be one or multiple lines (single line or family plan). The little bit of googling suggests Telstra has a page of "BYO phone SIM only plans" -- So, let's try to associate with that.
With T-Mobile, you'd pick one of their plans (you're interested in the $40 plan. I'm not a T-Mobile employee, so I'm not going to say "yes or no". What you'll need to do is figure out how you want to use your plan and compare what options T-Mobile's plans are. There's both prepaid and postpaid options that are close, but slightly different. Data prioritization is probably the primary difference, but there's also roaming agreements and other things. But, in about 95% of places in the US, if the plans look identical between prepaid and postpaid, they are. Realizing you're going to be a temp visitor, you may be limited to prepaid due to credit checks and that. Though, maybe credit checks are required only for payment
So, you've decided which plan you want. You'll need to make sure your Aussie phone is supported. The US isn't quite the same as a lot of the rest of the world with cell frequencies. T-Mobile network has a list of frequencies / bands used by T-Mobile's network. As long as your phone supports them and is unlocked, you're good. If your phone doesn't support the bands required, you'll either have to find another provider that does support your phone, or buy a phone here. If you buy a phone here, make sure you pay it off and unlock it before leaving the country. Unlock your mobile wireless device (other carriers have different rules, check them if you think of others).
So, what's the process?
If you choose T-Mobile, when you arrive, go to a local T-Mobile store and say "hey, I'm interested in this plan with my phone." They'll probably try to sell you more stuff that you may or may not be interested in. As part of the process, you'll get a SIM card (which I think you'll be charged for, unless there's a promotion going on). If you sign up for prepaid, you'll be required to pay immediately for your month of service. If you get a postpaid account, you'll get a bill almost immediately for the cost of a month and a few days.
If you get the postpaid plan, you'll receive bills every month. Probably be put on autopay. Make sure you cancel your line before you leave the country. In most cases, your final bill should already be paid, depending on the date of your canceling.
If you get the prepaid plan, you can either use your credit card to pay (though T-Mobile doesn't accept international credit cards), or you can purchase refill cards at most stores that can be added to your account (the generally preferred method of paying for prepaid folks). For prepaid plans, it's courteous to call and cancel your line of service when you leave, but not required as your account will be canceled for lack of refill.
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The easiest way to describe what we refer to as "a line of service", is essentially, per mobile device. Each mobile device requires a SIM. That SIM is what provides you that line of service.
If you go prepaid or postpaid, neither come with a contract. However, if you purchase a mobile device on a payment plan/term, then you will be locked in to that term until the device is paid off. You can get a device on a 24 month payment plan and pay it off early though. Your device must be paid in full and your T-Mobile service must still be active to request and complete the SIM unlock on the mobile device, which you will want to do about a month before heading back to Australia. If you are bringing your own mobile from Australia, then you want to make sure it is SIM unlocked, which most Australian sold devices are, and that it supports bands 2, 4, 12, and 66 at the very least.
In terms of paying for your service while in the US. Not all international credit and debit cards are accepted. Who determines which are and which are not, I don't know, but Canadian credit and debit cards are accepted, because that is what I used to autopay my prepaid service for years before moving to postpaid with my girlfriend, which also has my same card setup for autopay. Autopay is basically a term used for automatic payment, usually processed two days before your mobile service rolls over to the next billing period.