With new phones costing as much as $500 without a plan, you probably want to try and get approved for a cell phone with a contract from a wireless provider. A contractual cell phone will lower the cost of the phone and give you a variety of plans to fit your needs, such as data and text plans, but you typically first must get approved before purchasing a contractual phone.
Establish credit. Wireless providers look at your credit history as a major indicator of trust and responsibility when deciding to approve you for a cell phone. Pay your bills on time and don't miss a payment, and wireless providers will generally have no problem approving you for a cellular plan.
Make a deposit. If your credit history is poor or you've missed cell phone payments in the past, wireless providers may request that you pay an upfront deposit to secure a cell phone. A deposit typically ranges anywhere from $100 to $500, but the amount differs between cell phone companies. For example, according to Sprint, the company may request a deposit up to $1,000 in some cases.
Ask your family if they will put you on their wireless plan. Although you won't own the wireless account, you're guaranteed approval if your family adds you to their plan, because your family already has established an account with the wireless provider. Your monthly fee will be cheaper, because an added line costs less than a completely new plan. Pay your family the monthly fee each month, fix your credit, and try to get approved for your own cell phone a year or two down the road.