Saving Money on International Phone Plans
Cell phones have become a necessity for both your leisure and professional life—but sometimes, phone contracts can be overwhelmingly expensive. This challenge is only amplified if you’re traveling, or even temporarily living, in another country. Managing your cell phone plan has an added dimension of difficulty when you travel outside of the United States. Sorting through your options and trying to dodge roaming charges can nearly ruin your vacation—so we’ve done the research and you can just enjoy your trip.
Buying an add-on to your existing plan
If you want to just purchase an add-on package to your existing phone coverage, most popular U.S. carriers have this option. With AT&T, you can buy a series of “Passport Roaming Packs” which come with unlimited text messages, and varying prices of phone calls and amounts of cellular data depending on which plan you choose. The lowest begins at $30/month, and you can’t buy it in any shorter increment of time. This is great to text people back home—but unfortunately, it’s easy to get carried away once you have an international plan. None of the plan options come with a very large amount of cellular data, so even moderate usage can put you over the limit and result in harsh fines. Verizon and Sprint offer similar choices—you can purchase add on international packages with varying amounts of data and slightly different conditions, except some of these plans can span shorter durations than a month (ideal for most vacations). With Verizon, you can even purchase a TravelPass in Canada or Mexico for $2/day. If you’re staying in North America (Canada or Mexico) T-Mobile actually has the best deal—you can extend your domestic plan to either of those countries at no extra charge. If you’re going somewhere else, you can pay as you go with T-Mobile.
Buying a new plan
The other alternative is buying a new phone plan in your destination, or even a prepaid plan before you leave (like the one offered by Metro PCS, US Cellular, or Boost Mobile). This is probably the preferable option if you’re staying for a long time (several months) or if you plan to need extensive phone use. Depending on your destination country, a cheap pay-as-you-go plan may be available with the purchase of an inexpensive new phone.
Happy travels! You’re welcome for the advice; you can bring us back a t-shirt from the airport.