After enjoying the sun and beach on some tropical island, or attending a business conference abroad, or any scenario that required you to use your phone outside the country, it would be a hard slap back to reality to face the enormous roaming charges you would have incurred. There are horror stories across the internet of people who used their phones abroad and came back to phone bills in the thousands. In addition to packing for an international trip, you should also make sure you have prepared your phone for international travel. This is where the best international cell phone plans come in.
Roaming refers to a mobile phone being used outside the range of its home network and therefore connecting to another available cell network (a visited network). Roaming fees are generally charged on a per-minute basis for talk, per-text basis, and per MB for data service. These fees are determined by the pricing plan of your service provider. Most of the leading service providers in the United States will provide international phone plans for their customers in multiple countries across the globe at affordable rates, even for free touch screen government phones.
If you are a lifeline phone recipient and wondering whether you can roam on your free government phone for low-income persons, the answer is yes. Your lifeline phone will show you an indicator on the screen when you are in a roaming area. Lifeline rates are also the same wherever you are, so you will never be shocked by outrageous prices.
What options do I have when I travel abroad?
Apart from purchasing an international phone plan, here are some other options you have to save money when you travel abroad.
i) Buy an international SIM card
Subscriber Identity Modules (SIM) cards hold your identity information and other persona data. Consider buying a SIM card at your destination to get the advantage of a local phone number and local rates when calling, texting, and data. If you frequently travel to many different countries, consider getting an international SIM card instead of replacing it at every destination
ii) Rent a cell phone
Yes, you can rent a cell phone. Services such as TripTel, TravelCell, and others mail you a local phone to use when you travel depending on your destination. If you are making a long trip, you may be better off purchasing a local phone for lower costs.
iii) Buy a local phone
If you are making a long trip, purchasing a local phone with domestic rates could be a great way to save money. Just buy a primary, cheap cell phone and subscribe to the popular carrier in the region. You may be lucky and get amazing buy one and get one free smartphone offers from the regional sellers
How to save money on phone plans when you travel internationally
Here are some of the ways you can save money and reduce the cost of your international phone plan while abroad.
1. Turn off your cellular data when it’s not in use
Most international phone plans will charge you for everyday use of talk, text, and data. So if you are connected to Wi-Fi or staying where you are away from a cell signal, just turn off your data
2. Connect to Wi-Fi
You can easily make phone calls over Wi-Fi at no extra cost. Sign in to Wi-Fi at your hotel restaurant or a public space if you need to make calls.
3. Use a hotspot
You can also pay for any of the significant travel hotspots which offer a daily flat rate so that you can enjoy unlimited data. This is a great way to get cheap cell phone plans for seniors.
If you are still unsure and don’t want accidental roaming rates, ask your service provider to block all international roaming on your phone.
The 7 best international cell phone plans
1) Google Fi
Google Fi is a relative newcomer in the wireless sector, but they offer international plans in over 200 countries/regions across the globe. To use Fi services outside the country, you must first activate Google Fi within the US, after which you can text, call, and use data across the globe without changing your phone settings.
The main attraction for Google Fi is that you pay the same rates abroad as you would in your home country. Google Fi also offers the best international data speeds since if there is more than one network available, Google Fi will connect to the fastest one in real-time.
a. Call rates
You can make cellular calls from outside the US to the US and from the US to other locations for $0.20 per minute. You can also receive mobile calls from covered international regions at $0.20 per minute and over Wi-Fi at no extra cost.
b. Text message rates
You can send text messages from the US and most covered regions to any country at no additional cost over both cellular and Wi-Fi.
c. Data rates
Data in the US and covered international areas will cost you $10 per GB over cellular in the flexible plan and at no extra cost over cellular and Wi-Fi.
Sprint is one of the big four carriers in the United States, and they offer great value for their international plans. Their international talk, text, and data include over 200 worldwide destinations. Sprint offers free unlimited international roaming to its customers, with the only drawback being that it is not provided at full 4G LTE speeds but 2G speeds.
While traveling abroad, Sprint customers get free unlimited text messages to US numbers, a small charge to other countries, and $0.25 per minute on calls. If you would like faster speeds, you can purchase a data pass for between $5 and 410 per day, depending on your destination.
In terms of coverage, T-Mobile is a force to be reckoned with as it provides unlimited text and data in over 210 countries and destinations. The Magenta, Simple Choice, and T-Mobile ONE plans will give you unlimited 2G data and texting at no extra charge while voice calls will cost you $0.25 per minute.
If you need higher-speed data or you want the ability to use unlimited mobile hotspot plans, you can easily add an international data pass. This will give you data speeds of up to 3G, depending on your destination.
Other great perks of T-Mobile plans are the hour of free Wi-Fi and unlimited texting while on a Gogo-enable flight and the feature that allows you to block all international roaming to prevent any accidental charges. However, you can still use Wi-Fi for calls and texts.
AT&T’s international phone plans allow you to stay connected to over 200 countries. You can choose any of the two AT&T passport plans; the first of which offers 2GB of data, unlimited texts and $0.35 per minute for calls at $70 per month or the second which offers 6GB of data, unlimited texts and $0.35 per minute for calls at $140 per month each for a single device.
If you don’t want to go with the passport plan, you can go with the international day pass that is available in over 100 countries. You will pay $10 per day for unlimited texting and calling plus the data plan you have at home. A huge plus for this is that you are only charged for the days on which you use this plan, so if you don’t use it, you don’t pay for it.
5) Mint Mobile
Mint mobile international plans do just what the name says; they save you a mint and offer some of the cheapest phone plans with unlimited everything. Mint is an MVNO that operates on the infrastructure of T-Mobile. This is one of the best options for you if you are working on a tight budget.
Calls to Mexico and Canada are included in the base plan you buy and will, therefore, carry no extra charge, though you will have to per minute and text for other countries. Mint Mobile international roaming plans start at $0.05 per text, $0.25 per minute on calls, and $0.20 per MB for supported countries outside North America.
The cost in Mexico and Canada is reduced to $0.06 per MB and minute, and $0.02 per text. Mint Mobile supports international roaming plans in over 160 countries.
Verizon is arguably the largest wireless service provider in the United States and provides international data roaming plans in over 220 countries. Verizon international phone plans offer TravelPass that allows you to use your phone as you do at home with unlimited calling, texting, and 4G LTE data. If you are a Verizon Up member, you can claim a free TravelPass day.
You can also purchase the occasional monthly package for long travels at $70 per month for 100 minutes of talk, 100 sent texts and unlimited received texts, and 0.5GB of data or $130 per month per line for 250 minutes of talk, 1000 sent and unlimited received texts and 2 GB of data.
7) US Mobile
Another convenient way to purchase international connectivity is by using US Mobile’s eSIM technology. This is more convenient as you don’t need to replace the physical SIM in your phone and you can use it in multiple countries as long as your phone is eSIM enabled. As a US Mobile customer with an unlimited plan, you get up to 10 GB of free high-speed roaming. You can also add more at local rates.
Mik Keep ‘once said that ‘The cost of international roaming was quite disproportionate,’ which, sadly, is true. But with these international phone plans, you will find the best cell phone plans for seniors, businesspeople, foreign exchange students, and even the casual vacationer.