Essential tips to avoid mobile roaming data bill shock

Essential tips to avoid mobile roaming data bill shock

Summary: Mobile data costs are still a barrier to using your phone abroad -- but how can you limit the expense, or avoid it entirely?

TOPICS: Mobility, 4G

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  • Unlock your phone and buy a local or international SIM card

    Now legal in the United States after becoming illegal in 2012, cell phone unlocking allows a user to use their device with any carrier they chose. Even if you're happy with your carrier in your home country, by unlocking your phone you can use your handset abroad with local or international SIM cards, which can result in cheaper call rates — as well as inexpensive data charges. If you're staying in a country more than a few days, it's a good idea to purchase a simple pay-as-you-go local SIM card, or to consider international cards like World SIM, which gives you cheaper international rates. 

  • Set up your phone beforehand

    Setting up your phone with the correct settings and apps can save you roaming charges if you plan ahead of time. Whether you need to download a travel guide or New York's metro map, taking an hour beforehand to decide which apps are crucial for your trip — and updating them to their most modern state — is a good idea, as well as turning off automatic updates when you're connected to mobile networks. 

    Image credit: Eric Franklin/CNET

Topics: Mobility, 4G

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  • Great tips !

    Great tips ! But I heard Onavo app is useful to reduce roaming charges for data. Will it work ?
    • Onavo

      Onavo is a great app for reducing the amount of data through compression and filtering, wherever you are using it, however it's still going to be billed as international data from your carrier so unlocking your phone and using a local or international sim will still be cheaper.
  • get a prepaid cell phone and a prepaid 3G/4G stick for the notebook/tablet

    We winter in the Philippines and my AT&T roaming (and previously Verizon) is very expensive. Several years back I bought a simple Nokia prepaid cell phone for texting and calling. Prior to that I had already bought a prepaid 3G stick for my notebook. As a matter of fact I got one each from the two major telecom outfits - (not so) Smart, and Globe. It costs me about $27 a month for (almost) unlimited internet.

    I can do all I need to while over there with this combo. Later I might do something else like a tablet but still use the stick to connect. For now I've got a 17" notebook as a sort of transportable 'desktop' unit because I develop software and trade the Forex markets so I need a full size keyboard and decent size screen and a number pad.
  • Verizon is simple

    Verizon phones are unlocked.
    The offer roaming for $25/100MB.
    That just worked. At&t users were standing in local shops, spending $50, and finding that the unlock code they got via email from At&t didn't work.
    People with unlocked phones had unreturnable SIMs that failed to connect.

    The Verizon plan worked, welcoming me as I crossed into another counter with a text message, and the occasional message that I had been dinged another $25 for more data.