News

Come Home With Memories, Not a Shocking Phone Bill

The horror story goes something like this: A family returns from a trip abroad, and the glow from the vacation has barely begun to fade when a cellphone bill with hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars in international charges arrives. The phenomenon even has a name: bill shock.

Smartphones have become an indispensable part of international travel. You can use them to check in at the gate, go through borders, find your way around a foreign city and pay for breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. Now, it’s easier than ever to use your phone just as you would at home without getting a big hit to the wallet.

There are two major options: You can get a data plan directly through your phone company or you can swap out your phone’s SIM card, a small chip that stores data about you and your carrier — on newer phones, you can use an app that does the same thing. Here are some tips:

Pick the right plan

The three biggest U.S. carriers all offer some version of an all-inclusive international data plan. The prices and countries covered vary. Some take effect automatically when you cross a border, and others require you to sign up before your trip. Almost all of them send a text message detailing your options when your phone connects to a foreign network.

AT&T offers the International Day Pass for $10 a day, allowing travelers to use their phones much as they would in the United States. AT&T automatically adds a day pass when customers with unlimited plans connect to the network in a foreign destination.

Customers with this plan can use their phones for as many days as they want, but they’ll be charged only for a maximum of 10 days per billing cycle. The plan covers about 210 destinations, including Canada and Mexico. Some exceptions: Cuba and the Maldives.

Verizon has a similar offer: TravelPass, which gives customers who have Unlimited Plus, Unlimited Welcome and other unlimited plans the ability to talk, text and use data for $10 per day (there is no cap on how many days you can be charged in a billing cycle), or a monthly $100 pass. The first 2GB of high-speed data each day is included; after that, travelers get unlimited data at a slower speed.

We are having trouble retrieving the article content.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.


Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.


Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.

Related Articles

Back to top button