If you're not on an unlimited plan, Verizon offers a daily travel pricing option called TravelPass. It’ll cost you $5 per day per device for each day you’re out of the country if you travel to Mexico or Canada. In more than 100 other countries — including China, France and Germany — Verizon charges $10 per device per day. Talk, text and data on TravelPass are subject to the same allowances you have on your Verizon plan stateside; in other words, the data you use in Europe draws from the tiered data plan you have at home. Note that data speeds are only 4G for the first 512MB each day when you have a TravelPass; after that, you're throttled to 2G speeds.
If you can live with limited service during your trip, bring along your phone but be sure to turn off data usage and the “fetch new data” option. Those are two important ways to reduce your cell phone bill during an international trip. Also look for complimentary Wi-Fi “hot spots” in places like coffee shops and malls, and use voice and text messaging apps like Viber and LINE, which are free if both parties have accounts with the service. Skype is also an option (be sure your phone is subscribed to a free Wi-Fi hotspot first) as are Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and WeChat. You can also buy a pre-paid phone card, which usually costs less per minute than your mobile carrier’s international roaming rates.
For years, cell phone carriers in the United States relied on technologies that were incompatible with those used in Europe, Asia and much of the rest of the world. Recently, two major U.S. cellular carriers -- AT&T and T-Mobile -- built nationwide networks based on Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) technology, the international standard for cell phone networks.
Even better, an unlocked GSM phone allows you to switch out the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. -- the internal chip that stores your phone number and account settings -- for a local phone number. Outside of the United States, most GSM phones come unlocked, but inside the country, you need ask your carrier for a special code. So if you know you're going to be spending the next four months in Botswana, you can spend $20 for a local SIM card instead of paying hundreds of dollars in international roaming fees.
Both Verizon and Sprint have added new unlimited plans with benefits for international travel; we've updated this guide to reflect those changes. T-Mobile will increase the number of travel destinations covered by its Simple Global feature as of July 22. It also plans to add a new $5 daily data pass with 512MB of LTE data for travelers starting August 1.
2GB Plan: No discounts apply (except AutoPay discounts). Includes unlimited domestic Long Distance calling and texting. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Includes selected allotment of on-network data usage for phone and mobile hotspot use and 100MB off-network data usage. Add’l on-network high-speed data allowance may be purchased at $15/GB. Mobile Hotspot Usage pulls from your data and off-network allowances. High-speed data is access to 3G/4G. Add’l $25 line/mo. applies with subsidized phone until the customer enters into a new device transaction that does not have an annual term service agreement.
Excluding plans that don’t let you bring your own device, Metro by T-Mobile, formerly MetroPCS, has the best rates for two-line scenarios—$70 for 5 GB each on two phones. That pricing easily beats T-Mobile’s own prepaid plans, and Metro by T-Mobile’s data caps exempt streaming video (at the cost of limiting its resolution to DVD-quality 480p resolution, although you can opt out of this Data Maximizer feature if you want).
I write about all things "cyber" and your right to privacy. Before joining Consumer Reports, I spent 16 years reporting for The Associated Press. What I enjoy: cooking and learning to code with my kids. I've lived in the Bronx for more than a decade, but as a proud Michigan native, I will always be a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan no matter how much my family and I get harassed at Yankee Stadium. Follow me on Twitter (@BreeJFowler).
Tablet Offer: Credits end at end of term, early termination, early payoff or upgrade, whichever occurs first. Taxes and svc charges excluded. No cash back. May not be combinable with other tablet offers. Requires activation at point of sale. Available to new and existing customers who have an active Sprint wireless phone line. Req. qualifying data plan and new activation. Only 1 Tablet Offer per account during this offer. CL accounts req. active smartphone line and is not limited to 1 free tablet.
Once we had an understanding of performance, we dug into the phone plans carriers offered and the prices they charged. Unless you’re purchasing a prepaid plan, the days of phone minutes and a nickel for every text are past — prices are based on data now. The best value is typically an unlimited data plan, but we looked into plans with tiered data, too. You’ll want to think about how often you use internet data (when not on Wi-Fi) to find a plan that fits your needs.
We quizzed experts, crunched numbers, and pored over fine print and pricing to help you figure out how much data you need, which network offers the best coverage where you need it, and whether a postpaid or prepaid plan is the best for you. We think that Verizon Wireless’s single-line 5 GB plan is the best cell phone plan for most people, but we have a variety of picks for different needs.
Verizon is the nation’s largest carrier for good reason: It offers the best coverage in the most places in the US according to third-party tests and surveys (including those of PCMag and RootMetrics), so you’re more likely to have a signal no matter where you are, and its pricing is competitive with that of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for the amount of data that most people actually use. It isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, but it is the first carrier everyone else should look at.
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Because if you don’t pick the phone wisely and you keep on using unlimited data, you’ll have to pay lots of extra charges for that.The first thing you need to consider when buying a mobile phone is whether it features GSM Band, and if it does, you need to consider at what frequencies does it work. Then with the help of these frequencies, you can check in which countries your phone’ll work.
A mobile phone manufacturer is the company that designs and produces the physical phone. Some manufacturers have contracts with certain carriers, so in many cases you can only get certain phones with certain carriers. Read through some cell phone reviews on these different manufacturers to get a better idea of the type of phone that each manufacturer produces. Browse Wirefly for exclusive cell phone deals from all manufacturers and carriers.
AT&T is a name we're all familiar with, a telecommunications behemoth whose history stretches back centuries. The company is a formidable player in the cell phone industry, especially when it comes to coverage: the breadth and reliability of the carrier's network is second only to Verizon's. This great coverage in one of the key benefits of going with AT&T for your next cell phone plan.
Wirefly offers great deals on a large selection of smartphones, cell phones, tablets, mobile hotspots, and other wireless devices for the nation's most popular carriers. Use Wirefly’s innovative cell phone and plan comparison tools to ensure you are getting the best deal on the market. Shop with confidence knowing that Wirefly wants to help you find the best prices on cell phones, cell phone plans, TV, and Internet service.
Sprint Unlimited Plus Plan: $70/mo. for line 1, $50/mo. for line 2 & $30/mo. for lines 3-5 with autopay. Non-Financed Promo: Up to 5 new lines on Unlimited Plus. Pay additional $10/mo/line after Financed device upgrade. Credits applied within 2 bills. Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting, 15GB LTE MHS, VPN & P2P & data. MHS reduced to 3G speeds after 15GB/mo. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Plan not avail. for tablets or MBB devices. Select Int’l svcs are included for phone lines. See sprint.com/globalroaming. Subsidized devices incur an add'l. $25/mo. charge.