Since any information I accrue during my travels is backed up the second I hook up my phone to my computer using iTunes, saving me both time and effort. Although international plans are now readily available through most carriers, there are SIM cards available abroad that I can pop into my phone for the duration of my trip, and even if those sim cards aren’t available immediately, there’re hotspots around that will allow me to have immediate use of Wi-Fi.
After the distraction of two self-inflicted wounds (a doomed purchase of its smaller competitor Nextel, followed by the wrong choice of 4G technology before a belated pivot to LTE), Sprint is finally making substantial progress with its network. If its coverage works for you, its pricing is almost as cheap as that of many prepaid and MVNO services but provides higher data allotments—and Sprint’s incentives to customers who bring numbers from other carriers allow even greater savings. However, as with Verizon, its CDMA technology permits simultaneous voice and data only if you’re on LTE.
If you travel farther from home, things get pricier. Monthly travel plans to 140 other countries, like Germany and France, cost $25 per month. On top of that, you’ll pay $1.79 per minute for talk time and 50 cents for every text message you send. (Verizon also charges 5 cents for every text message you receive.) You’ll get 100MB of data during the month, and all data overages will cost you $25 per 100MB of additional usage.
Once you know what you’ll need, and from which providers, it’s time to compare the costs and find the best phone deals for you. You’ll want to factor in any taxes and fees, as well as additional features that increase the overall value of your package. If you have several lines to add, look for promotions that take down the price for family plans. And don’t skip out on auto-pay; it saves you $5 with every carrier.
Sprint is particularly confusing because of its frequent shifts in price plans—like Sam-I-Am in Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, it’s always got a new marketing angle. We don’t mind that Sprint has adopted a similar approach to T-Mobile One, leaning heavily on unlimited data and free global roaming. But we’re not so keen on Sprint pushing phone-leasing deals that tout the same low up-front costs as the subsidized handset prices that tied customers to two-year contracts. Even if you upgrade every year, those deals offer little or no advantage over reselling a used phone and plowing the proceeds into buying a new model. And unlike Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, leasing keeps the phone locked to Sprint. Finally, Sprint doesn’t offer installment-plan pricing. To buy a phone from Sprint instead of signing a lease contract, you have to pay the full up-front price yourself.
Sarah Schlichter is IndependentTraveler’s Senior Editor. She hails from Maryland and now resides in Pennsylvania, where she sings in a local community choir and enjoys experimenting with different international recipes (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires — no humans or animals were harmed). The smell of Sarah’s delicious Moroccan couscous ignites a wave of envy in the office when she brings in leftovers for lunch. Sarah, IndependentTraveler’s resident travel expert, has visited more than 25 U.S. states plus dozens of countries including Belize, Guatemala, Morocco, Canada, Dominica, the U.K., Norway, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand … just to name a few.

We first used it to call the U.S from Ethiopia. And it worked beautifully! Even though Ethiopia was listed as a country with coverage, I just could not believe that it would actually work there. We called our daughter (and families) in Montana and in Wisconsin. I called United Airlines in the U.S. to work out a flight schedule problem. It all worked.
TracFone, Net10, and Straight Talk, all properties of the Mexican carrier América Móvil, consistently rank among the most widely used prepaid services. They offer the advantage of reselling service from all four carriers, at the cost of having to trust the company’s judgment about which network works bests for you, as Prepaid Phone News editor Dennis Bournique explains in a helpful post.
Vienne Brown, Founder of VienneMilano, is an entrepreneur and independent professional. Throughout her career, her passion has been to see products come to life, from concept to market. She’s served a variety of clients, from international corporations, to startups, to nonprofit organizations, focusing on marketing and product management. Her personal interests include fashion and automobiles. Originally from Hong Kong, she lives in Boston.

For traveling abroad in nearly 180 countries around the world, Sprint adds unlimited and 2G data speed with calls costing 20 cents per minute. Beyond international travel, each customer inside the US also receives 10GB of LTE mobile hotspot data and plans like iPhone Forever or Galaxy Forever that offer a new iPhone or Samsung device after 12 equipment installment payments.

Our cost estimates assume 400 voice minutes and 500 texts used per month. Those numbers fall roughly in the middle of usage data we saw from the Federal Communications Commission (PDF) and a 2013 PwC study (PDF), among other resources, but are above the much lower averages that CTIA reported for 2017 (187 voice minutes and 143 texts). Unlike postpaid services, many prepaid and resold services still limit your text messages and phone calls, so the actual cost of a particular carrier may be slightly more or less if you use more or fewer minutes and texts, respectively.
Selecting a network is the trickiest part of picking a plan. Coverage can vary from block to block or even building to building, so carrier coverage maps can be a good starting point only if you can zoom in to the street level—and even then they say nothing about how the network fares in areas with many devices using it. OpenSignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics all publish independently sourced network-performance metrics, but those studies take different approaches and are thus good for different purposes. (When using these metrics, and a carrier’s own coverage maps, don’t forget to check a network’s coverage in frequent business or vacation destinations.)
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.

AT&T, the second-largest carrier, offers a strong GSM network—allowing simultaneous voice and data use even outside LTE territory—and good in-building coverage via its widespread low-band spectrum. But its unlimited-data subscription rates aren’t as attractive, especially for multiple lines—its capped Mobile Share Flex plans will better suit most people’s needs. Buying your phone on AT&T’s installment plan brings an extra risk: Until you’ve paid it off, the device will be locked and stuck with unfavorable international-roaming charges. And though AT&T’s $10 International Day Pass matches Verizon’s pricing, it isn’t available in as many countries (PDF) as Verizon’s option or AT&T’s much more expensive Passport roaming.


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.
Sprint is offering free iPhone Xs with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease. The promotion is available for the iPhone Xs 64GB variant. You get $0/month after $41.67/month credit applied within 2 bills. It requires an 18-month lease with new line or eligible upgrade and approved credit. If wireless service is canceled, the remaining balance on the device becomes due. 
AT&T’s prepaid service and Cricket Wireless offer comparable savings, as do T-Mobile’s in-house prepaid service and its Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary, but those networks aren’t as good as Verizon’s and their prepaid plans aren’t as good for world travelers. Sprint’s Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA in-house brands are even worse for limiting the ability to bring your own phone.
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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.
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