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How Do I Avoid Roaming Charges?

Some phones come equipped with a feature that can alert you when you travel into an area that requires roaming.
Signing up for an international calling plan could help an individual avoid roaming charges.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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The most effective ways to avoid roaming charges are to stay within your mobile phone's service area or to choose a plan with no roaming. Cell phone plans now come with more flexible terms than ever, and many providers do not charge roaming fees. Your coverage area is also likely large enough to meet most of your travel needs, although you can check with your provider to be sure. Some plans offer more coverage than others.

One of the best ways to avoid roaming charges is to sign up for a nationwide or international calling plan. This not only means you can call anywhere in your country from your own location, but it often means that you can travel to anywhere within those areas as well. Be sure to check with your wireless provider about exact coverage areas and locations ahead of time to ensure you know where you can call to and from. Many plans already offer nationwide coverage.

If avoiding roaming charges is essential, ask your service provider to tell you about plans which will help you adequately avoid them. It will be helpful if you can give a list of places you often travel, although this may not be necessary. You may also look into getting a phone with a feature which automatically alerts you when you have traveled into an area in which making calls could incur roaming charges.

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Do not assume that if you have nationwide coverage that you are automatically covered when you travel anywhere in your country. Many cell phone providers include only larger cities in some areas, while others have a much broader overall network. Obtain a map or list of areas in which roaming charges will not be a problem.

Using a popular national mobile provider may give you a wider coverage area than using a smaller company. Many pay as you go providers are owned by the major companies, but they often have much leaner coverage areas by comparison. Some “no contract” plans may have similarly small coverage areas, even when offered by a major mobile provider. In general, the more money you pay per month, the larger your potential coverage.

If you travel overseas or similarly large distances, it may be cheaper to acquire a cell phone plan in that area. This is most helpful if you are traveling primarily to the same location. Ask your provider about overseas options and any discounts available for having multiple lines.

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James1329
Post 14

You can get a really good deal with g3 wireless. When I was studying in Ireland, I got a pay-as-you-go deal without any kind of contract or anything and it was great. I’ve found that those kinds of deals are the most cost efficient when travelling, so I’d definitely check out g3 wireless.

anon353339
Post 13

I travel a lot for business to Israel and it's hard because I have a family at home. If my cell phone didn't have ridiculous roaming charges I would use it instead I use calling cards. But be careful because there are a lot of bad ones out there.

starrynight
Post 12

@JessicaLynn - I've heard of those Internet phone services. I'll have to check them out if I do any traveling in the future.

Anyway, I'm amazed that roaming charges can be so much. Even if you just to go Canada! I read this article awhile ago about a woman who put her brother on her cell phone plan. The brother then went to Canada for two weeks on vacation and racked up thousands of dollars in roaming charges. It just doesn't seem like it could really cost that much to provide cell phone service to Americans in Canada.

JessicaLynn
Post 11

I have a nationwide plan, so I haven't dealt with roaming charges in years. I think at this point, roaming charges are pretty ridiculous. We really do live in a "small world" and a lot of people travel. The cell phone companies need to get with it!

In the meantime, you could always use an Internet phone service. Most of those services have cell phone apps now, and you can make calls over wi-fi. So if you're out of the service area, if you can find a place with free wi-fi you can make calls for free. And it won't even count towards your minutes!

BambooForest
Post 10

I was studying and working in Europe for awhile, and while there I had a really basic, pay as you go, sort of phone plan. The roaming charge there was worse than I had ever noticed in the US. While the upfront fee wasn't so bad, calling from another country or to another country could be exponentially more expensive; even calling a few cities away went up a lot in price. If I ever live abroad again, I hope to have enough money to pay for something a little more substantial, which would hopefully have better rates.

orangey03
Post 9

@OeKc05 – I'm surprised that your boss didn't provide you with a phone or a new plan up front! He should have done that without you having to ask, and it should have happened before he even made the first call to you. I hope that he offered to pay for your roaming charges that he caused!

Everyone where I work has to travel, but the company gives them cell phones with international coverage. This is cheaper for the company, because they never have to worry about roaming charges. I think every one of us would have refused to accept a call from the boss on our personal cell phones when we were roaming.

OeKc05
Post 8

I started a new job three months ago that required a lot of travel between states. Since I have a land line, I only use my cell phone for emergencies, but my boss started calling me on it while I was away to get updates on my progress and give me further instructions.

I checked my cell phone statement online after the first trip, and I could see that I had roaming charges. I told my boss that I needed either an upgraded plan or a phone specifically for work calls.

He paid for my upgrade, so now, he can call me wherever I am and it won't cost me anything extra. I'm kind of glad they didn't just give me a separate work phone, because it would have been one more thing to keep up with on the trip.

seag47
Post 7

My sister recently went on a cruise from Florida to Mexico, and her mobile roaming charges that showed up on her bill the following month were ridiculous. She felt totally cheated out of that money.

She said that if she ever goes on another cruise, she will turn off her cell phone and only use a pay phone to make emergency calls. The crazy thing is that she only made a few short calls while on the ship, and still, her bill was tremendous.

Perdido
Post 6

I used to have a very basic cell phone plan. I had to keep my calls short when I traveled. Whenever I got outside the free calling area, the word “roaming” would appear at the top of my phone display, so at least I knew when to make it quick while talking.

I entered into a long distance relationship, so I started traveling more frequently. I needed to do something about my cell phone plan.

Eventually, I got a nationwide calling plan. Now I never have to worry about checking the display for the word “roaming.” I haven't seen that word in years!

lonelygod
Post 5

I remember getting home from my grandparent's place out of state and getting a huge phone bill full of roaming charges. I remember feeling pretty foolish when I called to dispute my bill. I actually had to ask my company that dreaded question, "What are roaming charges"?

I was lucky enough that my cell phone company gave me a discount on the bill, but I still wish they made it clearer to customers that if they left the state they would get dinged for every call. The information is buried pretty far into your user agreement. Personally, I think they do it on purpose to earn more cash.

wander
Post 4

International roaming charges can be a real killer. I travel a lot and the best way I find to get by is to get a local SIM card and use a cheap plan. Some countries actually give away free SIM cards when you arrive at the airport. In Thailand for example, when you pick up your luggage there is a little stand there that hands out the SIM cards for free.

If you are not sure whether or not the country you are in does this just ask at the tourist information desk at the airport.

Another thing is that you can also rent local cellphones cheaply. If you're not going to be in a country long this can also be a good way to avoid roaming charges.

ysmina
Post 3

@simrin-- Really?! It's that simple? I've never heard of this before, but I'm definitely going to give it a try. Do you know if it works with all cell-phones and carriers?

What I usually do when I travel abroad is I buy a local sim card and use that while I'm there. I don't use my US carrier at all during trips. With an international plan or not, it still costs a lot.

Buying a sim card from one of the local phone companies is much easier. Almost all of the countries I've been to have pay-as-you go plans, so it's really cheap to get a cell phone line there. It's up an running in a matter of minutes too, so I can start calling people right away.

ddljohn
Post 2

You can't really avoid roaming charges unless you get a plan with nationwide coverage. I know that's not always desirable, it can cost a lot and it's not worth it if you only travel once in a while.

The way I avoid roaming charges with my Blackberry is that I just don't make calls when I'm outside of the coverage area. Instead, I send emails if I need to reach someone whenever I get free Wi-Fi. So many places have free Wi-Fi these days, so it's not a problem to connect to the internet.

It might not be the best solution if you really want to make calls, but it still keeps you in touch with the world without any charges.

SteamLouis
Post 1

I used to get hit with roaming charges all the time with my cell phone plan because I travel a lot for my job, both in the US and overseas. When I went overseas, it was even worse because I would get charged even if I just turned on my phone for incoming calls. This all ended when I found out about a great tip that my buddy who works for a cell phone company let me in on.

You can actually avoid all roaming charges by changing a setting on your cell phone. Just go to 'settings', then 'wireless networks' and select 'home.' When you do this, the cell phone remains in the service area and does not charge roaming. This has saved me so much money.

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