Avoiding overseas phone charges

Understanding overseas overages
Posted at 9:32 AM, Sep 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-17 09:32:03-04

We are constantly on our phones. and some of us never turn them off.

Angie Hicks, Founder of Angie's List says that can be a costly mistake when traveling abroad.

"You want to be sure that you check with your cell phone carrier to understand the charges associated with your phone and your data plan when you're out of the country because it's not unusual for people to actually rack up hundreds of dollars of extra unexpected expense."

David Webb knows from experience.

"Even checking an email here or there or uploading a photo to Instagram can really be pretty costly when you actually calculate it out," Webb said.

He purchased an international travel plan for $40 for his two-week vacation to Iceland, but opening just a handful of work emails had a dramatic effect on his final bill.

"Instead of being 40 dollars, I think it was closer to 250 because it's just the… smallest of increments, basically, is where it will jump up and it will charge you like 25 dollars per so much data, and it's just such a small amount," Webb said.

Before a trip, Benjamin Linder with AT&T recommends spending some time on the phone carrier's website to see what plans they offer for international travel.

"Prepare accordingly. Go to these web sites, take a look at the wireless travel tips, take a look at the different package options that we offer, and then really figure out what you're going to be utilizing when you are traveling abroad," Linder said.

The most obvious way to save is to simply turn off the phone, but if you can't do that, at least turn off data roaming by putting it in "airplane mode." Changing mail settings to "fetch" rather than "push" email to inbox and disabling automatic downloads and app updates are also options.

Angie recommends checking data usage history to estimate how much is needed in an international plan, and to avoid streaming content unless there is unlimited data. Using Wi-Fi at the hotel or resort to share photos and check email is also a good idea. Even if there's a daily rate, it will be cheaper than using the data in the plan.