Have you ever traveled outside of your home country and noticed some extra charges on your monthly cell phone bill? It’s likely from data roaming charges if you used your cellular data outside of your carrier’s coverage area.
While data roaming allows you to call, text and use your data as usual, it can result in some hefty fees to your mobile plan. We’ll review everything you need to know about data roaming and if you should really be using it while traveling.
What is data roaming?
Data roaming is when your phone disconnects from your carrier’s network when you are outside of its coverage area and switches to another one, allowing you to make calls, send texts and use wireless data outside of your cellular network. This is most common when you leave your home country – your phone will ‘roam’ and find a cellular network near you.
While being able to call, text and use your data while you travel sounds great, data roaming results in a lot of unexpected fees for many users. It is often turned on as a default setting in your phone, resulting in it automatically connecting to a new network once you leave your current one.
How much are you charged for data roaming?
Data roaming charges depend on your carrier, so costs will vary. Domestic or regional roaming is usually nothing to worry about, but international roaming will result in fees. Most providers will charge from $2 – $5 per MB of data and around $0.25/min. for calls.
Domestic data roaming will likely not cost you anything if you stay within the country since many carriers have established nationwide coverage areas and partner with other carriers to ensure you have data when you leave your carrier’s coverage area without charging you additional fees. Once you leave the country, however, you’ll accrue data roaming charges.
International data roaming occurs when your phone connects to a foreign network, like when you fly overseas. Many carriers have international data roaming options allowing you to use your phone outside your home country, but it will cost you. Here’s what some top ISPs offer:
T-Mobile has the best travel perks of top ISPs since it includes international roaming with its unlimited phone plans: Go5G, Go5G Next, Go5G Plus, Magenta and Magenta MAX. T-Mobile also offers data passes for its customers:
- International Day pass: $5/day for unlimited calling in 210+ countries and 512MB of data.
- 10-day international pass: $35 for 5 GB of data and unlimited calling in 210+ countries.
- 30-day international pass: $50 for 15 Gb of data and unlimited calling in 210+ countries.
How to avoid getting charged for data roaming
To avoid getting charged to data roaming, take advantage of the travel or data passes offered by your ISP. Another way to save on data roaming charges is to turn it off in your phone settings. This is often turned on as a default setting, so you could be charged hefty fees even if you don’t plan on using your data abroad.
Once you turn this feature off on your phone, your phone will not connect to new networks once you leave your coverage area – but remember, you’ll be without cellular data.
Should you use data roaming?
While data roaming can increase your monthly bill, there are certain situations when it can be useful.
If you are traveling outside of your home country and need emergency access to the internet for maps, translation apps, booking last minute lodging or tickets or for other important information, data roaming can be helpful and necessary. You may also want to use your cellular data for quick social media posts or checking your email – but be wary of data-heavy activities that use up your data and rack up your fees without you even realizing it.
If you plan on doing a lot of data-heavy internet activities while traveling, it’s best to turn off data roaming all together. You will use up your data allowance quicker than you may think, resulting in expensive overage fees. If you’re traveling for a long period of time, it’s also wise not to enable data roaming.
In these cases, find out what your carrier offers regarding data while you travel abroad. As we mentioned above, some carriers offer international coverage with certain plans or travel passes which will provide you with the data you need while you travel – just keep in mind potential data caps, even with these special plans.
How to turn off data roaming
Don’t want to risk extra data roaming fees? Turning off data roaming in your phone settings is simple and can help you avoid data roaming fees when you travel. Here’s how to do it with an iPhone and Android:
- Go to settings
- Click ‘Cellular’
- Click ‘Cellular Data Options’
- Toggle Data Roaming to OFF
- Go to settings
- Click ‘Connections’
- Click ‘Mobile Networks’
- Toggle the Data Roaming Access to OFF
The bottom line
While data roaming can be useful in a pinch when you’re traveling, it can add some hefty fees to your bill. If you think you’ll need access to your data while traveling, we recommend looking into what your carrier offers in terms of international coverage and think about purchasing a travel pass. To avoid these fees, turn off data roaming in your phone settings.
Written by:Camryn Smith
Cammy is a writer with Allconnect, growing her broadband industry knowledge for over a year on the internet marketplace. Her expertise lies in home internet and broadband service with a focus on providers, plans… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
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