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You come home from vacation. You’re relaxed. You’re refreshed. Then you check your cell phone bill and find that you owe $800.
International roaming rates are nothing to mess around with, so it’s important to know what you’re on the hook for before you travel abroad. We surveyed the mobile landscape to find carriers and plans that are friendly to out-of-country travelers.
International roaming plans: postpaid
Plan: International Day Pass.
Price (daily): $10 for first line, $5 for additional lines used in the same 24-hour period, on top of your regular phone plan cost. Requires an AT&T unlimited, AT&T 4 GB, or Mobile Share plan.
At a glance: Calls from and between the U.S. and included countries are free.
Things to know: Once you have signed up, it activates automatically when you travel.
Plan: International Connect PlusBoost Unlimited.
Price (monthly): $150 per month when added to any plan.
At a glance: Unlimited calling to landlines and mobile phones in Mexico and Canada, as well as to landlines in 70+ other countries; 200 minutes to mobile phones in 50+ countries and reduced minute rates to 200+. Unlimited texting to Mexico, Canada and 200+ destinations.
Things to know: Boost’s plan includes more high-speed mobile hot spot data (12GB per month) than similarly priced plans offered by competitors. But video streaming is limited to standard definition.
Plan: T-Mobile Magenta.
Price (monthly): $75, $5 autopay discount available.
At a glance: Unlimited talk, text and high-speed data in the U.S. Unlimited talk, text and 5GB of high-speed data per month in Canada and Mexico. Unlimited texting and data at 2G speeds in more than 200 other countries.
Things to know: Price includes taxes and fees, but add-ons such as insurance or device payments are still assessed. You can upgrade to Magenta Plus for $15 per month, per line to get extra features, including video streaming, 40GB of mobile hot spot data, faster data speeds and unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi via Gogo.
Plan: International Monthly Plan.
Price (monthly): $100 per line.
At a glance: The plan includes 5GB of data plus 250 minutes, 1,000 sent SMS and unlimited received SMS. It can be used in over 185 countries.
Things to know: If you don’t opt into the international plan, then you will be charged “pay as you go” rates when you travel overseas.
» Learn more: What to know about electronics insurance
Best international roaming: prepaid
Plan: Fi Flexible.
Price (monthly): $20, plus $10 per GB of data.
At a glance: Unlimited talk and text in the U.S. Unlimited texting while abroad. High-speed data is a flat $10 per gigabyte, even when roaming internationally, but speeds are slower after 15GB of use.
Things to know: Texts and data in more than 200 countries for the same price you pay at home. Calls are an additional cost. Flexible plan includes bill protection, where usage is free after you hit a certain monthly threshold — 6GB for one line, 10GB for two lines, 12GB for three lines, 14GB for four lines and 16GB for five lines. Project Fi is owned by Google and prioritizes Wi-Fi calling using secure Wi-Fi hotspots, switching over to the cellular networks only as a backup.
We surveyed major international roaming cell phone plans, checking the price of the international roaming option, data costs, and the price of international calls and texts.