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Best International Cell Phone Plans 2019

Oct. 2, 2019
Cell Phones, Utilities
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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’ve surveyed the mobile landscape and picked out the carriers and plans that are most friendly to frequent out-of-country travelers.

Best international roaming plans: postpaid

 

  • T-Mobile Magenta
  • Price: $75; $70 with autopay discount
  • At a glance: Unlimited talk, text and 5GB of high-speed data in Canada and Mexico. Unlimited texting and 2G data in more than 210 other countries.
  • Why we like it: Easy text and data access while overseas, no add-ons necessary, with the option to upgrade to Magenta Plus for faster data speeds and free in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • Sprint Unlimited Basic with Global Roaming
  • Price: Unlimited Basic is $65; $60 with autopay discount. Global Roaming is a free to add to any Sprint plan.
  • At a glance: Unlimited talk, text and 5GB of high-speed data in Canada and Mexico. Unlimited texting and 2G data in more than 200 countries. International calling starts at 25 cents per minute.
  • Why we like it: Talk, text and high-speed data in North America. Add Global Roaming for free to extend text and data access beyond Canada and Mexico.

 

Things to Know

The price of T-Mobile’s Magenta plan 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 HD video streaming, 20GB of mobile hot spot data, faster international data speeds and unlimited free in-flight Wi-Fi via Gogo. T-Mobile is hoping to merge with Sprint, but the agreement still has several hurdles to clear. Until then, it’s business as usual for T-Mobile customers.
Unlimited Basic includes talk, text and high-speed data in Canada and Mexico. You can add Sprint’s Global Roaming service to any Sprint plan at no additional charge. With Global Roaming, you get free texting and 2G data. Calls made abroad start at 20-cents-per-minute. You can purchase high-speed data passes to get LTE data download speeds abroad.

Sprint is hoping to merge with T-Mobile, but the agreement still has several hurdles to clear. Until then, it’s business as usual for Sprint customers.

 

Best international roaming: prepaid

 

  • Project Fi
  • Price: $20 per month, plus $10 per GB
  • 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.
  • Why we like it: Use your service (texts and data) in more than 200 countries for the same price you pay at home. Calls from overseas are an additional cost.

 

Things to Know

You only pay for the data you use with Project Fi, and your usage is free after you hit a certain threshold — 6GB for one line, 10GB for two lines, 12GB for three lines. Project Fi is owned by Google and runs primarily on Wi-Fi, using cellular networks from Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular as backups.

 

Alternative options

Buying a cheap, unlocked prepaid phone to use when traveling abroad is often much more cost-effective than using your normal plan abroad. Then you can buy a prepaid SIM in your destination country and simply pop it into your phone for access to the local network. You can call your carrier and ask whether your phone is compatible with international SIM cards.

You could be saving up to $50 per month on your bills. See how much you could save.

NerdWallet can help you lower your bills and find you more ways to save money.


METHODOLOGY

We evaluated all the major international roaming cell phone plans on the market, including those offered by AT&T, Google’s Project Fi, MetroPCS, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.To determine the best plans, we looked at the price of the international roaming option before taxes and fees, the price per gigabyte of data, and the price of international calls and texts.

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