By  Fri Jun 14, 2013

5 Cheap Options for Using Your Smartphone Abroad

cell phone

Flickr source

Are you traveling abroad this summer and absolutely can’t be without your smartphone?

Unfortunately, the cost of calling when you travel internationally hasn’t been very convenient, and minutes can easily turn into dollars. That is, up until now.

Overseas phone bills are no longer mind-bogglingly huge, due to the overseas calling packages that several major American mobile carriers have begun to offer.

There are different options for cutting an overseas phone bill, that hinge upon one’s current phone carrier, type of cell phone, countries you’ll be visiting, and willingness to change calling habits while away. Consider the following options before you pack your bags.

Buy a Data Package

Buying a data roaming package or a voice roaming package before you leave will enable you to keep your existing cell phone number while abroad. Buying a roaming package will save you money when making calls, and friends and relatives calling from the U.S. would most likely pay their usual rate. The cost of a data package isn’t cheap, but it is significantly cheaper than using your phone without any type of international package.

Here are prices from major mobile carriers. (*These prices are subject to change, so check their sites to make sure the price hasn’t gone up.)

Note: Verizon claims that 110 megabytes is roughly enough to allow you to send and receive 50 emails, read 5 websites and use your maps app for 15 minutes every day for a month. Other factors to take into consideration include how long it takes to open an email and the quality of your connection.

  • AT&T offers three levels of data: 120 megabytes for $30, 300 megabytes for $60, and 800 megabytes for $120.
  • Verizon’s data package is 100 megabytes for $25.
  • Both the carriers add an increment of the same amount when you use up the first, so make sure you know how much you’re using, as you won’t be cut off when the limit is up. For example, if you chose 100 megabytes for $25 and used 101 megabytes, you will automatically be charged another $25.
  • For voice roaming, AT&T charges $30 for 30 minutes of phone calls, and offers text packages starting at $10 for 50 texts.
  • Verizon’s voice charges vary significantly, starting at 99 cents per minute from Britain to the U.S., to $1.99 per minute from Israel, and $3.99 per minute from Russia. It costs 50 cents to send a text while abroad, and 5 cents to receive one.
  • T-Mobile doesn’t offer a data package, and charges a sky-high $15 per megabyte, 60 times AT&T’s lowest rate.
  • Sprint’s roaming data packages start at $40 for 40 megabytes of data, and voice calls cost $1.49 a minute from Britain, $2.99 a minute from Israel, and $4.99 per minute from Russia.

Skype

When Wi-Fi is available, you can make calls using Skype, Apple’s FaceTime app, and other similar apps. Unlimited calls to the U.S. costs $13.99/month and can be used to call in from the U.S., U.K., China, and over 60 other countries. Find more rates here. (Continue to page 2 to get prices for SIM cards)

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