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When I got an email inviting me to talk to some folks from T-Mobile about some data for international phone usage for their customers I wasn’t initially over-excited. However, I figured there was not much to lose from a phone call, so I chatted with them for half an hour yesterday about some data related to their Simple Choice plans with unlimited international texts and data that has been available for the last several months. My main takeaway from this call was that with their Simple Choice plans, people are using their phones internationally much like they do at home. Revolutionary? Actually, yes. Oh, and to get this out of the way, this is in no way a sponsored post. They have offered a SIM for me to try out on a trip at some point in the future if I want to check out coverage, but otherwise there is no compensation, back scratching, or secret handshakes involved.
Okay, picture this. You have saved up your miles and points for a big trip overseas. You land after you flight across the ocean, and instead of turning your phone on to see if you missed any important emails, texts from family, social media updates, etc, you just stare at the phone in fear and leave it off at all costs, even if you actually need it. Your fear is that you will accidentally do something “wrong” and your phone will start sucking data out of the air, potentially racking up a massive four figure bill for international roaming and data use. Despite my attempts to teach her about turning off data and only using WiFi, this is exactly how my mom treated her phone on their big trip to Europe. It just wasn’t worth the risk or stress to her. Though there is something to be said for having your phone (aka mini computer) off on trips!
Heck, even I have royally jacked up my international usage before by accidentally selecting “Rest of the World” instead of “Europe” on a trip to Norway earlier this year. I landed myself a bill of almost $1,000 that I had to negotiate with AT&T about via a pretty annoying process. Ultimately they eventually helped switch my rate plan retroactively, but made it quite clear they wouldn’t help out like that again for two years. Now I’m the one afraid of my phone! On my recent around-the-world trip with my AT&T plan, I had to buy both the Rest of the World and the Europe talking plans, and global texting, and an international data plan. I mean, I love racking up 5x on telecom expenses on my Ink Bold, but this is not the ideal way to do that.
The “easy” advice is to just disconnect on trips, or just use Skype, or buy local sim cards, etc…but I don’t think it is crazy to just want to be able to use your own phone when you travel. The good news is that T-Mobile agrees.
Here are some features of their Simple Choice Plans that appeal to me as an international traveler.
- Unlimited international data and texting from 120+ countries and destinations
- International texting from the U.S to virtually anywhere
- There is nothing to activate or deactivate – it is just included in the Simple Choice Plans
- Voice calls at a flat 20 cents a minute in the 120+ included countries
- No contracts
Some included countries in the 120+ are Canada, Aruba, Mexico, British Virgin Islands, Brazil, France, England, Italy, Australia, Singapore, China, Japan, Israel, UAE, and about 110 more. You can check to see if a country is included here. If it isn’t included, talking can be a whopping $5.99/minute, so don’t do that! Only country I have been to recently that was not included was the Maldives.
Their Simple Choice Plans that include this global travel friendly usage are competitively priced starting at $50 a month, and go up to $80 a month for unlimited talk, text & data while on their network and unlimited 4G LTE data. They also have family plans where the additional lines become much less expensive, down to as low as $10 a month for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th lines.
They will also offer to cover the costs of terminating your contract with another carrier if you trade in your device + get a new device through them.
Okay, That Sounds Great, Why Isn’t Everyone Using This?
I asked that exact question on the phone yesterday as I realized I should really look into switching from AT&T as I am paying WAY more with them per month for my family plan + international plans thanks to my travel patterns than I would be with T-Mobile. As with everything, of course there are “downsides”. First, their network doesn’t get the best ratings in the world, though they say it is much improved from a few years ago. Their quote was if you are near where people normally live, it should work fine. Second, they don’t give you a “free/reduced phone upgrade” every couple of years the way many carriers do when you renew your contract, but instead you pay the full price divided into monthly installments. I’m sure AT&T and others just hide the full phone price into the rate plans, but it is worth mentioning. Also, your international data use is going to likely be at slower speeds than you are used to here at home (Standard speeds approx. 128 Kbps).
Personally, I haven’t switched partly because it sounds like a process that takes time I don’t have, and party because I am scared. I know, I know here we go with being scared of the phone again. I am grandfathered into an unlimited data plan with AT&T, and I am worried if I don’t like T-Mobile I won’t be able to get that back. The reality is I am probably over-valuing the unlimited AT&T plan in my mind, but that is one of my hesitations. However, I am honestly sick of having to jump through so many hoops and keep such close tabs on usage internationally with AT&T. I’m also sick of the big bills that come with having international add-ons. This T-Mobile approach sounds so much, well, simpler.
Using Your Phone Internationally As You Do At Home:
The data that T-Mobile shared with me indicated that those with the Simple Choice Plan make three times more calls, text seven times more often, and use 28 times more data than before when traveling internationally. As folks are getting used to this “freedom” international data usage is nearly doubling every month.
Some quick math showed I would come out ahead by a good margin switching to T-Mobile given how frequently I have had some sort of international add-on in the last 12 months with my AT&T Family Plan. I still haven’t made the switch, but I’m sure thinking hard about it. I like Simple. A lot.
What do you do when traveling internationally? Have you used this Simple Choice plan?
Oh, and as an added bonus for us mileage junkies, T-Mobile is in many shopping portals and is currently giving 3,300 AA miles for new account activations.