If you can live with limited service during your trip, bring along your phone but be sure to turn off data usage and the “fetch new data” option. Those are two important ways to reduce your cell phone bill during an international trip. Also look for complimentary Wi-Fi “hot spots” in places like coffee shops and malls, and use voice and text messaging apps like Viber and LINE, which are free if both parties have accounts with the service. Skype is also an option (be sure your phone is subscribed to a free Wi-Fi hotspot first) as are Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and WeChat. You can also buy a pre-paid phone card, which usually costs less per minute than your mobile carrier’s international roaming rates.
If you'd prefer to use a different Android phone or an iPhone, T-Mobile remains a strong alternative, letting T-Mobile One subscribers use data in more than 210 countries, though at 2G speeds. You can talk and text for free in Canada and Mexico, though T-Mobile limits you to 5GB of LTE data in those countries. (Be aware that the carrier's new T-Mobile Essentials unlimited plan doesn't include these international perks.)

To determine the best plans, we looked at the monthly plan price before taxes and fees, the price per gigabyte, and features such as unlimited video streaming or rollover data. We only considered national carriers, which ruled out regional providers like U.S. Cellular. For average users and prepaid users, we looked at plans with 2GB to 5GB. For families, we looked at plans with at least 6GB and calculated pricing for a family of four. Recommendations for heavy data users only factored in plans with at least 10GB of data.
Anyone who travels wants to be able to take decent photos on the move and the 16MP rear camera on the OnePlus 3T is a solid performer. It’s not the best out there, but if you’re taking photos mainly in daylight, you’ll have no complaints. The colors are accurate, details sharp and because of the 6GB of RAM, it’s easy to take multiple shots with no delays after the button press.
Verizon has shuffled up its unlimited plans, and that has an impact on people who like to use their data plan while traveling. Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited subscribers both enjoy unlimited talk, text and data for no additional charge in Mexico and Canada. However, while calls and messages are truly unlimited, data will be throttled from LTE to 2G speeds after 512MB.
The phone can also be charged using a special ‘Dash’ charger. This promises a 63% charge in just 30 minutes, and unlike many other quick chargers, it doesn’t cause the phone to heat up to an alarming level. It does this by moving the majority of the heat management into the charger itself, as opposed to it being within the phone’s hardware. This makes it ideal to use in countries with high temperatures.
Some devices may automatically transmit and receive data without any user action or knowledge. This may result in significant unexpected cellular data charges. Applications such as push email, news and weather updates, location services and many downloadable apps (even free ones) may do this. This list is not at all exhaustive; therefore, to avoid unexpected bills, we recommend that you take great care to disable automatic applications on your device.
We focus on the Big Four because they dominate the market. But consumers looking for a good deal or great customer service should also check out smaller companies. Our ratings of 20 providers are based on the experiences of about 100,000 Consumer Reports members. The Big Four are all near the bottom of the chart, though T-Mobile rates somewhat higher than its competitors. (Ratings are available to members.)
IntimatesBras,Lingerie,Lounge & Sleepwear,Panties...4585 Maternity ClothingMaternity Activewear,Maternity Bottoms,M...503 Plus Size ClothingPlus Size Activewear,Plus Size Bottoms,P...1764 Women's AccessoriesWomen's Belts,Women's Eyewear,Women's Gl...9137 Women's ClothingDresses,Leggings,Skirts,Sweaters & Cardi...56221 Women's ShoesBoots & Booties,Pumps & Heels,Women's At...2920
If you need a lot of data more than you need the widest coverage, the T-Mobile One unlimited plan, augmented by the $15 One Plus add-on to enable full-speed tethering, is a well-priced plan (even after recent T-Mobile price hikes for One Plus) on a network that still provides pretty good coverage. T-Mobile’s network isn’t quite as good as Verizon’s—you’ll likely encounter more places where you can’t get a signal—but it’s still good, and third-party studies (for example, ones from PCMag and OpenSignal) report that a few years of upgrades have boosted T-Mobile above AT&T and Sprint. T-Mobile also bests Verizon in terms of international-roaming plans, and a wider variety of phones work on T-Mobile’s GSM network than Verizon’s CDMA network (though the best phones are available for both).
The biggest benefit to simply signing up for your carrier’s international data plan is the fact that it is the easiest option available and keeps you the most connected to loved ones back home. Because your phone isn’t turned off and you are able to use your existing phone number, friends and family can still reach you the same way they would if you were down the street in the US. It is less expensive than not having an international plan at all if you plan to use it for phone calls or Internet access while away.
Information in this site was last updated on 2014-07-14 "NA" stands for "Not Available" or "Not Applicable". This site contain links to third party Web sites. Neither Deals2Buy.com nor its domain pointers endorse or guarantee any offerings of third party providers or is liable for the failure of their products and services. Deals2Buy.com does not control or make any representation or warranty of any kind about the content, use of or inability to use the third party Web sites. Such third parties may have different privacy policies and/or security standards governing their sites. Please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use before participating in any offer in this site. RetailMeNot, Inc., the operator of Deals2Buy.com, has financial relationships with some of the cards mentioned on this site, and may be compensated if consumers choose to apply for and sign up for these cards using links on this site.
Verizon’s 5GB plan includes carryover data, which is good for 30 days. And you can nix overage charges by turning on Safety Mode, which drops you to 2G speeds when you hit your monthly high-speed limit. You can save $5 per month if you opt for paperless billing and automatic payments, but you can only use a checking account or debit card. This is a single-line plan, so you can’t add additional lines to make it a family plan.
2GB Plan: No discounts apply (except AutoPay discounts). Includes unlimited domestic Long Distance calling and texting. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Includes selected allotment of on-network data usage for phone and mobile hotspot use and 100MB off-network data usage. Add’l on-network high-speed data allowance may be purchased at $15/GB. Mobile Hotspot Usage pulls from your data and off-network allowances. High-speed data is access to 3G/4G. Add’l $25 line/mo. applies with subsidized phone until the customer enters into a new device transaction that does not have an annual term service agreement.

BoostUP!: Req. 18-mo. installment agreement, 0% APR, & qualifying device & service plan. Eligible customers can finance up to $600 and the down payment will cover amounts over $600. A down payment is required at time of upgrade. Sales taxes for full purchase price due at the time of the sale. If you cancel wireless service, remaining balance on device becomes due.
If you can't wait until your deal is up with your current carrier, the major carriers are all willing to pick up some of the cost to get you to switch. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer up to $650 for each phone you switch over to pay off your phone purchases and early termination fees; AT&T offers a $100 bill credit for switching over plus $200 for trading in an eligible smartphone. Note that this money will come in the form of prepaid gift cards and that every carrier requires you to trade in your existing phone.
The biggest benefit to simply signing up for your carrier’s international data plan is the fact that it is the easiest option available and keeps you the most connected to loved ones back home. Because your phone isn’t turned off and you are able to use your existing phone number, friends and family can still reach you the same way they would if you were down the street in the US. It is less expensive than not having an international plan at all if you plan to use it for phone calls or Internet access while away.
If Verizon doesn’t cover your most frequented locations—or if you simply want a slightly cheaper option to postpaid service but don’t want to sacrifice customer support—Consumer Cellular is a great alternative. This reseller of AT&T and T-Mobile consistently tops customer surveys such as Consumer Reports’s latest, PCMag’s annual survey and J.D. Power’s most recent “wireless purchase experience” study. The service is marketed to seniors, but the things that make it good for seniors make it good for most people as well. Most important, it offers US-based phone support that caters to the non-tech-savvy and maintains an in-store presence in major retailers such as Target. We also like that it allows you to specify an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM, whereas many other prepaid carriers, such as TracFone, will determine that for you unless you buy a SIM card in person.
Verizon has a reputation for taking a long time to push out software updates for its phones, but its performance with Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo update shows improvement. That said, you don’t have to buy your phone from Verizon as long as the model you get supports its network, so you can choose a phone that gets quick updates. Most unlocked phones, including iPhones, Google’s Pixel handsets, and some Samsung phones, are all compatible with Verizon nowadays. Though as you can see at Will My Phone Work, this group excludes GSM-only phones like the Nokia 6.1, our pick for the best budget Android phone, as well as some LTE models with limited frequency support, such as OnePlus’s Android phones.
You can also purchase an international SIM card that can be used in many different countries. This is a good bet for multi-country trips or for travelers who travel regularly to many different regions around the world. However, the option of replacing the SIM card is only available on unlocked phones. Ask your phone company if your phone’s SIM card can be unlocked.
I shopped on line for a phone for my daughter to use while she was in Europe. After reading several endorsements from different sources, I decided to give the 'too good to be true' Mobal phone a try. I am a cynical shopper, especially with phones, but must report that the connection quality was the best I have ever experienced - not a single dropped call, no cutting in and out, I spoke to my daughter in Italy like it was around the corner! I was very pleased.
You can also purchase an international SIM card that can be used in many different countries. This is a good bet for multi-country trips or for travelers who travel regularly to many different regions around the world. However, the option of replacing the SIM card is only available on unlocked phones. Ask your phone company if your phone’s SIM card can be unlocked.

AT&T’s prepaid service and Cricket Wireless offer comparable savings, as do T-Mobile’s in-house prepaid service and its Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary, but those networks aren’t as good as Verizon’s and their prepaid plans aren’t as good for world travelers. Sprint’s Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA in-house brands are even worse for limiting the ability to bring your own phone.

Finally, take advantage of WiFi wherever possible. Most hotels offer it as a complimentary service, and you'll find free wireless internet available in many tourist and business-friendly places. By switching off your phone's cellular connection and relying on WiFi, you can potentially save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars over the course of your trip.
Your phone company may also offer international phone plans that offer discounts on calls, international roaming fees, and data charges. For example, AT&T Passport can be purchased for 30 days for $30 and provides coverage in more than 190 countries. You get unlimited texting, calls for $1 per minute, and 120MB of cellular data for email, web browsing, and social media posts.
For each service, we computed the cost of a few typical bundles of smartphone service, setting minimal use at 1 gigabyte (GB) of data, moderate use at 3 GB, and heavy use at 5 GB. (Research firms’ estimates have shown steady increases in average use since the first version of this guide, but usage estimates per carrier have also diverged as some carriers have switched to selling only unlimited-data subscriptions: In the second quarter of 2018, Strategy Analytics found that Android users who had opted into its survey used on average 5.9 GB on T-Mobile, 5 GB on Sprint, 4.5 GB on Verizon, and 3.9 GB on AT&T. However, usage outside of the big four can be lower, to judge from the much lower monthly average reported by the wireless trade group CTIA for 2017: only 1.3 GB.

We've some of our favorite cell phone plans in these categories already. Ready to start comparing yourself? Head over to WhistleOut's comparison engine, choose your text/talk/data preferences, type in your home address, and press "Search." For a more detailed breakdown, check out this step-by-step guide to using WhistleOut to find your next cell phone plan. 

Selecting a network is the trickiest part of picking a plan. Coverage can vary from block to block or even building to building, so carrier coverage maps can be a good starting point only if you can zoom in to the street level—and even then they say nothing about how the network fares in areas with many devices using it. OpenSignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics all publish independently sourced network-performance metrics, but those studies take different approaches and are thus good for different purposes. (When using these metrics, and a carrier’s own coverage maps, don’t forget to check a network’s coverage in frequent business or vacation destinations.)
Verizon’s 5GB plan includes carryover data, which is good for 30 days. And you can nix overage charges by turning on Safety Mode, which drops you to 2G speeds when you hit your monthly high-speed limit. You can save $5 per month if you opt for paperless billing and automatic payments, but you can only use a checking account or debit card. This is a single-line plan, so you can’t add additional lines to make it a family plan.
With every carrier, unlimited data isn’t truly unlimited — but AT&T sets the limit unusually low, with every unlimited plan throttling speed after 22 GB of data usage. That’s half of T-Mobile’s data limit. If you spend a lot of time streaming or browsing social media in places without Wi-Fi, there’s a chance you could go over your limit. And if you want “unlimited” data but no DIRECTV Live, no dice: The pair are inseparable. There are some standard phone plans that have smaller data limits for a lower price, but the comparable value is poor. While you can set your cap at 1 GB for just $25, the 10 GB cap is $75 — more expensive than the standard $70 unlimited plan.
Verizon’s 5 GB pricing barely beats that of T-Mobile and Sprint’s unlimited plans, but those two carriers’ options (and even Verizon’s own $75 Go Unlimited plan) limit what you can do with that data in ways that Verizon’s plan does not—most notably, by limiting streaming video to DVD resolution and limiting either the speed or the volume of hotspot use. This 5 GB plan includes full-speed mobile hotspot use and allows HD streaming video, albeit capped at 720p resolution on phones and 1080p on tablets. (That streaming video limit remains undocumented as of August 2018 outside of a brief mention in the second-to-last paragraph of a press release.) So as long as you—like a large chunk of the wireless population—don’t use more than 5 GB in a month, Verizon’s continued network advantage still makes this plan a good deal.

Even better, an unlocked GSM phone allows you to switch out the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. -- the internal chip that stores your phone number and account settings -- for a local phone number. Outside of the United States, most GSM phones come unlocked, but inside the country, you need ask your carrier for a special code. So if you know you're going to be spending the next four months in Botswana, you can spend $20 for a local SIM card instead of paying hundreds of dollars in international roaming fees.
Sprint Unlimited 55+ Plan: Reqs. new account activation. Acct holder must be 55 or older. 2 line max. Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting & data with 3G Mobile Hotspot VPN & P2P data. Discounted phones subject to add'l $25/mo./line. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Plan not avail. for tablets/MBB devices. Select Int’l svcs are included see sprint.com/globalroaming.
×