Sarah Schlichter is IndependentTraveler’s Senior Editor. She hails from Maryland and now resides in Pennsylvania, where she sings in a local community choir and enjoys experimenting with different international recipes (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires — no humans or animals were harmed). The smell of Sarah’s delicious Moroccan couscous ignites a wave of envy in the office when she brings in leftovers for lunch. Sarah, IndependentTraveler’s resident travel expert, has visited more than 25 U.S. states plus dozens of countries including Belize, Guatemala, Morocco, Canada, Dominica, the U.K., Norway, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand … just to name a few.
To make the decision easier, we’ve gone through each carriers’ plans to figure out which one is the best for your particular needs. Even after introducing a lower-cost, stripped-down plan, T-Mobile's T-Mobile One unlimited data offering is the best family plan; it offers better value than AT&T and Verizon (though bargain hunters may be tempted by Sprint's discounted family plan and AT&T includes a new streaming TV service with its unlimited plans). T-Mobile's $70 plan is also the best unlimited data plan for individuals, though you can now get a bare-bones unlimited data plan from the carrier for $10 less.
Verizon also offers pay-as-you-go pricing for international travel. You’ll pay 99 cents per minute in Canada and Mexico and $2.99 per minute in other countries for voice service. (Talk rates fall to $1.79 per minute in 140 countries with monthly pricing.) Each text message you send will cost you 50 cents, and each received text will set you back 5 cents. Your data will be charged at a rate of $2.05 per megabyte.

Sprint Global Roaming is an option you can add to your Sprint plan at any time, and you can keep it on your account, free of charge, for as long as you’d like. Once you’ve enabled the feature, you can travel to most countries around the world, including all of North America and South America, China and Europe, and get free text and free data on 2G speeds. If you want to talk, you’ll pay 20 cents a minute.
Since any information I accrue during my travels is backed up the second I hook up my phone to my computer using iTunes, saving me both time and effort. Although international plans are now readily available through most carriers, there are SIM cards available abroad that I can pop into my phone for the duration of my trip, and even if those sim cards aren’t available immediately, there’re hotspots around that will allow me to have immediate use of Wi-Fi.
If you’re in search of a budget option but don’t want to give up the reliability of Big Four service, Sprint has a range of plans that hit their target. It has the cheapest unlimited data plan, starting at $60 per month. Sprint also tends to run numerous half-off promotions that can provide an extra nudge. Its current promotion offers the fourth and fifth line free if you switch from another provider.

Use a tablet with cell capabilities — If you already own a 3G/4G tablet, there’s a chance it was unlocked when you bought it. If so, you can use this when you travel instead of a phone — just buy a data-only SIM locally, and use Skype and WhatsApp for your phone and SMS requirements. You can also use the tablet as a hotspot, to share the connection among your other devices.
This was my first BLU phone and I was very happy with it! All the utility of a $600 samsung or apple product at a fraction of the price. Easy to set up and worked very well with my net10 account. Took decent pictures, apps worked just fine for everything from geocaching to angry birds. Calls were clear, with no more drops than usual for our rural area. I"d still be using it if I hadn't dropped it on cement and made the display go all wonky. The phone still worked just fine, but the screen was too blurry to live with. So I ordered an identical Life XL. Unfortunately that one came loaded with spyware. I filed a complaint with the seller, tojostore, but they refused to respond until I left bad feedback. Then they quickly refunded my money without ... full review
But like the Unlimited Choice plan that preceded it, the Unlimited &More plan comes with a few big catches. Video streaming is limited to standard-definition quality, with the speed capped at 1.5 megabits per second. The plan doesn’t provide mobile hot spot capabilities, so no tethering your computer to your phone. (Verizon has similar restrictions.) And people who subscribe to the cheaper unlimited plan no longer get free HBO.
Looking for a new cell phone, smartwatch, bluetooth headset, or any kind of accessory? Our deals page has just what you need. Here you’ll find the hottest deals on smartphones, smartwatches, bluetooth headsets, phone cases, and much more. Browse by different phone brand: iPhone, Samsung, LG, HTC, BLU, BlackBerry, Motorola, Nokia, ASUS, ZTE and more, or browse by OS: iOS, Android, or Windows phone. Check out deals on all kinds of wireless accessories including earbuds, selfie sticks, replacement parts, cables, car chargers, mounts, stands, and much more. And of course, you’ll find protection for cell phones in all kinds of forms: wallet cases, waterproof cases, battery cases, sleeves, holsters, flip cases, and screen protectors. Shop deals by category—Cell Phones, Cases, Accessories, Smartwatches; Bluetooth—or just browse around.
A similar option to purchasing a phone abroad is to purchase a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card to use in your own cell phone while you’re traveling internationally. A SIM card is the part of a cell phone that holds the identity information and other personal data; if you switch your own SIM card for one that you purchase in another country, you can have all the benefits of a local phone (such as low in-country calling rates and a local phone number) without having to buy a whole new phone.
Cellular Abroad, Inc., based in Los Angeles, CA, provides affordable and reliable international cellular and mobile data services to travelers. All of our solutions are pay as you go - no contracts to sign and you stay in complete control of your costs. International roaming plans from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile are expensive, difficult to understand, often offer poor service and limited options. In addition, most smaller carriers don't even offer international roaming plans.
As for talk and text amounts, all of the postpaid plans from the major carriers provide unlimited calling and messaging, so in theory you don’t even have to compute those numbers. But many prepaid and resold services allow you to save money if you’re willing to stay within certain limits. The best way to figure out how many texts or calls you send or make is to consult your billing statement.
T-Mobile has carved a niche for itself in the U.S. with their all-in pricing (i.e. taxes and fees baked into plan costs). The carrier's straightforward lineup of unlimited offerings have proven eminently popular and shepherded in the "unlimited revolution," as other carriers have sought to imitate T-Mobile's success. The carrier's ONE plans are still some of our favorite unlimited plans on the market, packed with tons of features and reasonably priced. 
Sprint is offering free iPhone Xs with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease. The promotion is available for the iPhone Xs 64GB variant. You get $0/month after $41.67/month credit applied within 2 bills. It requires an 18-month lease with new line or eligible upgrade and approved credit. If wireless service is canceled, the remaining balance on the device becomes due. 

Sprint Global Roaming is an option you can add to your Sprint plan at any time, and you can keep it on your account, free of charge, for as long as you’d like. Once you’ve enabled the feature, you can travel to most countries around the world, including all of North America and South America, China and Europe, and get free text and free data on 2G speeds. If you want to talk, you’ll pay 20 cents a minute.


Lots of people like to get prepaid plans because they are a way to get phone service without having to sign a contract. This means that you can end your service with a carrier at any time without consequence. If you have a yearly contract with a carrier and you want to cancel service before the end of the contract, you usually have to pay a fee for each of the remaining months in your contract. No contract cell phone plans typically require you to pay the full price of the phone. However, many companies will now let you pay off the phone over 24 months.

OpenSignal’s network tests rely on crowdsourcing: Anyone can download the OpenSignal app and run tests. But that also means anyone can opt not to do so—and the majority of people don’t. As such, OpenSignal’s data skews heavily toward densely populated, urban areas. The upside is that in those regions, it has block-by-block information. If you live in a city, you can use OpenSignal’s data to check all the spots you frequent.
Once we had an understanding of performance, we dug into the phone plans carriers offered and the prices they charged. Unless you’re purchasing a prepaid plan, the days of phone minutes and a nickel for every text are past — prices are based on data now. The best value is typically an unlimited data plan, but we looked into plans with tiered data, too. You’ll want to think about how often you use internet data (when not on Wi-Fi) to find a plan that fits your needs.
Project Fi, Google’s wireless service, resells the networks of Sprint, T-Mobile, and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular. It’s not bad for frequent international travelers—we liked its rates and LTE roaming better than T-Mobile’s—but it supports only Google’s Pixel series of phones as well as some LG and Motorola models. If your passport has dozens of stamps and your current or desired phone is on its list, though, Fi is worth a look.

T-Mobile’s coverage has improved considerably over the past three years, and over the past two years, Sprint’s has progressed as well; we expect further improvements as the carriers upgrade their networks. Those two carriers should also be deploying more lower-frequency spectrum, either purchased or “refarmed” from older services, which ought to improve their problematic indoor reach.

Ashley Turner is director of Gadget Valuer – one of America’s biggest gadget trade-in comparison sites. Launching in 2009, the founding team wanted to create a completely independent recycling comparison website after running an actual phone recycling site. Such experience in the recycling market means Turner is constantly in touch with the latest trade-in trends and consumer habits.
The other option is an unlimited-data plan, but these aren’t truly unlimited: All four carriers have carved out restrictions on things like hotspot use and streaming video, while adding premium tiers or for-fee add-ons that lift some of those limits. As a result, shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.
Post-pay plans will usually offer more features and options at lower rates, but prepay can be a lot less expensive depending on usage patterns, specific communication needs (voice, text, and data), the cellular carrier, and geographic coverage. Some customers only want voice calling, or just need a phone for emergency calls. In such cases, prepay is often the better alternative.
Verizon is the nation’s largest carrier for good reason: It offers the best coverage in the most places in the US according to third-party tests and surveys (including those of PCMag and RootMetrics), so you’re more likely to have a signal no matter where you are, and its pricing is competitive with that of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for the amount of data that most people actually use. It isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, but it is the first carrier everyone else should look at.
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If you're not on an unlimited plan, Verizon offers a daily travel pricing option called TravelPass. It’ll cost you $5 per day per device for each day you’re out of the country if you travel to Mexico or Canada. In more than 100 other countries — including China, France and Germany — Verizon charges $10 per device per day. Talk, text and data on TravelPass are subject to the same allowances you have on your Verizon plan stateside; in other words, the data you use in Europe draws from the tiered data plan you have at home. Note that data speeds are only 4G for the first 512MB each day when you have a TravelPass; after that, you're throttled to 2G speeds.
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Fall is the season for new flagship phones, and we’ve already seen Samsung and Apple roll out their latest. Now it’s Google’s turn, and the new Pixel 3 is a more affordable — yet no less impressive — alternative to competing flagships that ring in at $1,000 or more. Retail pricing for the Google Pixel 3 starts at $799, which is already considerably cheaper than the $1,000-1,100 starting price of the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone XS, but Verizon customers (or those looking to switch to Verizon) can maximize their savings by taking advantage of one of these pre-order offers:
You’ll want to start your shopping by checking for the strongest networks in your area. RootMetrics lets you check network coverage in your neighborhood and you can search the site’s map by area code, city, or neighborhood, and zoom in as much as you want — the site analyzes coverage almost to the backyard level. You can apply filters from the drop-down menu to look at specific providers or at specific types of coverage, like voice versus data. We’d recommend comparing two providers with the strongest coverage in areas you frequent, like home, work, or school.
Galaxy Forever: Does not guarantee monthly payment amount, phone selection, or service plan rates. Upgrade after 12 payment as long as lease and early upgrades offered. Req. active line thru time of upgrade with min. 12 consecutive monthly service plan payments, new phone Lease Agreement, acct. in good standing, & give back of current eligible device in good & functional condition. After upgrade, remaining unbilled lease payments are waived. Upgrade does not include same generation model Galaxy, must be next generation Galaxy.
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