Surfing the web and keeping in touch by telephone has never been easier or less expensive. When traveling abroad however, many consumers don’t realize that their data plan is constantly in use even when they think their phone isn’t. Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to either turn off the phone or make the necessary data arrangements with their cell phone provider to avoid thousands of dollars worth of data charges while traveling abroad.
Last year, BBB received more than 27,000 complaints against the cell phone industry, some of which were from customers who were unaware that their data was still in use as they traveled outside of their coverage area. One particular customer was charged more than $1,200 while his cell phone automatically received his emails daily during a one week stay in Jamaica.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “roaming” is the term that describes a wireless phone’s ability to make and receive calls outside the home calling area under your service plan. A green light or other display will usually indicate when your phone is in roaming mode.
On occasion, your handset may not display a roaming indicator, even though it is in a roaming area. Before traveling abroad or out of your coverage area, it’s important to be proactive and contact your wireless provider for specific details regarding their individual data and roaming plan and handset operations.
BBB advises consumers to take precautions to prevent unwanted charges for out-of-area wireless cell phone and data charges:
Turn off your phone - If you don’t need your phone and don’t plan on using it while traveling abroad, turn it off. Some travelers opt for renting or buying international cell phones when they arrive at their destination. Many rental plans offer services that work in several countries and may provide free incoming calls.
Contact your cell phone provider - Many cell phone users know not to make calls or send text messages while out of their coverage area or abroad, but many fail to realize that their data is in use even when they don’t think it is. For the occasional traveler who doesn’t talk on the phone frequently, it may be worth looking into an international add-on plan. Your cell phone carrier can provide specific tips that cater to the roaming needs of your individual cell phone and data plan.
Invest in a prepaid SIM card - For the frequent, chatty travelers, or long-term travelers, the best way to cut roaming charges is to invest in a prepaid SIM card. With access to a local phone number, you’ll be able to make phone calls at the country’s local rate. Always check with BBB before choosing an international service provider. Many companies offer SIM cards that can be purchased and can include free incoming calls originating from anywhere in the world. Your wireless provider should be able to explain how to use a third party SIM card.
For more travel tips you can trust, visit http://ct.bbb.org/
# # #
Founded in 1928, Connecticut BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org.