Paycheck Chronicles

Overseas Cell Phone Usage

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Today, I appeared on BBC World Service's Your Money program talking about America's fiscal cliff.  It was fun, and it was interesting to listen to the other topics  that were discussed.  The other guest was Nick White, the Executive Vice President of the International Telecommunications Users Group, and he was talking about data roaming charges, and ridiculous roaming fees in general.

First, we heard several horror stories of customers racking up huge cell phone bills while outside their home country.  Then, there was some discussion of why the problem exists, what steps are being taken to eliminate the problem, and how consumers can protect themselves from such charges.

I took away a few tips to avoid high roaming charges:

Buy a local SIM card for use overseas.  For US travellers with locked cell phones, this may mean purchasing a cheap cell phone once you arrive.  Do some advance research and give yourself the time to make such a purchase.  For example, here in the UK, you can get an inexpensive cell phone for less than 10 pounds sterling, and the SIM card usually comes for free with the phon

Read up on the terms of your contract.  Do you know how much roaming costs?  How about data roaming?  Can you buy an international plan for the time you are overseas?

Make sure you have your phone settings programmed to only allow data or roaming when you authorize it.  Your Mediterranean vacation is not the right time for your phone to be updating it's Facebook application.

I am certainly not an expert on this subject.  I always just try not to use my phone at all when I'm outside my home country.  However, some of you are super-savvy cell phone users.  Could you please share your tricks with us?

Thanks from every one of us whose ever tried to navigate the unpredictable world of cell phone usage overseas.

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