Today, cellphone users surf the Web, receive emails and watch movies with just the click of a button, and from just about anywhere in the U.S.
However, when traveling abroad, many of us fail to recognize our data plan is constantly in use — even when we think our phone isn’t.
Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to either turn off their phone or make the necessary data arrangements with their cellphone provider to avoid thousands of dollars worth of data charges while traveling abroad this summer.
Last year alone, BBB received more than 27,000 complaints against the cellphone 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 or outside of the United States. One particular customer was charged more than $1,200 when his cellphone auto-received his emails daily during a one week stay in Jamaica.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, “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. When your phone is roaming, an indicator light on your phone may display the word “roam.” On occasion, your handset will 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 provider for specific details regarding you individual data and roaming plan.
“To prevent unexpected roaming charges, contact your cellphone provider to clarify where you are covered and the data plans that can be purchased when traveling abroad,” said Karen Nalven, president of the BBB serving West Florida, in a news release warning consumers about data charge problems.
BBB advises consumers to do the following with their cellphone and cellphone provider before a trip abroad this summer:
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 cellphones. Many rental plans offer services that work in several countries and may provide free incoming calls.
Contact your cellphone provider. Many cellphone users know not to make calls or send text messages while out of their coverage area or abroad, but many fail to realize their data is in use even when they don’t think it is.
For the occasional traveler who doesn’t talk on the phone that frequently, it may be worth looking into an international add-on plan. Your cellphone carrier can provide specific tips that cater to the roaming needs of your individual cellphone and data plan.
Invest in a prepaid SIM card. For the frequent, chatty travelers, or long-term travelers, investing in a prepaid SIM card may be the best way to cut costs. With access to a local phone number, you’ll be able to make phone calls at the country’s local rate. Always check with the 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.
The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit organization that sets and upholds standards for fair and honest business behavior. To contact the BBB serving West Florida, call (727) 535-5609.