Learn how to maintain your cell service when traveling abroad

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Kim recently received a call from Mary in Ventura, California. Mary had been on a trip abroad when she was forced to divert to Germany during a storm. Mary was using Consumer Cellular and couldn’t connect her phone to the airport’s free local Wi-Fi.

There was a long time between flights and Mary was stuck. She was given a hotel room to talk to her family and use the internet to pass the time. When she returned home, Mary Kim asked what she could have done in this situation. Here’s what Kim had to say.

Call your cell phone provider

If you’re ever stuck abroad, the first thing to do is call your cell phone provider. In Mary’s case, she had to authorize Consumer Cellular to activate her international plan. She could have made international calls, sent text messages and used data with it.

Some phone service providers have this enabled by default, others, such as B. Consumer Cellular, but you must register. Here’s how to activate international calling and data services with some leading service providers.

How to activate international services with T-Mobile

T-Mobile offers free international SMS and data in more than 210 countries worldwide. International calls cost 25 cents per minute. Data is free, but your connection will be throttled if you exceed the daily quota (unless you pay to upgrade).

This basic coverage comes standard with the Magenta and Magenta Plus service plans. If you’re on one of these plans, you don’t have to call them to activate them.

T-Mobile also allows subscribers to purchase an international data pass that upgrades them to high-speed data while traveling. This add-on is available as a 1-day, 10-day, or 30-day package.

  • Call T-Mobile Customer Service at 800-937-8997 if you are located within the United States
  • Phone call 1-505-998-3793 if you are already traveling abroad.

How to enable international services with Verizon

Verizon offers several international plans to choose from. You can choose from a $10-per-day Travel Pass, a prepaid plan, a pay-as-you-go plan, or a regular monthly billing arrangement.

  • Call Verizon Customer Service at 800-711-8300 if you are located within the United States
  • Phone call 1-908-559-4899 if you are already traveling abroad.

How to enable international services with AT&T

AT&T offers subscribers an international voice, text, and data pass that’s good in more than 210 countries. Participation costs $10 per day. Participation in this plan is not automatic, so you must activate it by calling customer service.

  • Call AT&T Customer Service at 800-331-0500 if you are located within the United States
  • Phone call 1-314-925-6925 if you are already traveling abroad.

How to activate international service with Consumer Cellular

Now we come to Mary’s cell phone provider: Consumer Cellular. Like Verizon and AT&T, the carrier requires you to turn on international roaming before you can access local services.

International roaming would have allowed Mary to connect to the airport’s Wi-Fi and call her family. Consumer Cellular’s international roaming rates range from 10 to 50 cents per minute for calls, text and data.

  • Call Consumer Cellular Customer Service at 888-345-5509 if you are located within the United States
  • Phone call 1-505-998-3793 if you are already traveling abroad.

Consumer cellular roaming costs can add up quickly. Mary could also have considered getting a local SIM card or buying an eSIM code online if she needed to spend more time on the phone or surfing the internet during her stay.

Buy a SIM card at the airport

SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. It’s a small chip that connects your phone to a local carrier’s network. Abroad, Mary’s regular SIM card was like a fish out of water. Buying a local SIM card would have allowed her to access nearby networks.

All you have to do is remove the SIM card in your phone and replace it with the new one. An international SIM card costs around US$30. So if you buy one, make sure you use it enough to justify the cost.

Mary would only be in Germany for a short time, so buying a SIM card would have been a waste for her. It would still have been cheaper than a hotel though.

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Buy an eSIM card online

Mary could also have bought an eSIM card online if she had known about it beforehand. When you buy an eSIM card, it works like a fast local cellular network card.

You set it up before you leave and it works as soon as you land. It also keeps your original SIM information and runs in the background. That means your regular phone number will continue to work as usual.

Here are some of the best eSIM options for traveling abroad:

  • Google fi – The Unlimited Plus plan costs $40 per line per month and includes international travel coverage. Calls are still $0.20 per minute, but SMS and data are free and unlimited. A flexible plan option includes free texting, 20 cents per minute calls, and $10 per GB of data.
  • HolaFly – Setup is as easy as scanning a QR code. Country-specific plans cost $20 to $47 per month and include calling, texting, and up to 500MB of data per day.
  • Tello – All Tello eSIM plans include free unlimited calling and texting to 60+ countries worldwide with up to 5GB of data for around $20 a month.

Make sure you plan no matter what cell phone plan you use for international travel. This saves you money and makes it easy to make calls when you step off the plane.

By the time Mary landed in Germany, it was too late for her to just set things up. She was in a difficult position and her phone couldn’t connect to the airport’s local Wi-Fi. There was no way to buy an eSIM card online or look up the international consumer cellular customer service number.

There are a few other things you should take care of before your trip. Try to inform your credit card company and take backup photos of your passport and other important documents, just in case.

Kim loves answering readers’ questions and sharing money-saving tech tips. If you have a question, you can ask Kim for advice at komando.com/contact-us/askkim.

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