Traveling Overseas? Get AT&T&'s International Plan

Avoid high international phone charges with these tips

Young couple taking self photo in Paris
Sylvain Sonnet/Photodisc/Getty Images

International travel can be lots of fun, but if you bring your phone on your trip and expect to use your regular monthly phone plan, you'll get a huge, unpleasant surprise when you get home: a bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

That's because your phone plan only covers use in the U.S. (for most people, at least). Overseas use counts as international roaming, which is very expensive. Streaming a song or two, using just 10 MB megabytes of data, could cost over $20 USD.

Add in email, texts, social media, sharing photos, and getting map directions, and you'll run up a big data charge. That is, unless you get an international plan before you leave.

AT&T Passport International Plan 

If you use your iPhone with AT&T, you should consider signing up for the AT&T Passport plan before leaving home. This add-on to your regular plan gives you the ability to make calls and use data at prices much cheaper than under your normal plan.

These are the current plans offered in AT&T Passport:

 Passport 1 GBPassport 3 GB
Cost$60$120
Data1 GB
$50 /GB overage
3 GB
$50 /GB overage
Calls 
(cost/minute)
$0.35$0.35
TextingUnlimitedUnlimited

These plans are available in over 200 countries. If you're going on a cruise, AT&T offers special cruise packages with specific calling and data packages meant just for cruise ships.

You can sign up for AT&T Passport on a one-off basis that lasts for 30 days or add it to your standard monthly charge.

Note: Other major phone companies offer international plans as well, like Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

AT&T International Day Pass

Your next best option if you're planning to use your AT&T device internationally, is the International Day Pass. This is an especially perfect plan if you're only going to be away for a day or two.

For just $10 USD every day, you get unlimited talk time when you call numbers in the US and any country supported in the Passport International Plan, as well as unlimited text around the world and the same amount of data you pay for with your regular plan.

You can enable the International Day Pass for any of your devices and it will automatically work when you're traveling within the supported countries.

For comparison to the Passport plan, consider that if you use this plan for just six days, it'd already cost the same as the Passport 1 GB plan, which works for a whole month. However, if you only need an international plan for a couple days on a short trip, it'd be just $20, cheaper than if you paid a whole month for the Passport plan.

Another Option: Swap Your SIM Card

International plans aren't your only option when traveling. You can also swap the SIM card out of your phone and replace it with one from a local phone company in the country you're visiting.

In that scenario, you can take advantage of local calling and data rates as if you weren't traveling at all.

The Costs Without AT&T Passport

Thinking you don't want to spend the extra money and that you'll take your chances with international data roaming?

Unless you plan to use no data, or next to none, we don't recommend it.

Below is what you'll pay without a plan like AT&T's Passport or International Day Pass. It's also the rate if your package expires or if you're traveling within countries that aren't in the "200 countries" list above.

TalkCanada/Mexico: $1 /minute
Europe: $2 /minute
Cruise Ships & Airlines: $2.50 /minute
Rest of World: $3 /minute
Text$0.50 /text
$1.30 /picture or video
DataWorld: $2.05 /MB
Cruise Ships: $8.19 /MB
Planes: $10.24 /MB

For some perspective, if you regularly use 2 GB of data plan while at home, and expect to use the same amount when away, but without an international plan, you could spend upwards of $4,000+ just for data ($2.05*2048 MB).

If You Forget to Sign Up Before You Travel

You may be convinced of the need to get an international plan, but what if you forgot to sign up before you travel? The first way you'll be reminded of this will likely come when your phone company texts you to let you know you've incurred a big data charge (maybe $50 or $100).

Immediately call them back and explain the situation. They should be able to add international data to your plan and backdate it so that you get the international plan features but only pay for the plan, not the new charges.

However, if you forget to call or they won't cooperate, and you come home to a phone bill of hundreds or thousands (or even tens of thousands) or dollars, you might be able to contest the huge data roaming charges.

International Travel Tips for iPhone Owners

There's a lot to know about traveling internationally with your iPhone. If you're planning to take your iPhone on your trip, see how to avoid big iPhone data roaming bills and what to do if your iPhone gets stolen.

Also, don't forget the correct international charging adapter when you travel.