Save On Cellphone Bills When Traveling To Mexico And Canada

Rather than futz with local SIM cards or Skype, a NYT reporter found that when going south of the border, you can just temporarily switch your coverage plan to a “Nationwide plus Mexico” plan. It’s only about $30 more, so, compared to the $.99 per minute you would otherwise pay, it’s worth it if you make more than a half-hour of phonecalls to the states.

Verizon has a similar plan for Canada, as does AT&T for both countries. Olé, eh?

Tips for Using Your Cellphone Abroad [NYT]


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  1. legwork says:

    Until said company forgets you called to change plans but somehow remembers to re-up your contract for another two years.

    Even if you manage to have it fixed, the hours spent fighting CSR scripts will be gone forever. Better to buy a throw-away phone.

  2. Mercurialish says:

    No, bah. Don’t do that. That causes all kinds of prorated charges on your monthly service charge and minutes, so you’ll think you’re getting 900 minutes for that week in Mexico, but you’re really only getting 210. Not good. Don’t do it.

    • JeremieNX says:

      Prorated charges are only an issue for those that A) have no idea how to do basic math B) are unable/unwilling to even attempt to read the bill and C) who feel like changing their plan each and every month.

      I used to travel thru Mexico and Latin America and I would call in, ask for the $4 “international discount plan” (reduces per-minute cost by 70-90% depending on country) before leaving and then have it removed upon returned. I would see the $4 on my statement alone with a credit for the portion of the statement cycle I ended up not using. It really is not rocket science and I am baffled as to why people think it’s so confusing.

      • JeremieNX says:

        Arg! early morning typing. /upon returning, /along

      • Mercurialish says:

        Having worked for AT&T and VZW customer service, I totally understand prorated charges, and they’re not that hard to comprehend. However! Having worked for customer service, I can truly attest that it’s ridiculous how many people don’t understand them and will have a fit over them. Also, too many customer service agents don’t understand prorations themselves and so don’t explain them at all.

        The plan Consumerist is talking about replaces your minute plan ($39.99 for 450 nationwide plan) with a minute plan w/ discounted international minutes ($59.99 for 450 nationwide + Mexico/Canada) which causes prorations on both your original plan, the new international plan, and the original plan when you change back to it. It’s really not worth it if you’re only traveling for a few days, and that’s what we were taught to say by AT&T / VZW.

        A discount feature, however — go for it!

      • Rachacha says:

        “Prorated charges are only an issue for those that A) have no idea how to do basic math…”

        You mean like Verizon not knowing the difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents?,e220049

  3. nbs2 says:

    Make sure to verify that what you are doing will work. Calling and recording the call (with permission if needed) is going to be the safest option. My family plan (550 minutes), according to ATT’s rate charts, isn’t even eligible for the Canada component.

    Also, check out data costs. The Canada voice plan comes with a standard $2/MB while in Canada. This will be on top of your data charges in the US. The trouble is going to be that unless you only turn on your antenna right when you make the call (and then only the Edge antenna), you are going to run the risk of sucking down data when you aren’t looking. If you rely on a WiFi based provider, you won’t be able to make calls, but you won’t run the risk of burning through data as well.

  4. balthisar says:

    As a heavy data user, it’s simpler in Mexico just to unlock my phone and make Carlos Slim ever so much slightly richer. Note that these days in Mexico, you need to present your passport to get a Mexican SIM. And the unlimited data plan is only 3GB (actually, it’s still unlimited, but they cut your speed down a lot once you reach 3GB). There are other celular companies of course, but I really do prefer Telcel, and they have kiosk stores all over the place.

  5. jim says:

    don’t the companies also reset the contract term when they do that? Also getting prorated can be a big deal. if you spend 200 hundred minutes of a 600 minute plan on the first day, then switch the second day you will have a (600 min/30 days = 20min/day) @ 1 day = 180 minute overage. Don’t tell me I am wrong either, as I have experienced this firsthand.

    • Mercurialish says:

      Verizon Wireless and AT&T don’t reset your contract term to change your price plan. They do reset your contract term if you upgrade, though.

  6. Taliskan says:

    I have done this a few times with Verizon when going to Canada. I have never had an issue with voice/txt/data and we do it pro-rated. So I tell them when to start it and when to cancel it. I’m always afraid because it seems TOO easy.