Be careful when using data or making calls when you travel

I’m about to write about a few people’s experiences with data costs, but first a personal note. I just set up my computer about 6 days after moving into my new home in Tallahassee. That’s why i haven’t been blogging – too many boxes to unpack and I didn’t want to do it on my phone. I have to watch my data usage and all.

Some people are learning that lesson the hard way when they travel. You may have seen the story about Casey Snook in the news, the teen with the $6,000 phone bill. My first reaction is to blast the evil corporate types at the phone company but they actually sound defensible here: “Once they had reached the limit of their data bundle, the customer actively opted out of our roaming data cap so that they could continue to use data, effectively removing the inbuilt protection from large data roaming bills.” Woops. Too bad for the customer.

If you have a kid traveling abroad, you might make sure the tour operator is on top of the phone situation. One traveler recently said, “My 18-year-old daughter just got back from a trip to Greece, and the tour sponsors did a great job in making phone options available to the kids — for $80 for 10 days, she was set up with a phone that allowed X minutes of calls and X texts and stuff like that, back to the US. Also, we had a program called Viber on our phones that let us text back and forth if we were all on wifi, and there’s widely available free wifi in Greece. It worked out fine.

Another person had a kid go to Canada, where the phone was used for navigation: “I got a call from AT&T explaining that his bill was over $3,000. Thankfully, the customer service rep gave me the AT&T international rate after the fact, so I only ended up paying $200. It is something to be aware of if traveling internationally. I’m not sure if all carriers will be as understanding as mine was.” Kudos to AT&T.

Another friend of mine was also happy with AT&T: I went to Toronto for a weekend in April to watch the Yankees and on the way to the airport I called AT&T and asked them to get me on a plan that would allow me to call back to the states and I’d just pay the difference at the end of the month. They said OK and I made a ton of calls and let my friends borrow the phone as well. When I finally got the bill it was at $500, I called to asked them what gives and they admitted to making a mistake switching me over, reversed all of the charges and then gave me a $25 credit on top of it for the trouble.

And it’s not just phones you need to be careful with as we can see from this reader’s story: Went on a Caribbean cruise last year for 10 days. Brought my IPad and left it on because I use it as a E-reader. Got back into Miami and my phone was off. Tracked down a Verizon and they claimed I had used over 2K of data over the last 11 days. Seems that the IPad was roaming the whole time and they wanted to rip me off with it. Was able to get it down to $100 and they told me to just let them know next time prior to leaving the country with it.

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