Let’s face it: data roaming charges are very annoying, and if we are not careful, roaming charges can easily increase your bill by hundreds and even thousands of dollars. There are even cases where people are charged more than $10,000 for a relatively honest mistake.
Even the most experienced travelers can sometimes get caught in these data roaming charges, and this is why here we will discuss how to effectively avoid these annoying big iPhone data roaming charges while traveling abroad.
Let us begin by briefly discussing the concept of data roaming charges.
What are iPhone Data Roaming Charges?
The general principle while using an iPhone data plan is that when you connect to the wireless data network in your home country (or native countries stated by the plan), the data you use is covered by the monthly fees.
For example, if your plan allows 100 GB/month data usage, even if you go over this 100GB data limit, you’ll need to pay a small excess data fee, typically around $10 to $20 depending on your usage. Excess data charges are different from data roaming charges.
When you take your phone overseas to countries not covered by your plan, however, using a small amount of data can be very expensive. This is because when you do this, your iPhone goes into data roaming mode, and data roaming charges can be very expensive starting from around $20 per megabyte.
Nowadays, even our common online activities can use a lot of data without us realizing it:
- Browsing one page can take around 1MB to 4MB of data (assuming there aren’t a lot of images and/or videos)
- Streaming music on Spotify can take around 40MB to 150MB an hour.
- Zoom or video conference, around 300-500MB per hour
- Downloading emails, around 10MB every 100 emails
- Downloading files will vary depending on the filesize
As you can see, if you are not careful when using your data abroad, your roaming charges can pile up real quick.
While different plans and carriers offer different data roaming charge fees, in general, we should avoid these roaming charges at all costs when traveling abroad.
How To Effectively Avoid Roaming Charges?
1. Get an International Data Plan
If you need to have access to data in your destination country and can’t rely on Wi-Fi alone, then you should get an international data plan to cover your needs.
There are two main options for this:
- Call your current provider
Your current network carrier may offer an international plan, and the price will vary depending on your destination. The best approach here is just to simply give them a call and ask about your options. Don’t forget to discuss the fees thoroughly upfront (including hidden fees like excess data charges) so you can compare the cost-efficiency compared to your next option.
- Get a new international plan
Services like Truphone, for example, offer eSIM plans for iPhone where you can enjoy instant data connection in 113 countries–without roaming charges at all.
In general, choosing between the two options is mainly about cost-efficiency and overall convenience.
2. Turn Data Roaming Off and other Settings
If you don’t have an international data plan, the best way to avoid data roaming charges is to turn data roaming off.
In most phones nowadays, data roaming is automatically turned off, but it’s best to double-check just to be sure. When data roaming is turned on and you are abroad, your iPhone will try to connect automatically to the nearest signal, which can lead to data roaming charges.
Doing this is very simple, simply go to Settings-> General-> Cellular-> Data Roaming -> turn off
3. Prevent Apps In Using Data in The Background
iOS actually offers the ability to individually limit which individual app can access cellular data in the background, and we can even prevent them from using any data at all.
For this, simply go to Settings-> General-> Cellular->Cellular Data-> turn off apps you don’t use frequently.
For apps like Netflix or Spotify that can use a lot of data, it’s best to just disable them from using any data at all unless there’s Wi-Fi.
To accompany this, make sure to download everything you need while you are still in your home country:
- Download maps on Google Maps so you can use it offline when required
- Save your itinerary and booking details somewhere safe and make sure they are accessible offline
- Save or screenshot images you need including street names, restaurant names, etc.
In short, prepare ahead so you don’t really need to use data in your destination country.
4. Prevent Automatic Downloads and Backups
Automatic updates and backups can use a lot of data very quickly. So, if you are not planning to invest in an international data plan, make sure to turn them off by going to Settings->iTunes & App Store, go to the Automatic Downloads section, and turn off Updates. If you want, turn off everything on this list.
At the very least, set automatic updates only to run when there’s Wi-Fi. Carefully check the settings inside each app on your iPhone. Make sure files are only backed up when there’s Wi-Fi as well.
A good practice is to update and backup everything a day before you leave your home country to minimize the need for downloading updates and backing up your data when you reach your destination.
5. Carefully Monitor Data Roaming Usage
Before you leave your home country, it’s best to reset your cellular data tracking so you can easily see how much you have used abroad. You can do this by: Settings -> Cellular-> Reset Statistics at the bottom of the screen.
iPhone data roaming charges can be very annoying to handle, and if you are not careful they can be extremely expensive. So, make sure to use the tips we have shared above to make sure you can avoid these pesky iPhone data roaming charges.
If you are planning to travel a lot, the most cost-efficient approach is to get a reliable international data plan that offers coverage in a lot of countries, like Truphone’s data plan for the iPhone.
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