Roaming Charges

What is roaming on a mobile phone?

When your phone is roaming, it means you’re able to use your mobile phone outside of your provider’s coverage area. Usually, this happens if you’re out of Canada. Roaming charges are legitimate fees that consumers are contractually obligated to pay. Roaming charges may apply when you travel and leave your ‘home’ network area and ‘roam’ onto the network or coverage area of another provider. If you are faced with unexpected charges, you should contact your service provider. They might be able to adjust the network fees or, at least, establish a payment arrangement.

Coverage area/home network: this is the geographical location where your phone has service (i.e., you can make calls) and you’re not being charged extra fees.

Roaming charges can add up quickly

Roaming charges can reach hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you’re not careful.

Roaming is generally not included in your plan, and roaming rates may be higher. Most providers offer roaming packages or add-ons that you can buy before you go. Ask your provider for details.

Roaming charges apply to voice calls, SMS (text messages), MMS (picture messages), and data that you receive or send when you’re roaming. You can accumulate roaming charges simply by leaving your phone turned on while travelling outside your home network – some apps automatically send and receive data even if it doesn’t look like your phone is doing anything.

Your provider is required to notify you when you are roaming and must limit data roaming charges to $100 per billing cycle, unless you explicitly agree to more charges.

How do you stop your phone from roaming?

  1. Shut off your phone. It might be the relaxing vacation you need. This is the easiest and simplest way to avoid roaming charges. But if you decide you might need your phone for emergencies, work or even just entertainment, read on…
  2. Turn off data roaming. Turning off roaming on your phone prevents it from connecting to data networks. You won’t be able to read your emails unless you connect to WiFi but you’ll still be able to talk and text.
    Android Phones iPhones Windows Phones Blackberry Phones
    1. Go to your Apps
    2. Tap Settings
    3. Tap Mobile networks
    4. Tap the Data roaming slider to set it to Off/white
    1. Tap the Settings app on your homescreen
    2. Tap Cellular
    3. Tap the Data Roaming slider to set it to Off/white.
    1. Go to the App List
    2. Tap Settings
    3. Tap Data roaming options and tap Don’t roam
    1. Go to your application list
    2. Tap Settings
    3. Tap Networks and Connections
    4. Tap Mobile Network
    5. Tap Data services while roaming
    6. Set it to Off

    These instructions may not be accurate depending on your device. Please search the Internet if these instructions don’t match your device.

  3. Turn off data and WiFi. If you don’t trust your phone to disconnect from data, set your phone to airplane or flight mode. This will prevent you from talking, texting and using data.
    Android Phones iPhones Windows Phones Blackberry Phones
    1. Go to your Apps
    2. Tap Settings
    3. Tap Flight mode
    4. Slide the slider to On/blue
    1. Tap the Settings app on your homescreen
    2. Tap the slider next to Airplane mode to set it to On/green
    1. Go to the App List
    2. Tap Settings
    3. Tap System
    4. Tap Airplane Mode
    5. Set the status to On by tapping the slider
    1. Go to your application list
    2. Tap Settings
    3. Tap Manage Connections
    4. Select All Off/Turn All Connections Off to turn airplane mode on

    These instructions may not be accurate depending on your device. Please search the Internet if these instructions don’t match your device.
    Don’t forget to turn your data and WiFi back on when you come back!

  4. Get a travel plan/add-on. Contact your service provider to see if they have travel plans or add-ons that you can buy. Check out these plans, and talk, text & data rates before you leave. Make sure your phone works in coverage areas that you’re planning to visit (e.g., ask a knowledgeable friend or use an online tool such as willmyphonework.net to figure this out).
    1. Ask your provider what roaming charges will apply, including talk, text & data.
    2. Ask your provider how you can monitor your usage.
  5. Buy a local SIM card and prepaid plan before you go or when you arrive at your destination. This option allows you to get a local number so make sure you share it with the people you want to contact while you’re abroad.

    This option can be confusing and requires you to do your research, but it can be the cheapest. You need to find the provider with the coverage you need and your phone needs to be:

    1. Unlocked: Most new phones sold today are locked by default. To check if it’s unlocked, switch your SIM card with a friend’s SIM card from a different provider – your phone is unlocked if you still have service once you’ve switched cards. If you are uncomfortable doing this, go to the nearest mobile store. They can switch your SIM card out for you and tell you if your phone is unlocked. If your phone is locked, your provider is required to unlock it; however, some providers charge a fee to unlock it.
    2. Compatible: Not all phones can connect to every network. Search the Internet (e.g., use willmyphonework.net) or ask a knowledgeable friend to figure out if your phone will work.

Ask your friends (or the Internet) for advice

If you know a frequent traveler, or someone who has been to the places you will be visiting, ask how they handled roaming charges, and what they recommend.  The Internet can also be a source of information offering advice on how to manage roaming charges or avoid them altogether.  However, it is always best to confirm the information with your service provider, specific to your plan, the area where you will be travelling and your calling and data needs.

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