When traveling out of the country, it is imperative to have a plan. How much are you going to use your phone on your trip? If the answer is not at all, you can proceed without further worries, but if you want to use your phone abroad, you have to pick out a plan or even switch to a new carrier, depending on how frequently you travel.
Our guide to the best AT&T international phone plan for cell phones will, hopefully, answer all your questions regarding your perfect plan. There is no one-size-fits-all for this one.
Before we jump into the best AT&T international phone plans, let’s talk about the challenges and opportunities of international data use for your next vacation.
Best International Phone Plans
There are a variety of international phone plans on the market, and, unfortunately, AT&T’s options don’t quite hold up to the competition. We do not recommend switching to AT&T specifically for their international plans, but if you are an AT&T member or plan on switching for another reason, this article will dive into the best AT&T international phone plans before touching on some of the competition.
AT&T does not offer free international roaming outside of North America, which is a tough start to their international suite. Any data you spend out of the country will cost you, but they have a few options for international use. Just make sure you don’t use too much when you are out of the country! We hope this article will help you figure out whether or not AT&T is the right provider for you. If you are someone who travels, that is a big part of what makes the right provider. Without further ado, let’s break down the best AT&T international phone plans.
AT&T International Phone Plans
Every AT&T unlimited plan has unlimited talk, text, and data in North America, and AT&T’s unlimited premium plans have that same talk, text, and data in 19 other Latin American countries. In this case, the unlimited data they offer is high-speed data, ensuring that you can use the fastest speeds on the network, wherever you are. There are locations where the network speed is capped at, say, 3G speeds, and that will slow you down, but no plan would give you faster speeds in that location.
- Talk: $1 - $3 per minute
- Text: $.50 a text
- Data: $2 per MB
AT&T’s pay-as-you-go rates are rather expensive. Have you ever heard about a horror story where someone went on vacation without planning their phone usage and came home to a monumental bill on their doorstep? Rates like these are often the culprit. We use our phones so much naturally during the day that it is easy to fall back into habits and boot up social media, check the news, or send out some texts whenever the mood strikes. Sending a few texts and doing your daily Wordle while roaming could cost you $20, and that’s almost without breaking a sweat.
With the $10 day pass (more on that later), you can’t do too much with these rates without breaking the $10 barrier of the day pass, which gives you much more for your money. There is a small window where these rates would save you money versus their day pass. As a traveler, if you decide to keep your phone active when you are out and about, we would not recommend these rates as your primary form of purchasing your roaming data
If you have these rates active, we strongly recommend keeping your phone in airplane mode. Phones these days have a tremendous amount of background activities andeven if your phone is just in your pocket you’ll still burn through some data. Not a lot of data, but when you are paying $2 per MB those same activities start to rack up a serious cost.
AT&T International Day Pass
- Price (daily): $10 add-on
- Unlimited international talk and text
- Additional lines at $5 a day
- Only pay for the days you use
AT&T also has an international day pass at $10 a day. Their pass is nice, and while $10 is pricey, it gives you unlimited high-speed data, calling, and texting during that day. The best thing about this pass is that AT&T only charges you on days that you use international data. If you are careful, you can save some money by keeping your phone on airplane mode during the day and working your way into WiFi zones to use your phone.
AT&T’s international day pass is great for vacations where you can spend a long weekend or a week with unlimited talk, text, and data, using your phone as much as you want. This adds an additional expense, but it may be well worth it. While you have a pretty significant bill at the end it lets you use your phone like you would in the United States.
AT&T International Roaming
While AT&T does not have complete international roaming, they do have free roaming within North America. Most AT&T post-paid plans include free roaming in Canada and Mexico. In these countries, your phone will work at the fastest speed possible in the area. You can even use your mobile hotspot! While we still think that AT&T is weaker than other major wireless networks specifically in terms of its international phone plans, this lets you roam confidently within Canada and Mexico. If you are someone who only really travels within North America this is a really good part of their plans, but it falls off if you are traveling in the wider world.
These plans have North American roaming:
- Unlimited & More
- Unlimited & More Premium
- Unlimited Choice
- Unlimited Choice Enhanced
- Unlimited Plus
- Unlimited Plus Enhanced
Some of their plans include roaming in only Mexico. These smaller plans are usually their smaller, less expensive plans so if you are on one of these plans know that you will not get free roaming in Canada.
- Mobile Share Advantage (10 GB or higher)
- Mobile Share Flex (10 GB or higher)
- Mobile Share Plus
- Mobile Share Value (15 GB or higher)
There are ways to add North American roaming onto your account, but you have to get in contact with AT&T’s customer service to add it to your account.
You can go anywhere in the world. Business and vacations may take you to all manner of countries, but knowing what phone plan is best is the first step in ensuring that your time abroad is fun and relaxing!
What’s the Best AT&T International Phone Plan for You?
Now that you have the international phone plans from AT&T fresh in your mind, you can probably see that there is not one that’s better than the other, rather you have to think about your overall phone usage in order to pick out the best plan for you. Let’s dive into when you should use the pay-as-you-go rates and when you should use their international roaming instead!
When to Use the Pay-As-You-Go Rates
You should stick to these rates if you are pretty confident that you will not be using your phone on your time outside of the country. You can certainly use as much WiFi data as you want, the only trouble is when you are off WiFi. Keep your phone on airplane mode if you are on these rates to evade huge bills when you get home. You can also keep your plan at these rates if you plan on purchasing a local SIM card, but more on that later.
When to Use the International Day Rates
These passes are good for short trips. Ten dollars add up quickly. If you spend a lot of time abroad and travel consistently, these passes will eat into your savings. We recommend this for people who don’t travel too much but are on vacation during the year, say, less than three weeks over the course of the year.
This plan is also good if you keep your phone on airplane mode for most of the trip but want to keep this just in case of emergencies.
Pros and Cons of AT&T’s International Data Plans
When looking at international data plans, AT&T has certain advantages and disadvantages over its competitors. There are, alas, more cons than pros, but let’s break down the pros and cons of AT&T’s international data plans.
- Complimentary roaming in North America (with applicable plans)
- A choice between pay-as-you-go rates and international data pass
- International data pass gives good benefits on your trip
- No complimentary international data with regular plans
- Limited roaming in other countries
- Expensive pay-as-you-go rates
- International day pass is not great for long trips
The lack of complementary international roaming data is the main thing that brings AT&T down in the international phone plan department.
Where’s your next vacation destination? With one of the best AT&T international phone plans, you can luxuriate in the destination of your choice and use your phone as much as you want.
Other Ways to Save
Limit Data Usage with Effective WiFi Usage
The most common way for carriers to charge obnoxious bills to travelers after they travel abroad is when they use their phone normally, unaware of the additional cost. Step one in any plan is understanding the costs of talk, text, and data in the country abroad. Having that piece of information fresh in your mind is a great step toward using your phone an appropriate amount, even if it is as simple as not scrolling through social media on the bus or waiting to respond to texts after you are back in your hotel on Wi-Fi.
There are a variety of ways to limit overall data usage abroad. The three pillars of a phone plan: data, talk, and text, are all able to be done while using Wi-Fi. That, coupled with a variety of apps that only use data, can cut your daily data usage significantly, which might just let you keep on the cheapest option for an international phone plan. Some of these apps are:
- Skype or Zoom. Video call software is perfect for talking to friends and family in different countries. As long as you have a strong Wi-Fi connection, these apps allow users to connect worldwide. Best of all — since it’s on Wi-Fi, there’s no need to worry about data usage! To take extra caution, you can always disable your phone’s data during these calls.
- WhatsApp or GroupMe is a messaging app that relies on Wi-Fi to send texts, audio, and video. This free app works on just about any phone and is another great way to reduce your reliance on data.
- Wi-Fi calls and texts are available on various phones and are another excellent way to escape extra fees from your carrier.
There are, of course, moments when you cannot rely on Wi-Fi to operate your phone, and that’s where international phone plans come in. It is important to know that you can call Uber or Lyft when the time comes, or boot up your GPS maps to figure out how to get to your destination.
Mobile Plans from that Country
This is a bit unconventional, but you can buy a mobile phone plan in the country to which you are traveling. It requires some planning beforehand, but it is often quite easy to purchase a plan internationally for your stay. The plan will outline how much you can use your phone in talk, text, and data. Many plans in foreign countries are affordable compared to those in the United States but come with fewer data. You won’t want to go around streaming audio and video all day, but it should be sufficient phone data for light phone usage throughout the trip.
Dual-SIM Compatible Devices
While we just covered the best AT&T international phone plans, there is another option for receiving coverage abroad. If you plan to travel to one location and know that’s where you will spend all your time, you can purchase a SIM card specific to that country instead. There are two main ways to do that. One is with a Dual-SIM compatible device, and the other is with a whole new phone altogether.
A lot of new phone models are able to operate two SIM cards. Some phones have a physical SIM card slot that has room for two physical SIM cards and others have eSIM compatibility, which lets your phone connect to a network electronically instead of through normal means. This is a great boon when you are traveling abroad because you can purchase a plan in that country and don’t have to worry about your international plan and overage fees. It will require a bit of research and planning beforehand, but it is oftentimes easy to purchase a plan internationally and use that for the duration of your stay.
Following up with buying a new phone plan in the country to which you are traveling, you can always purchase a new phone to be your international device. Not all phones are as expensive as the major models, and if you shop around you can purchase a smartphone for less than $100 that will call text, and surf the web reliably and effectively for the duration of your stay.
If you have an older model of phone that only supports one SIM card or are not interested in muddying the waters of your phone with two SIMs, a new phone can go a long way! Purchasing a plan in an international country means you’ll get better rates and data for a reasonable cost.
At the end of the day, AT&T’s international data plans do not hold up to the competition, but are good options if you already have AT&T’s service. If you are looking to switch to a company specifically for its international data rates, Google Fi and AT&T are the ways to go.
While AT&T’s plans are not the best of the bunch, they are still solid options for international travel and will help you use your phone as much as you want to on your vacation or business trip. If you plan on keeping your phone on airplane mode throughout the duration of your travels, the pay-as-you-go rates are a good way to go, but if you want your phone to be active throughout the trip and don’t want to worry about all the processes that happen in the background, then their international day pass is the way to go. If you are an AT&T user and wish to dispense with the pretense of using an international phone plan entirely you can always switch to a phone plan in that specific country.