Traveling overseas is a big part of many people’s lives, and as we grow more and more connected with our mobile phones, finding the right plan is essential. You don’t want to get hit with a monumental bill at the end of your vacation or work trip because you decided to have a chat with one of your friends and scroll through social media. The best global cell phone plans let you stay connected on trips out of the country while ensuring you don’t pay unnecessary fees and data overages. As WiFi grows in its coverage, the option to make calls and texts on WiFi instead of data helps cut costs even more.
If travel is a consistent part of your months then finding a phone plan that offers you the best deal on talk, text, and data internationally is essential. You do not want to be stuck with a plan forcing you to pay incredible overages for each megabyte you use outside the country. In this article, we will dive into some of the best global cell phone plans and what options they provide travelers, as well as alternative options to get service abroad.
Device Compatibility: What Obstacles are there to Using Data Abroad?
As 3G is almost wholly a thing of the past, almost all devices are compatible with networks in other countries. It is worth double-checking to ensure that you don’t run into any unpleasant surprises, but all likelihood is that your device will function in the country to which you are traveling. The major obstacle, then, is the limitations of your plan. There are, in general, three different kinds of international plans.
- There are bolt-on packs that include international calling and texting as a part of your cell phone plan.
- There are pay-as-you-go add-ons that charge you a flat fee for every text, call, and megabyte that you use.
- There are also international day passes that, for a daily fee, give you access to a set number of texts, talk, and data on your time abroad.
Before you pick out a plan, try to figure out how much time you will spend abroad, and how much data you foresee needing during that time. An alternative to international roaming is anytime you can spend in WiFi zones. There are a lot of apps that allow access to texting and calling through WiFi and not through mobile data, letting you stay connected without having to worry about any additional charges to your plan. These options are all good, it just depends on what you want out of your international package.
These are best for users who are primarily calling from the United States to another country. Including international calling and texting (if it is not already included in the plan) is a much more affordable option than all the rest. Whenever you are within the states the costs are way down, but you should look into the countries that are included in each plan. If you know there are a few countries where you will do most of your texting and calling you should prioritize those in the prospective plans.
These plans are best for users who spend time in other countries but do not use a lot of data. If you have a secure connection to WiFi and may send a message or two but nothing serious, this is the best plan for you. In another country, using a pay-as-you-go plan is great up to a point, and that point is when it becomes more expensive than if you purchased an international day pass.
International Day Pass
International day passes are best when you want more calls, texts, and data to spend. The rates on international day passes are lower than the pay-as-you-go plans, so if you expect to use your mobile data consistently during the day this is the best plan for you.
The best global cell phone plan is dictated by what you need from it. In the following section, we will analyze some of the best global cell phone plans out there and talk about their strengths, and the best one for you will be the plan that gives you what you need at the lowest price.
Best Global Cell Phone Plans of 2023
Let’s look at some of the strongest global cell phone plans out there today. Each one has different rates and different particulars, and those particulars will show you which one is best for your travel habits. If you are a current customer of one of these five companies, this will help you understand the ins and outs of your own company, and help you decide whether you should stick with the company you have or transition to a new one with a better deal. The five companies that we will talk about in this list and offer the best global cell phone plans of 2023 are:
- Google Fi
- Mint Mobile
Verizon International Phone Plans
Verizon’s suite of international add-ons is a great choice for all manner of travelers. They have a travel pass, a monthly travel plan, and some international roaming included in their unlimited plans. Verizon’s travel pass is $10 a day and gives users unlimited talk and text in over 200 countries. When you have the travel pass active, you will only be charged on days when you use it, giving you a great incentive to try your best to limit calling, texting, and data usage to WiFi zones.
They also have an international plan, which adds $100 a month. This is a pretty serious expense, so we only recommend it for people who are spending the majority of the month out of the country. With this plan, you receive 20 GB of high-speed data, unlimited texts, and 250 minutes abroad each month. This is pretty expensive compared to the other companies on this list.
Verizon’s pay-as-you-go rates are also on the pricier side of things. Their talk goes between $1 and $3 a minute depending on the country, sent texts are $.50 a text, and data is $2 per MB. When we talk about getting hit with a huge bill after vacation this is what we mean. If you were to use one GB of data abroad you’d be hit with a $2,000 charge on your next phone bill. That is insane, but because they limit your data speeds, it is much harder to rack up data charges than it would be on a 4G LTE or 5G network. If you are a Verizon customer these rates are not terrible, but we would not recommend switching to Verizon specifically for their international plans.
AT&T International Phone Plans
AT&T also has an international day pass that comes in at $10 a day. Their pass is pretty nice. While $10 is pricey, it gives you unlimited high-speed data, calling, and texting during that day. It only charges you for days when you use it, just like Verizon, but anything will activate it so you have to be careful if you don’t want to pay for that day. International day passes like these are excellent for vacations, where you can spend a long weekend or a week, and, while you have a pretty significant bill at the end of it, it lets you use your phone like you would in the United States.
Their pay-as-you-go rates are almost exactly the same as Verizon’s. Considering their day pass is only $10 you would be hard-pressed to use your phone at all and incur pay-as-you-go rates of less than $10 during the day. If you are going abroad and plan on keeping your phone active, we recommend going with AT&T’s international phone plan instead of their pay-as-you-go rates.
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.
T-Mobile International Phone Plans
T-Mobile has robust international phone plans with unlimited data and texting in over 200 countries around the world. Calling is $.25 a minute, but this lets you enjoy free roaming almost everywhere you go. It would take a lot of call minutes to rack up a significant bill, making these rates favorable. Their Magenta plans offer 5 GB of high-speed data in 11 countries, otherwise, your roaming is relegated to around 256 Kbps. That’s pretty slow. You won’t be able to do any streaming or social media scrolling but it is enough to operate the basic aspects of your phone.
The tier above that is their Magenta MAX plans, which offer that same 5 GB of high-speed data in over 200 countries. Five gigabytes is not a lot, but when you are abroad it lets you use your phone normally for a few days of your trip as long as you don’t do anything crazy.
T-Mobile also offers an international data pass which bolsters the high-speed data you can use abroad. Their international data passes come in three tiers.
- International 1-day pass: $5 a day. For that day, you receive unlimited calling and 512 MB of high-speed international data
- 5 GB International Pass: $35 for 10 days. During those days, you receive unlimited calling and can use up to 5 GB of high-speed international data.
- 15 GB International Pass: $50 for 30 days. For the month, you receive unlimited calling and up to 15 GB of high-speed international data.
These three options are great ways to tack on some extra data if you know that you are going to be in a place where you will use a lot during your trip. While we recommend working around your schedule to use as much WiFi data as you can abroad, getting one of these passes is a nice way to stock up on an emergency supply of high-speed data which you can use whenever you need.
MVNO International Phone Plans
All of the premium wireless companies offer pretty good deals on global cell phone plans but they are all very expensive. The base plans are expensive, and their add-ons raise the cell phone bills pretty significantly for the month. If you have an MVNO or are interested in switching to one, Mint Mobile and Google Fi have the best global cell phone plans. This section will break down what each company offers.
Google Fi includes talk, text, and data within North America, and their unlimited plus plan offers data in over 200 countries. If you are on their flex plan, the data costs abroad are the same as the data costs in the United States, which is phenomenal. You pay $10 a GB for data abroad. We cannot stress how great that is. $10 a GB is pretty serious, but it is cheaper than the data you get with major wireless companies' global phone plans by a long shot. Their unlimited plus plan is a great package, giving you free texts and $.20 per minute calls abroad. If you have Google Fi and are planning on traveling we recommend switching to their Unlimited Plus plan for the duration of your trip!
Mint Mobile has its own way of roaming. They have UpRoam credits, which allow users to charge their accounts with money that is spent roaming. This lets customers put a set amount on their account and they will automatically get taken off the network if they spend all the allocated funds rather than racking up a huge bill. Mint Mobile’s rates are good, with each text being $.05, each minute calling $.25, and each MB being $.25.
They do not have a specific plan or pass for international phone plans, but they have good coverage in a lot of countries and their pay-as-you-go rates are much easier to swallow. That being said, you want to limit your phone usage as much as you can when you are traveling abroad with Mint Mobile. They offer free calling within North America, but if you are traveling somewhere else we recommend putting a plan in place to figure out when and where you need to use your phone.
Dual-SIM Compatible Devices
While we just covered the best global cell phone plans in the United States, 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.
Dual-SIM Compatible Devices
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. A lot of plans abroad are cheaper than plans in the US because they come with a lot less data and other features which are perfect for your short visit to the country. We wish you the best of luck and hope that our list of the best global cell phone plans has helped you decide which one to choose!