No one plan’s optimized for military service. The major wireless networks offer discounts for servicemembers, but there is no carrier or set of plans that are best for military members. Still, we will highlight the best international phone plans for deployment, highlighting different plans for different folks. We have some plans from major wireless networks that provide more features and benefits at a higher cost, and some MVNO plans that offer much more affordable plans for those who may not need unlimited data and options for international plans.
Before we talk about our top six plans, let’s talk about what factors should influence the best international phone plan for deployment.
Data Usage In and Out of the States
Your data usage is the main indicator of the plan you need is cost. The major wireless networks and a select few MVNOs provide unlimited high-speed data, and if you use a lot of mobile data, those are the best options. The downside is the price you pay. Plans with unlimited talk and text (with little data) are a fraction of that cost. It all comes down to how you use your phone.
Data Usage In the States
Within the United States is where the foundations of your plan matter. Later in this article, we talk about the international part of your international phone plan, but there is always an aspect of your plan in the states. Unlimited talk and text cost you less than $10 a month, which we think is more than worthwhile in almost all circumstances. Let’s look at two really cheap plans to illustrate the differences better.
- Freedom Pop offers a plan that is completely free. It comes with 10 texts, 10 minutes of talk, and 25 MB of monthly data.
- Tello Mobile offers a $10 plan with unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of high-speed data.
Freedom Pop’s plan is enticing because it is free, but it does not really give you anything besides keeping your phone number active. There is value in keeping your phone number tied to you, especially if you are going through a period where you’re not using your phone that much. An international deployment, for instance.
The $10 plan at Tello brings a lot of value. Freedom Pop’s plan is nice, but if you ever get into a situation where you are using your phone, unlimited talk and text provide a lot of value.
The other workaround for low-data and low talk and text plans is WiFi. Switching from your mobile network to WiFi as the transmitter of messages, calls, and data is always unlimited. As long as you have a WiFi connection and are using it, you’re good! We recommend WiFi when abroad, but we’ll get into that later.
Data Usage Out of the States
Once you are abroad, your plan falls back on its international rates. In this, the major wireless companies have a leg up on the MVNOs, often offering better rates, better plans, and more links to countries. Regardless of the company, however, the rates are intense. A day pass, which gives you talk, text, and data abroad, is often $10 a day or around $50 a month. That’s a serious bill, especially when you have to pay upwards of $50 a month for your normal plan. There are a few ways in which you can receive data abroad.
- 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.
- Lastly, there are monthly international plans that are expensive but keep you covered overseas. These provide the best value for people who use a lot of data abroad and are abroad for the majority, or all, of the month,
This might go without saying, but you’ll only need one of these plans if you use your phone overseas. Rather, if you use your mobile data overseas, your device has free reign on WiFi anywhere, anytime. If you can build your phone usage around a WiFi connection, you don’t need a robust international phone plan for deployment. Pay-as-you-go rates for most plans get expensive if you rely on them, but sending a few emergency texts and booting up your phone for mobile data, likewise, in emergency situations.
That keeps your monthly bill way down as long as you keep your usage low. A few texts, a few minutes, and a few megabytes won’t cost you more than a few bucks added on to your normal phone bill. Let’s get down to brass tacks and jump into the best international phone plans for deployment.
Best International Phone Plans for Deployment
Verizon Unlimited is on this list because it gives you the best 5G coverage in the country and offers a fair military discount.
While $45 is a lot for a mobile phone plan, this is one of our favorites for people who are oftentimes on their phone and are willing to pay extra for fantastic service. Unlimited data on Verizon’s 5G network is powerful, and adds a lot of value if you are someone who wants that mobile access anywhere, anytime. They also provide higher-tier plans that are more expensive but add more features, like streaming packages on Disney+, access to their 5G Ultra-Wideband network, and more high-speed mobile hotspot data. These features offer a lot of value if you use them. If not, their welcome unlimited plan is a better choice. This is their plan in the states. Let’s look at what they offer internationally.
Across the board, Verizon’s international add-ons add a significant price to your monthly phone bill while keeping you covered as an international phone plan for deployment. They offer a travel pass and a monthly travel plan that are static price additions each month as well as international roaming to over 200 countries as a part of any unlimited plan. The only downside is, of course, that their pay-as-you-go rates are devastating.
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. If you’ve ever heard about horror phone bill stories where unsuspecting customers are hit with a colossal bill at the end of the month, pay-as-you-go international rates are the culprit more often than not. Hypothetically, if any poor soul were to use one GB of data abroad it would come back to them as a $2,000 bill. While this is a ludicrous charge, data speeds are wildly limited abroad. This is one of the reasons that, if you want constant phone usage abroad, we recommend one of Verizon’s static add-ons. Let’s take a look.
First up is Verizon’s travel pass, which costs $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.
The travel passes’ big brother is the international plan, which costs an additional $100 a month. That’s a lot. We recommend this for people who want a robust international plan and aren’t worried about their cell phone bills. This is $100 on top of the $45 or so you are paying for their unlimited plan. It comes with $20 GB of high-speed data, unlimited texts, and 250 minutes a month anywhere in the world.
AT&T Unlimited Premium
AT&T is on this list because of its base international package and 25% discount for service members. Their coverage on AT&T’s Unlimited Premium plan extends into all of North America and South America, making it a great choice for military members stationed in those areas. If you are deployed in another part of the globe, well, let’s get into what this plan offers.
With the AT&T military discount, one line of the Unlimited Premium phone plan costs $63.75 each month. That’s a steep price, but you get a ton of benefits along with it. In the states, you enjoy 50 GB of the high-speed mobile hotspot and unlimited 4K streaming.
Just like Verizon, AT&T has an international day pass that costs $10 a day. Each day on the data pass gives you unlimited high-speed data, talk, and text during the day. While it adds up big time if you use it most days during the month, it only charges you for days when you use it. This is a nice way to save money while keeping an emergency option in your back pocket, but any text or MB of data your phone uses activates the data pass for that day. International day passes like these excel for short trips, meaning it is a stretch for deployments. Still, it is an option if you are judicious with your phone usage abroad.
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.
Our third and final major wireless provider is T-Mobile and their Magenta plan. They offer tremendous savings for military personnel on family plans — 50% off their Magenta and Magenta Max plans. That gives them a huge lead over their competitors and cements them as the top plan on this list if you have a multi-line plan. You can add up to five lines on this plan and, best part, anyone can join your T-Mobile multi-line plan. Grab a few friends and enjoy tremendous savings with the T-Mobile Magenta family plan and pay as little as $25 for Magenta and $35 for Magenta Max per line.
For the additional $10 a month, Magenta Max offers 4k streaming, 40 GB high-speed hotspot data, and Apple TV+. T-Mobile’s domestic coverage is not quite as good as the other major wireless networks, but as long as you check their coverage map and their coverage is good wherever you are it will not be a problem. Just a note: the primary account holder in any multi-line plan needs to be a service person or veteran in order to receive the military discount. Outside of an excellent military multi-line discount, T-Mobile has robust international phone plans with unlimited data and texting in over 200 countries around the world.
T-Mobile has one advantage over the other two major wireless carriers on this list. Each Magenta plan has unlimited international texting and free roaming in those countries as well. The plans offer 5 GB of high-speed roaming and unlimited low-speed roaming after that, so you won’t be surprised by a huge phone bill when you get back from your trip. The slow roaming is limited to 256 Kbps which is not a lot, but it is enough to use your phone for emergencies and that’s only after you burn through your 5 GB of high-speed data.
On top of the data that’s included with your Magenta plan, 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 you’re going to use a lot in the near future. These add-ons are less expensive and offer less data than the other two major wireless networks. All in all, T-Mobile has the best military discount and the best international plans, cementing it as our top choice for major wireless networks and the best international phone plan for deployment.
Now that we’ve covered the three major wireless networks we want to touch on two affordable alternatives. They may sound familiar. Freedom Pop’s free plan and Tello’s economy plan are fantastic ways to save big on your wireless plan. The military discounts for the major wireless plans are nice, but you are still paying a pretty penny, especially if you have a single-line plan.
These two plans from Freedom Pop and Tello Mobile don’t have much in the way of international coverage and don’t provide too much data either. They are for military service members who have a schedule in place where they don’t need to use their phone off WiFi.
Wi-Fi is free, and it can be used in unlimited amounts no matter what the plan is. With a plan like this, it is good to tie certain talk and text apps to only work on WiFi so they don’t use any data while you are going between WiFi zones. Airplane mode is your friend with these plans. You can also download any audio or video media if possible so you don’t need any data to consume it while outside of WiFi. If you are deploying internationally and your primary location has a strong WiFi signal, one of these plans saves you a lot of money. If a plan like this causes a lot of problems, one of the major wireless networks with their robust international phone plans may be worth the extra cost.
The Best International Phone Plans for Deployment
These are our best international phone plans for deployment. The major wireless companies offer good discounts for military members, while MVNOs have incredibly affordable plans to save you a lot of money if you are willing to curb your cell phone usage. Our final piece of advice — do some research as to the international coverage at your military base. You can have the fastest plan in the world but if there is no service in your area you are sunk.