Cut the cost of using your mobile on holiday
If you're off on holiday soon, make sure you don't get caught out by high mobile charges.
It’s that time of year when many of us are contemplating jetting off for a holiday. However, holidays can be very expensive and there are a whole bunch of rip-offs that can be associated with flying away to enjoy some sun, sea and sand.
One of these is using your mobile while you’re overseas, which can end up costing an arm and a leg. Fortunately, thanks to EU guidelines, there’s now a cap on how much mobile providers can charge their customers when they’re in Europe. These are as follows:
- 39 cents per minute to make a call
- 15 cents per minute to receive a call
- 11 cents to send a text
From 1 July this year, the maximum charges will drop further to:
- 35 cents per minute to make a call
- 11 cents per minute to receive a call
- 11 cents to send a text
But while it’s good news that charges from Europe are being monitored carefully, if you use your mobile regularly when you’re away, these costs can still quickly stack up. What’s more, if you’re travelling outside Europe, you’re still likely to get hit where it hurts.
So here are some top tips for keeping costs to a minimum.
1. Stop calling, start texting
As texting is generally the cheaper option, try to text when you can rather than making a phone call. The added bonus of this is that it costs nothing to receive a text. Of course, if you have a lot to say and it’ll involve several text messages it may work out cheaper to make a quick phone call instead.
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2. Get an international calling card
If you’ll need to make several calls while you’re away, it might be worth buying an international calling card that includes a set number of minutes to use. You can usually pick these up when you’re overseas and this will work out far cheaper than using your mobile.
3. Switch off your voicemail
Phoning your voicemail can cost the same as making a call to the UK so it’s well worth avoiding if you can.
Fortunately, thanks to EU regulations, mobile providers can no longer charge you for simply receiving a voicemail in Europe. Although most providers also stretch this to the rest of the world, O2 may still charge you for receiving a voicemail – even if your phone is off.
If you don’t want to receive any messages while you’re away, ask your mobile provider to switch off your voicemail before you leave.
4. Check your overseas network
When you head overseas, you’ll be given a choice of networks to use. Generally, the network with the strongest signal will be automatically selected by your phone.
However, it can be a good idea to do a little investigative work before you leave to see which network offers you the cheapest rates and then change your network manually once you’ve arrived.
5. Use an international package
If you are a regular jet-setter, it may be worth including an international bundle in your mobile package. Some of these are free of charge, while others require you to pay a little extra.
Vodafone Passport is completely free to use and if you opt in, you’ll receive lower prices for calling from over 35 countries worldwide. If you make a call back home, you’ll be charged a 75p connection fee, plus your standard home rate (or your inclusive free minutes if applicable).
To receive calls, again you’ll pay a 75p connection fee, but the call will be free up to 60 minutes – after that you’ll be charged 20p per minute.
If you’re an Orange customer, you can choose to pay £5.10 for the Europe Traveller bundle (a 30 day deal) which gives you 200 minutes’ worth of calls at 28.6p per minute – 25% less than Orange’s standard roaming rate. You’ll get the same amount of minutes free to receive calls.
If you’re a frequent traveller and make a lot of calls from Europe, you can pay £10.21 a month to receive 1,000 minutes at the same price.
And if you’re flying out of Europe, the Orange World Traveller bundle costs £5 a month and offers discounts up to 30% on all your calls and texts from across the globe. See the full list of prices here (click on the pay monthly icon).
Recent question on this topic
- 19amos55 asks:
Personally, however, I'm not convinced the savings are significant enough to warrant paying the £5/£10. Of course, ultimately it’s up to you and depends on whether you make a lot of calls when you’re out of the country.
Meanwhile, if you’re with O2, the My Europe Extra bundle costs £10.21 a month and offers calls to the UK from Europe for 25p per minute. There’s no charge for receiving calls. You can sign up for one month or longer – but again, you need to weigh up whether paying this fee is worth it.
If you’re going further afield, you can sign up to the O2 International Traveller Service. If you have more than 600 free minutes on your standard tariff, it won’t cost you anything, otherwise you'll need to pay £3.06 per month. You can save up to 80% on calling home - although how much you really save depends on where you are. Check the website for more details.
Finally, T-Mobile offers a range of ‘flexible boosters’ with its tariffs – you’ll get one free with your tariff, but you can also pay £5.10 a month for extra ones.
One booster you could consider is the Euro Talk & Text Booster. With this, you’ll receive a travel allowance of £7.50 to use in Europe to make up to 19 minutes of calls, receive up to 53 minutes of calls, or send up to 75 texts while you’re abroad – perfect for your holiday! (Calls cost 38p/minute to make and 14p/minute to receive. Texts cost 10p.)
6. Buy a SIM card
Another option is to buy an international or local SIM card. Bear in mind your phone will need to be unlocked for this.
Global SIM cards cost around £15-£35, usually include phone credit, and can be bought before you jet off. You can then make discounted calls all over the world. Check out websites such as GEOSIM and Story Telecom. You only need to buy your SIM once and you get to keep the same number wherever you travel.
Local SIM cards can usually be bought when you arrive at your destination and are generally the cheaper option.
7. Use Skype
If you have a smartphone, you could also cut the cost of phoning home by downloading and using Skype. As long as the person you’re calling also has Skype, you’ll be able to make calls for free (as long as there’s a wireless internet connection near you).
8. Switch off data roaming
If you can’t bear to be apart from Facebook or any other internet application, be very careful when you’re overseas. Charges for using data roaming can be incredibly high – although there is now a cap in place at 80 cents (around 69p) per megabyte.
What’s more, thanks to EU roaming rules, a data roaming limit has now been set €50 per month – around £43. Operators must send customers a warning when they’ve reached 80% of their data roaming limit. And once that limit has been reached, the mobile provider must cut off the mobile internet connection – unless otherwise stated by the customer.
Despite this, I would still recommend avoiding mobile internet abroad if you can. If you need to use it, try and use free wi-fi where you can and avoid downloading anything such as email attachments or films.