June 20, 2016

tmobile international Q&A

This post compares international plans for tmobile. Here, international plans means the cost of using your phone when you travel abroad. T-mobile has two types of plans: 1) Simple Choice plans and 2) Pay in Advance plans (formerly called Prepaid plans). Click on the expandable links to quickly find the answer or read below for more detailed information.

When I'm abroad, can I surf the net on my phone?
Yes, but it's pricey for prepaid customers- $15/mb! As a reference, according to this websites one (1) MB is typically (15 – 20) emails with no attachments OR (10 – 15) web pages OR 3 social media posts with pics.

When I'm abroad, can I send txts?
Yes, the cost to send a text is $0.50/txt. This can add up pretty quickly-- sending two texts is $1!

Also keep in mind that you can only send txts from your carrier number (NOT from Google voice since Google Voice relies on data).

When I'm abroad, can I receive txts?
Yes, it's deducted from your txt plan. If you do not have a txt plan, then the cost is $0.20/txt. Again, it can add up quickly.

As before, keep in mind that txts only go to your carrier number (NOT to a Google Voice number since Google Voice use is based on data use!!)

When I'm abroad, can I make calls with my phone?
For PrePaid customers, the cost is based on the country you are in and the cost is deducted from your balance. Also keep in mind this cost applies whether you make the call or receive it! In other words, whether you call someone or someone calls your number while you're in FR, it will also cost you $1.49/min!

In France:
  • The cost of making calls is $1.49/min.
In Guadalupe:
  • The cost of making calls from Guadalupe is $2.39/min.

  1. Simple Choice plans are the ones that are more similar to traditional carrier plans. (description from NerdWallet: http://tinyurl.com/j8e3d6u and from Tmobile's site: http://tinyurl.com/j4qhyo2). Under these plans, 
    • international Data: unlimited (but at a lower speed)
    • international Texts (send): unlimited
    • international Texts (receive): unlimited
    • international Talk: $0.20/min.
  2. Pay in Advance plans are prepaid plans but can be a little confusing because there are several types of prepaid plans including Simple Choice Monthly and Simply Prepaid plans. There are some differences between these plans at the domestic level, but their international plans are the same.
    • international Data: $15/mb
    • international Texts (send): $0.50/sms
    • international Texts (receive): deducted from your SMS plan or $0.20/sms
    • international Talk: depends on the country
As you can see, one of the big differences between Simple Choice plans and Pay in Advance options is the cost to you when traveling abroad. Simple Choice plans include international Data and Txt and international calls cost a mere $0.20/min http://tinyurl.com/ks3xrkw.

By contrast, prepaid plans do NOT include international perks. Using international data is prohibitively expensive! Meanwhile, sending txts while you're abroad costs $0.50/sms and receiving txts are deducted from your domestic sms plan (if you do NOT have a domestic SMS plan, then the cost is $0.20/sms). Finally, the cost of calls is based on the country you are in.

So what does all this mean for me? Read on to see exactly what to do to get it all set up correctly.

When I'm abroad, I want to make sure my data is off (given the cost!), but want to make and receive calls and texts. My plan is still using the cheapie $30/mth "Walmart plan" (includes 5GB of data, unlimited txts, and only 100 mins for calls); since I have unlimited texts, there is no cost to receive texts when I'm abroad, but sending a texts will cost me $0.50/sms and of course the cost of calls will be based on whatever country I'm in. So the first thing I have do is make sure I have extra money on my phone before I leave to cover the costs associated with international phone use. Before I travel abroad, I add $40 to my phone; the costs of calls and txts I send are deducted from this $40 recharge. 

Once in the destination country, make sure lte data is turned off by doing the following:
- From the home screen, tap the Settings
- Tap Data usage.
- switch off the Cellular data (you'll get a message that some apps won't work properly...)
- Also go back to Settings, tap More, choose Cellular Networks, and make sure that Data Roaming is off

Finally, since I have Google Voice set up as my default phone number to make calls and send txts, I have to change these options to go back to using only my carrier number when I'm abroad. Here's how to do it:
  • Switch from Google Voice to carrier number for calls:
    • open the Voice app (look in all the apps)
    • in the Voice app, click the three buttons on the bottom and choose Settings. 
    • tap Making calls and choose either the "Do not use use Google Voice to make any calls" or "Ask every time I make a call".
  • Switch from Google Voice to carrier number for txts in Hangouts:
    • open Hangouts
    • swipe to the right and choose Settings
    • tap SMS
    • tap "Send SMS from", choose "Carrier number"
I should add that as soon as you land, you'll usually get a free SMS message from TMobile welcoming you and informing you how much calls and SMS will cost.

In summary,
Step 1: Add money before you leave
Step 2: Once in destination country, turn off data
Step 3: Modify settings to use only carrier phone number for calls and texts

Finally, I should explain what happens if you don't use all of the recharge money. For example, I travel to France for a week and use only $25 of of the $40 for calls (@$1.49/min-- see above) and sending sms (sent at $0.50/txt). The $25 is subtracted from my $40 recharge leaving me with a balance of $15. Next month when TMobile automatically charges my credit card, instead of charging me $30, they only charge me $15. In short, you never actually lose money, you just basically pay for what you use.

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