How to Avoid Ridiculously Expensive Data Charges
You've heard the stories. A family goes travelling and after their vacation is over, they're surprised when a massive phone bill arrives with hundreds of dollars in roaming charges. Voice and text roaming generally isn't a huge problem, it's the data charges. But, if you follow these tips and become a little more travel tech savvy, you can holiday without worrying about coming home to a huge bill. These tips have the added bonus of helping you save money at home too.
Know what you need for your tripLet's start before you even book your holiday. The first step is to know what services and options you need both at home and abroad. The easiest way to do this is by looking at your previous bills. Take an average of the last three months and see where you're spending your money. Are there services you're paying for that you never use? Do you get hit with roaming fees on a regular basis?
RELATED: 20 best places to visit in June.
Do your researchNow that you know what you use, you can compare your current plan with other options offered by both by your carrier and other providers. Even though Canada's mobile rates are some of the highest in the world, there's still healthy competition and switching carriers has never been easier. However, if you're locked into a contract, you should still note what the competitors are offering.
RELATED: 10 things that Canadians pay more for.
Call your carrier and negotiateMost people have phones that are locked to their carriers. They may also have a number that they don't want to give up. There are solutions for both of those, but first, call your carrier.
This is especially important if you're about to renew a contract. Because carriers want to retain you as a customer, you can often negotiate a far better deal than what they offer publicly. Tell them you're going to switch to another provider unless they can match or beat the other provider's plan. Even if you're in the middle of a contract, you can work with your carrier to find a better package for a lower price.
While you're at it, don't forget that cancelling your landline is one of those phone calls that can save you hundreds of dollars.
Investigate pay-as-you-go optionsYou can also save a ton by switching to pay-as-you-go, even with the same carrier. I did this recently and my monthly costs dropped to $11 from $35 — and my usage allowance is exactly the same. Obviously, this is for a pretty limited package, but it saved me $288 a year. The beauty of PAYG is that you can add a data or roaming package for a short period of time, so you're not paying for it all year.
Travelling overseas this year? Make your budget last longer with these expert tips to save money while travelling in Europe.
Turn off dataIf you're a heavy data user or on a metered plan, the easiest way to reduce your usage is by cutting back on it. Because Wi-Fi is pretty much everywhere these days, you really don't need your data turned on all the time, especially when you travel. You might not even miss it. And if you do, flip it on and then, when you're done posting that selfie, turn it off again.
VOIP to the rescueIf you're trying to cut back on voice and text costs, especially when travelling, consider adding a VOIP app to your phone. What's VOIP? Basically, a phone that works on the internet. With a VOIP number, you can make calls/texts via Wi-Fi, independent of your carrier. It's an easy way to keep costs down, have a second number and avoid roaming charges when travelling.
There are several options. Personally, I use Hushed. It gives me a Canadian number and I can add different numbers for different cities for short periods of time. My deal was $25 for lifetime service (500 minutes/2500 texts anywhere in Canada/US for a year). Other app options are Line2, Burner and MagicJack.
Got kids? Here are 10 apps that will make parenting so much easier.
Use airplane modeAirplane mode isn't just for flying. It's a great way to not only stop all voice, data and text usage, it'll also give you a bit of a digital detox. Try it for an hour here and there. Don't worry about missing something important. It'll be there when you flip the phone back on. Airplane mode is also a good way to save your phone's battery when travelling.
Get a local SIM cardPicking up a local SIM card at your destination is an easy way to beat the high cost of roaming. First, make sure your phone is unlocked (which means you can use any SIM card). If it's not, contact your carrier, most will unlock your phone for free if you just ask. Failing that, do a Google search for unlocking services in your town. It shouldn't cost more than $25.
Once your phone is unlocked, you can buy a local SIM upon arrival. Swap it with your Canadian SIM card. The local carrier's SIM will give you a local phone number plus access to their network without roaming fees. Add the options you need and you're good to go.
I always do this in Europe. A few years back I bought an Irish SIM. My credit never expires and the second I land in Ireland, I have a phone that works without roaming fees. The added bonus? There are no roaming charges for EU carriers across the EU. So you can roam from Ireland to Estonia without any extra costs.
Change your phoneAs mentioned above, you should unlock your phone. But there are other options. You could buy a second phone to use when travelling — this could be an older smartphone or a plain phone if you just want voice and text.
If you don't want to carry two phones or switch SIM cards, you can always get what I have; a dual-SIM phone. I leave my Canadian SIM card in one slot and put a local SIM in the other. That way, I can still receive calls and texts going to my home number, but I also have a local number for local calls and data.
Before travelling southMuch of the above applies to travelling to America, but you can also get a SIM card in Canada for Roam Mobility. This will give you a US number and you pay daily for the minutes/texts/data you want.
RELATED: 20 money saving tips for people who struggle with saving.
Get a burner phone for the USAnother affordable option is to buy a burner phone upon arrival. These aren't just for drug dealers and spies. Burner phones are essentially disposable phones that allow you to get up and running fast. You'll find them everywhere from box stores to electronic shops. There are even smartphone versions but remember, you get what you pay for.
When you're done, you can sell the burner phone to someone else or keep it for your next trip. Unlike these things, a burner phone is something you'll pack and use.