Avoiding Cell Phone Data Roaming Charges While Traveling In The United States – Success!

by Mike Holman

I’ve written a number of articles about my experiences with attempting to reducing my iPhone data charges while traveling in the United States and I”m happy to say that this year, I didn’t have any data “surprises”.

Last year, I got some unexpected charges because I wasn’t monitoring the data usage correctly and I also didn’t realize the excessive amounts of data used in Skype phone calls.

Read about last year’s experience:  How to avoid cell phone data roaming charges when traveling to the United States

How I saved on roaming charges this year

Roger’s has changed their roaming data plans signicantly from last year.  I decided to purchase a 20 MB one month data pack for $30.  Not exactly cheap, but a lot better than the roaming charges.

20 MB isn’t that much data for four days, but this time I had wifi available at the conference as well as in my hotel room.  One of the best things you can do to save on data charges is to use wifi, even if you have to pay for it.

One of my concerns from last year was a lack of data monitoring and no alerts from Rogers.  To fix this I bought an app for my iPhone called Data Usage Pro ($1.99), which measures your data use and categorizes usage by cell or wifi.  The cellular data usage is the number you have to monitor, since wifi data doesn’t cost you anything.

By monitoring my data usage and limiting my non-wifi data use, I was able to make the 20 MB last until I got to the airport in Denver on the way home.  At that point, I realized that a good friend of mine from Calgary was also in Denver so I gave him a call using Skype.  This ended up using a lot of data and my 20 MB data pack ran out. 

Roger’s sent alerts telling me this and made it easy to purchase another 10 MB for $10 day pass.  The other problem I had is that I got to the airport way too early and ended up doing quite a bit of surfing there which is why I bought more MBs.  All was not lost as it was a Sunday afternoon, so I spent a couple of hours drinking beer, watching football and surfing.

Better confirmation of data package purchase needed

My only complaint about this whole process was that the 20 MB data package doesn’t get activated until you cross the boarder.  The problem is that you don’t know if your purchase went through or not.  Why can’t Rogers acknowledge your purchase with an email, so you don’t have to worry?

I ended up buying two packages because I thought the first purchase didn’t work and had to phone to get one of them refunded later on.

Next year will be different

This will be my last year with a locked iPhone.  My plan in early 2013 is to buy a new iPhone once my current contract runs out and unlock the old iPhone and use that for foreign travel.  Once the phone is unlocked, I’ll be able to buy a local sim card and pay very low American data rates.

Summary – Ways to save on roaming charges

  • Make sure you understand exactly what data usage is and how to monitor it on your phone.
  • Buy a data package from your wireless provider.
  • Consider an app to monitor data usage.
  • Use wifi as much as possible. 
  • Avoid Skype or other Voip calls unless you are using wifi.
  • Leave phone at home or put it in airplane mode and just use it for calls.  Make sure you have a long distance calls package for this.
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