Beware: overseas smart phone roaming charges - WFLA News Channel 8

Beware: overseas smart phone roaming charges

Posted: Updated:
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Summer is a busy time for travel and if you plan to take your smart phone on an overseas trip, you will have to be careful.

A Tampa couple found out the hard way when they returned home to a big cell phone bill that was not expected.
 
Don and Susie Whittemore of Tampa frequently take cruises.  Their most recent cruise was this May.  They traveled to Cozumel, Mexico, Haiti and Jamaica.

The cruise itself was spectacular according to the Whittemore's.  It was only when they returned and got their cell phone bill from Verizon that they were upset.  The bill included $83.00 for data roaming charges incurred while they were at sea.

Don Whittemore was even more surprised to see the charges because he says he called Verizon two weeks before the cruise to try and avoid this very problem. 
 
After speaking with a Verizon representative, the Whittemore's say they decided the best solution was not to turn on Susie's smart phone while on the ship.

Even though the Whittemore's contend the phone was turned off the entire time they were on the ship, the Verizon bill begs to differ.

After Whittemore complained, he says Verizon offered a 25% discount on the charges but would not erase the remainder of the roaming fees.

Don Whittemore says: "I feel like they're stealing from me.  They're wanting me to pay for something I didn't agree to."

The Whittemore's are not alone in their frustration.  The Internet is filled with unhappy travelers who had no idea they would be coming home to unexpected cell phone-related charges.

Verizon offers the following tips to travelers who are planning to take their smart phones out of the country:

  • Travelers should educate themselves on what their carrier's available global plans. If possible, they should add global roaming capabilities for a short time to be able to stay in contact without breaking the bank.
  • Travelers also need to know what type of device they have. A smart phone "talks" to the network all the time and that could lead to charges in another country if they don't have the right plan.  An older "basic" phone without data capabilities does not communicate with the wireless network like that.
  • If travelers do not want to incur any charges at all, but want to have the device with them in case of emergency, turn the power off. Or even better, remove the battery to ensure it's not inadvertently powered on and store in a sealed plastic bag. Placing a device, like an iphone, in wifi-only mode (to use Facetime for example) is advised but if those settings are somehow inadvertently changed, then charges could be incurred without the customer being aware.
  • If travelers have a wifi-only tablet or other device, use Skype to stay in touch when in a free hotspot area.

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