Cautionary tale re: international data roaming

When we went on our volcanically extended trip to Europe last month, both Chuck and I signed up for international data roaming with at&t so we could use our iPhones (and boy, did we use them!). We also signed up for the service that reduced the per minute phone charges to 99 cents. We actually made relatively few calls (except for those madcap days when we had to adjust all of our flight and hotel arrangements due to the volcano). The data plans were pretty clearly laid out:

  • $24.99/month: 20 MB Data Global Add-On gives you 20 MB of usage within more than 90 countries
  • $59.99/month: 50 MB Data Global Add-On gives you 50 MB of usage within more than 90 countries
  • $119.99/month: 100 MB Data Global Add-On gives you 100 MB of usage within more than 90 countries
  • $199.99/month: 200 MB Data Global Add-On gives you 200 MB of usage within more than 90 countries
  • Overage rate is $0.005/KB within the more than 90 discounted countries

We opted for the $60 for 50MB of data. They told us to cancel when we got back to the US. Cool!  So my new billing month started on Apr 20, and I kept international data roaming active until Apr 27 when we got home. My bill came today and when I looked at data roaming, they started charging me per kilobyte for international data on Apr 20. My total bill: $421.50. Snap!

When I called customer service (after having printed out my entire bill – sorry trees!), they said that since I hadn’t kept international data roaming active for the ENTIRE billing month, they started charging me a prorated amount per kilobyte from the start of my new billing cycle on Apr 20. I stood firm, and said that we had not been told this when we signed up for international data roaming (and if you read about the package here you will see no mention of prorating or early cancellation). End result: they extended the international data roaming to the end of the month for $40, and forgave me the overage charges, reducing my bill to $283. at&t was quite nice about all of this, but guys – if you had better documentation you wouldn’t have so many peeved customers.

Moral of the story: if you sign up for international data roaming packages, keep them in effect for the entire billing month you’re traveling even if you are only gone one week of the month. If you don’t you may be in for a surprise at the end of the month.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the heads up, I’m with AT&T as well in Mexico so I will definitely keep an eye out.

  2. Thanks for that heads up, the red tape involved in these plans and packages is never ending… no one really understands them.

    Next time you travel you might also want to take a look at Vircado, an iPhone-friendly solution that reduces your data consumption. The idea is that using less = paying less. For package-style deals like the ones you describe it means you can choose a smaller package but squeeze more out of it. Totally win-win 🙂

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