Saving money on mobile calls and data whilst travelling in the USA

Those who follow me on Twitter (@markwilsonit) may have noticed that I’ve been in the USA for the last couple of weeks. Normally, my overseas travel is in Europe, where the European Union (EU) Roaming Regulations mean I can use my bundled data and minutes – at least until Britain leaves the EU. Outside the European Economic Area (EEA) though, I need to pay for international-rate mobile data, voice and messaging.

As some degree of Internet access is pretty much required (and certainly very useful) when travelling these days, I considered buying a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) SIM in the States. A little bit of Internet research told me that wasn’t cheap either – mobile data is really expensive over there (though not as expensive as roaming with my normal UK SIM – 20p per MB doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that’s £200 for a GB!). A monthly contract was out of the question too, without a US-registered credit card.

Then I heard about UK mobile operator Three’s Go Roam offer. This allows you to use your data overseas (in 71 countries, within fair use limits) and to make UK calls and send texts to UK numbers as if you were at home. Following the advice from my local Three store, I took a monthly rolling contract and then served notice (30 days) the day after it had been activated, moving my SIM onto a PAYG basis, so I only had to pay for one month’s service.

So that was data sorted, but what about calls to non-UK numbers whilst I was away? My accommodation included Wi-Fi, so WhatsApp was useful whilst connected but that didn’t help with calling US numbers. I do have 60 minutes of Skype calls included in my Office 365 Home subscription though – and they were fine for making the odd call to US numbers whilst travelling!

I’m sure that these “hacks” have saved me tens, if not hundreds, of pounds during my US trip – and they might help others too. And for those who have a pay monthly contract with Vodafone, their Global Roaming option may be worth considering – paying a flat-rate £6 each day that you use the phone abroad could work out a little more expensive than the Three Go Roam deal but is likely to be much cheaper than standard roaming tariffs.