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7 Ways to Keep Your Phone Bill Low While Travelling

Photo by Attila Acs

Ever return home from a trip to an astronomical phone bill? You’re not alone. Today helpful folks at Canada’s three largest wireless companies—Bell, Rogers, and Telus—share tips on saving yourself from a case of post-trip sticker shock.

1. Know your plan…and your phone. An obvious tip, it would seem, but many a traveller ignores this advice and thus begins a world of hurt. If the information on the provider’s Web site is confusing, contact them directly before leaving. They’ll likely have suggestions specific to your device and plan. Some phones, for example, allow you to block certain e-mail accounts while you travel or set up low-res image downloads. Take advantage of features available to you. Even if you’re already on vacation, it’s not too late. Call or live-chat your provider from the road (from an open Wi-Fi network, please) to have roaming or other features added immediately.

2. Add a roaming package to your plan before you go. Data charges especially (e-mail, Web surfing, sending photos) can pile up quickly. Bell has separate U.S. and international packages.

3. Use local Wi-Fi networks whenever possible. Yes, it’s totally awesome to post that pic of a polar bear to your Facebook page a few seconds after you’ve snapped it with your iPhone, but it’s also expensive. Even if there is a charge to use an open Wi-Fi network, you’ll still pay less than the cost of roaming fees for the same usage. Be sure data roaming is off, because if the Wi-Fi signal drops, your device may revert back to using data and start charging you roaming fees.

4. Watch for alerts from your wireless company. All three providers we spoke with send users a (free) text message when they’ve reached certain data thresholds. Keep an eye out for these and curb your usage accordingly.

5. Do the math. The average e-mail is 2 KB. Keep track of how many you’re sending and know your limits (see #1).

6. Advise callers not to leave a message in your outgoing voicemail message. Let them know you’re abroad and ask them to e-mail you instead. Otherwise you may be charged roaming fees for the voicemail to be routed to your device.

7. Look into data-usage apps. Many free third-party applications (like Onavo for iPhone and 3G Watchdog for Android) can help you track your data usage. Rogers has a proprietary app for its customers, a service that many American wireless companies also offer.

For more information, contact Telus, Bell, or Rogers.

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