Q: I’m going to be travelling to the U.S. in a couple of weeks, and I want to be able to use my phone without racking up a huge bill. Is there anything I can do to reduce the roaming charges? – Catharine Blosky, Calgary, AB
A: Roaming charges can send your phone bill through the roof, but recently cell phone service providers have come out with some affordable options. Canada has three major cell phone providers: Rogers, Telus and Bell Mobility. Each of these companies offer some unique solutions to quash hefty roaming charges.
Get a Roaming Package
First you’ll need to add on a data, voice and/or texting roaming package to your existing phone plan (you must be on a plan to do this). This can be done online and each provider will offer up an estimate of how much you’ll save by doing so.
Rogers & Bell: Anticipate Your Talk Time
With Rogers and Bell, the packages are based on how many minutes or MB you anticipate using, (to get an average of your talk time look at the previous month’s statement for a rough calculation) as well as how long you’ll be travelling for.
Currently the minimum add-on is for one month, although Rogers is advertising that they will soon be offering day and week roaming packages. This doesn’t mean that you have to be travelling for one month, you are just covered for roaming charges for up to one month. If you will be travelling for a longer period of time, you can add on more months and adjust the package.
For example, Rogers charges a one-time fee of $20 for the first 15 roaming minutes in Europe; every minute after is an additional $1.33. They estimate that you will save approximately 33 per cent of what you would have been charged previously. In this instance, base amount is $20, but the European package goes up to $75 for 70 min per month. The rates vary depending on where you are travelling.
Telus: Discounted Roaming Minutes
Telus has a slightly different version of the plan. With Telus, a $10 voice roaming package gets you discounted roaming minutes. For example, if you were travelling to the Middle East, you would pay $10 in advance, so that each roaming minute would cost $2.25, instead of the regular $3. After approximately 13 minutes you would begin to save.
Talk to the Experts
All of the providers offer different plans and costs for Europe, CALA (Caribbean & Latin America), Asia, Mid-East & Oceania and North America. Depending on where you are travelling and the amount of time you expect to spend on your phone, the cost can vary considerably.
It would be best to look at the options on your providers website and speak with a customer service representative who can look at your last statement and estimate usage and suggest an add-on package that would be best for you.