Travelers, be weary of pickpockets — and your data plan.
Many people don't realize they can easily incur hundreds, and even thousands of dollars in roaming charges from data downloads, with Verizon and AT&T charging up to $20 per megabyte. So-called "bill shock" can strike anyone.
Take Dr. John Ellis of Chicago, for example, who took a trip to Asia and kept track of his data use throughout. Even though he had increased his data plan prior to leaving and received a notification that he was about to go over his limit, he came home to an AT&T bill that he described as, "in excess of what I expected," according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. AT&T reduced his bill to a more reasonable $500, but he bought an overseas data plan for his future travels.
International roaming fees are, " based on negotiated rates established with each local carrier," said an AT&T spokeswoman in the report.
Fortunately, there are a couple ways to avoid roaming fees. The first is to unlock your cell phone – sometimes by paying your cell phone company for the code – and buying a local SIM card from the country to which you are traveling, the report suggested. When you replace your SIM card with the new SIM card, your phone won't incur roaming charges.
Additionally, you can buy or rent an unlocked phone or a SIM card with cheaper roaming features that will allow you to go from country to country without replacing your SIM card.
One out of six mobile users in the United States have experienced a sudden and unexpected increase in their cell-phone bill, the Journal said, often due to data downloads in a roaming area.
Last year, the FCC prompted wireless carriers to agree to warn customers before they reach their limits, but those warnings don't always specify how steep the overage charges are.