Let me tell ya about the $700 in AT&T data charges incurred with my iPhone from my weekend in Vancouver. Yeah, that’s right, $700.
Although I was only in Vancouver for a few days earlier this month, I still packed in some fun activities such as the groovy opens in a new windowVancouver Police Museum, canoeing with opens in a new window Takaya Tours and of course, excitement of the opens in a new windowGame 5 Stanley Cup Playoff win of the Vancouver Canucks over the Boston Bruins.
In due time, you’ll be reading about those experiences. For now, I’m sharing my tale of a stupid mistake so you don’t do the same when traveling internationally. And despite growing up in New York along the Canadian border, Canada is considered international travel.
Yeah, I Know. It Was Dumb.
Landing in Vancouver late on a Thursday evening, I uploaded a photo and shared it with my social networks (Facebook, opens in a new windowTwitter and opens in a new windowFourSquare) then switched my iPhone to “airplane mode.”
Let me back up a bit. Every other time I’ve traveled internationally, AT&T has sent a text message reminding me about data roaming fees almost immediately after switching on my phone. I never received this “gentle reminder” text upon arriving in Vancouver.
Let the Data Charges Begin!
The next day with airplane mode OFF most of the time and data roaming ON: Google Maps navigated me through Vancouver, I received and replied to a few text messages, returned a phone call and uploaded opens in a new windowphotos and a video. It was the night of the Vancouver Canucks’ win over the Boston Bruins for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup and I wanted to capture the positive energy radiating from fans by uploading images of the opens in a new window dancing in the streets and high-fiving down the streets.
I Knew There Would be Additional Charges, Just Had No Idea How Much.
Saturday and Sunday during my visit, I pretty much kept my iPhone on airplane mode.
Sunday evening, at 9:31 p.m. PST, while connected to the hotel’s WiFi on my laptop, I received two consecutive emails from AT&T which read:
High International Data Usage Alert
Our systems have detected that you are using a substantial amount of data internationally. Unlimited domestic plans do not apply when roaming internationally.
Our records indicate that you currently do not have an applicable discounted international data plan. Data usage in Canada will be billed at $0.015 per KB (approx $15.00 per MB). Usage in all other countries outside of the US and Canada will be billed at $0.0195 per KB (approx $20.00 per MB).
Please call AT&T Customer Service at 405-XXX-XXXX
The third email arrived at 9:32 p.m and read:
Your International and Domestic Data Service Has Been Suspended.
You previously received a text message and an email notification advising you that you had used a substantial amount of data internationally. Your continued data use has resulted in significant additional data roaming charges. Please call +1-405-XXX-XXXX (24Hr X7days) to review your current charges, make payment arrangements, and restore your data service.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
Since my iPhone was in airplane mode all day, I didn’t receive the text messages. And since my phone was now suspended and unable to make calls, I couldn’t call the toll number AT&T provided. If I charged the call to my hotel room, who knows how expensive it would have been and who carries a phone card these days? After this episode, I’m thinking it’s not a bad idea to carry one. Ya know, just in case.
I tried visiting the ATT.com site to resolve the issue but sadly (or frustratingly) it was going through some maintenance or something and I couldn’t send a message but was able to calculate how much international data I had used…
…about 40 MB worth.
Are you doing the math?
My stomach sank. I knew I had a large check coming in from blogging and rationed some cutbacks I could make to cover the giant bill. Obviously, AT&T and I have a difference as to what excessive means. I would have cut myself off at the $100 level, not $700-ish. (Note: I am available for blogging gigs! opens in a new windowJust drop a line.)
After landing in Chicago on Monday, I called a toll-free AT&T customer service number and the woman was extremely nice and helpful. I was ready to provide a credit card number to have my service restored when she told me she couldn’t help but would have an international calling representative assist me. Before being transferred, she suggested I ask to have a plan retro’ed.
I talked to the international guy and confessed how my excitement over the Canucks’ win drove my data plan over the edge and hoped there was a way for him to work for me.
“I’d be happy to work with you,” he replied.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Ihoped AT&T would provide a discount but this was much, much better. Since the data usage was incurred at the beginning of my billing cycle, AT&T gave me an international plan for about $59.99 plus taxes and fees, on top of my existing plan.
“If I could, I’d come through the phone and kiss you,” I told him.
A huge financial weight was immediately lifted. Yeah, $59 plus change is expensive but it’s nothing compared to $700. The caveat is I need to stay within the data usage (no problem, I have no immediate plans for traveling abroad) and I need to call AT&T to drop the plan on the last day of my billing cycle.
- Talk to your cell phone provider before traveling abroad to learn what data plans are available.
- The plan I signed up for is limited to 50 MB which isn’t a lot of data. Be selective as to what data you share when traveling abroad.
- Keep the phone on airplane mode and just in case, turn off roaming.
- Take advantage of free WiFi.
Have a similar experience to share or more tips for using a smartphone when traveling? Do share!