Let Me Tell Ya About My $700 Phone Bill from My Weekend in Vancouver…

Self Portrait in Front of the 2010 Winter Olympics Cauldron, Vancouver, B.C.
Self Portrait in Front of the 2010 Winter Olympics Cauldron, Vancouver, B.C.

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 Vancouver Police Museum, canoeing with Takaya Tours and of course, excitement of the Game 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, Twitter and FourSquare) then switched my iPhone to “airplane mode.”

YVR Baggage Area
YVR Baggage Area

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 photos 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 dancing in the streets and high-fiving down the streets.

Canucks Fan Excitement Following Game 5 Win in Vancouver
Canucks Fan Excitement Following Game 5 Win in Vancouver

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

Thank you,


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.

Thank you,


Holy, Moly!

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! Just 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.



Dino at Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Dino at Chicago O'Hare International Airport

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.

Lesson Learned?

  • 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!



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

9 thoughts on “Let Me Tell Ya About My $700 Phone Bill from My Weekend in Vancouver…

  1. So I called ATT before crossing the border to change my plan. It was $4.99 for the month for Canada. I turned off all my data so it was phone only. My bill hasn’t come in yet, but I think it should be low.

    What’s frustrating is that Canada is “just like America” and we shouldn’t have to be on roaming for our phone.

    Kudos for getting the bill dropped. And I agree, $100 is high intl. usage, not $700. Why would ATT wait for so long?

  2. Nice it was only $4.99. Did you do the same when you went to Australia? Yeah, Canada is like America and I don’t understand how satellite signals can differentiate between the borders especially when so close.

  3. I have ATT too and added a $5 per month prorate for $.59 per mon calling from Vancouver. Kept data roaming OFF so only had Internet while on wireless networks. Paid $5 for 50 text messages. Haven’t recd the bill yet but hope I did everything right. My friend had a calling card and the Vancouver hotel charged her $2 for each call.

  4. Wow, I would have been panic’d. Glad you were able to resolve this to a lesser charge. Sounds like some had even better deals. Would not have thought that.


  5. Yeah, I wonder how much data they had and if they were for iPhones, too. A friend said they had a $4,400 iPhone bill but were able to do a similar thing. Then, someone else told me they were on a cruise and someone live streamed a basketball game, thinking being on the open water counted as domestic charges. His bill was $11,000!

  6. “canada is considered international travel”

    Last time I checked, Canada isn’t a US state..

Comments are closed.

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