Guard Against Cell Phone Charges on Vacation

June 28, 2012 (NEWS RELEASE)

Questions for BBB's Steve Bernas? Email

When traveling abroad, many users fail to recognize their data plan is constantly in use, even when they think their phone isn't. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) encourages those going abroad to take steps in preventing unnecessary charges. In the past 12 months, the BBB received almost 747 complaints against the cell phone industry, many of those were from customers who were unaware their phone or other mobile device was still in use as they traveled outside their coverage area. "Vacationers often rack up more expenses than initially planned when traveling," said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "It's important to make sure you aren't paying extra for a cell phone not being used."

"Roaming" is the term that describes a wireless phone's ability to make and receive calls outside the designated coverage area under your service plan. Before traveling abroad or out of your coverage area, consumers should be proactive and contact their provider for specific details regarding their individual data plan.

The BBB advises consumers to do the following with their cell phone and cell phone provider in preparation for a trip abroad:

Turn off your phone. If you don't need your phone and don't plan to use it while traveling abroad, turn it off. Another option is to rent or buy an international cell phone. Many rental plans offer services that work in several countries and may provide free incoming calls.

Contact your cell phone provider. Cell phone users generally know not to make calls or send text messages while out of their coverage area or abroad. For the occasional traveler it may be worth looking into an international add-on plan. Your cell phone carrier can provide specific tips that cater to the roaming needs of your individual cell phone and data plan.

Invest in a prepaid SIM card. For frequent, chatty travelers or long-term travelers consider investing in a prepaid SIM card. With access to a local phone number, vacationers will be able to make phone calls at the country's local rate.

Check with your BBB. Travelers should always check with your BBB before choosing an international service provider at

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