International data overseas

The editors here at Android Central tend to travel a lot for this job, and that isn't limited to staying in our home country. When we travel, we need to have our phones with us and connected all the time — that's kind of what we do. We're no strangers to dealing with roaming internationally, and thankfully for us the U.S. carriers are getting on board with everyone's tendency to get out of the country and see the world with their phones and tablets at their side.

Gone are the days of astronomical pay-per-megabyte rates, limited roaming carrier agreements and poor options from some of the carriers. Two of the big four carriers are now offering some sort of free international roaming, with the other two coming around to friendlier pricing structures and fewer restrictions on how we use our data we bought. Even prepaid carriers are getting in on the action with some international calling plans.

VPN Deals: Lifetime license for $16, monthly plans at $1 & more

Even with all of these changes, international data still isn't cheap. Your best bet is to find a local prepaid SIM card when you travel and pop it in your unlocked phone. But that's not always easy — and there's really something luxurious about stepping off a plane, firing up your phone ... and seeing it just work.

So we've gathered up the international data rates and policies for the four major U.S. carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — plus Google's own Project Fi. Each carrier does things slightly different, whether it's buying data ahead of time, loading up full-speed data passes once you're already gone or setting up a monthly roaming add-on.

Here's how each of the carriers handles international roaming.


After generally standing still on international roaming for over two years, AT&T made a move in January 2017 to perfectly copy Verizon's international plans. Rather than paying for buckets of data to use internationally as before, you can now simply add an "International Day Pass" to access your domestic data allowance in any supported roaming country. The pricing is dead simple: $10 per day, per device to access data internationally. The pass stays on your account until you cancel it, but is only activated and charged for each day you spend internationally with data.

The one caveat to the whole thing, which was also borrowed from Verizon, is that your international data usage cannot exceed 50% of your total data usage for two consecutive months. If you do, the International Day Pass may be removed.

Thanks to competition from the likes of T-Mobile and Sprint, AT&T now also offers free use of your phone while traveling to Mexico. If you have a Mobile Share Advantage plan with at least 10GB of data, you get free talk, text, and data use while in Mexico, including calls and texts between Mexico and the U.S.


T-Mobile offers free international data roaming on its postpaid plans when traveling in over 140 countries worldwide. But it comes with a caveat — speeds are limited to 2G, or around 128 Kbps, much slower than what you'd be used to back home. But hey, it's free.

If you need faster speeds (we wouldn't blame you if you did), you'll have to pay for a data pass to bump up your speeds — though the actual speeds you'll get will depend on the country and your phone's radio bands. The passes:

  • $15 for 100MB of data to use for one day, speeds reduced to 2G afterward
  • $25 for 200MB of data to use for seven days, speeds reduced to 2G afterward
  • $50 for 500MB of data to use for 14 days, speeds reduced to 2G afterward

The $15 plan can be good to use in a pinch, but the best value is going to come from getting the more expensive plans that let you use the data for a longer period of time. Also remember that once you buy a data pass, it'll work to give you faster data speeds in any country that T-Mobile offers the service — you don't need a new pass for a new country. T-Mobile will also often run limited-time offers where it opens up full-speed data in certain regions for all customers, so double check the deals before you pay for a pass unnecessarily.

Starting in mid-2015 T-Mobile also threw another wrinkle into this plan by extending unlimited full-speed data and unlimited talk/text to both Canada and Mexico as part of its Simple Choice (and later T-Mobile ONE) plans. No more dealing with high-speed data packages when you hit the countries bordering the U.S.


After having some of the most woeful offerings in the business, Sprint refreshed its international data plans in April 2015. Much like T-Mobile, Sprint offers free 2G data roaming in Latin America, Japan and Europe — 152 countries in total, check with Sprint for the full list — with the option to purchase 3G-speed data packs if you need a faster connection:

  • $15 for 100MB of data to use for one day, speeds reduced to 2G afterward
  • $25 for 200MB of data to use for seven days, speeds reduced to 2G afterward
  • $50 for 500MB of data to use for 14 days, speeds reduced to 2G afterward

Now that Sprint has upped the number of countries it offers international data in the only real downside here is the speeds offered. Sprint's free data is capped at 64 kbps, half of T-Mobile's speeds, and its paid offering is only sold as a "3G" speed, coming up short of everyone else.


In November 2015 Verizon drastically revamped its international options with its new TravelPass service. The gist is you pay a little bit per line per day, and voice and data usage comes out of your domestic bucket, just like if you were at home.

If you have a 12GB or larger data plan, the $2 per day fee for Canada/Mexico roaming is waived, which is a nice treat to the high data users out there, but no level of plan gets you around the $10 per day international fee elsewhere.

The only restriction to this international add-on is that if your international data usage is more than 50% of your total monthly data usage for two months in a row, Verizon may remove that feature from your account.

If you travel internationally frequently but don't use as much data, you may consider Verizon's "monthly international travel" add-on for your account instead. This fee is tacked onto your monthly bill to give you international access in 140+ countries, without the per-day payment mentioned above. There are two pricing levels:

  • $25 per month for 100MB of data, $1.79 per minute talk, 50 cents per text sent / 5 cents per text received
  • $40 per month for 100MB of data, 100 minutes, 100 texts to send / unlimited texts to receive

Data overage is charged at $25 per 100MB, which makes this monthly offering far less interesting for most people when compared to the daily rates above.

Google Project Fi

If you're using Google's own carrier, Project Fi, things are pretty simple when you take your phone abroad. Much like T-Mobile and Sprint, Project Fi offers roaming in a robust number of countries — now totaling over 135 — at no additional cost. Though it used to offer slower 256 kbps speeds, with the addition of a roaming deal with Three, Project Fi customers now get HSPA-like speeds (2 to 10 mbps) and simply pay the same $10 per gigabyte rate as you do when you're in the U.S.

  • $10 per gigabyte, no restrictions on usage or speed
  • Unlimited calling to/from U.S. while on Wi-Fi
  • Unlimited incoming calls from U.S. while on Wi-Fi
  • Varying calling rates when calling internationally on Wi-Fi
  • 20 cents per minute when calling internationally on mobile data
  • Unlimited texting in any supported country

Where things get a bit confusing is on international calling. Because Project Fi allows for calling over Wi-Fi as well as cellular networks, it offers lower rates over Wi-Fi (fewer routing costs) and varying rates depending on where you're calling. You can always call to/from the U.S. for free over Wi-Fi, but that call may cost you a few cents per minute if you call internationally over Wi-Fi.

Calls over mobile data will always cost you a somewhat-steep (but cheaper than others) 20 cents per minute. It's best to keep an eye on when you're calling over Wi-Fi versus cellular data to limit your additional costs. Project Fi also lists a number of countries from which you're unable to make Wi-Fi calls.

The bottom line

When traveling outside the United States, it's usually cheaper to get a local SIM card, if you can. We also recommend staying on Wi-Fi whenever possible — make use of Wi-Fi calling on Sprint, T-Mobile and Project Fi, or try a VoIP solution like Skype or Hangouts.

If you just have to have data, though — and there's nothing wrong with it so long as you're willing to pay — it's important to do the math. The good news is that there are options, and the options have gotten much better over the years. Not that you'll likely have much of a choice when it comes to switching carriers just for overseas use, but comparisons are good.

And as always, if you have any questions about using your phone overseas, check with your carrier. Here's where you can dive deeper into each of the carrier's offerings:

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.