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How To Avoid International Roaming Charges On AT&T


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Freda Higa



Traveling internationally can be an exciting and enriching experience. However, if you are not prepared, it can also come with hefty international roaming charges that can quickly drain your bank account. Whether you are using your smartphone for work or leisure while abroad, it is crucial to find ways to avoid these charges.


In this article, we will explore different methods to prevent international roaming charges while using AT&T, one of the leading mobile carriers. By understanding how these charges work and implementing the following tips, you can stay connected without breaking the bank.


Understanding International Roaming Charges


Before delving into the strategies to avoid international roaming charges, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what they are. When you travel outside of your home country, your mobile network operator charges you for using their network in a foreign country. These charges can be levied for making phone calls, sending text messages, or using mobile data.


AT&T offers different international roaming plans that allow you to use your device overseas. However, these plans can be costly, especially if you do not anticipate your usage accurately. To save yourself from unexpected charges, it is advisable to explore alternative options.


Understanding International Roaming Charges

When traveling internationally, it’s crucial to understand how international roaming charges work. These charges apply when you use your mobile phone or other devices on a foreign network while you are abroad. AT&T, like other mobile carriers, has specific rates for international roaming, which can vary depending on the country you are visiting.


International roaming charges can add up quickly, especially if you are unaware of how your device is consuming data or making calls. Here are some important factors to consider:

  • Data Usage: Using your mobile data abroad, such as browsing the internet, checking emails, or streaming videos, can result in significant charges. Data is typically charged per megabyte or per minute of usage.
  • Calls and Text Messages: Making phone calls or sending text messages while abroad can also incur additional charges. These charges can vary depending on whether you are making local or international calls.
  • Incoming Calls and Text Messages: Strangely enough, even receiving calls or text messages while abroad can come with a cost. Both incoming and outgoing communication can lead to charges.
  • Surcharge Fees: Some destinations may have additional surcharges or higher rates due to certain regulations or partnerships.

It’s important to note that international roaming charges can vary significantly from one country to another. It is best to check with AT&T to get specific details on the rates and options for the country you plan to visit.


To avoid unexpected charges, it’s advisable to be mindful of your device usage while abroad. Monitoring your data consumption, using Wi-Fi when available, and exploring alternative options can help you keep these charges to a minimum.


Tips for Avoiding International Roaming Charges

International roaming charges can quickly become a financial burden. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to avoid or minimize these charges. By following these tips, you can stay connected without worrying about excessive fees from AT&T.


1. Use Wi-Fi Whenever Possible: One of the easiest ways to avoid international roaming charges is by connecting to Wi-Fi networks whenever they are available. Make use of Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels, cafes, and public areas to access the internet and use messaging apps without using mobile data.


2. Enable Airplane Mode: If you don’t need to make or receive calls or use cellular data, consider switching your device to Airplane Mode. This will prevent your phone from connecting to any mobile network, ensuring that you won’t incur any roaming charges.


3. Disable Data Roaming: To prevent unintentional data usage while abroad, disable data roaming on your device. This setting ensures that your phone won’t use mobile data from local networks, helping you avoid hefty charges.


4. Download Maps and Content Offline: Prior to your trip, download maps, travel guides, and other content to your device for offline use. This way, you won’t rely on data while navigating or accessing information during your travels.


5. Use Messaging and VoIP Apps: Instead of making regular phone calls or sending text messages, use messaging apps like WhatsApp, Skype, or Facebook Messenger, which allow you to make calls and send messages over Wi-Fi or data connections.


6. Check for AT&T International Roaming Packages: AT&T offers various international roaming packages that provide discounted rates for calls, texts, and data usage while abroad. Check their website or contact customer service to find out which package suits your needs and destination.


7. Purchase a Local SIM Card: If you have an unlocked phone, consider purchasing a local SIM card in the country you are visiting. This allows you to have a local phone number and access to local rates for calls, texts, and data. However, keep in mind that this option may not be suitable for everyone.


By implementing these tips, you can significantly reduce your chances of incurring high international roaming charges. Remember to plan ahead, stay mindful of your device usage, and explore the available options that suit your needs and budget.


Option 1: Use Wi-Fi Calling

One effective method to avoid international roaming charges is by utilizing Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling allows you to make and receive phone calls and send text messages using a Wi-Fi network instead of relying on the cellular network.


To use Wi-Fi calling with AT&T, you need a compatible device and an active Wi-Fi connection. Once connected, you can make domestic and international calls to any phone number, and it will be treated as if you are calling from your home country.


The benefits of utilizing Wi-Fi calling include:

  • No Additional Charges: Since the calls are made over Wi-Fi, they do not incur any additional charges from AT&T. This means you can make and receive calls without worrying about international roaming fees.
  • Clearer Voice Quality: Wi-Fi calling often provides better voice quality compared to traditional cellular calls, especially if you are in an area with a weak cellular signal. This can enhance your calling experience while abroad.
  • Seamless Transition: With Wi-Fi calling, your calls seamlessly transition between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, ensuring that you can stay connected even if you move between different networks.
  • Available in Many Countries: AT&T offers Wi-Fi calling in over 200 countries, making it a convenient option for international travelers.

To enable Wi-Fi calling on your AT&T device, make sure you have a compatible device and that Wi-Fi calling is supported in the country you are visiting. You can check AT&T’s website or contact customer support for more information on how to enable and use Wi-Fi calling.


It’s important to note that while Wi-Fi calling allows you to make and receive calls and messages, it does not provide access to mobile data. To use data services, such as browsing the internet or using mobile apps, you still need to connect to Wi-Fi networks or explore other options like purchasing an international data package or using messaging and VoIP apps.


Using Wi-Fi calling is an excellent way to stay connected while avoiding international roaming charges. So, make sure to take advantage of this feature whenever Wi-Fi is available during your travels.


Option 2: Purchase an International Roaming Package

If you prefer the convenience of using your AT&T mobile network while traveling abroad, purchasing an international roaming package is an option worth considering. AT&T offers a variety of plans that provide discounted rates for calls, texts, and data usage in select countries.


Here are some key benefits of purchasing an international roaming package:

  • Predictable Costs: By purchasing a roaming package, you can have a clear idea of the costs associated with using your device abroad. These packages often include a set amount of data, minutes, and texts at a discounted rate, allowing you to plan your usage and budget accordingly.
  • Access to Mobile Data: With an international roaming package, you can use mobile data to browse the internet, check emails, and use mobile apps while abroad without incurring exorbitant charges.
  • Staying Connected to Your Current Contacts: By keeping your AT&T number and continuing to use your device as you normally would, you can stay connected to your contacts without the need to provide them with a different number or account.
  • Easy Set-Up: Activating an international roaming package on your AT&T device is usually straightforward. You can do it online, through the AT&T app, or by contacting customer support.

When considering an international roaming package, it’s essential to evaluate your specific needs based on your destination, expected usage, and budget. AT&T offers various options, such as daily, weekly, or monthly plans, depending on the duration of your trip.


Before purchasing a package, familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions, including any limitations or restrictions that may apply. Be aware that exceeding the allocated minutes, messages, or data limits may result in additional charges.


To explore the available international roaming packages offered by AT&T, visit their website or contact customer support for more detailed information. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date options and assist you in selecting a package that best suits your needs.


Purchasing an international roaming package can be a convenient and cost-effective way to use your AT&T device while traveling abroad without worrying about excessive charges. Take the time to research and choose the package that aligns with your usage requirements to enjoy a seamless and connected experience during your international adventures.


Option 3: Buy a Local SIM Card

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to stay connected while traveling abroad, buying a local SIM card is an excellent option to consider. By replacing your AT&T SIM card with a local one, you can access local rates for calls, texts, and data services, avoiding high international roaming charges.


Here are some key advantages of buying a local SIM card:

  • Local Rates: When you use a local SIM card, you are treated as a local customer, which means you can take advantage of local rates. These rates are often significantly cheaper than international roaming fees.
  • More Data Allowance: Local SIM cards typically offer larger data allowances compared to international roaming packages. This allows you to browse the internet, use apps, and stream media without worrying about excessive charges.
  • Flexible Options: Local SIM cards come with various options, including prepaid plans and pay-as-you-go options. This gives you the flexibility to choose a plan that suits your needs and budget for the duration of your stay.
  • Ability to Make Local Calls: With a local SIM card, you can easily make local calls to hotels, restaurants, or local contacts without incurring additional charges or needing an international calling plan.
  • Easy Setup: Buying and activating a local SIM card is often a straightforward process. You can typically find SIM cards at airports, convenience stores, or local carrier retail shops. Once inserted into your unlocked device, follow the instructions provided to activate the service.

It’s important to note that using a local SIM card means you will have a different phone number for the duration of your trip. Make sure to inform your contacts about your temporary number or rely on messaging apps to stay in touch with them.


Before purchasing a local SIM card, check that your device is unlocked and compatible with the local carrier’s network frequencies. Additionally, research local carriers and their coverage to ensure a reliable network connection during your travels.


By buying a local SIM card, you can enjoy the benefits of local pricing, increased data allowances, and greater flexibility while minimizing your reliance on AT&T and avoiding international roaming charges.


Remember to compare prices and plan options before purchasing a local SIM card, as different providers may offer varying rates and coverage. Take advantage of this option and stay connected affordably during your international adventures.


Option 4: Use Messaging and VoIP Apps

When it comes to staying connected while avoiding international roaming charges, messaging apps and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services can be a game-changer. By utilizing these apps, you can make calls, send messages, and even video chat over Wi-Fi or mobile data, all without incurring exorbitant fees.


Here are the key benefits of using messaging and VoIP apps:

  • Cost Savings: Messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, or Facebook Messenger, and VoIP services like Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime, allow you to make calls and send messages free of charge using Wi-Fi or data. This can result in significant savings compared to traditional phone calls or text messages.
  • Availability and Accessibility: Most messaging apps and VoIP services are widely available and compatible with smartphones and computers, making it easy for you to stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues, regardless of their location. These apps offer features such as voice calls, video calls, group messaging, and file sharing.
  • International Reach: Messaging apps and VoIP services transcend borders, allowing you to connect with people around the world. As long as you have an internet connection, you can communicate with others without worrying about international roaming charges.
  • Additional Features: Messaging apps often provide additional features such as end-to-end encryption for enhanced privacy, the ability to send multimedia files, and the option to create group chats for seamless communication with multiple people simultaneously.

Before relying solely on messaging and VoIP apps, ensure that you have a stable internet connection, either through Wi-Fi or a local data plan. It’s also worth checking if the people you want to communicate with also have the same apps installed to ensure compatibility.


While messaging apps and VoIP services are excellent alternatives to traditional communication methods, they do require an internet connection. Depending on your destination, you may have limited access to Wi-Fi networks or face data restrictions. In such cases, combining these apps with other options like Wi-Fi calling or local SIM cards can provide a comprehensive communication solution.


By leveraging messaging apps and VoIP services, you can stay connected with loved ones and colleagues back home without worrying about international roaming charges. Take advantage of the convenience and cost-savings offered by these technologies during your travels.


Option 5: Disable Cellular Data and Roaming on Your Device

If you want to ensure complete control over your mobile data usage and avoid any possibility of incurring international roaming charges, a simple yet effective option is to disable cellular data and roaming on your device.


By disabling cellular data and roaming, you can limit your device’s connection to only Wi-Fi networks, removing the risk of unintentional data usage or connecting to foreign networks that may result in costly charges.


Here are the key benefits of disabling cellular data and roaming:

  • No Risk of Roaming Charges: By turning off roaming, you eliminate the chance of your device connecting to a foreign mobile network and incurring any applicable charges for calls, texts, or data.
  • Better Control Over Data Usage: Disabling cellular data prevents your device from using mobile data altogether. This allows you to avoid any unexpected data usage while abroad and helps you stay within your desired limits.
  • Limiting Connectivity to Wi-Fi Only: By relying solely on Wi-Fi networks, you can connect your device to trusted and secure networks, such as your hotel’s Wi-Fi or public hotspots, for data usage. This minimizes the risk of connecting to unsecured or potentially expensive cellular networks.
  • Reduced Battery Consumption: Disabling cellular data and roaming can also help conserve battery life since your device won’t constantly search for and connect to cellular networks.

It’s important to note that disabling cellular data and roaming means you will not have access to mobile data services while abroad, which may limit your ability to browse the internet or use certain apps when away from a Wi-Fi connection.


If you choose this option, make sure to enable Wi-Fi and connect to available networks whenever possible. Utilizing messaging apps, VoIP services, and offline content can help you stay connected and entertained without relying on mobile data.


Remember to disable cellular data and roaming before you depart and to check your device’s settings periodically to ensure these features remain disabled throughout your trip.


By disabling cellular data and roaming on your device, you can have peace of mind knowing that you have complete control over your data usage and are protected from unexpected international roaming charges.



International travel should be an enjoyable experience, and you shouldn’t have to worry about excessive international roaming charges from your mobile carrier. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can avoid or minimize these charges while staying connected with your loved ones and colleagues.


Understanding international roaming charges and exploring alternative options such as Wi-Fi calling, purchasing international roaming packages, buying a local SIM card, using messaging and VoIP apps, or disabling cellular data and roaming on your device can help you take control of your communication expenses while abroad.


Each option has its advantages, so consider your specific needs, destination, and budget to determine which approach is best for you. Whether you prefer the convenience of your mobile network, opt for cost-effective local options, or rely on internet-based communication, there is a solution to fit your travel style and requirements.


It’s essential to plan ahead, research available options, and check with your mobile carrier, such as AT&T, to discover the rates, packages, and settings that are applicable to your specific trip. This way, you can make informed decisions and avoid any surprises when it comes to your mobile expenses.


Remember to also consider factors such as local network coverage, available Wi-Fi networks, and the preferences of the people you want to communicate with to ensure seamless communication throughout your journey.


Traveling internationally should be about exploring new places, creating memories, and connecting with others. By following these tips, you can stay connected while protecting yourself from excessive international roaming charges. So, go ahead and embark on your adventures with confidence, knowing that you’re making informed choices to stay connected without the financial burden.