Fly high, but keep your phone bill grounded
Plan carefully, and you can prevent a trip turning into a mobile phone bill nightmare, says Kate Hughes
Saturday 07 June 2008
Millions of us will make a break for foreign climes this summer, forking out an average of £2,100 for a holiday for a family of four, according to the Office of National Statistics. So the last thing we need while enduring the post-holiday comedown is a huge mobile phone bill for calling envious friends and family from the beach.
The good news is that the European Union has succeeded in curbing the costs of calling within the EU area, with the "Eurotariff" introduced last summer. The costs of texts are expected to go the same way.
But in the meantime, providers can hit holidaymakers and business trippers hard with call, text and data download costs, and your usual mobile habits in the UK could cost thousands of pounds from overseas.
Last summer, the EU imposed a cap on the amount a mobile provider in a member country could charge for calls made and received abroad. You should not pay more than 49 cents (around 35 to 38 pence) per minute to make a call and around 24 cents (18 to 19 pence) to receive a call per minute.
But making calls while abroad does not fall into any prepaid "bundle" of call minutes, so you will pay extra for the calls regardless of whether you have any free minutes or not in your package. And for now, any international text message will still cost you between 25 and 40 pence.
And that's not all. "It is common practice to charge a full first minute for any national or roaming call made, regardless of length," warns Ed Richards, chief executive of the communications regulator Ofcom. "If the call lasts longer than a minute, the remainder is charged per second or, sometimes, per 30-second interval. This means that a 20- or 30-second call could be charged as if it took one minute."
The cost of downloading data while roaming is the stuff of nightmares. It costs between £3 and £8 to download one megabit of data – that's the equivalent of one photo message. Trawling the internet or downloading a few emails to your blackberry could easily cost you £50 a time. Woe betide you if you download that essential last episode of The Apprentice – a couple of hours' worth of BBC iPlayer and you could very easily come home to a bill for thousands of pounds. Outside the EU things get worse as, generally, the further from the UK you get, the more expensive using your mobile becomes.
"We have concerns about the high cost of text, data and voice roaming," says Richards. "Before travelling, consumers must check their tariff and ensure that they are aware of the cost of making calls, texting and downloading data in advance."
"Racking up extortionate bills on your mobile is easy," adds Rob Barnes of price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com. "But by doing a bit of research, and being careful with your mobile usage, you can save yourself a nasty shock when you get your next bill."
"Assuming that you are saving money on expensive calls by texting or getting your friends and family to call you is a very common mistake," warns Barnes. "Because international text message costs are for now uncapped and unregulated, engaging in a text conversation with someone could cost you more than briefly calling the person. And people often don't realise that when someone calls them, the recipient, and not the caller will be charged the extra cost of the international call over the UK call."
Calling your voicemail is also a big no-no as this is a call to the UK. Recording a voicemail greeting, asking callers only to leave urgent messages, may mean that you don't waste cash retrieving messages from friends innocently asking whether you fancy a drink at your local pub while you are in Cambodia.
Before you go, check out the international packages offered by the UK mobile networks, such as Vodafone's Passport service. These arrangements must be put in place before you go away. A month's roaming tariff can be anything up to £3, but can be free depending on your network. If there is a monthly charge, you will have to actively cancel it when you get home otherwise you will continue to be charged.
"This is probably the best option for you if you are going to be away for a while and will be using your phone a lot," says Barnes. "Otherwise, the cost of the service may not be worth it."
International networks, such as T-Mobile, which operates in the United States and Europe as well as the UK, may also offer better deals. Calling the UK from the US for example, will cost around 50p a minute, one of the cheapest rates available.
If you are overseas for longer than a few weeks, a local SIM card may be a better solution than using your regular phone provider. "Buying local SIM cards for your destination country will remove the international call cost altogether because when calling within that country, you are on a local not international call," Barnes suggests.
"This is most suited to travellers who are away from home for a few months, and may be calling friends in the local area."
A number of providers sell local and global SIM cards, such as Story Telecom (www.story telecom.com), Go-SIM, ( www.gosim.com) and Sim4Travel ( www.sim4travel.com) as well as the national networks in your destination country. Some even allow you to keep your existing number when you switch.
But one of the cheapest ways of calling internationally is to bypass the networks all together. Millions of people worldwide have come round to the voice over internet protocol (Voip), which allows users to call each other via the internet for free.
Although newer mobiles often have internet connection features, operating Skype from a mobile is a task for experts. But late last year, the 3 network released the Skypephone, a 3G internet phone with Skype capability. It means that as long as you are in a Wi-Fi area, you can contact other Skype users for free, or call non-users for only three or four pence. The Skypephone costs pay-as-you-go customers £49.99 and is free for contract customers on 3. Go to www.three.co.uk/personal/mobiles_/skype_/index.omp for more information.
For more information about the Eurotariff, go to http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/roaming/index_en.htm
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Cyclist in Russia narrowly misses being hit by car and lorry
- 2 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 3 What are your fingerprint words?
- 5 Pink Floyd new album: Band unveil cover art for first record in 20 years
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Labour Party conference: Ed Balls to set out plan to freeze child benefit to balance books
iJobs Money & Business
£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
Day In a Page
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green