What Is Data Roaming?


Ben Gran
Researcher & Writer
Read More
January 12, 2023

Find out if your data roaming should be on or off—and how much it could cost you.

What does roaming data mean?

Data roaming is when your phone has to disconnect from your usual cellular network and reconnect to another cell provider that has better coverage in that area. Anytime you leave your cellular service provider’s coverage map, you’ll be using data roaming—unless you’re so far off the grid that there is no cellular service, in which case you might need satellite phone coverage.

But data roaming can be costly. If you’re not careful, you might end up spending a lot of extra money to make phone calls or use the internet while your phone is on data roaming. To help you avoid extra data roaming fees, we’ve gathered the best international cell phone plans below. 

Best international cell phone plans

Best overall
T-Mobile Magenta®
Verizon TravelPassMint MobileVisible by Verizon: Visible+
Price$70 per month$10 per day

$5 per day in Canada and Mexico. (Free roaming for CA and MX is included in many Verizon plans.)
Mint Mobile does not offer international plans. International roaming charges depend on country.

See examples below.
$45 per month

The Visible+ plan includes free international roaming, calling, and texting in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands only.
DataUp to 5GB of high-speed data in 11 European countries.

Unlimited data at up to 256 Kbps in 215+ countries and destinations
Unlimited data in 210+ countries and destinations Canada: $0.06 per MB

Mexico: $0.06 per MB

France: $0.20 per MB

Japan: $0.20 per MB
Unlimited data (Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands)
Calling and texting$0.25 per minute calls and unlimited texts in 215+ countries and destinations

Unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada
Unlimited calls and texts in 210+ countries and destinationsCanada: $0.06 per minute, $0.02 per SMS

Mexico: $0.06 per minute, $0.02 per SMS

France: $0.25 per minute, $0.05 per SMS

Japan: $0.25 per minute, $0.05 per SMS
Unlimited calls and texts (Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands)

International mobile phone plans and prices depend on your mobile provider, which countries you want to visit, and sometimes your device. Some mobile providers offer flexible options for paying for international roaming, while others offer an all-inclusive monthly international plan.

We suggest going for international plans whenever possible—they’re cheaper in the long run.

If you use a low-cost mobile service provider like Mint Mobile or Visible, you should pay-as-you-go for international roaming credits instead or limit your travels to a few countries where international roaming service is available.

Our recommended international plan

If you’re willing to commit to a monthly plan, the T-Mobile Magenta® plan gives good international roaming value for $70 per month. You get unlimited texts in 215+ countries and destinations, 5GB of high-speed data in 11 countries, and unlimited talking and texting from Canada and Mexico.

Building international calling and texting into your monthly cell service plan gives you peace of mind of knowing that no matter where you travel, you’ll have basic connectivity, even if your data speed isn’t as fast as it is at home.

As a great runner-up, we also recommend Verizon’s TravelPass. $10 a day might seem like a lot, but if you’re only going out-of-country for a few days to a week, it’s one of your cheapest options. Plus, if you need to take a longer international trip (or just travel outside the U.S. for longer than 10 days), you can get the Verizon monthly International Plan for $100 per month.

Is data free on roaming?

Data is not free on roaming. That’s because your data roaming comes on when you’re in an area that is outside your cell service provider’s usual coverage, and you’re using a mobile network that is not owned by your mobile service provider.

Think of roaming charges as a convenience fee: if you want to keep using your phone’s cellular data, texting, or calling even while in another country or outside your usual coverage area, you need to be prepared to pay a little more.

Should data roaming be on or off?

You should leave data roaming set to “on” to stay connected when traveling. That way, you can navigate your way through a new city, get help in case of emergencies, or communicate with loved ones.

We’d only suggest turning your data roaming off if you can’t afford roaming charges or if you live in a rural area and are frequently getting data roaming fees.

How to turn on roaming on iPhone

  1. Tap “Settings.”
  2. Tap “Cellular.”
  3. Next to “Cellular Data Options,” choose “Roaming Off.”
  4. Switch the button for Data Roaming to on (it will turn green).

How to turn off roaming on iPhone

  1. Tap “Settings.”
  2. Tap “Cellular.”
  3. Next to “Cellular Data Options,” choose “Roaming On.”
  4. Switch the button for Data Roaming to off (it will turn grey).

How to turn on roaming on Samsung

  1. Open the “Settings” app.
  2. Tap “Connections.”
  3. Tap “Mobile Networks.”
  4. Slide the “Data roaming” switch to On (blue) to activate data roaming.

How to turn off roaming on Samsung

  1. Open the “Settings” app.
  2. Tap “Connections.”
  3. Tap “Mobile Networks.”
  4. Slide the “Data roaming” switch to Off (white) to deactivate data roaming.

How to turn on roaming on Android

  1. Open the “Settings” app.
  2. Under “Wireless & Networks” select “More.”
  3. Choose “Mobile Networks.” (Note: on some Android devices, you might need to choose “Battery & Data Manager” and then “Data Delivery.”)
  4. Select the check mark by “Data Roaming.” (On some Android phones, you might need to choose “Global Data Roaming Access” and then “Allow Data Roaming Access.”)

How to turn off roaming on Android

  1. Open the “Settings” app.
  2. Under “Wireless & Networks” select “More.”
  3. Choose “Mobile Networks.” (Note: on some Android devices, you might need to choose “Battery & Data Manager” and then “Data Delivery.”)
  4. Deselect the check mark by “Data Roaming.” (On some Android phones, you might need to choose “Global Data Roaming Access” and then “Deny Data Roaming Access.”)

How does international roaming work?

When you sign up for cell service, you get access to your provider's specific coverage area where its mobile network functions. If you go outside your provider’s coverage map, you need to be ready for data roaming.

Cellular service carriers have agreements with each other so that their customers can use each other’s networks for a price: this is how data roaming works. Even though you’re not a full-time customer of another country’s cellular carrier, international roaming essentially gives you a “guest pass” to use their mobile network while you’re there.

If you want to use international roaming while traveling, you need to be prepared to pay extra for the convenience of getting local coverage while you’re there. International data roaming might cost more or less depending on the country  or domestic location and your mobile carrier.

Let’s take a closer look at specific carriers’ programs and their rules.

T-Mobile international plans: T-Mobile roaming

T-Mobile offers a few options for international roaming coverage, depending on which T-Mobile plan you use.

The Magenta® plan ($70 per month) is the best value if you want unlimited texting in 215+ countries and are willing to accept 5GB of high-speed data in only 11 European countries with slower data in other countries.

The higher-priced Magenta MAX ® plan ($85 per month) is available if you want high-speed data in all of those 215+ countries. International roaming calls with T-Mobile cost $0.25 per minute.

Before your next international trip, make sure you will have T-Mobile coverage in the countries you plan to visit, and be prepared to pay some extra roaming charges for calls (or accept slower data speeds) depending on where you travel.   

Verizon TravelPass: Verizon international roaming

The Verizon TravelPass gets you international roaming service for$10 per day ($5 per day in Canada and Mexico), with unlimited calls, texts, and data in 210+ countries and destinations. You get charged only for the days when you use your device’s roaming in other countries.

Keep in mind that if you travel to other countries without signing up for TravelPass ahead of time, or if you go to one of the few countries that are not covered by TravelPass, you will have to pay Verizon’s Pay as You Go rates, which can be expensive: $2.05 per MB of data and up to $2.99 per minute for calls (depending on the country you’re visiting).

Mint Mobile UpRoam: Mint Mobile international roaming

Mint Mobile is a low-cost mobile service provider that offers affordable rates for unlimited cell service within U.S. borders—but if you want to travel to other countries, it gets more complicated.

You can still use your Mint Mobile service for international roaming, but it costs per minute of data, per text, and per minute of calls. Exact costs depend on which country you’re in.

Fortunately, Mint Mobile makes it easy to pay for these international roaming fees with UpRoam credits. You can pay $5, $10, or $20 at a time for UpRoam credits. These are applied to international calls, texts, and data usage while traveling, and credits never expire. At the end of your trip, any unused credits get applied to your next month’s bill, so you never lose out.

If you don’t want to commit to a higher-priced monthly cell service plan, Mint Mobile is a flexible, budget-friendly option to stay connected while traveling abroad.

Visible international roaming

Visible+ offers international roaming, but only for a few locations: Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So if you’re only traveling to these destinations, Visible might be a good option.

But if you’re traveling anywhere else, you’ll need to get another service for data, calls, and texts while visiting there. We suggest renting or buying a local SIM card for the country you’re visiting. 

Data roaming FAQ

What happens if I turn off data roaming?

If you turn off data roaming, you won’t be charged any roaming fees—but you also won’t be able to use your phone data, calling, or texting if you leave your carrier’s mobile network. 

Should data roaming be on or off on iPhone?

If you want to stay connected to mobile phone service even if you travel away from your cell carrier’s network, data roaming should be switched “on.” But if you want to avoid fees and you’re aware of the risks of losing connectivity, then you can turn data roaming to “off.”

What happens when you put data roaming on?

When you put data roaming on, you give your mobile phone permission to connect to other carriers’ mobile networks when you’re traveling—and charge you for the convenience.

This means that you won’t lose connectivity; you can keep texting, calling, and using mobile Internet data. But depending on your location and the details of your plan, you might have to pay some extra fees for your calls, texts, and data usage while roaming.

What happens if I turn off data roaming on iPhone?

If you turn off data roaming on your iPhone, you won’t be able to connect to other carriers’ mobile networks. Instead, if you’re out of your provider’s coverage map, you’ll have to rely on WiFi to use your iPhone—you could buy or rent a local SIM card if you’re in another country.

Will I be charged for roaming if I use WiFi?

If your phone is set up for WiFi calling and texting, you should be able to use WiFi to access the internet, make calls, and send texts, even if you have data roaming turned off.

How much do you get charged for data roaming?

It depends on your phone service provider and your plan, but the fees range from a few cents per minute for calls and texts, to $2.99 per minute, or more than $2.00 per megabyte of data. Make sure you understand the costs of your phone usage before you start data roaming.

Do you get charged roaming for incoming calls?

Yes, you get roaming charges for both outgoing calls and incoming calls. You’re using another carrier’s mobile network either way, so the roaming charges are the same.

How do I avoid data roaming charges?

Choose an international roaming plan that gives you a fair, flexible option for how to use your phone while traveling. Try to use WiFi whenever possible. And if you’re determined to avoid roaming charges, turn roaming “off.” (And reserve data roaming for emergencies.)

Does airplane mode stop roaming charges?

Airplane mode turns off cellular data and enables your phone to be used on WiFi only, so using your device in Airplane mode will also help you avoid roaming charges. But remember: you won’t be able to receive calls or texts unless you’re connected to WiFi and have WiFi calling enabled.

Do I get charged if I answer a long distance call?

Whether or not you’ll get charged for a long distance call depends on your cell provider and plan. If your data roaming plan includes unlimited calls, you should not be charged for answering a phone call, even if it’s long distance or from another country. But if you’re paying by the minute for phone calls while roaming, be prepared to pay a fee every time you talk on the phone—even if you’re not the one who initiated the call. 

Ben Gran
Written by
Ben Gran