Edited by: Nick Ellis
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At Upgraded Points, we’re a team of travelers. Some of us travel abroad multiple times per year, and some of us travel full-time. However, all of us have 1 thing in common: we need an international data plan to stay connected to our work when we’re globetrotting.
With this in mind, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the best U.S. mobile data plans for international roaming. The right plan will let us stay connected to our work when traveling, breaking us free from the hold of constantly searching for free Wi-Fi.
In past articles, we’ve looked at T-Mobile and Google Fi’s assortment of international data plans. And while these were some of our favorites, it’s time for us to turn our focus to mobile giant AT&T’s international roaming options. And at first glance, you may be in for a bit of a disappointment.
AT&T doesn’t offer free international roaming outside of North America, and it’s international roaming options can get pricey quickly. So in this article, we’ll dive deep and take a look at all of AT&T’s different roaming options. We’ll start by looking at what options are available to you, and then end with a list of pros and cons.
Use the information presented in this article to see if AT&T is the right cell phone provider for you as an international traveler. And if you’re already an AT&T subscriber, you can use this information to avoid any billing surprises on your next trip abroad.
Let’s get started!
Breaking Down AT&T’s International Data Plans
As discussed in the intro, there’s no free international roaming outside of North America included with any of AT&T’s post-paid cell phone plans.
Thankfully, though, there are 3 different ways you can use your AT&T mobile plan when you’re traveling abroad. One is paying per megabyte for data, and the other 2 options are roaming plans. We’ve outlined each and their respective pricing in the paragraphs below:
Pay Per Use International Data
The first option available to you is also the riskiest: paying per megabyte for international mobile data.
AT&T will let you use international mobile data at a rate of $2.05 per megabyte in most countries. Your exact usage is actually billed per kilobyte, so if you use 100.2 MB of data during your trip, you won’t be rounded up to 101 MB for billing purposes.
This is a very risky (and expensive) way to use international mobile data. For example, sending a 3 MB photo on WhatsApp would cost a whopping $6.15! Further, modern smartphones use a lot of data in the background — think automatic updates and fetching new email — so you could end up paying hundreds of dollars in extra charges just for keeping your cell phone turned on!
We highly recommend staying away from this option. It’s too risky to be deemed practical — especially when you consider how data-intensive even the most basic smartphone tasks are.
AT&T International Day Pass
Plan on using a lot of data during your trip? You may want to consider the International Day Plan.
This plan lets you continue using your AT&T plan abroad. If you have an unlimited plan at home, you can continue using this plan and your data allocation when traveling in 200+ countries. Plus, you also get unlimited texting, calling to the U.S., and calling to 100+ Day Pass countries.
This plan is charged at a rate of $10 per day per line on top of your existing AT&T plan. So if you’d like to add multiple devices to this plan, you’ll be charged $10 per device per day. Thankfully, AT&T will only charge you for days you actually use, and there’s no minimum number of days you need to purchase.
These daily plans are charged per 24-hour period and don’t start until you’ve used data, sent or received a text, or made a call. So if your flight lands at 3:30 p.m. in London and you make a call at 4:00 p.m., your 24 hour period will expire at 4:00 pm the next day. This plan works in any of AT&T’s International Day Pass supported countries, and you can use your plan in multiple countries without having to buy an additional pass.
Once you add International Day Pass to your AT&T account, you will be automatically charged you for a full day whenever you use your phone in a supported country. This means that you don’t need to enroll in the plan more than once — just set it and forget it.
Free International Roaming in Canada And Mexico
One quick thing to note: most AT&T post-paid plans include complimentary roaming in Canada and Mexico.
When roaming to these countries, you’ll simply use your voice, text, and data plan from home. According to AT&T’s website, your phone will work at full-speed when roaming in these countries (or until 22 GB on unlimited plans, then throttled speeds), so there’s no need to worry about being throttled just for traveling. You can even use mobile hotspot — something super helpful for those that want to work remotely when traveling within North America.
The following plans include North American roaming:
- Unlimited &More
- Unlimited &More premium
- Unlimited Choice
- Unlimited Choice Enhanced
- Unlimited Plus
- Unlimited Plus Enhanced
Further, a handful of plans include roaming in Mexico, but not Canada:
- Mobile Share Advantage (10 GB or higher)
- Mobile Share Flex (10 GB or higher)
- Mobile Share Plus
- Mobile Share Value (15 GB or higher)
Other AT&T plans can add a special Roam North America plan to their account. The price of this plan is not published publicly, so you’ll have to call AT&T to receive a quote and have it added to your AT&T account.
Which AT&T Data Package is Right for You?
Now that you know what international plans AT&T offers, let’s help you pick which is best for you. Here’s a look at why you might pick 1 plan over another:
Stick with pay per megabyte roaming if you…
- Plan on keeping your phone in airplane mode or buying a local SIM card — it’s not worth risking a huge bill when you get home!
Sign up in the International Day Pass if you…
- Are on a short trip — $10 per day can add up quickly.
- Only plan on using data on certain days of your trip.
- Have a large U.S. data plan; remember, the data you use will be pulled from your standard data allowance.
- Need a plan to hold you over until you purchase a local SIM card.
How to Sign up for an International Data Package
Signing up for an AT&T international data plan is easy. You’ll be automatically enrolled in pay per megabyte — so the minute you land, you’ll start being charged for roaming.
On the other hand, International Day Pass can be added from the myAT&T portal. Just head over to AT&T’s website, sign in, and head to this link. You can remove an international plan from this page as well.
Hot Tip: You can call AT&T to have them disable the international data plan feature if you’d like. We actually recommend doing this so that you don’t end up with a massive bill for accidentally taking your phone out of airplane mode.
AT&T’s Supported Countries
AT&T has a wide range of supported countries for its International Day Pass but unfortunately, it’s not quite as extensive as T-Mobile or even Google Fi.
Some notable examples of countries not supported by International Day Pass include:
- French Polynesia
- United Arab Emirates
- A handful of others
You can view the entire list of supported countries for both plans on AT&T’s website. We recommend studying this list before you make a choice on what plan is right for you. After all, there’s nothing worse than landing in a new country and not having phone service to call an Uber!
Pros and Cons of AT&T’s International Data Plans
Obviously, there’s ups and downs to picking an AT&T international data plan over a competitor — unfortunately though, we believe there are more downsides. To prove it, here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of AT&T’s international data plans.
Don’t worry: we’ll bring these together in the Final Thoughts section, giving you a well-rounded look as to if AT&T’s international data plans are right for you.
Pros of AT&T’s International Data Plans:
- 2 different options for international roaming, giving you flexibility in how you choose to roam
- Complimentary roaming in North America for most AT&T plans
- International Day Pass provides flexibility and peace of mind as it automatically re-enrolls when you use your phone abroad
Cons of AT&T’s International Data Plans:
- No complimentary international data like T-Mobile or Google Fi
- Limited roaming countries, especially on the International Day Pass plan
- Expensive pay per megabyte roaming
- International Day Pass can add up on long trips
- Not all plans include North American roaming
All in all, AT&T’s international data plans are not the best option for most travelers. For example, Google Fi’s Unlimited plan costs just $70 per month per line, and includes unlimited high-speed international data. With AT&T, you’d pay a similar price for U.S. data and still have to buy an additional international plan.
Further, AT&T doesn’t have the global coverage that other carriers offer. And while AT&T does cover most of Asia and Europe, those traveling off the beaten path will eventually stumble upon a country where an AT&T plan won’t connect.
If you live in an area where AT&T is your only option for getting solid coverage, we recommend picking up one of AT&T’s two different international data plans when you do travel abroad. These will keep your international data bill manageable and ensure that you can stay connected no matter where you are in the world.
Long story short: we recommend strongly considering the competition before you settle on AT&T. You’ll likely find a better deal with more international coverage options.
Featured Image Credit: Roman Tiraspolsky via Shutterstock
Frequently Asked Questions
Thankfully, most modern smartphones are properly configured to work internationally. If you’re unsure, refer to your phone’s owner’s manual or call AT&T to check if your cell phone works outside of the U.S.
There are a number of credit cards that offer bonus points and other benefits for paying your phone bill. To see these options, check out our full guide to the best credit cards for paying your cell phone bill.
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About Andrew Kunesh
Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City.
He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew formerly worked for The Points Guy and is now Senior Money Editor at CNN Underscored.
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