Best roaming plans: Which is the cheapest network for EU and abroad?
As of the end of last month, April, roaming fees across Europe have dropped dramatically thanks to an EU directive. In addition, the European Commission will scrap roaming data charges in its 28 member countries entirely from June 2017.
Until then though, even with the lower blanket fees, some networks have decided to adopt their own low pricing structure or, even, ditch the fees. That means uploading your holiday snaps to Facebook or Instagram as you go is much more justifiable than it has been in the past.
If you are lucky enough to travel a lot, here is a round up of what the different networks offer in terms of roaming and which give jetsetters the best deals.
New EU roaming charges (as of 30 April 2016)
Before the complete abolishment of roaming charges in EU member states, charges that networks must meet are as follows:
- Outgoing voice calls: domestic charge plus 3p per minute – cannot exceed 15p per minute
- Outgoing texts, per message: domestic charge plus 1p per text – cannot exceed 5p per text
- Data access, per MB: domestic charge plus 3p per MB – cannot exceed 16p per MB
From June 2017 all roaming charges will be scrapped. You will be able to use your existing network price plan throughout Europe without incurring any extra charges. If the UK is still in the EU by then, of course.
There are no caps on roaming fees outside of Europe.
Vodafone has jumped the gun when it comes to offering roaming incentives. It has pre-empted next year’s EU directive by including roaming charges in the majority of its price plans.
All customers taking new or upgrading to Pay Monthly 12 and 24 month Red and Red Value bundles get inclusive data roaming with their monthly fees.
That means they can use their voice minutes, texts and data across 40 countries around Europe, including Spain, France and Germany. Calls to landlines and mobiles in those covered countries will not be charged extra, nor will internet use or SMS messages.
Inclusive data works on all plans with allowances up to 4GB a month.
30 day SIM only or mobile broadband customers do not get inclusive roaming. They, along with customers on PAYG, can either purchase a EuroTraveller pass or pay improved roaming rates of 4p a minute for calls, 1p a text, 4p a picture message or 4p a MB of data.
Alternatively, a EuroTraveller pass covers Europe, as you might have guessed by the name, and it includes all the countries within Vodafone’s Europe Zone. In addition, Vodafone offers a WorldTraveller pass for countries a little further afield such as the US and Australia.
You’ll pay £3 a day for the EuroTraveller option and £5 a day for the WorldTraveller service, you’ll get 4G speeds if you are on a Vodafone 4G contract and visiting one of the 71 specific countries.
The daily flat rate allows you to use your phone in any of the participating countries as you would in the UK, including calling, texting and data usage and you will only be charged on the days you use your phone. The day is calculated according to the capital city of the country you are in and it runs from midnight to midnight.
To see all the countries covered by Vodafone’s EuroTraveller and WorldTraveller options, visit the Vodafone website.
Three takes it one step further than Vodafone in that it gives its Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go customers additional free roaming to countries outside of the EU that are covered by its Feel At Home incentive.
It doesn’t matter what device you are using and like Vodafone, you can use your phone as you would in the UK but Three doesn’t charge you anything for the privilege when you go further afield, such as the US or Australia. What’s more, it works on PAYG plans too.
Sounds a little too good to be true right? Well as long as you are visiting one of the 19 participating countries it’s absolutely genuine. So if Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Lanzarote, Macau, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland or the USA are on your holiday list, you are covered.
There is one snag, if you have All-You-Can-Eat data, texts and minutes then only up to 25GB, 5000 texts and 3000 minutes are included in the incentive for no extra charge but that’s still quite a lot.
In countries not covered by Three’s scheme, such as Germany, normal charges will apply. That’s 4.3p a minute for voice calls, 1.8p a text and 4.3p a MB for data, as in all other EU states not covered. You can also opt for a £5 a day EU Internet Pass. Outside of the EU costs will be higher.
It’s also worth noting that to benefit from Feel At Home, you need to have been a Three customer for more than 30 days and if you are a Pay As You Go customer, you need to convert your credit into an Add-on.
For more information, visit the Three website.
For those with O2, you can benefit from the O2 Travel add on, available to Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go customers, but it’s for those travelling to Europe rather than further away.
For Pay Monthly customers, you’ll get unlimited data, calls and texts for £1.99 a day. The inclusive daily allowance lasts 24 hours and includes 120 minutes and 120 texts.
For Pay As You Go customers, you will also be charged £1.99 for data with a limit of 100MB a day, while calls will cost 4p per minute to make and free to receive. Texts cost 1p per message when sent to the UK or elsewhere in Europe.
If you are going further afield than Europe, O2 also offer bolt-ons but it will cost you more than Vodafone and Three’s options. You can find out more information on the O2 website.
EE also offers a range of add-ons that could help you save money while you are abroad, but doesn’t currently offer inclusive roaming for the EU or other countries worldwide.
When in Europe on EE, a Euro Pass costs £4 and offers unlimited calls and texts plus some data. You get 500MB free. Extra data add-ons are also available if you use your limit, which start at £3 for 75MB.
If you have an EE Extra plan however, you get inclusive minutes and texts in over 39 countries so you’ll save on the daily charge but you’ll still need an add-on for data.
EU calls cost 4.4p a minute to make, while text messages cost 1.8p to send. Incoming calls costs a penny per minute.
If you are going further afield then you’ll need a different kind of add on. For example, if you were planning on flying to the States, you can opt for one of the Talk & Text add ons, such as ‘120 Roaming Minutes – Global’, which will allow you to make or receive 120 minutes worth of calls anywhere in the world to the UK for £20 a month rolling contract, or £6 a month for 30 minutes.
Texts will cost you £6 a month rolling contract for 100 roaming texts, or £10 a month for 250 roaming texts and data costs from £3 for 20MB to use within 24 hours, up to £40 for 500MB to use over seven days.
EE’s offers depend on which zone you are travelling in and for how long for so it is worth going on the EE website to work out your best option.
T-Mobile & Orange
Both T-Mobile and Orange offer the same service as EE when it comes to Europe, only cheaper as they are 3G services rather than 4G. It gives you inclusive minutes and texts for £2 a day, while staying online will cost you from £3 depending on the amount of data you select.
Prices outside of add-ons are the same as EE.
For worldwide travel, Orange Pay Monthly customers can add a Talk & Text bundle that will give you 30 per cent off all your calls and texts for £5.10, allowing you to make a call for 84p a minute and send a text for 35p when you’re in the USA for example. You can also add 20MB of data for £3 a day or 100MB for £10 a day.
If you’re with T-Mobile and travelling to America then there are no add ons for calls and texts but you can opt for the Zone A Internet Travel Booster 200MB or 500MB to use for seven days, which will cost you £20 or £40 respectively.
As with EE, it depends on which zone you are travelling in and how long for so visit the EE website for more information.
iD from Carphone Warehouse
The Carphone Warehouse network, iD, aims to offer great deals to entice customers away from the traditional network offerings.
The iD network offers a comprehensive list of roaming costs on its site here. A taster of a few:
EU states – calls to UK at 4.7p per minute, texts at 1.8p and data at 4.7p per megabyte. Incoming calls cost 1p a minute. Sending a picture message costs 50p.
USA – calls to UK at £1.40 per minute, texts at 35p and data at 25p per megabyte.
Hong Kong – calls to UK at £2 per minute, texts at 50p and data at £1.25 per megabyte.
There are also what iD calls Takeaway Plans, which allow for roaming at no extra cost. These start at £12.50 per month and cover the US, Australia and all of Europe.
From 23 May until midnight 3 September, Tesco Mobile will scrap its EU roaming charges completely as part of its Home From Home promotion. Customers will be able to call, text and use data in EU member states without any extra cost on top of their existing price plans.
Their minutes, texts and data limits will still apply as at home. That covers both PAYG and pay monthly customers.
Other than that charges for calling other EU members will cost 4p a minute, texts will be 1p a message to send. Picture messages are 25p a text. Data is charged at 4p per MB.
Tesco Mobile caps data usage to 1GB so you cannot exceed £40 of spend while abroad in the EU or 5MB when elsewhere. That’s because it charges £8 per MB if you are outside the EU so be wary of using data anywhere other than in Europe or at a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Call charges from outside the EU can also be very pricey. Calls when you are in the US, for example, cost from 89p a minute to make or receive. Sending texts costs 40p a text.