Should You Cancel?
You’re about to leave to live abroad and you’re trying to decide what to do with your cell phone. Most carriers have suspension options.
- You can suspend with billing, which means your line doesn’t work but you’re still paying your bill. Why do that? Because it runs down your contract so you can still get that new jazzy phone down the road.
- You can suspend without billing. That means your line doesn’t work and you don’t have to pay your bill.
Here’s the really important part. When we left for Thailand we called Verizon and asked them how long we could suspend for. The customer service agent said “indefinitely”. We were told this several times. It turned out to be false, we were charged hundreds and hundreds of dollars and a year later we’re still trying to get someone to clear the charges (full story below).
So if you cancel, especially with Verizon, be careful to watch your bill every single month and realize that as of the time of writing this, there is a 6 month maximum for ‘suspending without billing’.
If you’re going to live abroad for more than 6 months, you should probably consider canceling. That requires paying cancellation fees, which are usually $200-400 per phone. Still, the fees might be less than months and months of billing.
However, you should also call and try, without starting a new contract, to reduce your bill to as low as possible. Then, with that monthly amount in mind, do the math:
- Times how many months you’ll be gone by that lowest possible monthly charge. How much does that add up to?
- What are the cancellation fees?
That should give you your answer.
Cell Phones in Your Destination
The United States has some of the highest wireless charges on Earth. So wherever you’re going, having a data plan in that country is likely going to be cheaper than it was in America.
In Thailand you can get 4G service data plans starting around $20 USD per month.
I’ve never met anyone who kept using Verizon or AT&T while abroad. You’d think you could switch to some kind of international plan that would avoid the crazy out of territory charges but, to my knowledge, no such plan exists. So if you can cancel cheaply, get off the US’s evil data plans.
Using Your Smartphone Abroad
If you already have a smartphone, you’re probably wondering if you should bring it abroad. I think you should. Here’s why:
- As stated above, data plans in other countries are generally cheap.
- Having a data plan and a smartphone in a foreign country is helpful. You can Google translations, maps, etc.
- Many places in the world, including Asia, have impressive wireless networks and the speed is better than you’d expect. Maybe even better than back home.
- Switching out the SIM card is generally pretty easy.
The cheap concern most people have when moving abroad is if there phone will work. I can’t list every phone and whether it will work, but I can tell you the last few iPhone models do. Brianna’s iPhone 5 and my 5s both worked great in Thailand. You can Google your phone model and get an answer without too much digging.
Getting a new SIM is extremely easy in many places. In Thailand we just went to a cell phone shop, mimed what we wanted, and within ten minutes we both had Thailand SIM cards in and could make calls on the local network. We paid $15 for both calls and a low starting balance.
Paying your bill in Thailand is also easy. You can do pay as you go and top up at any 7-11. I don’t believe they even have the option to sign a 2-year contract and get a cheaper phone price. People pay over $1,000 for the new iPhones!
As an final, extra perk, you won’t have the NSA listening to your calls!
So in short, suspend without billing if you can. If you can’t, find out what the cancellation fee is but don’t cancel just yet. Also find out what the lowest monthly plan is. Compare the cost of paying the lowest plan each month to the cancelation fee. Decide. If you cancel, enjoy the freedom of no contracts, cheap international carriers, and the NSA not listening in!
Want to hear more terrible things about Verizon? Read this!
Getting mistreated by your carrier, remember you can file a complaint with the better business bureau: