What Is the Best International Cell Phone Plan?

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At Clark.com, we study cell phone plans every day.

We’ve written about the best cell phone plans for every budget, the best pre-paid cell phone plans, the best cheap cell phone plans, the best cell phone providers in America and the best cell phone plans for seniors.

That’s in addition to a number of individual provider reviews.

But what do you do if you’re leaving the country, especially for a considerable amount of time? That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.

What International Cell Phone Plan Should I Use?

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself to travel internationally. But what do you do about your cell phone? That’s what a listener asked on the Nov. 30 podcast episode.

Rob in Connecticut wrote: “My son is going to Italy to study abroad for four months. What’s the best cell phone plan for him? We have Verizon, and we are upgrading his phone for Christmas. Should I go to a different carrier? We are iPhone users.”

Clark didn’t mince words: He advised that Rob dump Verizon “immediately” and “run” to T-Mobile.

“The international plans with T-Mobile are vastly superior to what you get with AT&T or Verizon. Traveling overseas, and particularly with a multi-month stay, look at using Magenta Max.

“It’s the most expensive plan with T-Mobile. But with it, you get high-speed data in almost every country in the world. You get unlimited texting. With iPhones, you get unlimited free Facetime.”

AT&T and Verizon will charge you “a king’s ransom,” Clark says.

We go into more detail in our article on the best international phone plans.

But Clark also points out a potential snag that Rob’s son may encounter: “You’ll get a nastygram message from them saying, ‘We do not provide service to people permanently residing overseas. And by a certain date, we’re going to cut you off,’ Clark says.

Accessing Wi-Fi instead of using the signal will delay that notification, Clark says. So connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible.


International phone calls at T-Mobile are 25 cents per minute. But young people increasingly rely on text and messenger apps instead.

Google: An Alternative Option

Don’t want to go the T-Mobile route, or simply want another option?

Try Google Fi, Clark.com cell phone expert Dallas Cox says.

“But of course sticking with a big carrier has tons of benefits, especially where it sounds like there would be multiple people on the plan using data regularly,” Dallas says.

Final Thoughts

Make sure to dig into your cell phone provider’s terms when it comes to international travel — especially if you’re going to be overseas for multiple months.

Clark has made it clear that he thinks T-Mobile is the best provider on the market for international stints.

You can also compare T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T from a holistic perspective to see how they stack up beyond their international plans.

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