Mike Timmermann, Clark.com
Verizon says its TravelPass program is an “economical way to stay connected while you travel,” but some customers would beg to differ.
The wireless giant’s TravelPass lets people use their domestic talk, text and data allowances in more than 100 countries for $10 a day per line, according to Verizon’s website.
Read more: Best cell phone plans and deals for 2017
Verizon customers upset over unexpected charges
New York state lawmaker Dov Hikind of Brooklyn was shocked to receive a $925 phone bill after an eight-day visit to Israel.
The bill included the $10 per day TravelPass charge, plus 141 international minutes and 40,000 kB of international data for text messages issued from Jordan, Yeshiva World News reports.
Hikind knew something was wrong because he visited Israel, not neighboring Jordan— which isn’t part of TravelPass.
Customer service waived the charges for Hikind, but he publicly demanded that Verizon address the issue after other New Yorkers say they were billed roaming charges from Jordan after visiting Israel.
In a June 29 Facebook post, Hikind said Verizon told him the issue has been fixed, but he is not satisfied.
In an email to Clark.com, a Verizon representative further explained the issue and said the company has taken action to prevent customers from unknowingly being hit with these surcharges:
A few months ago, a small number of customers were having a problem with TravelPass while traveling close to bordering countries.
There was not a widespread problem. Phones are designed to attach to the strongest available signal, even if that cell network is in a neighboring country. TravelPass rates vary depending on the country.
Beginning March 2017, when a customer connects to a cell site not within the country, they have been redirected to a web page providing the rates. The customer has a choice to accept or decline those rates.
Clark’s top tips for using your smartphone abroad
If you want to avoid Verizon’s TravelPass when traveling overseas, money expert Clark Howard says you have other options.
Instead of TravelPass, he suggests that you use an old phone that is network unlocked and GSM-compatible, or consider buying a cheap GSM unlocked cell phone.
We found plenty of unlocked Androids on Amazon for less than $50. Click here to search.
Once you have a GSM unlocked cell phone, pick up a pre-paid SIM card for $15 to $30 at the airport when you arrive at your destination. Travel SIM cards will let you make calls, send texts and use data.
When Clark travels overseas, he uses the Line and Viber apps for free calls and text messages. Facebook Messenger is another popular option.
No matter what plan you get, relying heavily on Wi-Fi while abroad will keep charges to a minimum.