The options are (practically) endless!

Part 1: What is your “plan” for your phone plan

Make the choice as to what YOU want to do about your American phone plan and then choosing a plan once you arrive in Europe!

Photo on 7-31-13 at 12.39 PMThis assumes that you have a two-year plan that  you have signed up for in the states. My two-year plan is Sept 2012-Sept 2014 (that’s a long time!). I will be gone from Oct 2013-June 2014 (roughly 9 months of my 24 month plan!). I am going to discuss some options that I have debated for my personal cell phone plan and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. This is an unbiased but TOTALLY biased post. I want YOU to be practical and try not to waste money on international calls, texting, data, etc. (you already have PLENTY of other expenses, HELLO student loans, traveling around Europe and shopping!). I am going to try to break this down for you by cost and effectiveness of each option.

Vocabulary to learn before reading on (I didn’t know what word to use!):
Ticking: signifying that your phone plan is still functioning and you (or your mom) will still be paying for your American phone plan. Also, if you went back to the states you will be able to use this particular phone as “normal”.
Assumptions before reading on: I am roughly estimating that the cost of my extra line on the family plan is $30/per month…(we have the unlimited everything data plan from Sprint and all smartphones require a data plan so I am going to assume most phones, no matter the company, are roughly the same if not more and $30 each month!)

What are my options for my American phone? For a smartphone (Pricing depend on your company):

  • Option 1: Leave your American plan ALONE!

    Advantages:
    No fee for breaking your contract!

    Your plan will still keep ticking.
    You can use your phone right away when you arrive back in the states.

    Disadvantages
    $30/per month for a phone line you aren’t using ($270 for the 9 months!)

  • Option 2: Get an International Plan (VERY EXPENSIVE OPTION)

    Advantages: 
    No fee for breaking your contract!

    Your plan will still keep ticking.
    You won’t have an extra 9 months added to your plan.

    You can use your 3G, 4G, LTE or whatever it is in the US and Europe
    You can text and call in the US and Europe
    Disadvantages:
    $30/per month for your line

    $20 more/per month for international capabilities
    Plus, you lose your “unlimited” plan or whatever you have and you pay per text, call and for each bit of data you use (oh my!)

  • Option 3: Activate a non-smartphone on your American plan (A phone that DOESNT REQUIRE INTERNET!)

    Advantages:
    No fee for breaking your contract!

    Your plan will still keep ticking.
    $10 less a month for your phone line (saves about $90)
    You will be able to make calls and send texts on your non-smartphone right away when returning to the US.
    Can activate your smartphone as soon as you want (or as soon as you are able)!
    Disadvantages
    You won’t have a smart phone right away when you arrive in the US
    You will have to unlock your phone (for some companies it’s difficult, click here for AT&T unlock request)

  • Option 4: Suspend your phone (Here is my bias…DO NOT MAKE THIS CHOICE!)

    Advantages
    No fee for breaking your contract!

    $0-10 a month for your phone line (depending on your phone company)
    You can reactivate your phone WHENEVER you want!
    Disadvantages
    Your phone will NOT keep ticking
    You will NOT be able to use it until you take it off of suspension
    Max $10 a month for the suspended months ($90 for the time your are one)
    Adds the months your phone is suspended onto your plan (Ex. Suspension for 9 months, your contract is now 2 years + 9 months)
    9 months more of your phone plan when you get home (9x$30=270)
    Some companies make you call back every 6 months to continue the suspension

  • Option 5: Cancel your American plan 100% (DON’T DO THIS EITHER…it’s not like you are leaving forever!)

    Advantages
    No worrying about having to pay any amount for an American phone that you aren’t using
    Disadvantages
    $$$$$$ break your two-year contract and it will cost you ($300+) *Update: I was told that if you are moving out of the country your fee for breaking your contract could potentially be waived*
    You won’t have quick access to am American cell phone when you arrive home
    You lose your American phone number! );

Part 2: Choose your choices and unlock your phone!
I chose option 3.

CALL YOUR PHONE COMPANY. CALL YOUR PHONE COMPANY! CALL. YOUR. PHONE. COMPANY! I promise they will help you with any difficulties you may have when trying to figure out your options when it comes to your american plan. I personally UNLOCKED my iPhone through Sprint super quick and easy!), later on I will ACTIVATE a non-smartphone and then get a SPANISH SIM CARD once I arrive in Europe. Take a look at your options, but I think I am taking one of the most practical routes! Also, a friend of mine unlocked her AT&T Phone, so here is her advice as to how to get an AT&T phone unlocked WHILE still keeping your contract and while not having to pay the fee! In addition, I have found that iPhone 5’s come unlocked! So, any 5S or 5C should come unlocked too!

In addition to planning on getting a Spanish SIM card, I also had an international plan on my phone for a couple of days so that when I arrived in the airport I would be able to send a couple quick texts or if something crazy happened then I would be able to make a call or something. The idea of arriving in an airport and having no contact to the outside world makes me so afraid. The problem with that was I didn’t have my settings right on my iPhone when I arrived in Europe. When I got to the terminal in Barajas, I connected to free 15 minutes of WIFI and whatsapped everyone and tell them that I hate the world because I can’t figure out why my phone won’t connect to Spanish networks! I called Sprint (with their toll free number) and I was told that I had my settings wrong. Make sure your settings are right! Then a new section under settings will pop up called “carrier” and you will receive a text from your company telling you the costs of your calls/texts/data usage. Good luck!

Phone Settings
1. Make sure Cellular Data is OFF and Roaming is VOICE ONLY
Vodafone ES
2. “Carrier” shows up out of nowhere to tell you which network you are on
Text from sprint
3. Get a text from your company saying you are going to get charged like crazy!

What “Options” did you choose? Anyone choose an option that I did not mention? Also, Did you unlock your phone for international use? Was it THAT easy for you too? Any typos? Anything? Let me know!

Katelan

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6 thoughts on “what to do with your American cell phone

  1. Thanks! I hope it at least helped to make you aware of your options, even if AT&T doesn’t make this an easy task! Instead of calling maybe you could go physically into an AT&T store, give them your story “I just want to teach English to adorable Spanish kids” and then bat your eyes and smile really cute (you shouldn’t have to do that though! hahha!). If one store doesn’t give you the answer you want, try another store. For Sprint, I called and said “Hi, I want to unlock my phone because I am moving to Europe for a year”, the girl was like, “Wow, Europe!?” and we chatted for a bit while she unlocked it, no fees or anything. That is their policy though so I didn’t have to jump through hoops, all I had to do was hard reset at the end. If you or any of your friends find out the key to getting an AT&T phone unlocked (for free), I would love to add it to this post so that everyone with AT&T can see the process! Even though I do think that with AT&T it’s sort of on an individual/if you found the right customer service agent basis. Best of luck, you can do it!

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    1. I wish I had a phone with each company so I could find the best/easiest way for everyone! I hate that international usage is such a big deal! One day I am going to be an international guru…I am going to be a notary, an apostille person, the person who gives out visas, own a chain of international banks (good-bye foreign transaction fees and use your debit card safely all over the world!), own some cell phone towers all over the world (so that an international phone will just be normal, you can go from country to country and its all the same plan and costs the same and inexpensive) and i will make a chain of international apartments that has all of the different plugs so that when you plug things in so you don’t have to risk frying the battery. Piso in spain, with american plugs? Yes, please. Hahah. Ok this is unrealistic, a girl can dream. Thanks for reading though, I appreciate it!

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