How to keep your phone charges down overseas

International roaming made easier with travel cards and Wi-Fi apps. Image:

Smartphones are great – I don’t know what I would do without one, but when it comes to travelling overseas, the idea of taking a smartphone can be as scary as staying in a hostel from a horror movie.

The shocking debt that people find themselves in after using their phone for not even five minutes or forgetting to turn off ‘push’ notifications can reach thousands of dollars very easily and whilst arguing with the network provider can bring down the cost a little, the bill will still usually be extraordinarily high.

Here is what Optus writes on their website to put how much data can cost (based on their charges) into perspective:

“Data is charged in 10KB increments. To send or receive an email may use about 20 KB, this can cost about $0.40. A Facebook page is about 30 KB, this can cost around $0.60. One minute of streaming video may use about 1MB, this can cost around $20.60.”

To avoid roaming charges there are three options:

  • Keep your phone on flight mode for the entirety of the journey and only switch it back on when you are 100 percent sure that you have access to Wi-Fi,
  • Ensure that you turn off all push notifications and block cellular data so that you only use Wi-Fi. This is a semi-safe option, however if you receive a lot of calls, you will be charged each time making flight mode a better option to avoid extra charges,
  • Have a dedicated travel card that you use each time you travel.

By leaving your Australian phone card at home, and using a travel card instead, you will be leaving the risk of international roaming charges whilst still having the convenience of voice calls, SMS and data use when you are away. Here are some of the options that are available using the UK as an example of the travel destination:

Product Name

Cost of Card

UK call to Australia p/min (AUD)

UK call to UK p/min (AUD)

SMS within UK (AUD)

Data Use p/MB (AUD)












$0.65 (USD)

Ekit  Global Premium Service







Usual monthly cost






Usual monthly cost



$0.55 + standard SMS rate


Based on the above comparison, travel cards are significantly cheaper and would be of great convenience especially to those travelling through many countries. As rates are generally based on ‘zones’ it is best to check each individual option to see if it is the cheapest rate if you are travelling to a specific country, especially if it is isn’t in Europe.

Make sure that you ‘unlock’ your phone by calling your service provider and then check that the card works whilst you are still at home.

TIP: To keep costs even lower, take advantage of Wi-Fi based apps that allow you to make calls and text for free. To use these services, both users must have the app and be connected to the internet.

Here are some of the apps that allow you to call and text for free:


How do you keep your costs down when travelling?

Click here to read this on e-Travel Blackboard.

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