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International Cell Phones: The Good, The Bad and The Cheap by Ken Grunski


International Cell Phone Usage

If you have Cingular or T-Mobile cell phone service, then your cell phone will already work overseas, in most countries. Call your provider to make sure it works in the specific country to which your child is headed, and while you have them on the phone, make sure the phone is set up for international usage. You can either pay a slight fee (between $1 and 2) per minute used, or upgrade your service to have a slightly higher monthly fee ($5-10 more per month) that allows for free international roaming.


If you use Verizon, Sprint, Boost or some other service, you will need to rent a phone. When renting a phone, make sure it is GSM, which is the international signal, and be prepared for expensive fees: with weekly charges between $29 and $59 per week, and with per-minute charges of $1.50 to $5, depending on where the country is. A more cost-effective way to use a phone is to buy a GSM phone and a prepaid SIM card. SIM cards determine your cell phone number and other services like voicemail, and can be purchased in advance with a certain number of minutes.


GSM cell phone usage rates are usually around 25 cents per minute, and all incoming calls are free. You can add airtime to the phone by purchasing an airtime voucher. GSM cell phones with SIM cards are prepaid, so there are no bills or contract fees to pay.


Depending on the length of time you will be abroad, you might want to purchase or rent a phone from the destination country. You will certainly want to communicate with friends met while abroad, and a mobile phone for cost-effective local communication in addition to periodic calls home might be a worthwhile option.


International Phone Cards

An international phone card is beneficial because you do not have to be concerned with the bad reception or lack of signal inherent in many cell phones. The cards can be recharged and can be purchased in the United States or abroad. In some cases, they can actually cost less when bought abroad.


Many payphones these days do not accept cash. Instead, the phone cards can be swiped at the pay phone to make a call. And the cards can be used at regular landlines as well.


Additionally, your current long distance provider may be able to give you discounted rates for international calls. A monthly fee will apply, and your phone company can send you an international calling card with a special access number. However, you will be billed the usual United States long distance rates.



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