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Wherever you wander, check to see how your data may be affected

17/03/2022 · Blog

Data Roaming charges are heading back for UK users and could affect your next holiday.

Data Roaming charges are back

Data roaming fees were last changed in 2017. This saw UK networks allow customers to use their minutes, texts and data whilst travelling in the EU. Following *cough* Brexit *cough*, some operators have looked to reinstate ‘data roaming’ charges.

What is data and data roaming charges

Whether you’ve purchased a phone on a new contract or SIM-only deal, you get an amount of data to use as part of your tariff.

Any activity you do on your phone uses your monthly data allowance when you're not connected to Wi-Fi.

When you're out and about in the UK you will likely use some of your data to connect to and use these internet-based services.

You incur data roaming charges when you use internet-based services but outside of the UK. These charges are separate from your normal data usage. As a result of using your phone abroad, you may then find your monthly bill increases.

How are the changes going to affect me?

The main operators who are not re-introducing data roaming charges are O2 and Virgin Media. Unfortunately, if you're a pay monthly customer of Three, EE or Vodafone, you'll find that charges are being reintroduced.

Below we've summarised what you could expect to pay if you had to use your data roaming for the main networks:

*Prices accurate at time of publishing - March 2022

If you’re heading to Republic of Ireland for a holiday, you’re safe! It looks like none of the networks will be charging for data roaming if you’re visiting there.

We’ve provided this guide above for the main networks, but others may vary.

If you’re a customer of any of the virtual networks (e.g. Sky Mobile / GiffGaff / Tesco / Voxi), make sure to check their latest terms before you travel. Check what your data limits are, and any new charges you’ll be liable for if you use your phone data whilst you’re away.

Pay as You Go

On Vodafone Pay as You Go, then you get your calls, texts, data and even picture messages with no additional roaming charges, subject to your limit and their fair use policy.

For O2 like their Pay Monthly customers, if you have O2’s ‘Classic Pay As You Go’ tariff, you’ll be charged in their ‘Europe Zone’ the same way you would, if you were at home.

Pay as You Go customers on EE your, calls home (UK to UK), texts and data are included in your PAYG allowance. So, if you top up £15 before you go away, you’ll have the £15 to spend as you normally would.

However, if you go outside of your EE allowance then; calls to UK will cost 35p a minute. You can still receive calls for free, but texting will cost you 15p (per text). Also, if you spend all your data, you’d have to buy a data add-on.

For Pay as You Go (PAYG) customers using Three, you can buy an add-on or data pack otherwise when in their ‘Go Roam in Europe destinations’, you’ll be charged 10p a minute, 10p per text and 5p per MB of data.

Fair use policy

Many network providers, whether they’re including data roaming in their packages or charging for this, have a Fair Use Policy.

Meaning that the data you use in the EU may be at a lower level than your data allowance in the UK.

Here’s what each of the main networks have in place:

O2 Capped at 25GB a month when roaming, so if you have 40GB a month of data, you can only use 25GB of this data when in the EU.
EE Allows you to use up to 15GB when roaming in the EU.
Vodafone Will be capped at 25GB a month when roaming.
Three Up to 12GB of your data allowance, any usage over this ‘fair use limit’ may incur a surcharge.
Virgin Mobile Their Fair Usage is based on your data and monthly plan. You can calculate your ‘Pay Monthly EU Fair Data Usage’.

No matter where you are heading this year, remember to check out the changes your network has made before you go.

How to save your mobile phone data usage

Here’s a series of tips to help you save your data.

1) Many of us now use WhatsApp to contact our friends and family, largely the data usage for a single message (sent or received) isn’t much. But tread with caution if you make a video call, as 1-minute of this uses about 5MB of your data.

2) Only use video calling platforms such as WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype or Zoom when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. Using these apps will use lots of data, leaving you with a large bill.

3) One of the easiest ways to avoid charges whilst abroad is to turn roaming off. Your phone will always try to connect to the nearest signal.

If you’ve turned your data roaming off, then you won’t be able to use any apps outside of Wi-Fi. If you decide to have data roaming on, we’d suggest only using what you have to. Always try to use a trusted Wi-Fi connection to keep costs down.

4)Switch off any automatic updates of apps. If you have this setting switched on for any of your apps, you could end up using a big chunk of data without meaning too!

5) Change the settings of individual apps to stop using your data allowance. Especially consider those you won't need while you're away. Consider that some apps use data in the background even if you're not using them.

How to turn off data on my Apple iPhone

You can turn off your data roaming and even set limits on most modern phones.

For your iPhone head to Settings -> Mobile Data -> Mobile Data Options. You should see an indicator called Data Roaming which you should be able to toggle on or off.

On iOS 13 and later you can turn on ‘Low Data Mode’ to help restrict background data usage.

You’ll find this in Settings under Wi-Fi. Once there press the Info button next to the Wi-Fi network you’re connected to. Then turn Low Data Mode on.

You should also be able to see your Data Limit. It’s in the same area as your Mobile Data, and you can find your options for adjusting your data limits here too.

How to turn off data on my Android phone

The process is almost the same as Apple’s (above). Head to your Settings (cog icon) -> Connections -> Mobile Data. On some devices you can even search for what you need.

Once in Mobile Data look for Data Roaming and you should be able to turn this on and off.

You can also find your Data Saver here. Head to Network & Internet from the cog icon, and you should see Data Saver, you can then either toggle on or toggle off.

Whichever device you have, when it comes to checking your data limit you can use an app. It will be one from your Network provider which outlines your tariff and current usage. Download it from your app store, log in, and you should see all your details.


What if you need to use the internet?

At home or abroad, it’s almost an instant reaction nowadays to reach for your phone when out and about. Whether it’s to do a quick search, to keep an eye on the football, or to update your social media with your latest photo.

The re-introduction of data roaming charges for using your phone abroad will means its possible to run up large phone bills. Remember to exercise caution when you travel. It may even be best to leave your device in your pocket or bag, depending on what you may be doing.

With useful apps on hand to help us at every turn, it can be nerve racking to ask for directions if you're somewhere unknown. It may be handy to know that you can save Google Maps before leaving. So you can check to see where you’re going without using your data. If you need to check how busy the roads are, look before you leave and plan different routes.

It’s more than likely you will need to access your trusted apps or internet whilst away. Like accessing tickets you’ve purchased or travel documents you may need. We recommend doing as much as you can connected to your accommodation or a trusted Wi-Fi source.

You might be pleasantly surprised how far you can go without using data on your phone! Many hotels provide free Wi-Fi for their guests. Remember to try and use your internet and apps when connected.

Keeping your device safe

As always, and especially when travelling, keep your devices safe. Before you travel, ask yourself if you need to take all your devices away with you?

If yes, then try and make sure to buy a sturdy case for all the gadgets you plan on taking with you. Keep the devices safe and with you at all times, we’d even go so far as suggesting packing them in different bags if you can.

Before your holiday, check your data settings on each device. If you need tickets, directions, songs, or films, try and do as much as you can over Wi-Fi. Remember you can download, save or even print most of what you need before going away.

Getting your phone out in the wrong place could cause more harm than good. Consider the environment you are in or going to. Is pick-pocketing rife or are you going somewhere your phone is not allowed - like some places of worship.

Always keep your phone safe and out of sight. You'll experience what is around you more, and run less risk of running up a big bill. You could feel more relaxed knowing your phone is safely tucked away in your pocket or hidden away in your bag.

Considering protecting your gadget with insurance? Check to see if they can provide you with Worldwide cover and what limitations they may have. For example, do they cover for data charges if your phone gets lost?

Give yourself some added peace of mind as you travel. With our Gadget Insurance you get instant cover and protection against damage, breakdown, with optional loss and theft. Wherever you go in the world, provided this is in line with government guidelines, our gadget cover goes with you.

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