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Use your mobile overseas

Before you travel outside Australia, find out how to reduce the cost of calls, texts and data overseas.

You can use your mobile, tablet or any other device if your telco has an agreement with an overseas network. This is ‘international roaming’.

The cost of using international roaming for voice calls, texts or data can be very high, resulting in bill shock.

Typical roaming costs

The major telcos charge between:

  • $1 and $3 per MB for data
  • $1 and $3 per minute for calls
  • $0.50 and $0.75 per text

These charges are subject to change.

The table below shows how quickly data costs can add up.

Activity

Amount of data

Typical cost

Youtube video (5 minutes at 480p)

41.5MB

$42 to $125

Spotify song (3 minutes)

2MB

$2 to $6

Browse Facebook (10 minutes)

15MB

$15 to $45

Post a photo on Instagram

0.4MB

$0.40 to $1.20

Scroll through photos on Instagram (50 photos)

20MB

$20 to $60

Google maps (5 minutes)

1MB

$1 to $3

 

Your telco may also charge you if:

  • you switch on your mobile phone overseas
  • apps on your phone are set to update automatically
  • you receive or access a voicemail message

Ways to avoid bill shock

  • Avoid pay-as-you-go roaming.
  • Turn off the auto-update settings for apps on your smart device.
  • Where it is available, use free wi-fi in shops, hotels or public places so you don’t have to rely on roaming services.
  • The MoneySmart website suggests buying an international data pack before you leave Australia. This can make it cheaper to use data in other countries.
  • If you can change the SIM card in your phone, buy a local (your destination) prepaid SIM for overseas travellers. This will have a data limit and its own phone number.
  • Remember, text messages are usually cheaper than phone calls or data.

If you receive a large bill that you cannot pay, ask your telco about help with financial hardship. If you think there has been a mistake with your bill, you can complain to your telco.

What to ask your telco

Avoid bill shock. International roaming costs are in your plan's Critical Information Summary. If you’re still not sure, contact your telco to ask:

  • whether your monthly plan includes international roaming and if so, where to (your plan may let you roam in some countries but not others)
  • how much they charge for international roaming services. Check the rates for calls, data, message services, texts and any other services you want to use overseas
  • how to turn off international roaming or turn off data while you are overseas
  • how to check your usage while you are overseas to avoid going over a limit

What telcos must do to help you

Telcos have to help you check and manage the mobile phone data you use overseas. The rules are in the International Mobile Roaming Standard, which says that telcos must:

  • warn you via text when you arrive overseas that higher charges for roaming may apply
  • tell you when you arrive overseas how much roaming services cost
  • remind you of the costs if you turn on roaming overseas
  • allow you to decline roaming services, at any time and from anywhere at no or low cost
  • send you text messages once you have used 100% of your post-paid data pack

Your telco may let you choose not to receive messages about your roaming use. They must not force you to opt out as a condition of the contract or travel pack.

Changes to mobile roaming rules

From July 2020, the mobile roaming rules will be updated to include protections for tablets, laptops and other devices.

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