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British holidaymakers risk whopping £3,000 roaming bill

International roaming woman using phone at airport

British holidaymakers travelling to the USA could rack up a roaming bill of over £3,000 for a two-week stay, amid widespread confusion over spending caps intended to protect consumers.

uSwitch research, based on conservative usage, reveals that a family of four holidaying in the US could pay £25 per day solely for calls, texts and voicemail retrieval. What's more, mobile data bills alone could soar to a whopping £190 per day.

Heading off on holiday soon? Don't bag your packs until you're read our guide to roaming charges.

To rack up those charges, the family would need to opt out of £50 roaming caps of data usage. These are applied automatically, so on paper at least it should be impossible to inadvertently land yourself with a punitively high bill.

However, the caveat is that some networks automatically remove the cap when customers sign up for a roaming bundle.

And because customers aren’t always aware of this, they’re at real risk of a nasty bill shock that could put the dampener on even the most sun-kissed getaway.

Worryingly, the data cap is only too easy to breach, given the high cost of roaming data in the US. With data priced up to a swingeing £8 per MB, it’d be possible to hit the £50 cap just by streaming eight and a half minutes of music on Spotify.

uSwitch’s study also found a concerning lack of awareness about roaming charges, perhaps caused in part by changing timeframes for the plan to scrap roaming charges in the EU.

Of those survey almost a fifth (18%) think there are no charges for people receiving voicemails outside the EU. Furthermore, way over a third (37%) think roaming charges have been scrapped in the EU already.

Only 53% are aware that roaming charges aren’t due to be waived EU in June this year.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at, said: “There’s good reason to be wary of roaming charges this summer.

"With a single MB of data – enough for just four minutes of web browsing – costing up to £8 in the USA, it’s well worth looking into roaming deals before you travel.

"Some particularly savvy mobile users buy a monthly-rolling SIM-only contract with a network offering a better roaming deal, and then hop back to their usual network after their trip.

“For those going to America, Three’s Feel At Home and iD Mobile’s Takeaway plans are, as yet, unbeaten. They allow users to take their minutes, texts and data away with them at no extra charge.”

Doku added: “One word of warning. If you buy a roaming add-on from a network you may automatically opt out of the data-roaming cap of £50 that networks apply to protect you from high bills.

“Ask your network if this is the case. Keep an eye on your usage even when buying one of these, because activity once spent could cause your bill to rocket towards the £50 cap - an effective solution in the EU where per MB costs are often pennies, but ineffective against the sky-high costs of data elsewhere.”

Below we outline the charges for pay monthly customers on a network-by-network basis. We also take a look average costs and roaming add-ons:

EE iD iD Takeaway O2 Tesco Mobile Three (Essential) Three (Advanced) Vodafone Ave. cost
Making calls to UK mobiles (per min) £1.00 £1.40 £0.00 £1.10 89p £1.40 £0.00 £1.35 89p
Receiving calls (per min) £1.00 £1.25 £0.00 90p 89p 99p £0.00 £1.00
Sending 1 SMS text message 40p 35p £0.00 40p 40p 35p £0.00 35p 28p
Voicemail (per min) £1.00 £1.40 £0.00 £1.10 89p £1.40 £0.00 £1.35
Data (per MB) N/A 25p £0.00 £6 £8 £3 £0.00 Daily charge £3 a MB for first 5MB, then £15 for each 5MB after £2.89
Roaming add ons for USA Unlimited calls & texts for £5/day. Various data add-ons available from 500MB for £4 a day. N/A Users with Takeaway plan can use mins, texts and data in USA for no extra charge O2 Travel: Unlimited data, 120 minutes and 120 texts for £4.99 per day N/A N/A USA is a Feel At Home destination – can use mins, texts and data abroad at no extra charge WorldTraveller: Take UK minutes, texts & data with you for £5 extra per day
Category: News
Tagged: roaming, networks
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