International Moves

Phone plans for international moves

I can’t be the only one that finds it horribly frustrating to lose my cell phone number. When I moved internationally in 2009, I cancelled my cell phone plan and picked up an O2 sim card that I could use with an unlocked iPhone in London. I wasn’t going to be back in the US in the near future and it made sense to have a UK phone plan. When I came back to the US, I had to get a new phone, sign up for a new plan, get a new number and let all of my contacts in on the info.

This time around, coming back to the US is much easier and will be a much frequent occurrence for us. That being the case, I hoped there was an easier option; a solution that would allow me to use my US number while in the States but not pay my normal $80+ a month service plan. Since I was out of my 2 year contract, there was a solution. Here’s the scoop:

Once you’re out of your contract, AT&T can provide you with an unlock code that allows you to free your phone from AT&T’s network. Perfect. In this case, I’ll be using my iPhone on an Anguillan network; either Lime or Digicel.

Since I won’t be using unlimited texting and a boatload of minutes through AT&T, they were able to switch my plan from a typical monthly maintenance plan to a pre-paid plan (i.e. ‘GoPhone’). In doing this, my phone had to be recognized as a non-iPhone so the data package is nonexistent. This is a minor concern since I still have Wi-fi capability and this will only be used when I’m in the US.

They have a few options, depending on how frequently you’re using your phone and how often you’re back in the US. We don’t plan on being here every other month, so I needed a plan that gave me that flexibility. With $100 prepaid, my SIM card is loaded for a year. (There are $25 options that have to be used within 90 days as well, if you’re more active than I will be.) With that dollar amount, you have the ability to choose a ‘pre-paid plan’. There’s a 10c a minute plan (which includes texts at 20c a pop), a $2 a day text/talk plan, plus a few others. With any chosen plan, the money is deducted as you use your phone on US grounds. I assumed the 10c a minute plan was fine until the guy explained the $2 a day plan.

Get this: if you use your phone in the US to talk or text (SMS not iMessage, which is a Wifi function), you’re charged a flat $2 for the day. Whether you talk for 1 minute, or 23 hours; whether you shoot one text or 1000, you’re charged $2 a day. Moral of the story: choose your days and use them to the max! For me, this was a no brainer. Unlimited text and talking for $2 a day while in the US allows me 50 entire days of US talk/text time. Again, no data package, but I can use Wi-fi which makes it a bit easier. Since most homes and many businesses offer Wi-fi, I can still stay connected. Plus, with Wi-fi capabilities, my iPhone still acts like a glorified iPod Touch – I can still use Skype, Viber, iMessaging, etc. when I’m connected. Not a bad deal.

When I’m in Anguilla, I can pop in my Anguillan SIM card, when I’m back in the US, in goes my AT&T SIM card. I get to keep my phone number and I’m a happy traveler. Done and done.

Has anyone else discovered great phone plans that make living internationally easier?

Happy travels,

Shannon Falzon

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.