A phone mistake you probably make abroad cost this traveler $143K

While cell service providers have made it easier than ever to use one’s phone abroad just like one would in one’s home country and then get charged only a roaming fee of a few dollars a day, lapses and unpleasant surprises still  periodically occur.

One Florida traveler had been touring Switzerland with his wife and using his phone to send photos and videos to his friends back home only to return to a $143,000 bill from T-Mobile  (TMUS) .

Related: This is the biggest money mistake you’re making during travel

René Remund did not immediately understand what had gone wrong and at first thought it was the bill for the daily roaming charges that T-Mobile adds to one’s account (minus a few zeros.)

Internet use abroad can still result in a significant bill later.

Kar-Tr/Getty Images

‘Excuse me? $143,000, are you guys crazy?’

“I get this T-Mobile bill and it doesn’t bother me very much because I was reading $143,” Remund told the New York Post, adding that it wasn’t until he went to pay the bill that he realized a few more zeros were involved. “I look at the bill [more closely] and I say, ‘Excuse me? $143,000.00. Are you guys crazy?”

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After looking through the details of the phone bill, Remund discovered that he had used up over 9.5 GB of data — without activating T-Mobile’s daily roaming fee, this can add up to exorbitant costs each time one loads a page (and even more if one sends photos or watches videos.) 

On its website, T-Mobile says that travelers those who have the more expensive Go5G, MAX and Plus plans automatically have 5GB of high-speed data in 215 foreign countries (among which Switzerland is included) while those with other plans can either purchase the 1-Day International Pass: of 512MB during each 24-hour period for $5 or pay the high fee of $2-$5 per megabyte of data (likely what happened to Remund.)

This is how you can avoid high roaming charges during travel

“If you want to prevent any accidental usage, you can also block voice, messaging, and data when roaming internationally,” T-Mobile says on its website.

Remund, in turn, said that he visited a T-Mobile location to inform a representative of his travel plans and was told that he was covered in Switzerland.

“They said you’re covered,” he described. “Whatever that meant, you’re covered.”

He had initially tried contacting T-Mobile on his own and was told that the bill was correct. He ended up having a lawyer to argue that he was told he was covered but after the story started going viral, the cell service provider reached out and offered to clear his bill. That said, T-Mobile also said that these types of situations can happen if one does not explicitly check whether roaming is covered (particularly with older plans purchased before it started offering different international plans and free roaming.)

“We recommend our customers check the travel features of their plan, such as international data roaming, before departing,” T-Mobile said in a statement. “If a customer is on an older plan that doesn’t include international roaming for data and calling, they’ll need to make sure they’re using airplane mode and wi-fi when using data to be certain the device doesn’t connect to an international network.”

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