The most expensive mobile mistakes you could make on holiday

The EU ban on roaming charges does not mean an end to unfair mobile charges on holiday

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Mobile on holiday

Using your mobile phone on holiday technically got far less expensive in June this year, when the European Union banned roaming charges in Europe. However, there's still a risk you could return from your holiday to a mobile bill shock, unless you know exactly what has been banned - and avoid the most expensive mobile mistakes you can make on holiday.

See also: End to additional roaming charges in Europe

See also: Debit and credit card charges cost UK holidaymakers more than £100m each year


The rules came in on 15 June this year, and were meant to bring an end to roaming charges in the EU, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. However, six pitfalls remain that are essential to be aware of - and avoid.

1. Confusion over where the rules apply
It's easy to get confused by whether your destination is included within the new rules or not - not least because some providers have voluntary extended the ban on roaming charges to all sorts of places - including Three which allows its customers to use their phone in 42 destinations without extra charges - including the US.

Before you travel, therefore, it's well worth contacting your provider to see whether you will be charged extra for calls, texts or data in your destination.

2. Voicemail retrieval
If you are travelling to an area that's not covered by the roaming ban, it makes sense to turn off your voicemail facility. Accessing voicemail can be far more expensive in some countries than receiving texts, so turn it off, and let people know before you go that if they want you, they'll need to send a text.

3. Data caps
If you're travelling in the areas covered by the scheme, you will be able to use your UK minutes and texts, but your phone company may impose a fair usage limit on data. If you exceed this limit, you'll be charged. It means that before you travel, particularly if you are on a competitive deal, it pays to check the 'fair use' policy.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis says that to calculate whether you are on the kind of cheap deal affected by the cap, then assuming you are on a SIM only deal you can divide your monthly price (excluding VAT) by your monthly data allowance, to work out a cost per GB. Then compare that to the wholesale rate of about £6.49. If you're on something significantly cheaper than this rate, you may be hit by a cap.

Another rough rule of thumb for calculating where your cap will be is to divide the cost of your monthly tariff (excluding VAT) by the wholesale rate (£6.49) and multiply by two. That will give you the number of GBs of allowance you may be capped at.

4. Keeping documents online
e2save mobile expert Andrew Cartledge highlights that many of us have fallen into the habit of keeping vital documents in our email accounts. In the UK, we can just flick through the confirmation emails for train tickets, hotel bookings and flights. Overseas, however, we'll be eating into data whenever we check in. It's therefore essential to save a copy of all your essential travel documents offline before you travel.

5. Forgetting maps
We have got so used to checking maps online - and using our phone as a satnav - that it's the sort of thing it's easy to forget about when we're travelling. If you cannot use data to access maps, make sure you pack details of key attractions you intend to visit, and either pack a map or get hold of one as soon as you arrive.

6. Accidentally updating apps
Cartledge warns that some apps can be particularly data hungry, so it's worth switching off smartphone updates that eat data in the background. It may also be a good idea to switch off data roaming and cellular data until you are connected to the wifi, or if you urgently need it.

If you think you're likely to fall into any of these traps - or you simply can't bring yourself to stay away from social media whenever you are away from a wifi connection, then it's well worth contacting your phone company and working out what add-ons you need to buy before you go - to avoid paying dearly for your mistakes.

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