UPDATED June 17, 1:09 pm EST: 

It turns out this article below made the rounds on social and it was escalated to T-Mobile executives who seem to be on top of it. They called to apologize for the original text message, which they say was a technology error, and for the misinformation two agents from their overseas call center gave me.

They said I should always leave data and international data roaming on no matter where I travel internationally as long as it’s a country covered in T-Mobile’s plans. This includes Canada and Mexico.

I’m going to try and get someone from the company on camera to do an interview when I get back from my trip but my advice to you is to contact T-Mobile during normal business hours before you travel and make sure the agent is based in the U.S. and is knowledgeable. If you call after hours or during a high-call volume day, the call will get rerouted overseas and they are originally Sprint employees who are still trying to get up to speed. Also, they said they would waive the $500 fees I incurred.


I’ve been a T-Mobile subscriber and fan for over 16 years. I only know it’s been that long since I just got off the phone with a T-Mobile agent. I arrived in Canada eight hours ago for the third time this year and probably the 50th time in the past 13 years (I married a Canuck so we visit frequently; here’s the story of our crazy wedding day in case you missed it.

What I love about T-Mobile, besides the fact that they give me free MLB TV each year and free WiFi on AA flights, is that they treat Canada (and Mexico) like it’s the USA in terms of calling. They offer an unlimited amount of talk and data so when I received the following text message about an hour ago, I was confused: Free T-Mobile Msg: Final notice, your International Data Roaming charges in this bill cycle have reached $500. To avoid additional charges and possible suspension of your T-Mobile service, turn Data off. Dial #ROF# (#763#).

At first I thought it was a scam but then I wondered how the scammers would know I’m here? Or was it a mistake? Since I wasn’t sure if it was a scam or not, I immediately called 611 (T-Mobile’s customer service line). Usually, I get a very knowledgeable agent who lives in my area. This time, I could tell I’d been patched through to a call center in the Philippines. I could hear the accent and that of all of her colleagues around her.

What else was surprising is that for the first time that I can remember, I did not receive a ‘Welcome to Canada’ message from T-Mobile when I turned off airplane mode once we landed.

Unlike the agents at many overseas call centers, this agent seemed very knowledgeable and more importantly, had some power. After confirming my identity, she thanked me for being a customer for 16 years and she confirmed that the message was legitimate. I said, “I’ve been here dozens of times and haven’t had a problem in years.” She looked into it and asked what my data settings were. I quickly looked the up (tap: settings –> cellular) and I did indeed have Data roaming on. She told me to turn it off when I’m in Canada because T-Mobile treats Canada like it’s domestic.

I told her the only thing I could think of that had happened differently is that I got a new phone last week and must have switched the settings. Or was it when I called a few weeks ago to cancel my late father’s line (he was under my plan) that it messed up my plan? But she and the agent both confirmed it’s the same plan from years ago.

I then asked her about my upcoming trip to Europe and she said that all of the countries I’m going to will be covered. But she told me to make sure I turn data and data roaming on when outside of North America. It’s confusing, right?

When I told her I would be on a cruise, she also confirmed that I need to turn my phone to airplane mode once we set sail, which I already know since I learned this the hard way years ago. My wife once forgot to do this and came home to a $1,300 phone bill. Fortunately, it was a company phone and while they weren’t happy about it, they paid it.

I’m still waiting to hear back to see if T-Mobile will waive the charges. I imagine they will but if you’re a T-Mobile customer, I would double check your settings when traveling out of the country and double check with a T-Mobile agent, just to make sure the woman I spoke with was correct. You can check roaming information by clicking here  and entering the country you are visiting.

You can also quickly enable international data roaming by dialing #766# from your phone. Using data in countries not included in your plan may result in additional charges of up to $15/MB + tax/fees.

So don’t make the same mistake I’ve made. If you’re traveling to Canada, turn roaming off but if you’re traveling overseas, turn it on.

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15 Comments On "Here's What T-Mobile Customers Traveling Internationally Need to Know"
  1. Fred Grossman|

    Regarding your T-Mobile charge for having “data roaming turned on”: My carrier is also T-Mpbile.
    I spend at least 2 months every winter in Mexico. I have always had my mobile data roaming turned to “On” and have never had a roaming charge on my bill.
    Mexico, like Canada, is also part of North America, so I don’t understand why you are receiving this additional charge. Have you received any further clarity regarding this ‘roaming ‘ issue?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I haven’t heard back from them but Mexico is treated just like Canada and the U.S.

  2. Paul Friedman|

    Very timely. My wife is leaving for Canada and we have T-Mobile. Will maps and GPS services work on her iPhone 14 with data roaming off?

  3. Bob (Hermosa)|

    I too have had Tmobile for years. Love the international roaming feature. I just got home from Europe and am at home in US now. I just looked at my phone. It has data roaming turned on and I looked at my usage on the T Mobile web site since I have returned. There are no roaming charges

    If Canada is domestic, I am sure the US is too !!!!

    I always have had data roaming on even the last time I was in Canada.

    Something doesn’t sound right. Also could you really have used $500 of data roaming in this billing cycle alone ???

  4. Joe|

    I had a similar horrible situation with T Mobile on a cruise i took. They could easily warn their customers about these charges with a text or phone call yet they let people build up theses huge ridiculous bills. I was treated extremely rude by multiple Y Mobile employees and had to use a third party to get a bill adjustment.

  5. David b|

    I contacted TMo maybe 10 years ago that we were going to visit italy and we wanted international roaming and high speed data plan. Long story short the agent gave us ‘calls to Europe’ plan so when we landed in Italy and tried using GPS to find our hotel late at night I kept getting texts notifying me of charges mounting. Nothing I could do at the time because call to TMo went unanswered as it was nighttime in US. We hit over $500 by the time we reached the hotel. A call early in the morning caught the issue and added the feature and reversed the charge. Weird – you would think this would be a common request.

  6. Barbara|

    I have been with Tmobile for 18 years and have only had 1 issue with a new phone in Ireland. But, I was given an international number before I left the U.S. 505 998-3793 I don’t know if that is the same for everywhere but it works in Europe and my issue was fixed also it is a U.S. response. No problem in the middle east, but I always wait to get a welcome to notice before I use my phone.

  7. victor hugo garcia|

    I have an issue with t-mobil I have an unlimited data plan an text when I’m abroad and they charge me roaming charges for talking on WhatsApp which uses data so if i have unlimited data why I’m I been charge this is ridiculous as I’m supposed to be on an unlimited data plan can someone explain this to me, I think they are straight up steeling from me

  8. Charlie|

    Just got back from Europe and my bill is normal like always. One thing I did find out though is if you want to use your phone as a “hotspot,” that data usage is NOT covered–but you can buy a data pass. I did that because I have to slave my iPhone to my Android to use airtags.

  9. Tom|

    What I hate about T-Mobile is that they treat their Sprint customers like trash! We get NOTHING when it comes to any kind of benefits, perks, or capabilities! Free Wi-Fi on flights “we’re sorry you’re plan isn’t covered, we’re working to get that fixed” yeah right!!! International plans? NOPE I had to pay by the day or week, now I can’t get an international plan AT ALL! I used to get FREE international data with Sprint. So I’m stuck in Japan with NO DATA. Multiple attempts to fix it have lead to exactly what I’ve come to expect from T-Mobile NOTHING! Seeing the “Sprint is now T-Mobile” garbage makes me want to vomit; how, in any way, shape, or form, is Sprint now T-Mobile? The billing? Sprint. Customer service? Sprint, well a neutered version of Sprint where they can do absolutely nothing for you. The service? Sprint. The features, perks, and benefits? Sprint, er, nevermind, those are all gone… I can’t stand T-Mobile and how horrible they’ve treated their Sprint customers, breaking many of the agreements they made when they bought Sprint. It’s disgusting, can’t wait to drop them for another carrier, ANY other carrier has to be better than T-Mobile!

  10. Linda Perry|

    I am traveling to Montreal this month and I just called t mobile to confirm and they told me I should have data roaming on while traveling in Canada. Have you heard back from them in regards to your charges?

  11. Eric Dalton|

    I was with T-Mobile for about 10 years. I travel to Colombia and Ecuador a lot and t mobile is useless in these countries. I purchased the high speed data plan a couple of times and it was an absolute waste of money. I switched to Verizon and voila, data and calls in both countries are as good as being in the US. T mobile overseas and in Louisiana where I live was not very good.

  12. George Keller|

    My wife returned from a cruise in Europe. This was our second cruise this year. Prior to each trip we contacted T Mobile, followed instructions, and we are pleased with the service. No additional charges in almost a month of traveling. Delta airlines also provides complimentary wifi. Service was good.

  13. Emre|

    I had a different not so good roaming experience with T-Mobile. I recently went on an overseas trip for few weeks. When I got back home to the states, I received several threatening text messages from T-Mobile informing me that my account or line will be closed due to being an extreme roamer. After calling 611 customer service, my phone was still showing in ne of T-Mobile’s systems as connected to a cell tower in one of the countries that I travelled to few weeks back. Although I was actually connected to cell towers in the US, and able to make phone calls, T-Mobile is using a separate system to measure roaming activity and flagging customers for extreme roaming. The customer service agents had to do a network reset to clear the issue, but no one at T-Mobile knows how to revert the effects of the account closing. Needless to say that the most frustrating part is the loss of the phone line and the associated number that I used for over 15 years.

  14. Tony|

    Going to watching this. Traveling up Eastern seaboard to Nova Scotia / Canada in few months on a cruise. Also have T Mobile for maybe 7 years. Wife and I travel to Europe about a month a year for 10-12 years, visit friends and just randomly wander around. Never an issue with phone service or charges. Also were in Australia and did a Transpacific cruise back to Honolulu – again no issues. Seems like everywhere we go we get a message telling us we are now logged into their system. T Mobile has been superior to prior ATT.

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