If you receive my travel tip newsletter, then you might remember my ordeal with T-Mobile last summer. Here’s a quick recap: On my first day in Toronto, after traveling there from Los Angeles, I received a text from the phone company that said: “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#).”

Tips for using your phone when you travel.It was confusing because I’ve been a loyal T-Mobile customer for about 17 years and always speak highly of them because of their generous travel plan and usually solid customer service. It was a nerve-racking ordeal, especially since I was traveling two days later for my first trip to Europe since the pandemic and if I had a huge bill from a few hours in Canada, then what kind of bill I would receive after two weeks overseas? You can read the whole story here.

However, my $500 bill looked like chump change compared to the T-Mobile bill Rene Remund of Florida received after he and his wife spent three weeks touring Switzerland.

According to Scripps News Tampa, when the couple got home, “Remund said he received his T-Mobile bill. He looked at it and thought it said $143. It wasn’t until days later that he discovered the actual amount he owed. T-Mobile charged him over $143,000 for using 9.5 gigabytes of data while overseas. Five to 10 gigabytes is considered average for one month. But in this case, it was all roaming data, which cost thousands of dollars each day of his trip.”

Remund, like most consumers slapped with a ridiculous bill, immediately called T-Mobile and the representative confirmed that it was an accurate bill. What’s even crazier is that it appears the Remunds did everything right before they left on their trip; they contacted T-Mobile and alerted them of their travel plans. Remund said he visited a T-Mobile store and they said, “You’re covered.”

Remund had to hire an attorney who, according to the Scripps article, “wrote letters to the president of T-Mobile but got no response. That’s when the attorney called Scripps News Tampa for help.” They contacted T-Mobile’s corporate offices and days later they credit his account for the entire amount.

That’s similar to what happened to me but at least I didn’t have to hire an attorney. I wrote an article about it and shared it on social media and received a response in minutes. It’s unfortunate that it takes the media or bad press to get executives involved to fix a bill but that’s the power of the pen.

T-Mobile told Scripps News Tampa in an email: “We recommend our customers check the travel features of their plan, such as international data roaming, before departing … 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.”

My advice 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 about all your options. If you call after hours or during a high-call volume day, the call will get rerouted overseas and in my experience, some of those agents aren’t up to speed.

I always call 611 (for T-Mobile) and ask them if the places I am traveling to are covered. But it seems you might want to double check or do it online and take a screenshot so you have a written confirmation. If you’re not covered, get their international plan.

When I had my T-Mobile ordeal, they sent me a text as soon as I went over my allotted limit, which was just eight hours into my trip (it later turned out to be a technical glitch) but don’t ignore those messages. You need to get this nipped in the bud immediately so you don’t have to change your travel routine or stress out about a huge bill.

And if you’re going on a cruise like I did last summer (here’s my trip report), be sure to put your phone in airplane mode as soon as you leave port. In fact, I was so nervous, I set multiple reminders, including an alarm on my phone and an automatically generated email from FollowUpThen each day, just before our scheduled departure.

Has anything like this happened to you? If the bill is high (but not outrageously so), I wonder if some customers would just pay it without even questioning it?

Valuable Tips for T-Mobile Customers and/or iPhone Users
Here’s What T-Mobile Customers Traveling Internationally Need to Know
How to Get the Best Coach Seat on the Plane
The Sleep Hack Every Traveler Needs to Know
Never Get Your Valuables Stolen on the Beach

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2 Comments On "What travelers can learn from man who received $143,000 bill From T-Mobile after trip to Europe"
  1. Jerry Mandel|

    Why airplane mode? Why not OFF?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      YOu can turn it off if you’re not going to use it. But airplane mode allows you to use wifi

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