I ran up a £140 mobile phone bill on holiday due to little-known charges – how you can avoid it

HOLIDAYS are being hit with surprise bills after a number of mobile providers reinstated roaming charges.

Tesco Mobile, giffgaff and others have reintroduced charges after Brexit – and you might not realize how much it costs.


Joanne Ellerby, 41, spent £140 for using her mobile phone on holiday

Such was the case of Joanne Ellerby, 41, who unwittingly racked up a £140 bill for using her phone on holiday.

Joanne, a financial advisor, was in Los Angeles in March for just over a week.

Joanne, whose provider is Tesco Mobile, had read information about roaming charges so added a £100 security stamp on her data usage before flying out just in case.

A security buffer acts like a price cap – it limits your bill and should prevent you from going over a certain amount.

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Joanne told The Sun: “When I landed in Los Angeles I received a welcome text message from Tesco Mobile.

“So I activated my roaming and received a couple of WhatsApp messages – and that immediately used up my entire security buffer.”

Joanne was charged £5 per MB by Tesco Mobile for data usage abroad, meaning opening a page from a website would have cost around £100.

While his plan usually gives him unlimited texts and minutes with 12GB of data, that only matters in the UK.

Many holidaymakers are being landed with surprise bills this summer, especially those heading to Europe, where roaming charges have not been an issue for years.

Roaming charges could now add more than £100 to the cost of a two-week holiday for a family of four in Europe, according to Lyca Mobile.

Joanne said: “If you have messages waiting to be downloaded, all your data is immediately transferred – and that’s what happened to me.”

When Joanne realized what had happened, she upped her buffer by £40 as she needed access to the email with her hotel booking details.

“That meant I had spent £140 within minutes – I was still at the airport,” she said.

“I tried to buy a bundle from Tesco Mobile as I was going to need more data for the rest of the week but was told I couldn’t bulk buy data.”

Instead, Joanne was forced to turn off her roaming for the rest of her trip and rely on using hotel Wi-Fi when she could.

“It wasn’t entirely helpful,” she said. “I was in America doing a 48 hour desert run – we were in the middle of nowhere and everyone was relying heavily on 4G for maps, messaging and keeping in touch with people because we were barely in hotels.”

The Sun has contacted Tesco Mobile for comment.

How to avoid roaming charges

With roaming charges returning, it’s essential that you check yours before you go on holiday.

They vary depending on your provider and plan, and if you’re going to a country outside of Europe, it’s likely to cost you more.

For example, Tesco Mobile charges existing customers using their phones in Europe 10p per MB of data, 20p per SMS and 55p per minute for calls.

Others, like EE, charge £2 per day when traveling within EU countries, excluding the Republic of Ireland.

For a full list of roaming charges, read our comprehensive guide here.

Joanne is now hoping to switch providers, but that could be tricky as she has a 36-month contract that doesn’t end until September 2024.

If you’re looking to move a contract, check your terms and conditions to avoid any unexpected early exit fees.

An alternative is to buy a SIM-only deal without a contract to use while you’re away.

You can also call your supplier and explain that you are planning to leave to see if they can give you a better deal.

Before flying to your destination, activate your mobile’s airplane mode and deactivate data roaming.

This will avoid the risk of incurring fees when crossing different countries and territories.

It also saves you from being slapped with a charge the second you turn on your phone when you land.

Plus, if you want to be entertained while you’re away, be sure to prepare ahead of time – so download all shows, movies and music home before you travel.

Also store your boarding passes and other important travel documents such as covid passes on your mobile in advance, so they are easily accessible.

It’s an easy way to stop rising costs.

Also, depending on your network and the country you are in, even receiving a voicemail while on vacation can sometimes cost you dearly.

If your provider includes these charges, call them before you travel and ask them to turn off voicemail.

Some of the countries where you might be charged for receiving a voicemail include the Faroe Islands, Turkey and Northern Cyprus.

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For more advice, here’s the ultimate travel checklist, from GHIC cards and insurance to locator forms and passport renewals.

And always be aware of price increases as the cost of living is expected to skyrocket in October.

About Anne Wurtsbach

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