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Which Mobile Networks Don’t Charge Roaming Fees? And Which Do?

Heading abroad? A number of the big UK mobile networks have made changes to their EU and European roaming fees. Here’s what you need to know.

When the UK left the EU, the big four networks stated they had no plans to reintroduce European roaming fees. That plan has changed in 2021, with Vodafone, Three and EE all now making changes to their policies for using your UK mobile plan abroad.

Depending on which network you’re with (and whether you travel abroad or not) this may have little impact on you, but if you’re planning on holidaying or working abroad, then it’s worth noting what the changes are to avoid any surprise charges.

You also have a number of options available from other networks that don’t apply roaming charges.

Here’s our guide…

One other important thing to note – most people in the UK use less than 10GB of data per month.  Some networks impose a fair use policy of 12GB or more so even though it may make news headlines, it may still mean that you’re not impacted by these fees if you’re classed as an ‘average user’. Heavy data users though, keep an eye on your allowance or look at one of the alternatives mentioned below.

O2 & Virgin Media

Virgin Media O2 (they’re the same company now) have a 25GB fair use policy (effective from August 2021) when you travel in Europe. This means that if you exceed 25GB when outside the UK, you’ll be subject to additional charges.

As mentioned above, if you’re an average data user then this is unlikely to impact you as you won’t hit that 25GB cap, just keep an eye on it, especially if you’re bingeing Netflix or making video calls.

However, Virgin Media O2 has announced it will not start charging Virgin Mobile or O2 customers extra for using their phones in Europe, with no additional roaming fees, unlike other networks.

O2’s European Roaming Guide has their latest info.

Three

If your Three pay-monthly plan began before 1 October 2021, the 24-hour roaming charges below don’t apply. You’ll be able to use your data, minute and text allowances as normal in 71 countries around the world.

However, be aware that there are charge if you go over your allowance or starting calling non-UK numbers.

If you started your pay monthly Three plan on or after 1 October 2021, you will have to pay a 24-hour fee to use your allowance in a country in Europe or other selected destinations around the world – but this doesn’t kick in until 23 May 2022.

The charge covers 24 hours, regardless of time zones, and it will only start if you make a call, send a text or use data.

As an example, this is what you’ll pay in France after 23 May 2022, if you signed up for a pay monthly Three contract on or after 1 October 2021.

ServiceIn your allowanceOver your allowance
Calls to UK numbersTaken from your allowance3p per minute
Calls to French or EU numbersTaken from your allowance3p per minute
Texts to UK numbersTaken from your allowance2p per text
Texts to French or EU numbersTaken from your allowance2p per text
Receiving calls from any numberFreeFree
Receiving texts from any numberFreeFree
Using dataTaken from your allowance1p per megabyte (up to £45 per month)
24-hour Go Roam in Europe fee to access your allowance£2£2

And here are the fees for Australia after 23 May 2022, if your plan post-dates 1 October 2021.

ServiceIn your allowanceOver your allowance
Calls to UK numbersTaken from your allowance3p per minute
Calls to Australian numbers£1.40 per minute£1.40 per minute
Texts to UK numbersTaken from your allowance2p per text
Texts to Australian numbersTaken from your allowance2p per text
Receiving calls from any numberFreeFree
Receiving texts from any numberFreeFree
Using dataTaken from your allowance1p per megabyte (up to £45 per month)
24-hour Go Roam Around the World fee to access your allowance£5£5

The exception is Ireland, where you can use your data, minutes and texts as normal.

Three’s Data Passport

If you need a data boost for internet access then you can use Three’s Data Passport. It gives you unlimited internet for a day (until midnight UK time) in 89 destinations worldwide for £5.

It’s handy for customers who don’t have an unlimited data plan and works in countries such as the US, Australia, Mexico, South Korea, Canada and others. It also means you can use your phone as a portable hotspot for tethering and share the data with other internet-enabled devices such as your tablet or laptop. To enable it follow the instructions here.

EE

EE have gone one step further than just amending a fair use policy. From January 2022, anyone that signed up to a standard pay monthly contract from June 7 2021 onwards will be subject to a £2 per day charge for using their phone in Europe when outside the UK.

EE have a charge checker you can use to see how much it will cost you to use your plan abroad currently (note, on July 7th 2021 it will update with their new policy).

Vodafone

After initially saying they had no plan to, Vodafone have now reintroduced EU roaming charges for their customers from January 31 2022.  You can use Vodafone’s Travelling Abroad guide to see how much it will cost you when roaming.

For anyone with a Vodafone Pay Monthly plan that started before 11 August 2021, there are no changes to roaming on your plan. There are also no changes to the way roaming works for Pay As You Go and VOXI (Vodafone’s other network brand) customers.

On most Pay Monthly plans that started on or after 11 August 2021, there is now a charge for using your plan’s allowances in most European countries depending on the ‘zone’ you are in. Vodafone still provides plans that have roaming included in their online shop – across SIM only and alongside a new smartphone with Vodafone EVO.

Other price plans

The big four networks recognise that many of their customers often travel abroad so some do have plans or add-ons available specifically for travelling. For example, customers on Vodafone unlimited data Xtra Plans have access to Global Roaming Plus which allows them to use their plan in over 81 destinations around the world.

Even though it’s included, like all these add-ons, it’s not free so it’s worth working out exactly how much it’s going to be costing you per month.  You may be better off getting a standard plan and then using a dedicated roaming SIM or temporary plan add-on when you need it.

Alternative networks and services that don’t charge roaming fees

Smarty

Smarty runs on Three’s network. They offer a range of 30 day SIM only plans with inclusive EU roaming currently. Whether they decide to change that is yet to be confirmed but for now it’s included.  There is a 12GB fair use policy though, like Three.

Extreme Connect

Extreme Connect (owned by the Extreme, the action sports brand) is an eSIM mobile network which means it’s powered via a downloadable app rather than a traditional plastic SIM card – the main benefit being you can just download and connect. They offer a range of 30 day plans with no roaming fees as you choose a plan for the country you’re in.

Download the app to a compatible phone (the latest Samsung, iPhone and Google Pixel models are all compatible) and then activate a plan depending on which country you’re visiting – over 110 countries are available.

There are also global and regional plan options for those of you that like to regularly hop around the world.  It’s data-only currently making it ideal if you use Facetime audio, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Netflix, Youtube, etc, with voice and text support arriving later this year.

Lebara

Lebara runs on Vodafone’s network and EU roaming is including in all their plans currently. They offer 30 day SIM plans which also include some international minutes for making calls from the UK to other countries.

Information correct as of 23/3/22.

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