Avoiding Bill Shock and International Roaming

Unless it’s a winning lottery ticket or a birthday party, people usually don’t like surprises. And that’s especially true for cell phone users, who are often surprised these days by unexpected charges on their cell phone bill. The industry refers to this uh-oh experience as "bill shock."

Fortunately, here at Consumer Cellular, we’ve taken steps to ensure our customers are neither surprised nor shocked by the invoice they receive. But first a little more background before I tell you about those steps.

Why am I talking about bill shock? Well, I just read an article in The Washington Post about customers paying too much in international roaming charges when compared with domestic roaming rates.

You might recall the case of one cell phone user, whose unfortunate situation was big news in 2009. While vacationing in Mexico, the man, with the best of intentions, used his wireless phone and a mobile broadband card to download the movie "Wall-E" for his nephew. Upon returning home from the trip he was surprised – one imagines not pleasantly so — to receive a bill for $62,000 from his wireless service provider for the download. Ouch!

That story is, of course, the exception. But it points to bill shock as a serious problem in the wireless phone industry. In a compelling statistic cited by the FCC chairman, 30 million Americans have faced bill shock; in other words, one out of every six mobile phone users. And for many the largest single cause of bill shock is international roaming.

Simply put, our customers don’t have a bill shock problem. Our free Usage Alerts system automatically notifies each customer when they get close to exceeding their plan’s limits. We allow them to upgrade their plan, as needed, to avoid unnecessary overage charges. Plus, they can check their usage online at any time of day or night.

Our customers also don’t have a roaming problem. They are never charged a roaming fee for domestic U.S. usage, and that includes Alaska and Hawaii. And their Consumer Cellular phone will not work beyond the U.S. borders, thus protecting them from any outrageous international roaming fees, which are mostly unregulated and can vary widely.

An old expression tells us, "All roads lead to Rome." For Consumer Cellular customers, no matter which road they take…they never have to worry about roaming fees. We want our customers to enjoy their travels.

130 Thoughts on "Avoiding Bill Shock and International Roaming"

  1. Carolyn Frick says

    In other words, if I am taking a cruise to Mexico, my phone is useless?

    reply to Carolyn

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for the comment, Carolyn. Your phone may work in some areas outside of the United States, but it will be subject to roaming charges that are regulated by that country. Since we don’t have any control over how much that may cost, we want to be sure that customers aren’t caught unawares. We recommend that you turn your phone off when you are outside of the U.S. If you have any questions about where your phone will have service, we would be happy to discuss it with you. Just give us a call at 888-345-5509, and we will be ready to assist you. Thank you again for commenting!

      reply to Ashley

      • Mary Ann says

        I am leaving for Costa Rica tomorrow can I still make a call or receive phone call same thing with text messages?

        reply to Mary

        • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

          Thank you for asking, Mary Ann. Your Consumer Cellular device is designed to work only within the United States. If you use your phone in a different country, you would use international towers and may be subject to very expensive roaming fees. We recommend that you turn your device off while on vacation, or keep it in Airplane mode. Airplane model will allow you to use Wi-Fi, as well as the camera and other features of your phone. If you have any other questions about using your phone internationally, we would be happy to answer them for you at 888-345-5509. We hope you have a wonderful time in Costa Rica!

          reply to Ashley

          • Maggie says

            I’m a slow learner …so if I go to Ireland and Netherlands in 2 weeks I can use my camera…can I use their WiFi to use apps? And text other Apple users??? My daughter says I can but I don’t believe her??? Help!!!

          • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

            We’re happy to help you, Maggie! Your daughter is right, you can use Wi-Fi to use many of the features on your iPhone when you aren’t connected to a cellular network. You can use your camera without even needing to connect to Wi-Fi, along with many other apps. We’re happy to answer any other questions you may have about using your phone while traveling at 888-345-5509. Thanks for posting, and we hope you have a lovely trip!

          • Lori says

            Hello, I am going to Ireland, and have a t mobile SIM card in my consumer cellular I phone . I am told I can use my phone in Ireland, is that the case, and what about roaming? How will I be charged for data, text and calls through consumer cellular?

          • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

            Thanks for posting, Lori! I was able to take a look at your account, and I see that Lisa, our customer account advisor, was able to help you setup your phone for international use, and that she was able to review this option with you. If we can be of any further assistance, please give us a call at 888-345-5509 and we will be happy to help you. We appreciate you reaching out to us, and we hope you have a lovely trip!

      • Allan Beck says

        Ashley…
        My wife and I are going to Italy this weekend; both of us have accounts with Consumer Cellular…. is my ZTE Consumer Cellular phone & my wive ‘s Samsung phone going to work if I get a chip for it there? Will I be charged international roaming rates if it works??? This mobile stuff is crazy….help!!!!!

        reply to Allan

        • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

          Thanks for posting, Allan. We do offer international solutions, so please give us a call at 888-345-5509. We can review the options available to you, and see if these will work for you while you are abroad. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us, and we wish you very happy travels!

          reply to Ashley

          • Linda says

            Hi Ashley. I am traveling to Canada from the US next week. I spoke with a Consumer Cellular rep the other day and was told to purchase a T Mobile sim card for my Moto cell phone. Once I do that and once I get the card activated by Consumer Cellular, I should be able to make and receive calls and texts while I am in Canada, correct? Is there a special kind of sim card I should buy and will I lose my contacts/pictures/etc. that are presently on my phone when I place the T Mobile sim card in my phone?

          • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

            Thanks for posting, Linda! Once you have that new SIM card, just give us a call at 888-345-5509 and we will be happy to help get everything setup for you. Just be sure to do it a week or so before you leave, so that we can ensure it’s working properly. When you insert the new SIM card, your contacts and photos should not be impacted at all. We appreciate you taking the time to comment, and we look forward to assisting you soon!

        • Rachel Van Ness says

          I am going to Mexico in December and want to use a local SIM card there. Is that possible? What are the roaming rates for Mexico?

          reply to Rachel

          • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

            Hi Rachel, if you will be using a SIM card from a local provider in Mexico, then the rates would be dependent on that provider. However, if you’re using international roaming with our service, then it is $0.30 per talk minute, $0.10 per text message, and $0.25 per MB of data usage. I do see that you were able to speak with one of our agents to get international roaming enabled on your line as well. If you need any further assistance, please let us know.

  2. Betsy Kazary says

    We are going to Hawaii- Is there an extra (roaming) charge for locals calls made in Hawaii? With my present plan.

    reply to Betsy

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Betsy. Hawaii is part of the United States, so you won’t be subject to any unusual roaming fees. Calls made while you are there will be treated as normal usage in regards to your plan minutes. We can answer any questions you may have about using your phone in different areas, just give us a call at 888-345-5509. Otherwise, we hope you have a great time!

      reply to Ashley

      • Deborah says

        We are going on a ten day cruise in the Caribbean and I want to be able to stay in touch with my daughter. We are both on the same consumer cellular plan with iPhones. Would want to text when we get onshore where there is WiFi. Any charge for that?

        reply to Deborah

        • A great question to ask, Deborah! The best way to make sure that you are able to use the phone while traveling internationally and not experience any charges would be to place the phone in airplane mode and then if the phone has a connection to WiFi you can use features such as iMessaging or other applications to stay in touch with your daughter without incurring any charges on your account.

          reply to Jacob

  3. Tom says

    How about Canada? My wife and I are planning travel to the Montreal-Quebec City area. If the phone works at all, are the roaming charges based on the Canadian providers?

    reply to Tom

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for asking, Tom. Canada is not considered to be within our coverage area. Any roaming charges would be based on Canadian providers, but we have no way of informing you of the cost of those fees. We recommend making sure your phone is in Airplane mode so that you won’t inadvertently use service while you are traveling. We have had customers use an international SIM card with some success, then switch back once they are within the United States. If you have any questions about your coverage, we would be happy to answer them at 888-345-5509. Thanks again for commenting, and we hope you have a wonderful trip!

      reply to Ashley

  4. Ellen says

    I’m going to Ireland. I gather I can’t make calls within Ireland, nor can I surf the web to get directions, etc.
    Guess I’m stuck

    reply to Ellen

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for the comment, Ellen. You have the option of using an international SIM card once you’ve arrived in Ireland, which are popular with other international travelers. You can use it while you are there and have all of the functionality of your phone, then just put the Consumer Cellular SIM card back in once you have arrived back in the U.S. Many of our customers have reported that this option worked well for them, as they could access their contacts and didn’t need to purchase a new phone. We hope you have a wonderful time!

      reply to Ashley

  5. Mike says

    I’m off to Spain France & Italy what do I do to use my consumer cellular phone? I primarily want to text.
    Thanks

    reply to Mike

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Good question, Mike. Your phone will only have service in the United States. If your phone is on, it may connect to towers while you are in Europe, which can result in costly international roaming fees. We’ve had customers use a SIM card for a local carrier once they arrive at their destination. You can often purchase a SIM card and plan right from the airport. Then, once you’re back home, just put your Consumer Cellular SIM card back in. Otherwise, we recommend that you keep your phone in airplane mode, which will allow you to use Wi-Fi. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about using your device while traveling, just give us a call at 888-345-5509. Thank you for posting, and have a great vacation!

      reply to Ashley

    • Mike D. says

      You can get a SIM card that works well in France or Italy (but not both without roaming fees of about a buck a minute) from companies here in the U.S., but before leaving the U.S., you will to test the new SIM to make sure your Consumer Cellular phone is unlocked. If not, CC may be able to get you an unlock code that works.

      reply to Mike

  6. Susanne says

    I’m cruising from Seattle to Alaska. Can I use my phone while in Alaskan ports while on the ship? What about when at sea?

    reply to Susanne

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Susanne. For our customers who are going on a cruise, we recommend keeping your phone in airplane mode when you are not in a U.S. port. That way, you can use Wi-Fi and the other features of your phone without worrying about international roaming. You can check the coverage in the locations in Alaska that you will port at, just use our Coverage Map here. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about using your phone internationally, just give us a call at 888-345-5509. We hope you have a wonderful time!

      reply to Ashley

  7. Stanley Storfer says

    Can I access wi-fi while in airplane mode in Canada, and use that to email my family in the US. If so, what would the cost be?

    reply to Stanley

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      That’s a good question, Stanley. You will be able to access Wi-Fi as long as you are in an area with Wi-Fi access, such as an airport or cafe that advertises Wi-Fi services. Once you’re connected, you’ll have access to email and the internet. As for the cost, it would depend on the business or location providing the Wi-Fi. You won’t see any associated charges on your bill as long as your phone stays in Airplane Mode. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and we wish you safe travels!

      reply to Ashley

  8. Nanette says

    Your coverage map shows quite a bit of coverage for states bordering Canada, so I’m wondering how you handle international roaming charges for those customers who live in those areas. For example, in northern Maine (from Fort Kent to Houlton), although one is still on U.S. soil, most calls route to towers in Canada. Other companies up there tell me if, as a resident, you incur roaming charges when you place a call from within in the U.S. and it routes to Canada, they will reimburse you those roaming charges. How does Consumer Cellular handle roaming charges in similar circumstances?

    reply to Nanette

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Nanette! We have procedures in place to ensure that any customers who live on the U.S. border won’t access the international towers. That way, you never have to worry about international roaming charges on your bill. Our service will only work within the United States. We’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have at 888-345-5509. Thank you for taking the time to comment today!

      reply to Ashley

  9. Gloria says

    I just want to be sure that I don’t miss anything. When traveling internationally, are you saying that by placing the iPhone on Airplane Mode, I can use WI-FI and rest assured that there are no other charges accumulating? Do I have to also turn off all apps, data roaming, Notifications, etc.

    reply to Gloria

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for asking, Gloria. If you place your phone in Airplane mode, it can’t connect to the cellular towers around you. This means that your phone can’t make phone calls, send text messages or access the internet without using Wi-Fi. By doing so, you can be sure to avoid any unwanted roaming charges. Just be sure to keep it in Airplane Mode the length of your stay. As long as you have access to Wi-Fi, many of your apps will function in the normal manner. You can even communicate via Google Hangouts, or iMessage! If we can answer any questions about using your phone while traveling, please feel free to call us at 888-345-5509. Thank you again for the question, and we hope you enjoy your trip!

      reply to Ashley

  10. Ron says

    Would really love to see Consumer Cellular establish a working agreement with the Canada and Mexico, since 35% of all travel by Americans is to Canada and Mexico. Those of us along the borders have to resort to other more expensive means to communicate with nearby friends and relatives.

    reply to Ron

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for the feedback, Ron. We understand the difficulty for those in the border areas, as many of those friends and family members are quite close in location, but are considered to fall under international calling. We do offer affordable international calling rates, which you can view here. I’ve passed your suggestions on to our management team, and we appreciate you taking the time to post. If you have any questions about our international calling or about anything else, we are happy to help you at 888-345-5509. Thanks again!

      reply to Ashley

  11. Wendy says

    May you clarify that, if the cell phone is one the airplane mode, then it’s forced to use wifi. Under that situation, I don’t think you can call out or receive calls. Is this correct?

    reply to Wendy

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      That is correct, Wendy. When your phone is in airplane mode, it can’t connect to any towers, so you won’t be able to make or receive calls or text messages. That’s why we recommend using that function when traveling internationally. It is the best way to ensure you don’t accidentally connect to an international tower. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about using airplane mode, just give us a call at 888-345-5509. Thank you for the post!

      reply to Ashley

  12. Saifur says

    My wife and I will be in Canada on August 25, will we be able to use our Consumer Celluar phone to make a call and receive call without international roaming charges and don’t want to get a huge bill shock? What shall we do? What options do you have? My iPhone 5s is not an unlocked phone. My wife’s iphone 4 is an unlocked phone. Please give us a suggestion.

    reply to Saifur

    • Dominic at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for asking, Saifur. Canada is not considered to be within our coverage area. Our service typically doesn’t work within Canada. However there remains a small chance it could work, although if it does, you’ll be subjected to international roaming charges. Any roaming charges would be based on Canadian providers, but we have no way of informing you of the cost of those fees. We recommend making sure your phone is in Airplane mode so that you won’t inadvertently use service while you are traveling. We have had customers use an international SIM card with some success, then switch back once they are within the United States. If you have any questions about your coverage, we would be happy to answer them at 888-345-5509. Thanks again for the question, and we hope you have a wonderful trip!

      reply to Dominic

  13. KT says

    While in India I tried local sim card, but I could not use it as you put restriction on the use of international card. Wasted some money there.

    reply to KT

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      We certainly apologize for any inconvenience, KT. Not all of our phones are setup to be used internationally, it depends on the device you are using. We’re always happy to take a look at your phone and see if this option is available for you, but we do often need to adjust some settings prior to be used outside of the U.S. We’re very sorry for the experience you had while traveling. If we can assist you with anything at this time please feel free to give us a call at 888-345-5509. Thank you for your feedback, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

  14. Alexandra says

    I am traveling overseas and I am planning to use Whatsapp. If my phone is in airplane mode can I still use Whastapp?

    reply to Alexandra

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Alexandra! As long as you have Wi-Fi turned on, you will be able to use Whatsapp. That is a great option when traveling! Thank you for commenting, and we hope you enjoy your trip!

      reply to Ashley

      • Adriana Gutiérrez says

        Ashley if my phone is in Airplane mode can I RECEIVE calls at my US phone number via WhatsApp or Skype without incurring excess charges!

        reply to Adriana

        • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

          Thank you for posting, Adriana. When you use Airplane mode with your device, it won’t be able to connect to a tower. Since you wouldn’t be able to connect, you won’t be able to use any minutes, texts or data from your plan. Those apps work a bit differently, so we can’t guarantee that the calling feature will work. We recommend giving it a try before you travel internationally so you can make sure it works. Those apps are a great way to use your phone when you’re outside of the U.S. If we can assist you with anything else, please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you taking the time to post, and we hope you have a great day!

          reply to Ashley

  15. Lisa says

    You used to have service in Canada which is part of why I switched to your service. The last few times I’ve visited, my phone doesn’t work. It would be nice if you had a plan that people who are traveling to Canada could select so they could be reached in case of emergency.

    reply to Lisa

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for the feedback, Lisa! Our service is only available in the U.S., but you may see coverage while in Canada if you are close to the border. I’ve forwarded your feedback to our management team, so thank you for the suggestion! A great option when you across the border is to use Google Hangouts, which will allow you to send and receive messages when you have access to Wi-Fi. That way you can still stay in contact and save on costly international roaming. If we can assist you with anything on your account or answer any questions for you, please feel free to give us a call at 888-345-5509. Thank you for taking the time to post, and we hope you have a wonderful day!

      reply to Ashley

  16. Anita says

    Questions; a friend called from Germany and left a 2 minute message.
    Will I be charged an extra fee?
    If she calls again and talks will I be charged high fees?
    What if I call her in Gernany? High fees?
    Or is this all normal minute usage under the United States?

    reply to Anita

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      These are great questions, Anita. First, I recommend visiting the International Calling page on our website here. It’s a great resource to visit in the future. When your friend calls you from Germany, you will just be charged for the normal plan minutes, so you won’t see any additional fees. The same is true if she calls you and you have a conversation. If you call her in Germany, you’ll use your plan minutes and you’ll be charged a per minute fee. It varies from country to country, and you can view the rates on our International Calling page. We’re also happy to answer any questions you may have at 888-345-5509, so please don’t hesitate to call us! Thank you for posting, and we hope you enjoy speaking with your friend in the future!

      reply to Ashley

  17. Deena says

    I just returned from a month in Amsterdam (Netherlands). I read all the info on getting a SIM card and I did get one as soon as I arrived. For several days I was unable to use it. Also, the Consumer Cellular website would not work from Europe. I had my sister call to see why I couldn’t get my SIM card to work and they said I needed an unlock code. I emailed Consumer Cellular and they sent me an unlock code which worked. So I was able to use my phone for voice and texts which was really important because we had no phones where we stayed. I think Consumer Cellular should make it very clear that we must have an unlock code before we can use a foreign SIM card. I would have gotten it before I left and avoided days of trying to figure out why the SIM card wouldn’t work. I just got home yesterday and put my Consumer Cellular SIM back in the phone and it worked just fine. I’ve been very happy with my Consumer Cellular plan and Moto G phone.

    reply to Deena

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Deena. Every phone is different, but we do highly recommend giving us a call prior to using an international SIM card. That way, we have plenty of time to help you troubleshoot any issues that arise, such as in this case. Not every phone will work with an international SIM card, even if we do have an unlock code. A great option is using Wi-Fi wherever you can, which will allow you to use Google Hangouts or iMessaging for iPhones. Just be sure to keep your phone in airplane mode. That way you can stay in touch with family and friends, without the worry of international roaming. We’re sorry that any instructions we gave you may have been unclear, and appreciate your feedback. Thank you for taking the time to post today, and we hope you enjoyed your trip!

      reply to Ashley

  18. Gwendolyn Barnes says

    Leaving going to Florida & Bahamas need to know consumer cellular roaming charges. Also, weather we can make emergency calls and use WiFi and camera. Please respond as soon as possible.

    reply to Gwendolyn

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      We’re happy to help, Gwendolyn. Your Consumer Cellular phone will work within the United States, but is not meant to be used outside the country. Roaming fees are set by the various wireless companies in other countries, so unfortunately we don’t know how much their roaming fees would be. If you keep your phone in airplane mode, you can still use the camera, other apps and Wi-Fi so that you can access the internet. You can also use Skype or Google Hangouts to communicate with friends and family without risk of costly overages. We’re happy to help you with any questions or setting changes you would like to make. Just give us a call at 888-345-5509, and we’ll be ready to assist you. Enjoy your trip, and thank you for taking the time to comment!

      reply to Ashley

  19. Jim says

    Can I use the Consumer Cellular Mobile Hotspot abroad by installing an International Data SIM as this would allow me make calls via WiFi rather than the carrier?

    reply to Jim

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Good question, Jim! The Hotspot is designed to be used within the United States only, so using it with an international SIM may not work. If there are any other questions we can answer for you, just let us know at 888-345-5509. Thank you for commenting, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

  20. Susan says

    So, it looks like, if I am gone for 3 months to Guadalajara, my husband, who will be here in the US can call ME at a pre-arranged time and still the cost would only be 4c per minute? OR if I pick up the phone in Mexico, is that going to be a different, sky-high rate in addition to the 4c?

    reply to Susan

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      I’m happy to clear that up, Susan. First, your Consumer Cellular phone is designed to work only within the United States. You may get service in some areas in Mexico, but your phone would be connecting to international towers. This could result in costly roaming fees. We recommend keeping your phone turned off or in Airplane Mode while you’re there. If you’re planning on staying with a friend or family member or using a local number, your husband would be able to call you with our International Calling feature. If your husband calls a Mexican phone number with his device, there will be a 4 cent-per-minute charge. If you call his phone from a Mexican phone number, it will just count as normal usage. Wi-Fi can be a great option for keeping in touch without using minutes from your plan if you have a smartphone. We’re happy to answer any questions and give you some tips for international calling or using Wi-Fi when abroad. Call us at 888-345-5509 and we can help you work out a plan. Thank you for posting today, and we hope you enjoy your trip!

      reply to Ashley

  21. Kris says

    Hi, will FaceTime still work for iPhones if you are outside of the US?

    reply to Kris

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Kris. You can indeed use FaceTime on your iPhone when you are outside of the U.S. We recommend that you test this out before leave to make sure everything is in order, and to make sure airplane mode is on once you’ve arrived at your destination. Thank you for asking, and happy travels!

      reply to Ashley

  22. Roger Doriot says

    I am confused. The blog article says that my CC phone will NOT work outside of the USA and it will not roam. Then one of the answers here to a question say that it WILL work in Canada and roam to the CC partner. Which is it? One of the 4 phones on my plan goes into Canada often. It did yesterday. We don’t want bill shock. How can you prevent bill shock by telling a customer that the phone will roam in Canada but you have no idea what the costs will be? Also, I can’t just put my phone in airplane mode. That shuts off all wireless. I need to use WiFi and Bluetooth, if I go to Airplane mode, I might as well turn the phone off.

    reply to Roger

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      We’re happy to clear this up, Roger. Your Consumer Cellular phone is designed to only work in the United States. If you are somewhere far away from the continental U.S. (such as Europe), your phone will most likely not work. If it does connect to a tower, it could result in very costly roaming fees. Your phone may still work in Canada or Mexico, especially along the border. Depending on your location, you may connect to a Canadian tower. We don’t have any insight into those connections, so ounfortunately we aren’t able to give you any idea on how much it would cost. That’s why we recommend you keep your phone in airplane mode, so you won’t have any unwanted surprises. You’ll still be able to use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you do that, and you can use your phone to listen to music, play games and more. There are also great apps that can help you stay in touch while away from home. As long as you have internet access, Skype and Google Hangouts will allow you to make video calls or send messages. We’re happy to make some recommendations if you’re planning a trip. Just give us a call at 888-345-5509, and we will answer any questions you may have. Thank you for taking the time to post today!

      reply to Ashley

  23. E L SMITH says

    I would like to take photos with my phone, but I am on pay per minute, will I be charged, if so how much…

    reply to E

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      That’s a great question, E.L. Taking photos with your phone will not use any minutes, so snap away! If you want to send them to someone else via text message, that will require one of our Connect plans. We’re happy to answer any other questions you may have at 888-345-5509 if you like. Thank you for commenting, and we hope you have a wonderful day!

      reply to Ashley

  24. nicholas vanderborgh says

    Does CC allow calls to Europe (France)?

    reply to nicholas

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      We do indeed, Nicholas. We offer very affordable international calling rates, which you can view here on our website. You’ll just need to dial using the international code as you would on a landline. We’re happy to help walk you through it at 888-345-5509 if you like. Thank you for posting today!

      reply to Ashley

  25. SB says

    It would be nice to get an international SIM card from Consumer Cellular before leaving because when I go to Canada, I just drive and am never near an airport where I could buy one. May be if you can start carrying these for Canada/Mexico at a price so that we can arrange everything before we leave USA, it would work out better for someone like me. Thanks.

    reply to SB

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      That is a great suggestion, SB. At this time, we don’t have that option, but I have passed your feedback on to our management team. I took a look at your account, and I do see that you are currently using the Moto G EXT. If you have access to Wi-Fi when you’re in Canada, you may try Google Hangouts or Skype to keep in touch. These apps will allow you to text and video chat with your contacts easily. We’re happy to recommend some options at 888-345-5509 if you like. Thank you for taking the time to share your idea with us, and we hope you have a wonderful day!

      reply to Ashley

  26. Jonathan Lundberg says

    Can I send a text message from outside the USA to family inside the USA using my phone? If yes, what rates apply?

    Also, if on a cruise ship, is the call international?

    reply to Jonathan

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for asking, Jonathan. This is a common question as the summer vacation season starts. Your phone is not designed to work outside of the United States, so if your phone does work, it will be connecting to international towers. This often results in costly roaming fees, even on a cruise ship. That’s why we recommend you keep your phone in Airplane mode when you are outside of the U.S. If you have a smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection, you can still keep in touch. For iPhone users, iMessage will allow you to send messages with a Wi-Fi connection, and Android users can use Hangouts in a similar fashion. Facebook Messenger and Skype are also good options for staying connected with loved ones back home. We’re happy to look at the options with you over the phone at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us, and we hope you have some great vacations planned!

      reply to Ashley

  27. Tom Joyce says

    Hello, I understood that my sercive in Canada would still work but that 4 cents per minute on calls and 5 cents per text message would apply. However, I am in Calgary right now with 4 “bars” but no ability to send or receive messages. I am surprised and a bit frazzled… is this to be expected?

    reply to Tom

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us, Tom. Your Consumer Cellular device is designed to work only within the United States. While in the U.S., calls made to Canada are 4 cents per minute and text messages are 5 cents per message. While you may see a signal in Calgary, your phone may be connecting to international towers, which could result in roaming fees. We recommend keeping your phone in Airplane mode while you are there. I took a look at your account, and I see that you are using a Samsung Relay. You can keep in touch with Wi-Fi by using Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger, both of which are free to use. These apps will allow you to send and receive messages and photos. We’re happy to answer any other questions you may have at 888-345-5509 at your convenience. We appreciate you posting today!

      reply to Ashley

  28. Sue Ellen says

    Hi!
    I will be traveling to Canada and Amsterdam in the near future.
    It sounds like through my own recent experiences that I cannot buy an international SIM card until I arrive in Canada or Amsterdam. When I asked various stores about buying an international SIM card, I was told that I cannot buy this UNTIL I arrive in a new country. Now, when reading the above responses above, it was mentioned that you can buy an international SIM in the US before you leave. What major places or stores sell them in the US? Thanks.

    reply to Sue

    • Dominic at Consumer Cellular says

      Hello Sue Ellen. That’s a good question, however we unfortunately don’t have any knowledge of where to purchase international SIM cards here in the US. As you know, we don’t offer a service that supports using your cellphone when you’re traveling abroad. Here’s another tip for you, while traveling, connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible. There are several free apps available that allow you to send messages and make calls while connected to Wi-Fi. Safe travels!

      reply to Dominic

      • Amy says

        My parents have consumer cellular. I want them to at least have an option for using data if they get split up while traveling internationally. What options are available? Can we buy international data packages from you or someone else?

        reply to Amy

        • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

          Thank you for asking, Amy. We do only offer service within the United States, so unfortunately we don’t offer international data packages. Your parents should still be able to connect via Wi-Fi if needed. If you like, we can discuss this further with you at 888-345-5509 and see which options may be the best fit. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us today!

          reply to Ashley

  29. Steven M Scharf says

    In one place it states: “For Consumer Cellular customers, no matter which road they take…they never have to worry about roaming fees.”

    On the other hand, in numerous replies from customer service, it states “if your phone does work, it will be connecting to international towers. This often results in costly roaming fees.”

    So which of those two statements is true? They can’t both be true.

    reply to Steven

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Steven! Consumer Cellular service is designed to work with in the U.S. only. With our nationwide coverage, you’ll never experience roaming charges from state to state or region to region within the United States. There can be roaming fees if you are traveling internationally with your phone. We do recommend that you keep your phone in airplane mode when doing so. That way, you won’t accidentally connect to a tower and receive those international roaming fees. If you like, we can answer any additional questions you may have about using your phone while visiting other countries at 888-345-5509. Thank you for posting, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

  30. Yukiko says

    I am going to Japan in June. If I just have my phone on “airplane mode” the whole time, can I use my phone to connect to the internet if I rent a portable wifi hot spot when I get to Japan? I don’t need to make any calls while I am there. Will I be able to use my Line app to text friends in Japan and the US while I am there?

    reply to Yukiko

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Yukiko. If you keep your phone in Airplane Mode, you’ll still be able to connect to Wi-Fi, and use many of your apps with Wi-Fi as well. It’s a great way to stay in touch when you’re traveling internationally. We also recommend other options such as iMessage for iPhone, or Messenger or Skype as well. If we can answer any other questions about using your phone or regarding your account, please give us a call at 888-345-5509 and we will be happy to assist you. Thank you for posting, and we hope you enjoy your trip!

      reply to Ashley

  31. Dennis says

    I am going to France and the UK soon. Just in case, will I be able to use my Consumer Cellular phone to make emergency calls (such as 112 in France or 999 in the UK) if needed?

    The State Department has just issued a travel advisory against European travel. Understand CC phones do not work outside the USA but how about emergency calls?

    reply to Dennis

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for asking, Dennis. Unfortunately, our handsets and services are not intended for international use and typically do not work for international travel. iPhone users can use apps such as FaceTime and iMessage, to stay in touch while connected to Wi-Fi. We encourage customers to set up and test these apps before leaving. Most of the handsets we offer are dual-band handsets; they run off of two frequencies used in North America; 850 & 1900. We’re happy to answer any other questions you may have at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you posting, and we hope you enjoy your time away!

      reply to Ashley

  32. Mags says

    I have an iPhone 6 with Consumer Cellular plan. If I get a SIM card will I have roaming charges when we travel to South America? Should we keep the phone on airplane mode?

    reply to Mags

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for asking, Mags. We always recommend that you keep your iPhone in Airplane mode when traveling abroad. That way, your device won’t try to connect to international towers. When you’re in Airplane mode, you can still use Wi-Fi to send messages via iMessage, and use apps such as Facebook or email to stay in touch. If you like, we can talk through your options with you at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you posting, and we hope you have a wonderful trip!

      reply to Ashley

  33. Bobc says

    I put my phone into airplane mode and that turns WiFi off , so Google hangouts doesn’t work .

    reply to Bobc

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for posting, Bob. I reviewed your account, and I see that Adam, from our customer service team was able to help you with airplane mode and using Wi-Fi with your phone. If we can assist you with anything else at this time, please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you posting, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

  34. John says

    I use the whatsapp app with my phone in airplane mode to text internationally. I haven’t seen you mention this app in any of your responses. Were you aware or it?

    reply to John

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for posting, John. We have many customers who enjoy this app as well. It is so nice to hear that this has worked well for you, so thanks for sharing your experience here!

      reply to Ashley

  35. David says

    What about using We Chat in China?

    reply to David

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for asking, David. You can use most apps with Wi-Fi when you’re overseas, but we recommend testing it before you leave to make sure that all of the app’s features are working properly. If we can answer any other questions you may have about using your cellphone while traveling, please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you posting today!

      reply to Ashley

  36. Sarah says

    I am leaving for France in a few days, does this mean that my phone will be completely useless? I can still use it like an iPod though, correct? Just no calling or texting? Will iMessage still work? Is there anyway I can set up my phone to be able to call?

    reply to Sarah

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      That’s a great question, Sarah. When traveling internationally, we recommend keeping your device in airplane mode. You’ll still be able to use most of the features, and if you’re able to connect to a Wi-Fi network at your hotel or at a restaurant, you can stay in touch with iMessage, Facebook and more. We’re happy to discuss this with you further at 888-345-5509, and talk with you about your options. Thank you for posting today, and we hope you have a wonderful time!

      reply to Ashley

  37. Les says

    I have been a Consumer Cellular customer for a long time. Not having some kind of add on plan for Canada will eventually cause me to move to a carrier which does. The number of people who live within a short distance from the Canadian border is very large. If other carriers can offer this, why can’t Consumer Cellular?

    reply to Les

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      That’s great feedback, Les. I’m happy to pass your request on to our management team. If you would like to talk through the options available to you for using your phone in Canada, please give us a call at 888-345-5509. Thank you for posting today, and we hope to speak with you soon!

      reply to Ashley

    • Kris says

      Ditto! Lots of us live up here near the border. I love CC, but am considering changing because I want the ability to call from my car without wifi in the case of emergency.

      reply to Kris

      • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

        Thank you for posting, Kris. We’re happy to speak with you about your options at 888-345-5509 if you like. Just give us a call at your convenience. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us!

        reply to Ashley

  38. Larry says

    This is really one of the dumbest articles I’ve ever read. To summarize, you don’t offer international service, but you do it on purpose so I won’t ever get a big bill. An analogy to this might be you go to what you think is a nice restaurant only to find out they only serve bologna sandwiches. Why? Because they don’t want you to end up with a big bill at the end of your meal. You already give me a great warning when I near the limit of my data plan so if I keep using my phone it’s really MY problem and not YOURS. Let me make the decision on how to use my phone; you just give me the service, i.e. the option to use my phone internationally.

    reply to Larry

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for posting, Larry. This article was posted some time ago, and there are more options now available to our customers when they are traveling. We’re happy to tell you more about them at 888-345-5509 if you like. We appreciate your feedback, and for taking the time to reach out to us. We look forward to speaking with you!

      reply to Ashley

  39. Jeff says

    I travel extensively outside the US but I almost never have occasion to use my cell phone when I am outside the continental US (I am a senior who doesn’t use a phone like younger people do) but I do like to have it available for EMERGENCIES. I have had two such occasions over the past three years and it is nice to be able to call for help, contact relatives etc. Since I use it only for such tasks, I am not worried about the high per minute cost of roaming but I do want the roaming to be available. Will a Consumer Cellular plan allow roaming in most European and Asia countries.?

    reply to Jeff

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for asking, Jeff. This feature may be available to you, but we’ll need to enable it on our end. For a full list of countries in which international roaming is available, please click here. You’ll also need to call us at 888-345-5509 so that we can ensure your device is properly configured. Please give us a call at 888-345-5509 at your convenience if you would like to utilize this option. We appreciate you taking the time to post, and we look forward to speaking with you. Best wishes for your trip!

      reply to Ashley

  40. Kathy says

    We’ll be in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas soon. Will my Consumer Cellular phone work there since those are both US territories?

    reply to Kathy

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Kathy. Our coverage is available in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. You can view our Coverage Map here to see what type of coverage is available in the areas you’re planning to visit. If we can answer any other questions you may have, please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509. Thanks for posting, and we hope you enjoy your time there!

      reply to Ashley

  41. Jeff says

    Do you foresee having some sort of international cellular data plan in the immediate future? Have you negotiated with any Canadian carriers on this? My current US carrier has a “day pass” for $10/day, I get to use my domestic data abroad in Canada. Please have your marketing VP get on this.

    reply to Jeff

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for asking, Jeff. We’re happy to discuss the options available to you for using your phone while overseas. Please give us a call at 888-345-5509 at your convenience, and we can provide you with more information. We appreciate you taking the time to learn more about us, and we look forward to speaking with you!

      reply to Ashley

  42. Geoff Garner says

    I have Consumer Cellular service. I called a CC service person and asked if my phone will work in Quebec City Canada. They said yes if I switch out my SIMs card so that the system will work at Quebec City Canada. Is this information correct? If no, any other options. Thanks

    reply to Geoff

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for posting, Geoff! I reviewed your account, and I see that Susan, our account advisor, was able to tell you more about our international options. The information she provided was correct, you’ll just need to call us at 888-345-5509 and get a different SIM card. Just be sure to contact us a few weeks before you leave so that we can verify everything is setup properly. We appreciate you taking the time to comment, and we hope you have a wonderful trip!

      reply to Ashley

  43. Rebecca Childs says

    I am very confused. In many of the above answers, you refer to keeping phone in airplane mode, and using wi-fi. When I turn on airplane mode, it shuts off the wi-fi. I’m traveling to China, and hoped to be able to use Facetime and wi-fi.

    reply to Rebecca

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      I’m happy to clarify, Rebecca. For some of our customers without smartphones, the best option while traveling is to keep the phone in Airplane Mode to avoid any unwanted usage. With a smartphone, we recommend turning off data, but enabling Wi-Fi. Then you’ll be able to use Facetime and Wi-Fi otherwise. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 888-345-5509. Thank you for posting!

      reply to Ashley

  44. beverly peterson says

    I have an I phone 6 and will be going on a Caribbean cruise how can I text my family at home

    reply to beverly

    • Thanks for posting, Beverly! We do offer some international calling options, so please give us a call at 888-345-5509 so that we can review these with you at your earliest convenience. To use your phone without an international plan, you may be able to put your iPhone into airplane mode and connect to your ship’s onboard Wi-Fi. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us today!

      reply to Jacob

  45. Terry says

    When placing my phone in airplane mode while traveling in Europe, will my phone show the local time?

    reply to Terry

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Terry! Your phone may not be able to automatically adjust the time, as it won’t be able to connect to the cellular towers. You can manually adjust the time in your device’s settings, so you can still keep the time while using your phone. If we can answer any other questions you may have before you leave for your trip, please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509. Thanks for posting, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

  46. Paul says

    I recently switched from Cricket (which also uses AT&T as the carrier) to Consumer Cellular. When going to Mexico or Canada, I would just contact Cricket in advance and pay an extra fee for the time period when I would be in those Countries. Then I could still make & recieve phone calls when in Canada, or Mexico. Why can’t CC do the same thing (since they also use AT&T)? Thanks, Paul (retired AT&T Constr. Market Mngr) Note I have an unlocked AT&T Android phone GSM Samsung Galaxy 5.

    reply to Paul

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Paul. We’re happy to review our international calling options with you at 888-345-5509. You can also check out our FAQ’s for more details. Our account advisors will be happy to assist you, and find the right option for your upcoming travels. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us, and we hope to speak with you soon!

      reply to Ashley

  47. Mary Dittner says

    We are going to mexico in two weeks. All of our hotels have Wi Fi….I don’t need the phone but would like to be able to use Facebook and Email to keep up with people. and be able to take photo’s…I also have games on the phone…
    If I put the phone on airplane mode will I be able to do all those things?

    reply to Mary

    • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for posting, Mary. If you turn on Airplane mode on the phone and connect to a local Wi-Fi network then you will still be able to access Facebook and your email. If you have games that require an internet connection, then those should work as well. Also, your camera does not require an internet connection so you can continue to take pictures even when you’re away from Wi-Fi.

      reply to Nicole

  48. Ellen Hodgen says

    Hi, CC! We really really like CC as we have been with other plans, and we have no surprises with CC. We have two phones on CC. Mine is with T-mobile, and my husband’s is with AT and T. I have a new SIM card for AT and T, but have not switched as yet because I’ve not notified my callers of the switch in numbers..T-mobile will not release my present number.
    Here’s my question. In June, we are traveling to France, Germany, with a short stint in Luxembourg and Belgium (3 days) . We need to use our phones for all the things pertaining to travel, rooms, sigh seeing, etc. How should we set out phones up so that we don’t have “sticker shock” on our next bill?

    reply to Ellen

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for asking, Ellen! We do offer international options in many locations, and we can talk with you about the options available for you at 888-345-5509. You can also review our FAQ’s here for more details. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us, and we hope you have a lovely trip!

      reply to Ashley

  49. Peter Dakin says

    £10 used for phoning all our younger relatives advising our schedule we were visiting. We did not have cell phone use first 12 days ( or need it – helps in having a nice vacatiion in Paris like we did on our honeymoon 59 years ago.) but used iPads for Internet communication at hotels and at zfrench and English relatives home wifi. Booking train and ferry tickets on line no problem. Even the trains had wifi and power plugs.

    reply to Peter

  50. Dorothy Vani says

    If going to London & Paris, do you have to turn the phone off when not using it for calls…but want to have it on for the alarm in the morning, can you be charged for roaming????

    reply to Dorothy

    • Hi Dorothy, that’s a great question, thanks for posting! A great way to use your phone while traveling, and not have to pay roaming charges, is putting it in airplane mode. What that means is you can have access to your alarm clock, and apps on the phone if you’re connected to WiFi without having to pay the international roaming fees.

      reply to Jacob

  51. Paul Joseph Cossman says

    I’m headed to New Zealand for a month. I’ll be living in a place with wifi. It seems to me I can put my consumer cellular iphone in airplane mode and still use the wifi connection for phone use with my regular phone number. I use wifi connecting at my home in rural Alaska because it is out of cell phone range. Is there any reason I can’t do that in NZ as well, turning on the airplane mode to avoid roaming charges?

    reply to Paul

    • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

      That’s a great question, Paul. You can put your phone into Airplane Mode and use apps such as Facetime, Skype, or Google Hangouts while connected to Wi-Fi when you are in NZ to avoid any charges. Wi-Fi calling is also an option to make calls, but this will result in international roaming charges because Wi-Fi calling when overseas still makes a connection with local towers. If you want to limit charges, it’s best to have your phone in Airplane Mode with Wi-Fi while using a third-party application for communication.

      reply to Nicole

  52. Del Kendrew says

    I am going to Jamaica in Feb and want to use the camera only. What I glean from the questions, is that if ai put my phone in airplane mode, I can take pictures with no extra cost involved. Just want to be sure that is correct.

    reply to Del

    • Excellent question, Del! That is all correct. By putting the phone in airplane mode it’ll keep the phone from trying to connect to international towers. This will save you a lot of money but allow you to use things like your camera, or if you connect to WiFi you can also use different apps through that method.

      reply to Jacob

  53. Bob Palmerson says

    It seems like every Cell Phone company in the Free World including T Mobile has free call from North America ( US, Canada and Mexico) Any chance Consumer Cellular will follow suit. Looks like CC customers have been asking for this for many years . WHO provides the calls from Canada and Mexico that we have to pay for and Who gets paid for providing that service. thanks

    reply to Bob

    • Hi Bob, great questions. We use a third-party international dialing company to help get those calls connected. The charges that we have for those calls are based on what we pay for that connection. While we’re partnered with AT&T and T-Mobile to use their towers, we aren’t partnered with all of their services such as international dialing. However, I will definitely get your suggestion up so that it can be reviewed for moving forward. Have a great rest of your week!

      reply to Jacob

  54. Charles von Roesgen says

    DOES CC INTERNATIONAL CALLING COVER LUXEMBOURG? IF NOT WHY?

    reply to Charles

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