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Man Stunned to be Hit with $143,000 Phone Bill After Trip Abroad — How to Make Sure You Avoid the Same Fate



A Florida man recently made headlines when he returned from a trip to Switzerland and was greeted by a phone bill for $143,000.

According to local outlet ABC Action News, Rene Remund had visited his local T-Mobile store ahead of the vacation to notify the service provider of his travel plans. He was reportedly told by an employee, “You’re covered.”

However, after freely sending photos and messages throughout his vacation he was charged for using 9.5 gigabytes (GB) of roaming data.

It was only after ABC Action News contacted T-Mobile’s corporate offices that the company offered to credit Remund’s account for the entire amount.

Accidentally incurring exorbitant charges during an excursion overseas isn’t rare, unfortunately. But it is easy to avoid. PEOPLE talked to Rani Cheema, founder and travel business coach at Cheema’s Travel, to find out what Remund did wrong and how to avoid the same fate

While she says it’s common for travelers not to realize their phone is using roaming data, it’s usually “not to that point” of racking up a six-figure tab. “It’s usually first-time travelers or newbies who think they can use their phone everywhere at any time,” she says.

But it’s not difficult to make sure you’re covered before you leave — or even after you arrive.

Be sure to check your phone’s notifications when arriving in a new country.


Always Call Customer Service Instead of Going to a Store

Cheema says Remund’s first mistake was going in person to the T-Mobile store rather than calling its customer service line.

“Number one: never go to the store,” she says. “Never, ever, ever. Because they’re there to sell phones . . . They’re there to make commissions.”

Customers often assume the sales associates are also experts on various coverage plans, but Cheema says that isn’t always the case.

And if a customer receives inaccurate information, like Remund seemingly did, there’s no way to prove it. At the store, “your conversation’s not being recorded. So call the service provider, always,” says Cheema.

When speaking with the customer service agent, confirm whether your plan covers international use — and if that includes phone calls, text messages and internet browsing. If it doesn’t, you can consider upgrading your plan or purchasing a temporary package so that you can use your phone abroad as you would at home. Several of the big carriers offer a $10 per day flat rate option.

Check Your Phone’s Status as Soon as You Land

Once you arrive in your international destination, she says to “look at all the notifications” on your phone right away.

“As soon as you turn your phone on, you’ll see it says in the upper right-hand corner if it’s roaming or looking for a connection,” she says. “And then your phone alerts you that, ‘Hey, you’re in a new country. We recognize this. Here are our rules.’”

If you see that alert and don’t have an international plan, simply turn off roaming in your phone’s settings or put your phone on airplane mode. When you connect to wifi, you’ll be able to use your phone normally.

Cheema says it’s better to call your service provider with travel questions than visit a store.

Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty

Don’t Have an International Plan? Get a SIM Card

Cheema says if a traveler hasn’t secured international coverage prior to the trip, they have the option to purchase a SIM card once they arrive, which allow your phone to connect to local networks without roaming fees.

“SIM cards are great,” she says. “You can get them at train stations or the airport. You can also use them to make local calls if you need to make dinner reservations,” says Cheema.

To limit the amount of data you’re using, try turning off “cellular data” for the apps you won’t be using in your Settings.

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Or Simply Stick to Using Wifi Only

Another option, Cheema advises,  is to “just connect to Wi-Fi everywhere you go” and keep your phone on airplane mode for the duration of your trip. You can enable wifi calling in your settings, so you can make phone calls, text and use the internet as you normally would.

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