Verizon Wireless to screw over global travelers

Trying to find affordable data packages that work around the globe is more or less a losing battle. Data roaming charges are a cash cow, one that the carriers are loathe to give up. T-Mobile used to have quite a nice plan for their BlackBerry users but suddenly one day that program switched from all data to only covering email. Whoopsie. Sprint and AT&T have had plans that were relatively competitive as well and they’ve actually become more competitive, particularly for the occasional traveler who enjoyed switching the global data plan on and off as they traveled. Leading the pack was Verizon Wireless. They offered unlimited global data for a flat rate that could be switched on and off so the plan was prorated for only the days you needed it. At $65/month it wasn’t the cheapest data package out there but it was incredibly competitive relative to the other options available.

And now it is gone.

Having just returned from Europe I called in to turn off my international plan so as to save a few dollars over the next 3 weeks until I was leaving the country again. I was quite surprised to hear from the agent that if I removed that plan today I would not be able to add it back again. Ever.

There are only two bulk plans available now, $30 and $100 add-ons to the regular data subscription that a customer already has. The amount of data that buys you depends on where you are traveling but the rates are pretty poor. Even worse, the packages only apply for travel to Canada, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean. Folks visiting Asia, Australia or South America have absolutely no package options anymore. The rates vary in those other countries, from $2/MB up to $20/MB, depending on which plan you are on and where you are.

Here’s the general breakdown of the rates:

Where? How Much Data? Monthly Overage Costs
Canada & Mexico 75MB $30 $2/MB Canada
$5/MB Mexico
200MB $100
Caribbean & Europe 25MB $30 $2/MB Canada
$5/MB Mexico/Europe/Caribbean
75MB $100

Assuming you are on one of these plans all other countries bill at $2/MB on top of the monthly allowances above. Without those plans you pay $20/MB. So if you’re headed to Thailand you can either pay $20/MB or $30/month + $2/MB. They both suck, though obviously the monthly + usage is a better deal as soon as you get over 1.5MB of usage.

Oh, and you’d better come back to the USA and use some voice and data regularly here, too. If not, your account will be terminated “with cause” by Verizon Wireless:

Note: Verizon Wireless will terminate your service for good cause if less than half of your voice or data usage over three consecutive billing cycles is on the Verizon Wireless National Enhanced Services Rate and Coverage Area.

I’m glad my account happened to be on the old plan and that I didn’t call to cancel the day I returned home. Had I done so I would have been screwed.

UPDATE (23 JAN): Minor update…The rates are actually REALLY bad if you are traveling outside of the above defined regions. Rather than $2/MB it is $20/MB, even if you are on a plan. For folks not grandfathered in to the global plan now is a great time to get the phone unlocked and start researching options for local data plan SIMs around the globe.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I was a regular use of Sprint’s $40 add-on for unlimited international data. Similar to your story, Sprint informed me that if I remove it, I will never be able to add it again. Additionally, as of last week, they no longer include tethering while abroad, but at least apps on the phone remain free. 🙁

  2. I had always considered doing the use it, cancel it, use it, cancel it idea, but I was always worried that they would either cancel it or raise the rates considerably, so I pay $30 a month on Sprint after my corporate discount, which amounts to $360 a year and I can keep it and not lose it… I would have been better off $$ wise realistically switching it on/off, but it was just too low of a price to play around with the chance of losing it.

  3. FUCK THIS SHIT. Just found this out the hard way. I am jumping ship. It’s been real verizon!

  4. Got an update on what you ended up doing? The Verizon unlimited international data plan went away July 1. Those who lost it had the option to go with a 250 mb/month plan for $10 more a month.

    I happened to do this and then ditched my BB for a Droid but now my issue is tracking the data use to stay under the 250 mb barrier. So far no good answer and the Droid is a data hog.

    1. I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m really still on the unlimited pan or not. They keep threatening that it is done and gone and that I cannot keep it but every time I head out I call in and they confirm I still have it. Once that’s done I’ll take the 250MB plan like you.

      And, like you, I’m quite worried about tracking my usage. Especially when roaming and usage can be reported weeks later (to the point it shows up on the following bill) it can be troublesome. I’m not really sure that there is a good way to track it because of that.

  5. As of right now – despite two different letters received (one via FedEx) insisting that the plan was being revoked – I still have it. I honestly have no idea how or why, but I do and I’m not complaining.

    I did call the toll/roaming-free global support hotline several times during my most recent 2 week trip and each time they confirmed I was still on the plan. When I got home I still was as well.

  6. I was a big fan of Verizon and their data plans and told all my international students to switch to VZ before we traveled overseas. Now Verizon has screwed the customers so bad, I spend an hour prior to each trip telling students and colleagues to dump verizon and go for cracked phones with local sims.
    Instead of Verizon making 30-40 bucks extra per month on me, they got greedy and now make ZERO on me. And I tell as many people as possible how to STOP using VZ.

  7. Verizon called me and said that my data plan will expire when my contract is due (Feb 2012) and then my Unlimited Global Data plan was going to not renew. CAN THEY DO THIS? I mean, if I don’t change phones, or sign another contract for another plan, can they just remove my Unlimited Global Data feature? I think this would be illegal of them…

    1. Unfortunately, Arthur, I believe they can. The contract you have with them is heavily stilted in their favor. It sucks.

      Mine is still active 6 weeks after my contract expiry so I’m just riding that out as long as I can. But it sucks.

  8. To hell with this big enterprise corporate bullshit. I’m going to XCom Global for my unlimited data plan.

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