International Roaming: T-Mobile Vs Verizon – Live and Let’s Fly

Verizon international daily plan

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During the pandemic, my family switched from T-Mobile to Verizon but no more, we came crawling back.

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Verizon Has The Best Domestic Cellular Network (Allegedly)

If you have a TV or pass through a subway station, you’ve seen the endless back patting that Verizon conducts, humbly announcing that it has the best network in the US. T-Mobile says they cover 99% of the people living in America (4G LTE coverage in most cities and towns, but miss some rural areas), ATT says… and so on, and so forth. There’s coverage maps that all show their brand is the exact right service for network coverage and, now, 5G coverage everywhere you look.

The reality is, I had T-Mobile for a decade before I switched during the pandemic to Verizon. I was sick of poor reception in my neighborhood and parts of my home so I switched to “the best” domestic 5G network. I’ll let you guess what happened… nothing. Nothing happened. Verizon was not observably better or worse than T-Mobile anywhere I went.

My reasons for switching from T-Mobile to Verizon in the first place were certainly based on my personal experience with the service, but so is my reason for switching back.

In the end, I didn’t have a bad service experience with Verizon, I didn’t have calls dropped, I didn’t have service coverage issues outside of some familiar areas – but I didn’t have those issues on T-Mobile either. Yet Verizon is more expensive for the same service levels, includes fewer perks, and lastly, its international roaming plan is very, very expensive. Verizon adds Hulu and Disney Plus (we pay for that already) as well as Apple Music, Apple Arcade (on trials) but for international options, it wasn’t a good fit. It was time to switch back.

Comparing International Plans, Costs

Without factoring in other costs, we save $10/month ($120/year) just by switching to T-Mobile, but we also save on in-flight wifi and a few others perks. However, it’s the international options that caused me to switch.

Included, without doing anything else, calls while roaming internationally as well as my texts and very, very slow data are included as part of its plan. Verizon, not so much. Both carriers include Canada and Mexico as part of their post-paid plans.

Side-By-Side Comparison

At $10/day/device that Verizon offers, we might as well do the monthly international roaming package for any trip close to 10 days in length, just to avoid turning it on/off and spending more time than necessary adjusting our plan. Daily data allowances are “unlimited” but high speed data is capped at 2GB (more than enough) but then it drops to 3G data speeds, a note that lives in the very small print.

The dirty little secret of the monthly plan is that the data allowances are the same whether choosing the single-day plan or the monthly and after 14 days abroad last winter, I started to spend $20/GB on additional data. Those using lots of high-speed data might do better to add days individually depending on their trip. That said, the plan appears to have changed to unlimited data now, but now the data costs for high speed aren’t displayed, just a drop from high speed to 3G.

verizon monthly international

T-Mobile includes some high speed global roaming in their Magenta Max plans without any additional cost (up to 5GB included, then speed drops to 2G but there’s no charge.) One important note is that T-Mobile doesn’t prohibit its use for mobile hotspots while Verizon had done so in places. I couldn’t be certain if not disallowing hotspot use was a policy poorly enforced, or enabled but bad tech – either way it was inconsistent where T-Mobile was not.

T-Mobile charges for talk time over cell networks (but not over wifi), while Verizon promotes unlimited talk, text, and data (within the limits mentioned before.) T-Mobile’s lesser Magenta Plan offers high download speeds in 11 European countries but not high speed throughout the entire world.

T-mobile included international

T-Mobile offers a daily package as does Verizon, but for just $5/day, $35/10-day package or $50/month making the savings instant from our first trip. The data plans are lower for all of the packages but are considerably less expensive. T-Mobile’s monthly package offers 15GB rather than Verizon’s 20GB for the same month, but the cost is half.

T-mobile international plans

But there’s another reason beyond money, and that’s the simplicity of it all. I turned the international data roaming package on from the app, but even had I not, my phone just worked everywhere. No need to even contact them, my phone will ring as soon as I land.

Switching Just Before Boarding

In the rush to get ready prior to our departure, I made a colossal error in judgment – I decided to switch cell phone carriers an hour prior to departure.

I know.

In theory, it’s a simple operation espcially since the iPhone 14 uses an eSIM and everything can be done online or over the phone. Online, the system stalled and this was not a good start at all. That forced me to call in but after waiting for a call back I was boarding the aircraft, hands full of luggage finding ways to read the IMEI number.

I’d like to blame T-Mobile for this and it’s probably fair to do so, but I shouldn’t have chosen such a short window to make the transition. I landed in Washington Dulles and the phone had been sorted out. Verizon recongnized that the number had been transfered to T-Mobile, painlessly ended my service and sent me a final bill.

How Was T-Mobile’s International Plan Experience?

As expected, the phone worked as intended at home and abroad. I saved money on both of our phones while we were out of the country and since returning home have had comparable service to Verizon. Included in my unlimited plan are perks I can use like Apple TV and wifi on airplanes but it is far and away better for international use and cheaper at the same time. The mobile networks seem to be the same quality and coverage for our situation but perhaps your location will vary.

What do you think? Have you tried both? Which do you prefer?

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