If you're an AT&T customer about to embark on an overseas vacation, the company has interesting news to share. The carrier today (Oct. 13) announced its Passport packages to make international wireless communication easier. Starting at $30 a month, you can enable unlimited messaging (text, picture and video) for 30 days while roaming in select countries.
For that price, you get up to 30 days of international messaging and 120 MB of cellular data. That's plenty of Instagram uploads and Facebook updating for a week, but barely enough for a longer period if you're a heavy user. If you need more data while abroad, the carrier's $60 Passport Plus and $120 Passport Pro packages offer up to 300MB and 800MB of data, respectively.
If you hit your limit, AT&T charges overages of 25 cents per MB on Passport ($0.20/MB on Plus and $0.15/MB on Pro). Making calls in foreign countries on Passport, Passport Plus and Passport Pro will cost you $1.00, $0.50 and $0.35 per minute, respectively. This expires after the 30 days you paid for, and AT&T won't automatically re-enroll you in the program.
Bear in mind that the $30, $60 and $120 fees are in addition to your existing line payment. So if you're on AT&T's Mobile Share pack with 3GB of data with a Next early-upgrade device, you'll have to pay an extra $30 on top of the $65 you're paying for that line alone (excluding device installment fee). That's $95 for the 30 days you decide to get Passport.
Frequent travelers who need reliable and affordable international data should consider T-Mobile's Simple Choice lines, which start at $50 a month and come with unlimited international roaming data built in. The caveat, though, is that you'll be limited to 2G/3G speeds. A 3GB Simple Choice costs $60 per month, and that's including all the international roaming goodness. A 5GB plan costs $70 per month and unlimited is $80.
T-Mobile's international plan also offers calls at a flat rate of 20 cents per minute -- less than AT&T's cheapest tier (Passport Pro).
However, AT&T appears to have international coverage in more places than T-Mobile. The Uncarrier says its data and texting is available in 120+ countries, while AT&T claims coverage in some 150 countries. You'll also get LTE speeds in the 35 or so countries that support it with AT&T.
Another upside to AT&T's Passport is its unlimited Wi-Fi service for all three packages. This perk gives you access to wireless Internet at participating hotspots in more than 35 countries, meaning you can hop on select public networks when abroad and surf to your heart's content.
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Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.