I racked up a £140 phone bill on holiday in minutes – how you can avoid it

HOLIDAYMAKERS are being hit with surprise bills after a number of mobile phone providers have brought back roaming charges.

Tesco Mobile, giffgaff and others have re-introduced fees after Brexit – and you might not realise how much it costs.

Joanne Ellerby, 41, spent £140 for using her mobile phone on holiday


Joanne Ellerby, 41, spent £140 for using her mobile phone on holiday

That was the case for Joanne Ellerby, 41, who unwittingly racked up a £140 bill for using her phone on holiday.

Joanne, a financial advisor, travelled to Los Angeles in March for just over a week.

Joanne, whose provider is Tesco Mobile, had read about roaming charges so added a safety buffer of £100 on her data usage before jetting off just in case case.

A safety buffer acts as a price cap – it limits your bill and should stop you going over a certain amount.

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Joanne told The Sun: “When I landed in LA, I got a welcome text from Tesco Mobile.

“So I switched my roaming on and received two or three WhatsApp messages – and that immediately used up all my safety buffer.”

Joanne was charged £5 per MB by Tesco Mobile for using data abroad, which meant that opening one page of a website would’ve cost about £100.

While her package usually gives her unlimited texts and minutes with 12GB of data – that only counts in the UK.

Many holidaymakers are being landed with surprise bills this summer, particularly those going to Europe, where roaming charges haven’t been an issue for years.

According to Lyca Mobile, roaming fees could now add more than £100 to the cost of a two-week holiday for a family of four in Europe.

Joanne said: “If you’ve got messages waiting to download, all your data goes immediately – and that’s what happened to me.”

When Joanne realised what had happened, she increased her buffer by £40 as she needed to access the email that had her hotel booking details on it.

“It meant that I’d spent £140 within minutes – I was still at the airport,” she said.

“I tried to buy a package from Tesco Mobile, because I was going to need more data for the rest of the week, but was told I couldn’t bulk buy data.”

Instead, Joanne was forced to switch her roaming off for the rest of her trip and rely on using the hotel wi-fi when she could.

“That wasn’t entirely helpful,” she said. “I was in America to do a 48-hour-cross-desert running race – we were in the middle of nowhere and everyone was very reliant on 4G for maps, messaging and staying in touch with people because we were barely in hotels.”

The Sun has contacted Tesco Mobile for comment.

How to avoid roaming charges

With roaming charges making a comeback, it’s vital that you check yours before you head off on holiday.

They vary depending on your provider and your package, and if you’re going to a country outside of Europe, it’ll likely cost you more.

For example, Tesco Mobile charges existing customers using their phones in Europe 10p per MB of data, 20p a text and 55p a minute for calls.

Others, like EE, charge £2 a day when you’re travelling in EU countries, not including the Republic of Ireland.

For a full list of roaming charges, read our full guide here.

Joanne is now hoping to switch to another provider, but this might be tricky as she has a 36-month contract which doesn’t end until September 2024.

If you are looking to move contract, check your terms and conditions to avoid any unexpected early exit fees.

One alternative is to buy a specific SIM-only deal with no contract to use while you’re away.

You could also call your provider and explain you’re thinking of leaving to see if it can offer you a better deal.

Before flying to your destination, enable your mobile’s flight mode and switch off data roaming.

This will avoid the risk of incurring charges as you pass through different countries and territories.

It also stops you being slapped with a charge the second you turn your phone on when you land.

Also, if you want some entertainment while you’re away, make sure you prepare in advance – so download any shows, films and music at home before travelling.

Store your boarding passes and other important travel documents such as covid passes on your mobile in advance as well, so that they’re easy to access.

It’s an easy way to stop costs hiking up.

Also, depending on your network and the country you are in, sometimes even receiving a voicemail on holiday can cost you.

If your provider does include this charge then give it a call before you travel and ask it to switch voicemail off.

A few countries where you could be charged to receive a voicemail include the Faroe Islands, Turkey and Northern Cyprus.

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For more tips, here’s the ultimate travel checklist from GHIC cards and insurance to location forms and passport renewals.

And always be aware of price rises as living costs are set to soar this October.

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