T-Mobile Threatens To Cancel My International Roaming

Filed Under: Travel Technology
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I’ve been a loyal T-Mobile customer for over 2.5 years now, as I made the switch from AT&T at that point. Among the big US carriers, T-Mobile was for a long time by far the leader when it came to international data, thanks to their Simple Choice Plan.

How my opinion of T-Mobile has evolved

While I was thrilled with T-Mobile for a couple of years, the reality is that their competitors have largely caught up when it comes to international data, so they don’t have the edge they used to have.

Furthermore, last year they introduced a new $5 Global Pass Plan, which I thought was awesome in theory, but the execution was terrible.

Fortunately T-Mobile recently introduced a new Global Plus Plan, which I’ve signed up for, and have been really happy with. It costs an extra $50 per month per line, which is steep, but comes with lots of perks.

Earn bonus points on phone bills

Essentially this plan gives you unlimited messaging, calling, and high-speed data when roaming in Simple Global countries, as well as 5GB of monthly high-speed international tethering. For my travel plans this is an excellent value, since the international tethering really comes in handy.

That sounds great, but…

T-Mobile says I use too much data abroad

On December 13, 2018, I received the following text message from T-Mobile:

The majority of the recent T-Mobile usage on your line has been roaming internationally. Per our terms and conditions roaming benefits are not intended for extensive use abroad. You can use Wi-Fi to reduce your international usage. See details: t-mo.co/roaming

Then on January 15, 2019, I received the following message:

The majority of the last two months of T-Mobile usage on your line has been roaming internationally. If this line continues to roam extensively abroad over the next month, the use will violate our terms and conditions, and your roaming usage will be blocked on February 26 2019. See details: t-mo.co/roaming

So T-Mobile is threatening to block my international data on February 26, 2019, if I don’t reduce my usage.

Let’s take a closer look at this…

T-Mobile’s restrictions on international data usage

It’s totally understandable that T-Mobile doesn’t intend for this plan to be for those living abroad. However, the plan is very much designed for frequent international travelers. After all, someone who doesn’t travel a lot internationally isn’t going to pay an extra $50 per line per month for a feature like this.

Here’s what the terms & conditions of T-Mobile’s contracts say regarding excessive international data usage:

Unless explicitly permitted by your Rate Plan or Data Plan, you are not permitted to use your Device or the Services in a way that we determine results in more than 50% of your voice and/or data usage being Off-Net (i.e., connected to another provider’s network) for any 2 billing cycles within any 12-month period

So as you can see, T-Mobile doesn’t want you to use more than 50% of your voice and/or data connected to another provider’s network for two billing cycles in a 12-month period.

Fair enough, that’s not unreasonable.

How much T-Mobile data have I been using internationally?

So in fairness, the period from mid-October until mid-December was my busiest international travel period of the year, so T-Mobile isn’t totally off base here. Let me share some details on my usage.

For my billing cycle from October 14 through November 13 I had pretty high usage:

  • I used a total of 17.14GB of data
  • Roughly 7.1GB of that was in the US, while roughly 10GB of that was outside the US
  • I spent 14 days not in the US (this includes time in other countries, as well as time on planes)

For my billing cycle from November 14 through December 13:

  • I used a total of 6.21GB of data
  • Roughly 2.9GB of that was in the US, while roughly 3.2GB of that was outside the US
  • I spent 14 days not in the US (this includes time in other countries, as well as time on planes)

Like I said, these were especially busy periods for international travel, so T-Mobile isn’t in the wrong.

I don’t yet have access to usage details for my latest statement, but I’ve been in the country almost the entire time, so I imagine my overall usage is low, and my international usage is especially low.

For the period from December 14 through January 13, I only spent three days outside the US, so I can’t imagine that’s an issue.

What I don’t understand

So here’s what I don’t understand about T-Mobile’s policy. Even in my busy travel months I haven’t spent more than half of my time abroad. I also don’t think my international usage (in absolute terms) has been unreasonable.

However, indeed T-Mobile’s policy says that you can’t use more than 50% of your voice or data abroad, and I have (accidentally) violated that.

But doesn’t that mean that I need to just use more data in the US? I use fairly little data in the US since I’m typically connected to wifi, so it sounds to me like the solution here isn’t to use less data abroad (which would be inconvenient), but rather to simply use a lot more data in the US? Do I just need to start tethering off my phone in the US for no reason, and download big files to my phone?

That seems silly, but best I can tell, that would solve my problems?

Bottom line

I totally get why T-Mobile wants to limit how much data people use abroad, and indeed I’ve been using too much data abroad, it seems like. I had never looked at my usage details until now.

However, the rule here is based on the percent of data you’re using abroad, and unless I’m missing something, it seems like my issue here is simply that I’m not using enough data in the US.

Has anyone else faced this issue of using too much T-Mobile data abroad? What did you do? Is my understanding of the rules incorrect?

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Comments
  1. Maybe watch more Netflix stateside to change that ratio. It’s not what they’re intending, but it’s what they imply will work.

  2. Interesting and very informative. Thank you. These small print rules are hard to understund and follow and of course change frequently. I’m glad I “know” someone like you who explains it with down to earth examples.

  3. I would not be surprised if there is something in the contracts with foreign providers that forces them to do this. The total amount of data used would be irrelevant in this case.

  4. So you need to burn a lot of data when you are in the US to offset your roaming use 🙂 Just stream HD video while you are sleeping.

  5. Yeah, i think extensive video streaming in the US is the answer. Brilliant policy T-Mobile! Always beware of unintended consequences…

  6. You are finding out that Fortune 500 companies can say unlimited and then state to you not used as intended and violated their TOS. Unlimited is what they say it to be. The same tactic is used by credit card companies and programs.

  7. You probably on your home wifi when you are not traveling. Try not to connect to wifi when you are home. Download lots of videos. Please fortnite.

  8. Go to google Fi and don’t worry–they don’t care how much you use abroad. More than that, the 6GB bill protection will kick in so you’ll pay less too!

  9. I doubt using more data in the US to make it more than 50% of your usage will solve T mobile’s issue with you, despite the wording of their rules.

    I live in Japan and use about .4 to 1.0 go per month outside US and 0 gb in the US. I go back to the US less than 30 days a year. By the wording, I should have been violating the rules for the past several years but of course I never got a warning due to my low usage.

  10. Makes sense that you’re mostly on WiFi while at home / in the US. The ratio restriction is still better than a hard cap at x GB.

    Just download 5 GB over cellular once a month in the US and you’ll be all set with the ration. One way would be to sync some Netflix offline, or download some large software package trial (Adobe, Microsoft, etc).

  11. They are turning customer unfriendly, just like the others, after a period of really trying to provide good service and value.

    I *do not* travel anywhere outside the US near the amount you do, but it was wholly apparent to me that they are severely throttling my data. Last week, my phone was essentially unusable in Singapore. Maps wouldn’t load in less than 10 minutes, email was impossible, and web use for all but the simplest sites crashed halfway thru pages. Tried alternate carriers but none would work sufficiently. Gave up and switched to my ATT phone, “thanks, TMobile!”, which worked flawlessly.

    If this is the state of their “network” in a 100% mobile country like Singapore, then that’s the end of this $50/month ride for me. I was wondering why halfway thru the previous week in Hong Kong it slowed when I started using Google Maps. My previous four months have had little international data usage, but also very little US usage. Looks like I, too, should download some gigantic files to my phone here in the US….. but that’s stupid, and saying sayonara to their service is a better solution, now that ATT has a useable, reasonably priced on-demand international roaming option.

  12. We’ve encountered the same issue recently, and the problem went away when our daughter, who attends college in Canada, did exactly what you suggest – using tons of data in the US while on Christmas break.

  13. My husband had exactly the same issue and text messages from T-mobile. He used to turn on wi-fi most of the time domestically, at work or home. Now he relies on T-mobile cell service just to increase his data usage in the US. It’s counter-intuitive for sure.

  14. Great post, I’m a frequent international business traveler as well. I have been roaming for the last six years (virtually the same pattern) – and T-mobile has never issued a warning. But all of a sudden, in December 2019, I received the same message you received. They’re threatening to terminate my international data service. My suggestion: we should all switch to Google Fi, unlimited at high speeds!

  15. I had a similar question for AT&T and their representative went through the terms and say “as dumb as it it, make sure you use lots of data while in the US ocbe within the terms”. So I do, even when could be using WiFi, just to avoid this issue.

  16. *cough*Google Fi *cough*
    *cough* Don’t listen to Tiffany *cough*

    But in all seriousness, I understand Tiffany’s complaints with Google Fi, though just as anecdotal as her story is, so is mine but from the exact opposite perspective. I probably have just a tad less international data usage as you, maybe more in some months based on your screenshot and raw percentages. I’ve an iPhone on Google Fi right now, and have used one since before they officially supported them and I’ve never had a problem. Ever. Not with customer service nor with hardware or software. My connections have always been LTE save maybe 5 or 6 times in Greece, Turkey and other out-of-the-way places where I’d blame infrastructure being sparse. And it’s so cheap comparatively.

  17. Switch to Google Fi; I finally did last month. They had a promo on 11/28 for a free Pixel phones (I chose the $899 Pixel 3XL) and they rebated the cost in travel cards. They charge $10/GB with a max of 6GB charge per month. Works literally everywhere in the world except a handful of countries.

  18. I have the same T-Mobile International plan and I travel abroad nine months of the year, spending about half of my time in those months out of country. This plan only recently started and I know that my roaming (December and probably this month) was greater overseas than here in the USA, however, my numbers are minuscule (Dec- .7GB Home, 1.2GB in the EU) compared to yours. Since I haven’t completed two billing cycles yet, I’m not sure if I’ll get the same message.

  19. Obviously we are only seeing the one paragraph of the agreement that you posted and not the whole agreement. Based on that single paragraph yes it looks like you are right. Increasing your US usage would solve this. However, you need to read the full agreement to make sure there are not some other issues with doing that to be on the safe side.

  20. Might be time to consider switching to Google Fi, of which I’ve been a very happy customer for nearly two years. Fi now has coverage in 200 countries/territories. I travel frequently (though unfortunately not as often as you, Lucky) and have never had any issues with poor coverage. In my experience, the customer service has been phenomenal.

    Give it a shot- you can always go back to T-Mobile. Use my referral code for $20 off your bill: AA6815.

  21. I would hold short of just burning data stateside and think I’m safe.

    50% of what off net, could be anything. TMO can play wise guy here.

    # of call minutes / GB data used
    # of calls made / time connected
    # of missed calls / times you open Gmail
    # of 1800 call / YouTube videos viewed
    # of scam calls received / times your device loses 4G signal

    The possibility is endless.

  22. The solution is easy… make sure you use TONS of data in the US to offset the data you used abroad. It actually works!

    There’s been extensive discussion about this on reddit t-mobile sub.

  23. Consider moving to Google-Fi. They have voice/data roaming in many countries. They only charge you $10/gig for the data you use, though after 15gig of total data (not just international), you get throttled to 2G. The plan costs $20/mo + data usage, but the cost of data is capped at 6gig, so any data over that is “free”, making your cost max out at $80. The are limitations in the phones that are supported. https://fi.google.com/
    I use Fi when traveling to Europe. I use T-Mobile here in the US, but when traveling to Europe, put my Google-Fi SIM in my phone and use it until I return, when I then suspend the line (can be suspended for up to 90 days) so I don’t pay for times when I’m not using my Fi plan.

  24. I have the same plan as you and live in SE Asia. I was stateside for the Thanksgiving and Xmas holidays. Did huge downloading via tethering. Didn’t receive any notice from T-mobile for excessive int’l roaming.

  25. Anecdote: My sister spent a year traveling with Sprint, so 100% of her usage over a 12 month period was international. They didnt complain. However, she is part of my family plan, so I dont know if it was countered by my US usage.

    As other suggested, run Netflix at night while you sleep using their data. Also, speed tests can use like 100MB in one quick burst.

  26. I had the same issue when I was traveling abroad for 3 months. I called in and learned the following

    They look at your roaming over the course of one billing cycle. If you exceed the roaming limit in that cycle they send out the warning text you receive.

    At the conclusion of your second billing cycle, you will get another another warning text that your account may be terminated if another billing cycle has the same roaming pattern.

    Fortunately, I returned to the US before that could happen. However, when I spoke to a Tmobile representative, they assured me that even logging in for 5 minutes in the US would ‘reset’ the counter.

    I was traveling on the standard Tmobile OnePlus plan, so maybe the rules are different for you?

  27. There is a reason T-Mo is known as the ghetto carrier – they don’t really cater to people like you even though they claim to want your business.
    IMO it is unreasonable to single out a 2-month period particularly for a 2 year customer. Now if your usage over 12 months was >50% they might have a point. But 2 months is too short. Also 6G usage in one month is pretty low and not even in the top 1%.
    This is one case where I would play the blogger card, send a tracked letter to the VP of Sales with a copy to the PR dept and tell them you do not appreciate the form letter or the selective analysis of your bill and that you would like to know if T-Mo wants to do business with lucrative paying customers such as your readers.

  28. That happens when you have machines automatically analyzing data with primitive algorithms instead of human beings with some brain…

  29. I am a long-time T-mobile user and international traveler. That being said, I recently got a Skyroam and its rocked my world and I think it would do wonders for you too, @Lucky. For $9/GB, I use it abroad and domestically when traveling since it hooks up my phone, my wife’s phone, iPad and laptop to hi speed cellular. T-mobile throttled data is then a non-issue.

  30. I am leaving TMobile for this very reason and switching to Google fi. I work overseas for 4 to 6 months at a time on supply ships. I don’t typically have access to WiFi either.

    I was a TMobile customer for 3 years and I switched from att because of TMobiles international data plan.

    The question I have is why is TMobile doing this now and what are they going to do about losing so many service members who are leaving and switching to fi?

  31. I used to work for T-Mobile and tho they are better (in theory) than most of their competitors, it’s little things like this that as so miniscule but at the same time more inconvenient. I easily use 50GB a month in data. I never connect to the internet unless I’m throttled or signal sucks. Their internet is pretty fast so it’s not like you’re gonna have much of a difference in speed with data vs WiFi. This is the kind of thing that made me leave. They shoot themselves in the foot. Like you said it’s simply a matter of using more data. You’re paying for it, might as well use it.

  32. I have 5 lines with tmobile and have one line with one plus international. I use about 400gb a month on it. Yes, almost a half a terabyte. It has unlimited 4G tethering which is hooked to a router and provides wifi to my house in Cleveland, Ohio I have yet to be throttled with speed even though I get txt messages that I have exceeded 50gb for the month. It’s been a year now doing this. Allowed me to cut the cable completely from the cable company for everything. Just FYI.

  33. I spent 75% of my time abroad roaming for most of 2018 and was never chastized by T-Mobile and I don’t even pay the extra $5 or $50. I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for 15 years and would definitely leave for Fi if they started nitpicking about something like this.

  34. I travel abroad extensively, I find it personally much easier to by a local sim card on each trip, yes it add’s 10minutes of my time to my trip, but works amazingly well. Most recently in Portugal then in Brazil last week. Keep life simple, you waste more time working with T Mobile and its dreadful customer service on your return home.

  35. Yes, according to their metric you wouldn’t have a problem if you were using more data in the USA.

    I’ve been traveling since Dec 15. I wonder if I’m going to get warned also? I use very little data in the USA but on this trip I decided to just use my t-mobile SIM with the old t-mo plus (2x) rather than use a local SIM. For the most part it’s been fine for me. I haven’t even considered paying for higher speed data.

    -David

  36. How are you getting that kind of usage at the 256k 3G limit that the international plan gives you? (by the way I gave up T-mobile for Fi when I had this convo with a T-mobile rep about a month ago)

  37. Lucky, just as an FYI, worth blogging the plan has changed. You are probably grandfathered into the old version that was unlimited. It’s now $50 for 15GB. Obviously, people were going wild.

  38. @Lucky,

    Same issue.

    I was up in Canada for a bit over two years on government assignment. I got the first type of messages about 3 times, finally they gave me the final cut off date 2 months before I was scheduled to come home. My international roaming data has been completely blocked by T-Mobile. No one can reverse the block. They initially said it would be blocked for 3 months. 6 months later block is still there

    Every time I went back to the US I was streaming videos for no reason other than to try and use as much data as possible. Totally idiotic. Granted, I WAS living in Canada, but still.

    I just got another line and have been using that as I am now back in the states. I want to stay with T-Mobile, but don’t want to lose my phone number that I have had for years…The fact that literally no one can unblock this once it has been dumb is crazy to me. So be warned, they will block you from intl data roaming and you will be SOL…

  39. So why are they advertising it as “unlimited data, calls,” etc when it is not really unlimited after all? That’s why I hate dealing with US companies. They’re always false advertising but of course happy to collect your $50 per month. If they don’t like it, then don’t offer the product.

  40. I imagine those were auto-generated messages that were triggered whenever someone goes over the prescribed limits. It’ll be a different story if a live person called and made the “threat.”

    Also, most of us are all here to “game” the system, within the rules that were set up, so why is it any different if the ratio is manipulated by streaming videos domestically to allow for more data while abroad?

  41. Ur exactly right. I had the same problem and a tmobile rep is the one that told me to not use wifi while i’m in the states. Now I rarely if ever use wifi when I am in the states and no more data usage problems. U just gotta remember use lots of data while in the states. Download movies, music files, games, etc.
    And it’s not false advertising. It is totally unlimited in the states. No where is it advertised as totally unlimited world wide.

  42. The 50/50 roaming usage rules make sense for an added perk of a base plan. But if a customer is paying extra for roaming (Global Pass, Global Plus), then that usage should be exempt if specified amount (Global Pass) or weighted less (Global Plus) as those services are marketed for international use specifically.

  43. The same thing happened to me. I was in bamgkok for 1 month then south korea, spain for another and my 3rd month i was in santiago chile and medellin colombia. Nearing the end of my 3rd month of travel they alerted me they would terminate me as i had exceeded my time and usage limits. Even though i was paying for their global plan and per minute roaming. I had to come back to the US as i needed a US number to work overseas…i saw google fi but havnt looked more deeply into it. Hopefully they come with a better solution to allow more lengthy travel as this is a global economy and if you are willing to pay several hundred a month.

  44. When I bought into this plan like 3 years ago. I was sold on “unlimited” everything. I think the salespeople are pushing the truth a little bit when they sell it to you. Also on using more data at home. I just let my phone play YouTube all night on data. And I still get the messages that I’m using to much data abroad

  45. I have been on with T Mobile since November. My kid is studying abroad for 6 months. There is not one T-MOBILE rep that knows about international plans. I have 12 months left with Tmobil then done. Ultimately after changing my phone plan TWICE with them, she had to buy a plan there. T Mobile really drops the ball in customer service and employee training.

  46. I had a similar issue and it was one of the reasons I grudgingly switched back to Verizon.

    The Verizon Above Unlimited plan ($90 a month), includes 5 travel passes each billing cycle, which are normally $10 a day. It’s only good for 0.5GB of data a day, but another $10 gets you another $0.5GB. For the occasional travel, the $10 a day thing isn’t bad b/c you can keep your own phone number and make calls back to your US numbers without issue. The one downside is that it’s $10/day per country. So if you fly to AMS and turn on LTE – it’s $10. If you then take a connecting flight to CDG and it’s the same day, you’re charged another $10 to use the travel pass in Paris.

    Now, I often travel more than 5 days internationally in a month and this plan is undoubtedly more expensive than T-Mobile. And Verizon often has partners in certain regions that are far too slow.

    It’s not a great experience, but I was getting hit by “you’ve used too much data” messages on T-Mobile and needed to ensure I could get what I needed. Plus, I’m lucky that I travel largely for work so I expense the travel passes (excess or otherwise).

    Now that the iPhone finally supports dual-SIM, my plan is to transfer my Verizon SIM to the “soft” SIM spot once Verizon lets that happen, then buy cheap LTE SIM cards in countries I spend more than two days in. And the iPhone will let me designate what account is used for what (for stuff like iMessage and phone calls).

    You could do that with T-Mobile too and my suggestion would be to do that, stop spending the $50 a month for the travel plus plan and instead put the $50 towards local SIM cards. You would almost certainly come out cheaper — or at the very least close in price — and also get more bandwidth than whatever T-Mobile is promising.

  47. I’ve been with T-Mobile for over 10 years now and they are by far the best while overseas. I started with them while in the military and now as a contractor. I spend 90% of my time overseas and have never had that message from them!! Wifi is free in restaurants and bars as long as you are a paying customer and also at hotels. So my suggestion is ask for the wifi access when you can to limit your data usage.

  48. This is exactly why I stayed with ATT. All carriers screw you, but with ATT and Verizon you know you will get screwed. T-mo is like a sucker punch and it’s funny to watch those that are surprised that they got screwed.

  49. I had the T-Mobile prepaid plan and had no trouble when I travel to Mexico. Then I switch to a regular plan I got the messages that you got. They actually cut me off at one point!

    So I switched to Verizon and they live at you as well and put you on very low speed in today.

    So I’ll switch back to the prepaid T-Mobile, when my limit is up, they switch me to a low speed internet, which works okay. I don’t download musica videos, so it’s fine for email, sending pictures and emails.

    Yep the basic Prepaid Plan cost me 70 bucks a month total.

  50. T-Mobile is definitely not “totally unlimited in the states.” After 50 GB used your data will be throttled until the next billing cycle.

  51. If you travel internationally, you must change to google fi. You can use your android or iPhone now. Anywhere you go, you get the same 4G/LTE data. No more 2G crap. Price is $20/month for phone and text plus $10 per gig up to 6 and then it is price capped. The second phone on the account is $15 and then you get up to 10GB price cap. Service uses both Sprint and T-Mobile in the US. We can both get $20 if you click on my link. https://g.co/fi/r/16E9A7

  52. They turned off my Hot Spot privileges because I dared to make a complaint to the Better Business Bureau.
    They retaliated.

    I no longer can use it.

    Please let this be a lesson to anyone contemplating switching over to T-Mobile.

    DON’T DO IT !

  53. Streaming movies to decrease your percentage of international data use may or may not work depending on if you have the “Binge On” feature enabled. If it’s active on your T-Mobile account then Hulu, Netflix, or any other streaming service allowed under that feature won’t eat up any data until you hit 50 GB in one billing cycle.

  54. As others have stated just stream Netflix at home before a trip. It’s not what they intended but it does work. Seriously just plug your phone in, use mobile data, mute the phone and have it stream Netflix all day before going over seas. Works like a charm.

  55. Have gotten this message occasionally but I have been living abroad for over a year. Haven’t been cut off yet but am stateside every couple of months where I make sure to do things like call AA and wait on hold, watch some lovely YouTube 4K fireplaces while I sleep, etc.

    Also, and I think this is important, outside the countryI use wifi, both for data and calling, as much as possible in order to minimize my roaming numbers.

  56. @ Matt — The 17GB is over the course of a month, not two weeks. Not streaming at all, just sometimes tethering. For example, was at Bora Bora and Papeete Airport without wifi, so used it for a few hours, including uploading some pictures to the blog.

  57. Yeah the tricks here are to use massive amounts of data while in the US if you are in and out of the country in a month, or if you like me spend several months out of the US try to do big downloads over WiFi while WiFi calling is on. They just are tired of people using international data for months to download YouTube videos. Probably cost them a lot. Cause I could use 5+ gigs on international data. They just want more than half to be either WiFi or US networks. Not unreasonable.

    And I have had the 2 month text and fixed it by using WiFi for a month and resetting it for another 3.

  58. I have been with T- bomb for over 10 years and have not had this happen. However last week I had to switch phones due to a defect and the tech accidentally wiped my phone clean. I lost all contacts, data and photos. T-Bomb says there is nothing they can do.

    T-Bomb used to be the best carrier in my opinion but now they are one of the worst. They have outsourced call centers and the phone reps I have dealt with have been impossible to understand and did not know jack shit.

    I’m switching to Verizon after this fiasco. Hopefully will be better than T-Bomb!

  59. We had the same issue on a couple of our phones.
    My daughter had taken one of the phones on a 6month study abroad program, used it for the trip there, and about a week, before she got a local SIM with unlimited high speed data. She would turn on the T-Mobile phone once a week to check for any text or voice messages, and turn it back off.
    So the data usage was at most 50 mb/month, and she still got the same message!!!
    Luckily her trip timed out so that she was back in the US before the warning time they had given her …. She immediately streamed lots of data once in the US.
    Even more interesting, she got another warning message from T-Mobile after being in US for a couple of weeks.
    When she called, the agent was NOT able to see that she was back in the US, or had been for a while!
    After some discussion back and forth, and escalation to a supervisor, she was told that if the phone was still set to ROAM, it looked like the phone was still outside the US.
    After taking the phone off of roaming (and maybe a reboot), T-Mobile was finally able to see the phone on their network.
    Sounds like a bug to me!!
    And yes, getting these messages, especially when using the service hardly at all, but paying the upcharge is enough to make me start looking at other carriers or options!

  60. @Lucky It is the tethering that probably causes the problem. Tethering can use lots of bandwidth. I try to use a local SIM when tethering, but not always possible.

  61. Well your first mistake was switching to T-Mobile in the first place. I switch from AT&T to them as well but 6 months later I switch to Verizon cuz they are god awful. I’d recomend AT&T over T-Mobile any day of the week.

  62. Dial 611 and talk to support. Perhaps they can give you the most precise answer. I find T-Mobile customer/technical support is usually very personable and knowledgeable. T-Mobile does sometime mess up. I was overcharged for voice calls abroad once due to a ‘technical glitch’, but called 611 and had it credited back immediately. I’m sticking with them at this for international at this point.

  63. @Lucky Your problem may have come about as you exceeded what I believe is a 5GB per month limit on international tethering. That will probably apply regardless of how much data you stream in the US. Also, there are other advantages of T-Mobile Global Pass (albeit a bit of a pain to setup) and Plus over other plans. You get close to worldwide calling at no extra charge and unlimited video streaming. You do not get that with most other plans, including Google Fi.

  64. Haha -been trying to warn people but most don’t listen.
    1. Turn your WiFi off in USA
    2. stream music and movies as much as possible while in USA, even if you aren’t listening/watching
    3. When outside USA, no matter if you’re in Mexico, Canada, Europe, etc., turn your WIFI on and avoid using your data as much as possible.

    So far I have not been cut off at the knees despite recieving T-Mobiles repeated “love letters”.

  65. So Google IS spot on when assuming that most people don’t care about their privacy or Google owning all their data on their phones. AMAZING!!

  66. T Mobile flat out cut me off. The said my usage out of the US was “ excessive”. After slogging through several levels of bureaucracy seeking the definition of “excessive” I was told that it means “ more than 50% of your usage was out of the US during the preceding 90 day period”. I moved to Sprint and haven’t had any issues. T Mobile generously told me I was welcome to apply for service with them after two years.

  67. Funny, because I’ve been using my regular T-Mobile One plan (without the international data add-on) in Canada for the last several months, and my relative data use has been well over 50% in Canada. I never got a warning. I bet it’s because my data usage is much lower (1-2 gb per month in total) so they never bothered. I think the 17 gb usage is your issue.

  68. I work in Canada so I’m there 5 days a week I used to get those warning but then I called them and said, well go ahead cancel my plan but also my other 6 lines so they fixed it and never got another warning again for the last 4 months

  69. Easy solution – when you get back to the US, use a lot of data. Use tethering and stream a few HD movies. This will generate more US use and avoid the automatic system checks. I’ve done that before when traveling abroad and used a lot of data and it balances things. Yes it’s cheating a bit, but if you happen to have those busy times traveling, just be sure to balance that with SU use.

  70. 10GB in 14 days is a lot, especially for business travel. Don’t abuse it when it is unnecessary. Why don’t you use wifi for movie streaming at night? It looks like you have been watching a movie per night.
    i think its a slow free roaming vs. a fast paid roaming. Remember they cut top 3% heavy users down to low speed? i believe you were the top 3% in total roaming users.

  71. As a T-Mobile customer care expert who owns these “extreme roamer” cases the actual solution that I tell customers is simply start using more data in the US. Because the computer is looking at how much is used stateside vs how much is used abroad inflating your data usage by not using wifi at home or in most places will help keep you safe from nasty texts like that.

    The policy is mostly designed for those who live abroad using T-Mobile (the reason why we recently started cracking down on extreme roamers) or have extended trips overseas.

  72. Same thing happened to me December 14. I had only been on T-Mobile less than a month and had the One Plus plan. Dropped them as soon as I got back to the US and went with a $45 per month US only plan from my local cable company. Will just tether my work phone when I travel.

  73. This is a bit ridiculous, as long as you don’t exceed the roaming data limit that you paid for, it doesn’t make any sense to cut your line. Otherwize, this rule is actually counter-productive: it means you just need to get to download some super heavy files on your phone and keep the phone downloading all night when you’re in the states just to add more data traffic to your US quota… This is stupid and just not at all in the interest of T Mobile, but then it would work out….

  74. I got a chuckle out of your 17GB month being pretty high usage. My wife and I use around 35GB per month….each. Limited intl travel, so I have never run into this issue. Very interesting if using more US data solves it.

  75. From someone who used to be in the wireless business. I can tell you with certainty that all carriers like to market how their service has more roaming partners than the competition. But the reality is that they really don’t want you to roam on other networks for obvious reasons. If the carrier determines (by whatever metric they use) your roaming behavior is unusual, they will block your access. I’ve seen it happen to many customers.

  76. How is he getting high speeds on this plan?? I’m in Japan and my speeds are 2G at best. What a joke.

  77. Take that money and buy local prepaid SIM cards. I tell everyone that roaming is just not worth the trouble and headache. It might take you 10-15 mins of your time to get one. But your connection speeds will be much faster and cheaper to use in the long run. If Google FI or T-Mobile charges 10 USD per GB while a local SIM costs only $3 per GB. I would go for a local SIM. Sure you won’t have a US number but in most cases makes up for it because you can call home cheaper than roaming. I don’t buy into the roam like home gimmicks except in the EU,that’s a different story.

  78. I travel to South Africa for 2-3 months at a time and buy the local data there.
    I can buy 20gb for SAR899 (approx $3 per gb) and tether it to my ipad.
    Works like a charm at lte speeds.

  79. Why bother with T-Mobile. If you need them you can wait up until 4 hours. Pain in the arse.

    I travel a heck of a lot more than the writer does.

    I use T-Mobile in the USA only. I have found the best as I travel globally year round is to maintain a Whatsapp connection using your master USA number. Then in each country, just buy a sim. It’s a minor nuisance the first time, but once you have the card, each time you enter that place, put the sim back in. I keep a packet of cards with me, as soon as I know I am entering a new place, I insert the card before I land. And I top-up online before going there. Easy. And cheaper.

    The vast majority of times, and I guesstimate 80-90% of the time I am using free wifi somewhere, thus eliminating the need for greedy multi-national corporates deciding when you can and cannot use the service you pay for. The bastards want it both ways.

  80. Got same issue but with a 2 gb plan in Canada. So the unreasonable usage was like 1.5 gig 2 following months in Canada… That got worst for me. They said they sent a txt that I never saw, and never wrote anything on monthly statement and endup blocking data but not voice and txt. Then many TMobile customer support folks took months to figure out why my data was not working!

  81. Lucky why don’t you buy a few local SIM Cards and just refill them as required? That way you’ll get proper 4G LTE speeds too (it’s still just 2G/Edge?). On a recent trip to Australia our Airbnb host supplied us with a SIM Card (we refilled with about $30 and we got around 10GB of 4G LTE data). For England, Scotland, France and Germany we bought a SIM Card from myuksimcard.com (it was about $40 and we got 12GB of data).

    Another benefit of getting a local SIM Card is a local cell phone number. We tried using our AT&T SIM Card with roaming last year and had a problem using Uber when we couldn’t contact the driver and he said he was trying to contact us but because we had our US number for some reason the app wouldn’t call us.

  82. OK This happened to me two years ago.
    I got the same first text, then the second.
    I called and spoke to someone in Florida or Seattle. They have a special number for this.
    The first time I THINK I got the straight story.
    The 50% number is 50% of the time your phone is connected to a roaming cell network.
    AND it seems to be counted per day per billing cycle, so there are actually two 50% limits.

    Therefore if your phone is connected to roaming cell network more than 12 hours per day. It counts as an off network day. Once you get >50% days in your billing cycle, it sets the first alert.
    You can have two off network billing cycles in a year, when you have three, you will get the cutoff/
    It was never clear to me if you got the cutoff, it could ever be turned on.
    I resorted to going to to a pay as you go plan, which, while I was in Vietnam, was far better anyway, since it reduced my monthly cost to $5 from $75.

    This is how I think it was explained to me and how I interpreted it. It was clear that the amount of data has nothing to do with it. I also think the thing about being in the US to reset it is wrong.
    Beyond that, i doubt there are many at T-Mobile who can explain it correctly, since we seem to have a population that thinks by throwing out a 50% number that’s the answer to everything, without understanding that a percentage is in relation to something.

    Good luck and let us know when you find out.

  83. I agree with T Mobile

    You should pay for an international roaming package, since the majority of your use is outside the USA.

  84. I have AT&T with unlimited data. With there international Passport you pay $10 a day to use your phone just like your at home. On a annual basis I would have to have 60 days of use to equal your T Mobile cost. Oh Mexico & Canada are free so this plan works well for me.

  85. I am shocked anyone still uses AT&T. THE WORST company. Thank you TMobile, I love you. And, thank you Ben for blogging, as I would not have switched otherwise.

  86. I’d suggest reaching out to T-Mobile’s media/public relations department. You can probably work out a deal with them, or at the very least, get to someone who makes these decisions.

  87. I have observed this issue for a couple of years now. It’s just a machine looking at your account and strictly applying the rules exactly as they are written. This is one of the few rules T-Mobile has that they apply most strictly. Reps will not be able to issue you any waiver in this case. Just use more domestic data and you will be perfectly fine. However if you fail to change the balance of domestic vs int’l use they will definitely remove your ability to roam. There are plenty of examples of this discussed in the Reddit forum for T-Mobile the last couple of years.

  88. Does it make sense to use an international data plan vs sim cards if you travel out of the country like five or six weeks a year and visit several countries in that time? I usually just buy sim cards because verizon charges an arm and a leg for international roaming.

  89. Wow I use my phone all the time including teather for my laptop to Remote Desktop. I spend 60% of my time overseas. I once bit 10GB, usually 4 or 5- that’s with full 8 hour days of usage. What am I not doing that I’m missing out on using all this data? I don’t ever use my work data for personal stuff so remove streaming and all app updates and social apps are turned off on cell data.

  90. If it bothers you that much ,switch to another carrier and see how much free data roaming you get from them…..uh , none probably

  91. I stream video on my t-mobile connection at home even if I have wifi as an option (and sometimes even if I’m not really watching the video) just to bank “proper” usage stateside before a long trip anywhere. It’s unfathomably dumb, but it works!

  92. I am based abroad and have never received such a message, so, of course I use more data than you. Not credible information.

  93. It is not a T-Mobile policy, it is an EU policy. I moved from France to Germany 5 years ago but the French cell phone plans were SO MUCH cheaper that I just kept my french plan. SFR, the French company, finally cut me off last month. The EU has stepped in with a law to prevent “abusive” use, which is defined as more than 50% out of your home country.

  94. I was also just threatened with termination but I haven’t been out of the country. But most of Arizona is apparently roaming so even though they sell service in Arizona, you can’t really use it because you’re roaming most of the time. Not everyone has wifi to switch over to which is what they advised.

  95. I received this last month and again today. What I was told by the T-mobile rep is that they have a department that tracks excessive roaming and I was flagged. But, it’s not necessarily 50% but that you cannot roam internationally more than 90 days in a calendar year. I have been out of the country 46 days this year but yet they have threatened May 22 as my blocked date. I won’t hit 90 days out of the US until July but they still say they will cut me off regardless if my usage this month is excessive.

    Are there any other plans which you recommend?

  96. Well,
    I’m SUPER annoyed at T-Mobile after also getting a “Warning” message on my Global Plus Unlimited line saying: “The Majority of the recent T-Mobile usage on line xxxxxxxxx has been roaming internationally. Per our terms and conditions roaming benefits are not intended for extensive use abroad.”

    I used 4.3GB of data the whole month which includes domestic and use abroad.

    Last november (I think) I heard about the Global Plus Unlimited plan where for $50 on top of my One Plan per month per line, I could get unlimited Global high speed data/calls/text. As a frequent international traveler, I jumped on this immediately.

    My work (Management Consulting) takes me to many international destinations, on average 2 times a month – no more than 10 days abroad. I’m generally in each place a few days to a week at most. I spend at least 20 days per month in the USA. Since signing up for Global Plus, I had been used it in the UK, Canada, Germany, India, Costa Rica, China, Qatar and a handful of other countries I may have transited. The service has worked as designed and been great.

    Although I travel often, when I’m not traveling I get to work from home… which is where I spend the bulk of my time per month. My home is provisioned with gigabit ethernet and a fantastic ubiquiti networks wifi network, so I’m always on wifi when not traveling. Which seems to be the problem.

    Based on my research, it seems that T-Mobile doesn’t look at the amount of time you spend abroad but rather the on-network data usage. They simply look at the ratio of use aborad vs domestic use. Even if you spend 28 days in the US at home, you can still get dinged if your usage abroad is more than 50% of your monthly usage!! This IMO violates the spirit of the anti-abuse intentions.

    The solution (based on this site and others) it seems is to turn off wifi at home (in the USA) and just download stuff or stream stuff relentlessly even if I COULD be on wifi. This would then adjust the ratio and keep me clear of warnings.

    T-Mo doesn’t want people who LIVE aboard using their roaming feature…. but if the $50/month Global Plus plan isn’t intended for people like me… then WHO is it intended for? I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t travel internationally at least once a month ever signing up for this service.

    Personally, I don’t feel like having to play games like artificially inflating my domestic usage in order to avoid getting booted off the network. Anyway, because of this insanity I’m leaving T-Mo and returning to Project FI…. where I never had these kinds of issues.

  97. Project Fi is a good alternative to the people that travel how ever it to has its restrictions. As a person that travels a lot, Project Fi worked OK. I did have issues in France and getting their support was challenging so i had to buy a local sim for the remainder of my trip. Fortunately this was a short one. Once i got back to the us i stumbles on this article https://www.nbc29.com/story/40117719/pond-mobile-addresses-the-needs-of-frequent-travelers-that-have-excessive-roaming . In the last month i have been to 7 different countries. Their service has been excellent. I did encounter an issue in the first country i landed… (it took about 5 minutes for my phone to get service there). I called their customer service and someone picked up right away. They explained to me that its normal for the service to take up to 10 minutes to start working on the first trip. I never saw that issue since. I get regular updates on my usage and i was assigned a dedicated person to my account. I love that because i now only deal with one person on all my phone issues. Also they dont nickel and dime you with fees. The price i was quoted is the price i paid.

  98. T-Mobile and my International Roaming
    Below is a rather wordy description of a problem we’ve encountered using our smart devices in Europe. It involves international roaming, which basically allows us to use a cellular (mobile) network for accessing the internet while travelling in Europe. We found that it is very easy to go beyond the maximum allowed limits set by our plan. Based on our practice this didn’t make sense and we concluded we were being charged for our time on WIFI as well as when using the cellular (mobile) networks. We complained to the BBB and FCC. They just forwarded my complaints to Consumer Cellular.

    We have encountered difficulties with our smartphones and tablets in Europe. Prior to leaving we informed our carrier, Consumer Cellular, of our need for international roaming. They told us our smartphones were already setup for this and sent me a T-Mobile sim card for my tablet so it would work internationally. As soon as I installed that Sim chip in my tablet I loss cellular service and acquired a T-Mobile icon on my Mobile Network setting stating, “No Service”. Consumer Cellular uses the T-Mobile cellular network for international roaming as a partnership. However, as soon as we arrived in Prague, we got text notifications from T-Mobile that our cellular network would not work and inviting us to sign up for their service. Consumer Cellular first told us to ignore this and the messages from T-Mobile. Within a week we received notice we were over the limit for data use on the cellular network. This didn’t make sense since we were using the hotel WIFI for data. Also, we weren’t making voice calls or using text messaging. Consumer Cellular suggested some application on my partner Sandy’s phone might be using lots of data on the cellular (mobile) network. I’ve checked both phones and couldn’t find the culprit software. She set her phone on airplane mode but within two weeks we got another warning that we had once again exceeded our maximum international roaming limit. Consumer Cellular denied knowledge of this second warning. They also said they couldn’t help and suggested we sign up with T-Mobile. We may have no international cellular access in a few days. That means no calls except on WIFI, if at all. My GPS may not work. Something smells about this whole thing. I almost only use data when I’m in a WIFI environment, but it seems to be being charged against my cellular data limits. In the Czech Republic and Solvenia, I couldn’t even access the Consumer Cellular website as I could other websites. It was blocked. Something fishy was going on.

    Actually, I think this problem predates our trip to Europe. We don’t do streaming or play computer games on the Internet. We make few voice calls and don’t send many text messages. About the only time we accumulate voice minutes is when we are placed on hold by some vendor. Also, our home in Florida is in a cellular hole. We have very limited cellular access. When I just had a flip phone, I would often have to walk to the top of my driveway to make a voice call on cellular. We also have Internet access and our own WIFI on Spectrum. We pay for this to Spectrum. With my smartphone almost all my voice calls are made over WIFI using Spectrum (I get a message documenting this). Yet these minutes accumulate on Consumer Cellular. Why am I paying for voice, text, and data phone use by Consumer Cellular when I’m using my home WIFI and Spectrum’s cable? Then about a month before we left for Europe Consumer Cellular said they had to raise us to a more expensive plan because of our data and voice usage. Why? I began to think we were being charged double. We’re charged by Spectrum for the use of their Internet Cable and we use the Internet Cable for almost all our communications at home in Florida. We’re also charged by Consumer Cellular for anything we do on the smartphone (voice, text, or data) even though it was on WIFI. My theory is it’s those T-Mobile SIM chips. Now that we’re in Europe T-Mobile offers to provide cellular service otherwise, apparently no service or overcharging.

    I brought this to the attention of Consumer Reports. They suggested contacting the Better Business Bureau and my State Attorney General. I attempted to submit a complaint about this with the BBB but as I was filling out the online form and input my phone number, my screen started jumping around and I couldn’t complete the form. This happened twice in exactly the same spot on the form when I entered my cell phone number. Eventually I figured out a work around and my complaint was submitted (#13786520). I also submitted a complaint to the FCC (Ticket No. 3484915).

    When we got to Trieste, I could access the Consumer Cellular website (I was blocked from doing this in the Czech Republic and Slovenia). I obtained screen shots of pages from my bills from Consumer Cellular (see below). First the charges to my phone (352-228-2481):

    We arrived in Prague on 8/1/19. Anything prior to that was domestic activity, and not International Roaming. The first thing to notice is that there are no International Roaming items. The period 8/4/2019 through 8/6/2019 shows some very unusual items. They all occur at either 6:00am, 12:00pm, 6:00pm, or 12:00am in a regular sequence. If those are local times they are mostly when were on hotel WIFI. Their type is unknown, their destination is not applicable, and the number contacted is N/A. Essentially nothing is known about these items except they consumed a total of 11,214 MB (?). Another similar flurry of activity occurs 8/13/19 and 8/16/19. Again, they are all at either 6:00am, 12:00pm, 6:00pm, or 12:00am. Again, their type is unknown, their destination is not applicable, and the number contacted is N/A. Nothing is known about them, but they total 102,884 MB. During the period 8/4 to 8/6 we were practicing and touring with our group the Berkshire Choral International. During the second flurry period we were touring in Graz, Austria. It might be suggested that my smartphone was upgrading at these times but that was turned off, and why so frequent and why at these specific times? It should also be noted that during the above period 8/04/19 to 8/23/19 no items were attributed to international roaming. There are also a number of text messages exchanged with a (222) 222 ???? number which I also know nothing about. The only text messages I received were from T-Mobile at a 505-area code trying to get me to buy their plan. I did respond to these, but they always said they didn’t recognize our sim cards as from T-Mobile.

    Now let’s look at the usage of my partner Sandra Hynes (352-634-5956) using screen shots from Consume Cellular (they said she was the heavy user of international roaming):

    Like me, Sandy Hynes (352-634-5956) was in Prague beginning 8/1/19 and travelled to Graz 8/12/19, and then to Ljubljana 8/15/19. Then to Lake Bled on 8/17/19, to Gozd Martukljek on 8/19/19, and then Begunje on 8/21/19, and departed for Trieste on 8/23/19. Anything before 8/1/19 was domestic and could not have been International Roaming. As the above documents, we see the same flurry of peculiar items beginning 8/1/19 to 8/6/19. Again, they are all at either 6:00am, 12:00pm, 6:00pm, or 12:00am. Again, their type is unknown, their destination is not applicable, and the number contacted is N/A. Nothing is known about them, but they total 169,509 MB. When we first received notice that we were over our International Roaming limit, Sandy put her phone on airplane mode. So, she did not get another occurrence of that flurry of peculiar items. I did, between 8/13/19 and 8/16/19. I’ve now turned cellular (Mobile) networking off and only receive calls on WIFI.

    What happened? I don’t know. Were our phones hijacked? Did T-Mobile do something to get back at us because we didn’t accept their offers? I don’t know, but something suspicious has happened. Also, there are very few items on the bills from Consumer Cellular that identify the item as International Roaming. What gives?

  99. I have had two lines with TMobile since 2013. We lived mostly abroad for the first year and a half with periodic trips back to the US. I traveled back to the US way more frequently for my work. Since moving back to the US in late 2014 we have spent several summers taking care of family in Italy and never once got the notice of excessive roaming. Like many of the previous posters I have also noticed the throttling and this summer we both had to get the $50 add-on (which they billed incorrectly, long story).
    I am shocked because my husband’s line is now set to remove roaming in less than 2 weeks. Currently shopping for another carrier. I need intl and hated the whole SIM card thing. I travel about 5 times a month and then spend maybe a month abroad on/off in the summer. He is stateside for most of the year then abroad for 3 months in the summer. Time to move on.

  100. Then there is the situation with using your smartphones in Europe. It’s called International Roaming. Consumer Cellular uses the T-Mobile cellular (mobile) network in Europe. They get all their usage data from T-Mobile. There have been stories in the news of T-Mobile over charging for data usage, We arrived in Europe on August 1st, by August 6th we’d used up all our allotted international roaming. We never figured out how this happened because we didn’t use the phones much, but Consumer Cellular said that’s what their data showed so that was the way it was. On August 16th, they notified us we were cutoff unless we paid them $50. We paid and shut our phones down. Sandy put hers on Airplane Mode but still got calls and text messages somehow. I turned off data on the Mobile (cellular) network so I would just get calls and text messages on WIFI. Nevertheless, we got another notice that we’d used our allotment. Our bill from Consumer Cellular for the period July 26th through August 26th was about $267. Now I turn my smartphone off when I’m not using it even in a WIFI environment and Sandy keeps hers in Airplane Mode. As a result, we aren’t getting any advantage from our smartphones. We’ll not do it this way again travelling, it just doesn’t make any sense to try to use your smartphones within these constraints.

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