Travelling to the U.S. and resigning yourself to a data-less fate?

Unless you turn off your roaming while you’re stateside, it’s completely possible to run up massive data charges through apps that run in the background.

Horror stories abound of hapless tourists who’ve gone to the U.S. or overseas and have racked up thousands of dollars in roaming charges. In one extreme case in March, a Burnaby, B.C. man returning from a vacation in Mexico found he’d been hit with a $22,000 data charge, after his 11-year-old son streamed YouTube videos for hours.

To help cut down on the high cost of data on the go, Rogers Communications announced it’ll be offering a new U.S. roaming rate to its Canadian customers, giving them 50 megabytes (MB) of data for about $8 a day. By its estimates, that’s twice what a typical customer would use per day in Canada. (To give you a sense of what that looks like, reading an e-mail without any attachments would take up about 4 kilobytes (KB), while streaming a YouTube video uses about 2 MB per minute).

Comparatively, Bell Canada charges $6 per MB for roaming in the U.S., although its customers can opt to pay $40 for 100 MB per month, or $100 monthly for 500 MB.

A Telus Mobility data plan for travelling in the U.S. would cost about $20 to get about 25 MB, or $40 to get 100MB of data. A pay-as-you-go option is $5 per MB.

But there are a few other ways to get around heavy roaming charges, if you’re keen on catching up on Facebook or posting photos of your breakfast to Instagram.

Vancouver-based startup Roam Mobility Inc. offers Canadians a U.S. SIM card and permanent phone number for about $20 for unlocked phones, connecting users directly to a local network and eliminating roaming fees.

The service is touted as being more convenient than using your own U.S. SIM card since you can automatically start using Roam whenever you return to the U.S., as opposed to having to find a local carrier once you arrive. Roam customers can also opt to buy a U.S. phone for about $50, which also comes with a SIM card.

For ambitious travelers or smartphone-wielding families, Roam sells a “pocket-sized” Wi-Fi provider for $130. Up to five devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, can connect to the Liberty Mobile Hotspot’s Wi-Fi using a U.S. network.

Roam’s cheapest data plans are $30 for 500 MB, $40 for 1 gigabyte (GB), $60 for 2 GB and $100 for 5 GB. Its products are available at Future Shop, London Drugs, Shaw and a number of other retailers.

But of course, you can always buy your own U.S. SIM card and put it into an unlocked phone. When you buy a data plan from a U.S. carrier, you’ll pay the same prices that locals do for their data.

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  • George Slade

    Other options include Travelers Mobile http://www.travelersmobile.com which have Travel SIMs and plans for USA, UK and OWorld travel. Or US Roaming Canada http://www.usroaming.ca which carry several US mobile carriers delivering Prepaid no contract plans to Canada.

  • NoOneCares

    More research required. Roam offers short term pay as you go – $4/day for unlimited talk+text and 100MB of data. 4 times better than the Rogers data roaming even without considering the unlimited talk+text!

  • Gadgetguy

    Prices still seem steep. I hate being gouged whenever going over to the US. I’m glad to see there are other options out there. This plan seems reasonably priced: Roam Mobility