Hints & Tips, Travel

What is an international voice bundle plan?

Everyone knows the concept of a bundle plan in your home country; it’s when a network provides you with an allowance of inclusive minutes or SMS to use without charge, usually within a month. Anything used above this is charged at your normal rate. It is straightforward to work out the benefit since the bundled allowance often has a single flat charge and hence you can instantly see whether the bundle represents good value based on your expected usage level. But how does it change when we consider an “international bundle”?

The general concept is the same in that the plan will provide you with an allowance of inclusive SMS or voice minutes per month. The areas that require greater consideration are

  • which types of  calls/SMS are covered.
  • how cost-effective is the bundle price.
  • how expensive is the overage

When considering the types of calls covered you need to look at

  • where you are allowed to use the minutes (what country, continent or zone) e.g. Europe
  • where you are allowed to call (this could be different and may not include calls back to the US)
  • whether it includes international calls/SMS to other countries
  • whether it includes roaming in countries outside of the area/zone
  • whether it includes calls to mobiles as well as landlines
  • whether it includes incoming calls
  • how expensive any overage outside of the bundle is

To work out whether it’s cost-effective is more difficult because there are multiple types of calls, typically at different per-minute or per-message prices that vary depending on the country you’re calling from. The costs will depend on which countries you call, how long the calls are and where you’re making them from.

The best way to work this out is to make a very rough estimate of how many calls/SMS you expect to make and receive in a country. For mobile calls, use an approximation of 2-3 minutes for call length. Normal use tends to be around 5-7 calls per day on average. If you think you’re going to exceed the bundle then make sure you factor in the cost of overage.

Usually international plans like this are designed to be very cost effective for travelers using more than 50% of the bundle but not going too far over the bundle. So if that’s you, then there’s a good chance that the international bundle will be a great budget-saving tip.

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