Using your mobile abroad in the European Union becomes cheaper from today, whether you're making or receiving calls, sending texts or using the web.
Costs have been gradually coming down since 2007, and the new caps apply across the 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (see our Cheap Data Roaming and Mobile Roaming guides for tips on using your phone abroad).
Today's changes include a steep cut to the cost of using data – good news if you want to use the web or apps while away.
The new price limits are:
- Data: Capped at €0.20 (20p including VAT) per megabyte. This has fallen from €0.45/MB (46p including VAT).
- Monthly data cap: The maximum you can be charged in one month for using data in the EU before it's cut off remains at €50 (£49 including VAT) – the level it's been at since 2010.
- Outgoing calls: Capped at €0.19 (19p including VAT) per minute. This has fallen from €0.24/min (24p including VAT).
- Incoming calls: Capped at €0.05 (5p including VAT) per minute. This has fallen from €0.07/min (6p including VAT).
- Texts: Capped at €0.06 (6p including VAT) per text. This has fallen from €0.08/text (8p including VAT).
The caps won't apply elsewhere in the world, where mobile providers can charge what they like for calls, texts and data. For example, it can cost up to £8 per megabyte to use mobile internet.
But wherever you go in the world, providers should still warn you if you're approaching the data cap of €50 (£49 including VAT) and wait for confirmation that you're happy to go over this. If you've bought a data bundle from your provider you'll automatically be opted out of this limit.
'Not an excuse for traveller complacency'
MoneySavingExpert.com's senior consumer analyst, Sally Francis, says: "Today's changes are a leap in the right direction, but that's not an excuse for traveller complacency. Before you go and while you're away, do everything you can to protect yourself from a costly bill on your return.
"This includes looking into whether you could save by buying an add-on package or switching Sim card, turning data roaming off, and using free wifi wherever possible – most overseas accommodation now provide this as standard."
Mobile roaming deal with Three
Meanwhile, Three customers on contract and pay-as-you-go can now use their UK allowances to call home from five more countries with its Feel At Home add-on.
It allowed customers to use their UK allowances in 11 countries, including Ireland, Australia and the USA. Now France, Israel, Switzerland, Norway and Finland have been added to the scheme.
Under Feel At Home, calls and texts to a UK mobile or home phone number won't cost any extra to make, regardless of what country the phone is being used in is, while receiving calls is free. But calling and texting non-UK numbers will incur standard roaming charges.
If you have mobile internet included in your plan in the UK you'll also have access to the same allowance when in one of the selected destinations, although you won't get 4G. If you've got an unlimited data plan, you'll also only get an allowance of 25GB while you're abroad.
To get the free access to your UK allowance, make sure you have data roaming switched on when you're in one of the covered countries. You also need to have been with Three for at least 30 days if you're on a Sim-only contract.
Cut mobile roaming costs
Here are our top tips:
- Switch off data roaming. Turn it off before you leave the UK and keep it off. While it's on, some apps trigger data downloading, even when you're not browsing the web. If you're checking emails, don't download attachments as this can use a lot of data.
- Use wi-fi. If you've got a smartphone, use free wi-fi to access the internet and you won't be charged. Before you go, you can also download internet-to-phone calling systems including Skype, or FaceTime for iPhone users, as if the person you're calling also has these apps, it's free to talk via wi-fi. Many hotels and hostels provide free wi-fi for customers.
- Get a special add-on to use abroad. Ring up and ask your provider if it has any special add-ons you can use to slash the cost of calls and data abroad. Some add-ons are free, others require a daily or monthly fee.
- Switch Sim cards. You can get much cheaper calls and receive them free, and get the most cost-effective internet access by switching to a local or international roaming Sim card. You may need to pay a hefty upfront cost, though, so check first how often you're really going to be using your phone.