Friday, February 5, 2010

Huge cost savings for Canadians travelling to the U.S. with their cell phone

I've had a few clients run up thousand dollar phone bills while travelling into the U.S. For the past few years I've been swapping my Rogers SIM Card for an AT&T SIM card when I cross the border.

Here are the steps to avoid the outrageous $1.45/minute roaming charges from Rogers:
  • Unlock your phone by purchasing an unlock code from http://www.gsmphonesource.com. This is required but only has to be done once. If you break your phone and get a replacement you'll have to unlock it again.
  • Buy an AT&T prepaid plan from an AT&T corporate store. You have to go in person. Only the corporate stores will let you pick a number anywhere in the U.S. instead of just their local area. A prepaid plan only requires a credit card. The problem with prepaid is that you can only browse the web with the 100 Mb $19.99 data plan. It will not support BIS which is what allows your Blackberry to use it's built in software for email. Custom email apps like Gmail for the Blackberry will still work though!
  • Alternative: Buy a monthly plan asking them to waive the $36 activation fee. Don't tell them you're only using it for a trip. Make sure there are zero penalties if you cancel it if you're "unhappy with the service during the first 30 days". Cancel it when you're done your trip. You must register the account to a U.S. address and it's faster if you have a US dollar credit card to pass the credit check. Pick all the options you want on the plan accordingly for minutes, voice mail, texting, and data. AT&T charges extra for tethering if you want to access the internet from your laptop via a Blackberry (or Android phone) with USB cable but this is cheaper than the $10/day most hotels charge for high speed internet in your room.
  • With your Canadian SIM still installed call forward your cell phone to the new AT&T cell number. Note this incurs long distance against your Canadian cell long distance plan every time someone calls it. Alternatively, don't call forward and just check your voicemail frequently. Power down your phone. Remove the battery and slide out your SIM card. Replace it with the AT&T SIM card and test calling it from another phone.
  • When you return swap out the SIM card, turn off call forwarding. If your email does not work visit http://rogers.blackberry.com or http://bell.blackberry.com and login. Enter your PIN/IMEI at the prompt. If on Google Apps you'll have to re-start or login to the blue Google Sync icon for your contacts and calendar to continue synchronizing.
End result? You pay as low as $29 for 200 minutes instead of $290 or $1.45/minute with Rogers. AT&T has unlimited plans starting at $69.99/month.