If you’ve ever traveled internationally and used your phone, you’ve probably returned home to some extra fees on your bill.
But a Boynton Beach couple encountered hundreds of dollars of unexpected charges after a recent trip to multiple countries.
Cliff and Judy Kalb just returned home from a cruise of a lifetime.
“We had planned a trip leaving Aug. 17, coming back Sept. 4 to Iceland, Greenland and Canada,” Judy Kalb said.
Knowing they’d want to connect with family during those 18 days, they stopped by a local Xfinity store in Delray Beach before they left to ask about an international phone plan.
“He said they have a plan. It’s called $10 a day unlimited texting and for each day of the $10 that you use the phone, you can make unlimited calls,” Judy Kalb said. “So, if I made four calls, it would still be $10 and then the next day if I made no calls, there would be no charge.
“And you did the math, so tell me what you expected to see on your bill when you got back?” Contact 5 consumer investigative reporter Jessica Bruno asked.
“Approximately $180, plus the tax,” Cliff Kalb said.
“So it was a shock to us when we came home, and we checked the computer and there was a download that Cliff put on, it was $628.42, due Oct. 1 on our auto-pay,” Judy Kalb said.
The Kalbs said they spent several days on the phone with the Xfinity resolution department, earning they accrued international fees because the cruise stopped in several countries.
Xfinity gave them a $150 credit, but they will still have to pay the rest of the bill.
Xfinity told WPTV they are investigating the case and sent us the following statement:
“We are working with the customer to understand what happened and we always work with our customers to resolve their billing concerns.”
What happened with the Kalbs made us wonder what are the best ways to avoid this issue when traveling.
“It happened to me,” business analyst Carl Gould said. “I was in the Netherlands but I was near the border [with another country].”
Gould said this is something he learned the hard way.
“I got hit with a tremendous amount of all these international fees, and I said, ‘Guys, wait a minute. I told you in advance I was going to the Netherlands. They said, ‘Yes, but the cell towers in the other countries picked you up.'”
Gould said step one is to let your carrier know you’re going on a cruise or visiting several countries and then ask about their roaming package options.
“You can buy a certain amount of data in advance, very cheap,” Gould said.
However, an even cheaper option is to skip the phone plan and look for free Wi-Fi while you are traveling.
“Now that we have apps like WhatsApp and Slack and Google Meet where you can make phone calls over Wi-Fi,” Gould said. “You can do this very inexpensively. Skype is another one.”
One more tip is to consider buying a prepaid phone while you’re overseas. This is advice that the Kalbs will take next time.
“I really don’t know anybody that when they go away on vacation doesn’t worry or think about the amount of money they’re spending,” Judy Kalb said.