T-Mobile Followup – International Features Worked Great and Our First Bill Breakdown

In my most recent post, I described the process we went through switching our mobile phones from AT&T to T-Mobile.  This post is a followup with how the service has been performing for us, both in the US and on our recent trip to Spain.  I also take a look at the first bill we received as I wasn’t certain exactly how much the new service was going to cost us going forward.  Fortunately, it looks like we’ll be saving a lot of money compared to our old plan!

T-Mobile Abroad in Germany, Spain, and Gibraltar

The primary reason we recently switched over to T-Mobile was for the amazing perk of free international data and texting.  We got a chance to test this feature out on our recent trip around Spain and the connection was great!

For our honeymoon, we simply kept our phones in airplane mode the whole time and were only able to really use it when we found ourselves with wi-fi connection.

Note: This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you want to disconnect and just relax on your trip!

This most recent trip was the complete opposite and we only had to keep it in airplane mode while actually on airplanes, and didn’t have to worry about crazy roaming charges.  As soon as we landed in Frankfurt, Germany for a layover and switched out of airplane mode, our phones found the local network almost immediately and we received a nice informational text from T-Mobile letting us know that we were good to go for data and texting.

The same thing happened in Spain after landing in Barcelona, and the connection held up great whenever we wanted to look something up outside of wifi.  I was really impressed with the speed of the free international data, the informational text says 2G but I would say data was loading much faster than that on average.  It’s not quite as fast as the LTE data back home and I wouldn’t plan on streaming any video (music would be iffy), but it felt quick when looking up local restaurants or attractions via google.

You Don’t Need a Data Connection for Navigation

One thing we try to do before traveling is using the “Download” feature in the Google Maps app to load all of the GPS and basic location information for an entire city to our phones.  After downloading the area to your phone, you don’t need a connection of any kind in order to look up directions to and from anywhere in that area.  As GPS doesn’t require data or anything else, you can even use the map and look up directions in airplane mode!

We’ve done this in the past on other trips and it worked great when we needed to get around without wifi or a data connection.  Even on this trip to Spain, I decided to download the map for Barcelona anyway in case the data didn’t work as expected.

Even though the data did end up working fine, navigation was WAY faster than it would have been if I didn’t download the map.  I know this because Becky didn’t download the same area on her phone and when we went to look up directions at the same time, mine loaded almost instantly while hers had to buffer and load some information before displaying.

Google Maps is fantastic if you’re able to use it while traveling, especially in bigger cities with a good public transportation system.  In both Barcelona and Madrid, it was a piece of cake to navigate around the city utilizing the cheap metro system to get to our next destination.  Without the assist from maps, it would have been quite an adventure both finding the closest station, figuring out which line to get on, which direction to go, and then walking from our stop to the actual place we were going.  Maybe this takes some of the fun out of travel for a few of you, but I’ll happily take the reduced stress of having something help me navigate around unfamiliar territory.

Of Course, T-Mobile Can’t Cover You Everywhere

As part of our trip to the southern part of Spain, we did a day trip over to Gibraltar which is actually British territory.  For whatever reason, T-Mobile doesn’t have a relationship with the mobile carrier(s) in the small territory (although I’m pretty sure it works in the UK proper) and we weren’t able to use any data or texting while there.  A great feature is that we got an information text once we drove across the border letting us know that we weren’t covered in the area.

Unlike my fear of AT&T charging us a ton of money if we ever took our phones out of airplane mode while abroad, I didn’t have to worry at all with T-Mobile.  After setting up our new phone plan and logging into our online account, I made sure to go through the various options on our plan and turned on the feature to “Block charge international roaming”.  To quote the page, “This will prevent the selected line from incurring any international data roaming charges that can be incurred in countries not included in your plan.”

Be sure not to block all international roaming, because then you won’t be able to use the free texting and data in most places!

By keeping our phones active even though we weren’t able to use any data or texting in Gibraltar, we were able to find out immediately once we got back into range of a Spanish carrier and were able to get right back online.  We were actually able to use data again while waiting in the long car queue to get through border security, even though we weren’t technically back in Spain yet.

How We’re Paying Less Than $80 for 2 Unlimited Lines

In my recent post describing the process of switching, I wasn’t certain how much we would be paying for the service overall.  I knew it would be $100 in the worst case as that was the promotion we signed up for, but a couple other unknowns meant that it could possibly be cheaper.

First was the “Insider Hook-Up” deal that the nice sales rep in the T-Mobile store hooked us up with as part of a friends and family type of deal.  This should save us 20% on our plans going forward, but I wasn’t certain whether or not that would stack with the “2 lines for $100” promotion and how.

Second was the “Kickback” deal that allows you to save $10 per line that uses less than 2 GB of data during the billing cycle.  Once again, it wasn’t clear how this would stack (or not stack) with the other promotional offer and the Insider deal.

Well the first bill is in and it was even better than expected!  Not only did the full 20% come off of the $100 plan for both phones to make the monthly service bill $80, but we got 2 “Kickback Adjustments” reducing the bill by another $20.

That makes the total out the door price for our first month of service is only $60!  Way better than the ~$96 we were paying AT&T per month for non-unlimited service that heavily restricted international use if it allowed it at all.

Going forward, we probably won’t get the Kickback adjustment every month because we’ll occasionally go over 2 GB of data, but the most we’ll be paying any given month is $80.  In months where our data usage stays low, the bill will get as low as $60!  On average, I would guess we’ll be paying about $72 per month, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

NOTE: One thing I did which probably helped get us the $20 Kickback on the first bill (despite not having a previous month of usage) was to go online the same day we switched over our service and enable the Kickback feature.  It’s not enabled by default, but I haven’t found a single downside to enabling it, even if you do plan to go over 2 GB every single month.  By doing this on the first day of switching over (before the first bill is cut), it appears we got a free $20!  Be sure to do the same if you decide to switch to T-Mobile.

Service at Home and Extra Perks

We’ve spent about equal time between Spain and Seattle since switching over our phones to T-Mobile and the coverage has been great everywhere we’ve tried it so far.  We haven’t gone on any road trips outside of major cities in the US, but everything in and around Seattle has worked great.  Can’t really say anything more than that unless we run into problems at some point, but so far so good.

An additional perk of switching to T-Mobile is their weekly “T-Mobile Tuesdays” promotions that offer free food, cheap movies, gas discounts, and other random freebies every Tuesday.  After downloading their app, I “won” a completely free pizza from Papa Johns which we ordered online a couple days later.  While they don’t have great pizza, it’s hard to complain when you carry it out the door for $0!

This past Tuesday had free Guac and Chips from Chipotle and the promotions have certainly been interesting enough these first few weeks that I’ll be checking the app every Tuesday to see what is offered.

It’s certainly not reason enough to switch carriers, but does offer another nice perk on top of their service.

Anything else you guys want to know about our T-Mobile experience?  I just wish we would have switched sooner!

20 thoughts to “T-Mobile Followup – International Features Worked Great and Our First Bill Breakdown”

  1. My wife switched to T-mobile here in Denver and coverage is horrible. She has no signal at home, no signal at work, and no signal for the majority of her commute. And she has a newly released unlocked phone with band 12 which is supposed to be the best LTE band for T-mo. But Denver has some stupid law that all cell towers can only be lower than a 2 story building so that’s not helping things. She’ll switch to AT&T which seems to work everywhere for me.

    We’re moving to Dallas this summer where cell service is supposedly leaps and bounds better since they use tall towers like every other city in the world. We’ll do a month long T-mo test once we get to Dallas on a prepaid MVNO.

    So right now overseas I have a worldwide SIM and I just load an amount before we leave.

    1. That’s unfortunate about Denver’s coverage, hopefully you were able to take advantage of the 30-day free trial coverage thing? At least it shouldn’t cost you anything to have tried it out:

      T-Mobile has a lot of great features, but that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t use the phone!

      How much are you paying for a worldwide SIM? I assume that would be a good alternative if T-Mobile didn’t have coverage somewhere we needed it.

      1. We actually did MetroPCS and got a free phone out of it. We’ll cancel before month #2 begins and keep the phone or sell it. Probably will switch to Cricket since it’s only $30/month for unlimited data (1GB LTE) and unlimited minutes and texts.

        I bought the SIM a few years ago and put $40 on it, but for some reason when I received the card it had 40GBP on it which was about $70USD. I have $12.75 left on the card today and we have done several ATW 4 week trips with the SIM which has worked in every country, though the rates are poor for non-EU countries.

        1. Sounds like a good plan, thanks for the info on the international SIM. Something I might investigate more in the future if the need arises. Thanks!

    2. Totally opposite experience here in Denver. T-Mobile has been awesome and only gotten better since deploying the 700mhz spectrum. Wash Park is the only frequent dead zone but that’s true of almost all carriers (probably due to an ordinance that’s kept towers out for some reason).

      1. Downtown areas always work well since it’s the most dense with people and they want to capture those customers. We live out by the airport in Reunion, and she works by 225/I-70. Even Verizon is crap where we live. This isn’t some rural area, it’s suburbia with thousands of houses, yet companies in general have refused to invest in this area. AT&T works fairly well. Verizon and T-mobile don’t work at all. Sprint is the only reliable carrier here but they don’t work as well anywhere else in town. This even goes for retail, as we have a grocery store but no other retail at all. We have to drive to Brighton or I-70 to go shopping. And the roads are absolutely awful, I’ve had to replace a few dozen suspension parts on my wife’s car several times since moving here 5 years ago. And we pay the highest tax rate on the entire Front Range. We’re moving this summer. I’m happy to hear that service works for you, I know T-mobile has been expanding rapidly and that’s why I wanted to try out MetroPCS for a month to test things, unfortunately things are still no good here. Once we’re in Dallas we’ll go back to MetroPCS to test and I imagine things will be better.

        She has Metro-PCS so no router, but even still how would that help when there’s no service on her commute or at work? She’s at a single story school, so it’s not even like she’s inside some huge office building.

    1. Looks like you’re right! It felt like one as we crossed a bridge-like structure to drive over there, but it appears it’s just a small territory off the edge of Spain.

      Thanks for reading!

        1. Yeah, drove right across the giant runway to get the downtown section of Gibraltar!

          It was definitely a unique experience and we saw people simply walking across as well. We didn’t get a chance to see any planes take off or land. Makes me think it’s not a very active airport, but we may have just gotten lucky with timing.

  2. Nice! This has been the experience for my family with T-Mobile too. Great service at great prices, with compelling features of the other carriers.

    We spent three weeks in New Zealand and roamed for free the whole time. Service availability was great (even switching between carriers as we traveled the country). Streamed Spotify most of the time in the car & it worked without issue. Usually much faster than 2G. Such a nice & easy to use benefit! 🙂

    1. “with compelling features of the other carriers” -> “with compelling features OVER the other carriers”

    2. Awesome, we definitely want to make our way back to New Zealand as we had so much fun during our honeymoon and it’s great to hear the coverage worked well.

      Cool to hear that Spotify streamed well, we didn’t really try any music streaming expect for Pandora which simply wasn’t available in Spain.

  3. Since it’s a German company I’m surprised they don’t have like free 3g in Germany

    1. I would estimate the speeds were at least 3G, but we didn’t spend much time in Germany this trip.

    1. Thanks for the link. I’ve heard about this program and may be useful for some. Coverage does seem to keep getting better anyway based on what I’ve heard.

  4. I switched to TMo about 3 years ago. I do concert production, so I travel extensively back and forth across the country in a tour bus to different venues and have had great coverage the majority of the time. Usually the only places I don’t have coverage are the literal middle of nowhere and people on ATT and Verizon also have crap coverage on those days. I also do a lot of international travel for work from time to time, so the data plan is amazing for that.

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