Say goodbye to roaming charges when you travel with this smart new technology

Rob Carrick is on vacation so this week’s newsletters are being written by Globe and Mail financial reporter Erica Alini.

Ah, the thrill of checking your cell phone bill after a holiday to see if you’ve been hit with roaming charges! I personally consider those surprise fees to be the worst part of traveling abroad as a Canadian, right after the high likelihood of your flight being delayed or canceled and your luggage lost en route.

But today I am writing with good news. While there seems to be no end in sight to our flight woes, roaming charges could soon be a problem for the past. You can thank e-SIMs for that.

The name stands for embedded SIMs, a digital version of the unique identifiers in our cell phones that are rapidly replacing physical SIMs in newer devices. Some phones currently have a physical SIM and an e-SIM that can be linked to a second phone number and data provider. Others support two active e-SIMs at the same time.

You guess what I’m getting at: On the go, you can assign a plan from a foreign provider to your e-SIM and pay like a local. No more signing up for expensive international roaming plans that make it all too easy to break their low data caps. And you don’t have to exchange your physical SIM card for a foreign one either.

I tried it over the holidays while in Italy to visit family. I paid less than $15 for 3 gigabytes worth of data with Italian carrier Vodafone and I’m happy to report that I didn’t spend a penny on roaming charges. Nor did I spend any time fretting about running out of data or going over my data limit.

The easiest way to use e-SIMs for travel is probably to buy a prepaid local data plan from an online e-SIM shop. I used Airalo on the recommendation of a colleague here at the Globe. Setup was relatively easy, and I appreciated the fact that the service shuts you down if you run out of data, rather than charging exorbitant overage fees. If you need more data, you can buy another plan or top up the existing one. A quick Google search reveals that there are several other e-SIM marketplaces.

The only catch with my Airalo plan was that it only worked for dates. If I had been calling or texting my Canadian phone number, I would have been roaming. But I easily got around the problem by relying on the WhatsApp app for local calls and messages. Still, it’s a good idea to analyze user reviews before making a purchase. For example, on Airalo, customers in certain regions of the US and other countries reported problems connecting to local networks.

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Erica’s personal finance reading list

40 Ways To “Less Trash” (And Save Money)

A sensible and practical list of tips to reduce your household waste. I love that the advice includes using what you already have at home instead of buying all new eco products. We don’t hear that often enough.

Yes, the quality of the stuff we buy is really worse

One of my favorite memes on the internet right now is comparing a new and old fridge. The 2021 device, so the joke goes, will break within two years. Meanwhile, a 1980 refrigerator is quoted as saying, “I’ll outlive you and everyone you love.” i am eternal I am time itself.” This article by Vox journalist Izzie Ramirez explains why almost everything we buy is declining in quality and what we as consumers can do about it.

A guide to the first building savings account

The First Home Savings Account (FHSA) will be available for the first time this year. It’s a newly registered account designed to help Canadians over 18 save up to $40,000 tax-free to buy a first home. Interestingly, unused funds in an FHSA can be transferred to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Here’s a simple guide to the new savings plan.

The best pocket money apps for kids

Personal finance blog Savvy New Canadians reviews the best apps to help kids manage their pocket money.

New products that caught my eye

A humble New Year’s resolution for me is to stop using plastic bags in the supermarket. This is where I started my research when I was looking for alternatives.

Today’s financial tool

Behavioral biases – we all have them and they affect our ability to think clearly about money. Here’s a tool you can use to check your own biases.

The money free zone

I haven’t cracked it yet, though Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reservation, a White City, and the Road to Reconciliation by Douglas Sanderson and Andrew Stobo Sniderman (whom I briefly crossed paths with during my time at Maclean’s Magazine) is next on my to-read list.

Listen to this

On Episode 231 of their Rational Reminder Podcast, Benjamin Felix and Cameron Passmore, portfolio managers at Ottawa-based PWL Capital, discuss the fundamentals of investing. Be sure to listen.

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