Travelling to the US with Rogers

March
8
2009

If you’re like me and you’ll soon be roaming in the US on your Rogers iPhone plan, particularly if you’re going to SXSW, you need to read this post. I suppose you don’t really need to if you’re stupidly rich and don’t mind backing dump trucks of cash right up to the Rogers loading dock. Let’s assume, for the moment anyway, that you aren’t and would like to give them as little of your hard earned dosh as possible.

The first thing you need to understand: if you don’t make some changes to your existing plan and you just go about using your phone like you do every day, you’re going to come home to a very nasty surprise in the form of a Rogers bill that will have you immediately applying for a government bailout package. I hear those are actually becoming hard to get, so you might want to keep reading.

The second thing you need to understand: there are at least three ways that Rogers is going to get you drunk and take advantage of you. And I don’t mean that in the sort of ha-ha-ha frat party sense. I mean it in the posting videos of you running naked down Yonge Street with indelible ink all of your body sense.

  • Phone Calls that Hurt: Calls from the US back to Canada are billed at an astounding rate of $1.70/minute. Don’t answer calls from your friends at home (unless they’re calling to tell you that you won the lottery) since incoming Canadian calls are billed at $1.20/minute. You might think of calling ahead to Iron Works BBQ while you’re in Austin, but you better really want those ribs because that call is going to cost you $0.95/minute (hope you’re not on hold!).
  • Text Messages Full of Pain: The good news is that incoming text messages are free. Just don’t reply to them (or even think of — say — trying to make plans with a group of people), since outgoing text messages are charged at the simply mind boggling rate of $0.60/message.
  • Data with Very Sharp Edges: Oh sweet 3G data! Nectar of the web gods and very much priced accordingly. You’ll get dinged for $0.03/kb while you’re roaming, which means that you just paid about $10.50 if you’re reading this from my actual site on your Canadian iPhone (~350kb * 0.03 = $10.50). Hope it was worth it!

Is it really any wonder that all of their customers hate them?

There is some good news though, so read on before you abandon all technology and become a tinfoil hat wearing hermit somewhere in the northern reaches of the Great White North.

After a lengthy call to Rogers that involved putting me on hold for at least 3 or 4 minutes to answer every question, and a whole bunch of digging through their obtuse website filled to the brim with pop-up windows and other web browsing novelties from 1996, I’ve been able to catalogue The Ultimate Down South Traveler’s Guide for Rogers Customers. Here’s how to mostly avoid waking up in a gutter with a massive Rogers bill stuffed in a very uncomfortable place:

  • Phone Calls that Feel Good: I was completely unable to find info about this on their site, but I’ve now added an option to my account that gives me 120 minutes of calling, over and above my normal plan, anywhere in the US or Canada, for $60/month. All of those calls will be treated as local calls, so there’s no roaming rates applied at all. If you’re a less frequent phone user, there’s a 60 minute option for $40/month. At an average of $1.28/minute for calls without this plan, I’m saving about $94 if I use all of the time.
  • Text Messages Still Full of Pain: I have no good news here. I was told that there’s no way to send text messages while in the US for less than $0.60/message.
  • Data with Dull Edges: There’s a little good news here. You can add the US Data Roaming Add-On to your account for $10/month, which takes data from $0.03/kb to $0.001/kb. That’s still a little pricey, but at least this page would only cost $0.35 to read instead of $10.50. Another way to look at it: the $10 you pay up front would have bought about 300kb of data without the add-on. Worth it if you think you might do more than look at a single image.

You can apparently have them add the packages for a fixed amount of time and have them automatically come off again. I’m doing quite a bit of US travelling for the rest of March, so I’ve had them add it when I leave for SXSW and take it off when I come back from my final trip at the beginning of April. I trust Rogers to actually have things activate and deactivate about as much as I trusted Halliburton with the reconstruction of Iraq, so I’ll be monitoring my bill like a hawk.

Avoid Charges Without Changes

Here are some steps you can take to avoid additional charges on your iPhone if you don’t want to make a bunch of changes to your account:

  • When Your Phone is Not a Phone: Don’t make or receive any phone calls. If someone calls you, check the number in case it really is important enough to pay for and then double-click the Lock/Power button to send them straight to voicemail if it isn’t. Since SXSW provides free wireless to all attendees, install an application like fring and use your iPhone as a Skype handset (including Skype In/Out) or as a SIP client if you have access to an Asterisk box. Note that the wireless often gets completely overloaded, so don’t rely on this one.
  • Inbound Text Messages Only: Receive all you want, but don’t send ‘em. Let people txt you and then you either phone them, email them, or Twitter direct message them (since your data will be “cheap” and there’s a good chance they have incoming DMs going to their phone as text messages if they’re in the US).
  • Data on the Cheap: Make sure you turn off Data While Roaming so that your iPhone doesn’t run up a massive bill for you (you’ll find it under Settings > General > Network > Data While Roaming). That will switch of EDGE/3G data but not WiFi, so you should still be fine to use wireless networks you stumble across. If you’re staying in a hotel that offers free wireless (or even cheap wireless), consider either bringing a WiFi router to share it out to all your devices (and friends!), or use your Mac to share your Ethernet connection wirelessly.

Did I Miss Anything?

Know any great tips or tricks that my research didn’t uncover? Leave them in the comments so everyone can benefit!

Notes on Rates

  • All of the rates quoted above are in effect on March 8th, 2009.
  • Rates for calls, text messages, and data from the US are from International GSM/GPRS Roaming. Select “United States” to trigger a pop-up window with all of the sordid details.
  • None of the above applies if you’re travelling outside of the US. If you thought the rates were bad below the 49th, be thankful that SXSW doesn’t happen in Europe where calls are at least $2.00/minute.
33 comments
Linda
Linda

Here is the fourth segment of my comment.....Rogers has a to make it public information as to the volume of revenue they recieve as a result of this error. My disgust with this obvious cash grab on the back of students and families who are already paying significant dollars for education is profound. Rogers should recognize that these students are their future customers. Putting families through this stress(when funding university is already a significant expense)does not engender loyalty, and definitely denigrates their reputation. I am seeking your support in investigating this on a broader scale to put an end to this unfair method of driving revenue. Thanks for your attention. L

Linda
Linda

And here is the third segment of my comment which I had to post in three stages because of text limitations on this site....Had I been aware I would have changed plans immediately. Instead the activity continued without warning until I called them…Had I missed seeing this invoice (because I have an automatic debit system in place) this activity could have continued and racked up charges far more crippling than this. I am quite certain there are many many other consumers who experience this shock when their children move within Canada for school purposes. I am quite certain Rogers sees a revenue spike in their numbers as a result and probably count on this to make their quarter. I wouldn’t be surprised if their fiscal is October to September. What I find tremendously disappointing is there was no call (as many credit card companies have in place) to say, “hey, we notice unusual activity on your account and want to know if there is a problem”. If this is happening on a broad scale, then there is an issue and

Linda
Linda

This is the actual example story that should be connected to my earlier submitted comment....We’ve had Rogers mobile service for my son since 2009. His useage has remained within the plan we purchased since that time. We thought we were covered for texting Canada wide. He has moved for school just outside our local area and we just recieved a bill for his usual level of activity but now from the new location and it was for $980. When I called to ask why we were not advised when the charges were now falling outside of our plan parameters I was informed this was my responsibility. This does not look like a company who is interested in keeping customers who have been loyal, but rather appears to be an attempt to gouge good customers.

Linda
Linda

This is a little different but I think this represents consumer gouging activity that is likely occurring on a broad scale, is probably activity that mobile service providers count on and needs to be addressed. I am certain pattern changes when students shift locations to go to school, after having been on a specific plan and with a specific carrier for years come as a surprise to many many families. I think it's time we have visibility of the level of revenue spikes that are seen in the month September as a result of students moving a few hours outside of their local area and not realizing there would be an impact...and especially not realizing the significance of what this impact could be. This is my story submitted in two parts...following submission is the actual example....

p raymond
p raymond

how can i buy an american i phone without havein a social security number??

i am in the states the equivalent of 5 months a year - would make economical sense to get a pkg with at&t instead of dealing with canadian carriers's plans

any ideas??

Geoff Gudewill
Geoff Gudewill

Someone told me that if you are roaming and receive a text

or e-mail that you only pay for it if you open it. Is that true?

I'm with Rogers.

dianne
dianne

I get biled for roam charges to a nuber in Surrey B.C. which says it came from the States. Sorry, I don't even have a pass port so cannot go to the states. I live in White Rock B.C. close to the boarder, HOW do I stop being billed for roaming charges from the states to Canada which is a Canadian # ??

ozark
ozark

It is expensive to be a Canadian with Rogers.

David
David

I've been using a service from http://www.roamforce.com (roaming SIMs). I figure i saved about 70% on my trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago.

Blaine
Blaine

Thanks Jay, I'll be putting this into use...I was looking for the iphone data roaming settings and i remembered this article. don't want to come home to a nasty bill.

yxwxy
yxwxy

how does it work when calling a toll-free number using rogers cellphone in the US? any idea?? i got a huuuuge bill a couple of days ago cuz i didn't know that toll-free numbers are not free at all on cell phone. i plan to call them to ask if they can offer me a discount or anything like that, any tips??

Misha
Misha

A useful thing to know: Even if you turn off data roaming, you can still get GPS/Locaton information. That's free, and not considered "data". The iPhone's built-in map application needs to get online to get actualy map data. But there are third party apps that provide offline access to map data, and can use GPS to locate you. FidesReef is a company that makes some okay maps. I suspect there are others.

When I'm in the US, I try and find free Wifi. WifiTrack is pretty good for scanning for open networks. And jiwire "free wifi" is okay for a list of free wifi hotspots.

Mostly, I want to know more about the T-Mobile plan CitizenZiggy wrote about. That's exciting! I thought there was no reasonably priced pay-as-you go data plan to be found...

Chris
Chris

Yep I can confirm its $6 CAD / MB

Garry
Garry

Great article and great timing too as I'm heading over the border today! When I go to the US, I have an AT&T GOPhone SIM card and and unlocked 3G iPhone. The GOPhone data rate is $20 for 100MB of data and calls are $0.10/minute in the US and $0.25/min to Canada plus $1.00 each day you use your phone. I can twit, FAB and more without worrying about how much I'm spending. Have fun at SXSW!

Jason
Jason

That said, rates have fallen dramatically, and "unlimited" is becoming more and more common word. There are great plans that offer unlimited texting, nationwide calling and loads of data for $45...mind you all within Canada. Remember that the US carriers charge thier customers to roam here. Also, when a customer is placed in the best plans for thier needs, Canadian rates are not that different from US rates when the difference in the dollar is considered. However as mentioned earlier, US carriers can charge less by virtue of size. If AT&T carried here, and Rogers carried in the US, the playing feild would be different

Secondly, much of the roaming fees are due to the roaming carriers charging Rogers to handle your calls, texts, and data. Since AT&T doesn't get paid thought your monthly payments, they charge Rogers for everything you do. The rates Rogers is charged are close to the rates you get on the best rate plans possible. Until AT&T lowers their charges, rates will not fall much further.

It's not perfect by any means, but it's not the corporate conspiracy many make it out to be.

Jason
Jason

As for comparing US carriers to Canadian; two things that really need to be understood:

First is that Rogers services a country of 32 million, while the US carriers have a pool of 303 million to distribute costs....ten times as large. Vodaphone in Europe has almost a Billion, 20 or 30 times the consumer pool. It's simple economy of scale. Yes I'm sure rates will fall, but Canadian carriers compete with other Canadian carriers, not US carriers. Until Bell and Telus change their rates, Rogers will be similar in price to them. They simply cannot offer US/European rates to so small a consumer base and remain a profitable business. These are businesses first after all.

Jason
Jason

Jays article is pretty accurate.

As a Rogers Data Specialist, the one thing I can state is that the best solution for high bills is to walk into a Rogers dealership and ask the people that work there. We can often lower bills substancially with new rates and plans. While some are OK, many are staffed by apathetic teens who come and go too fast to learn the nuances of the service and plans. The best dealerships are the ones that also handle business accounts and staffed by professional sales people. Call and ask around to find a good one, stop by ours in Windsor. Calling Customer service is also spotty at best, as the call centers have similar turnover issues.

Alykhan Virani
Alykhan Virani

I use a different strategy. I have the cheapest Vonage plan that I use as my 2nd line ($19.95 per month) and then I buy a $15 Virgin Mobile phone when I get to the US. I forward my iPhone to the Vonage line and then forward my Vonage line to the new Virgin Mobile phone. (Vonage call forwarding is free to any number in the US/Canada). I pay about 7 cents / min to call Canada from my Virgin Mobile phone and get 100 minutes free with the phone. My average phone bill for a week in the US is about $20/30 excluding the price of the phone. (I buy the phones in bulk and just activate a new one before I leave). As for data I rely on WIFI or if I have to I use the roaming plan.

3rdparty
3rdparty

Great post Jay. I didn't know about Rogers' US Data add-on - it IS well hidden. Hope to only have to add to my iPhone it if the wireless really chokes out at SXSW. Also great to know that receiving SMS (twitter notifications) is free, although Rogers customers still can't update twitter via SMS even in the US, correct?

I recently bought a prepaid Tracfone for use in the US. It has a few advantages over the T-Mobile prepaid SIM:

http://tracfonetips.googlepages.com/tracfonenokia...

1) Phones can be bought for cheap on ebay or at Walmart etc - I went with a CDMA Nokia 2126i which can be re-activated remotely if you let your account/minutes lapse (whereas a GSM phone with a SIM card requires them to mail you a new SIM card - which they won't do to Canada)

2) Tracfone rates can be quite reasonable if you buy a maximum minutes card that lasts for 365 days and doubles any minute purchases within the year (Walgreens, Walmart, are among places that sell the cards). I believe I'm paying $0.10/min for all calls to/from US/Canada

3) While it won't do data, sent/received text messages are billed at approx half a 'credit' (minute) each, which works out to about $0.05 per text if you buy enough minutes

4) Here is the kicker: Tracfone allows you to assign up to 3 'foreign' numbers to your primary line. Although they are scarce, I was able to secure a local Toronto 647 number which rings through to the phone when in the US. This is a huge feature if you receive a lot of calls from Canada, as it saves the caller any long distance, plus you can just forward your Toronto cell to this local number, and receive calls without any additional long-distance / roaming fees (over and above the prepaid minutes)

Calls back to Canada are also billed at the same rate as the US, which I don't believe is the case with the T-Mobile prepaid SIMs.

It's times like this that I miss the Blackberry over the iPhone - since the BB is such a data miser, and you can easily control the amount of data you are sending/receiving (especially by turning off HTML email), and using BB Messenger rather than SMS.

TheKarin
TheKarin

Ah! I could've told you all that without you having to spend hours on the gargantuan Rogers website (used to work for them).

The US roaming add-on is very well hidden, I agree. Also, last time I visited, the US data roaming was $.001 anyway, without the add-on... But then again, last time I went to the US was in October.

Andy S
Andy S

Your advice to send calls to voicemail may be wrong. Not familiar with your exact situation (Canadian roaming in the US) but in most countries because your SIM is registered on a Visitor Location Register (VLR) in the GSM system rather than a Home Location Register (HLR) a "send-to-voicemail" gets charged as a roaming receive plus a roaming outbound call (to deposit the VM). Then when you pick up your messages you may end up with a third roaming outbound call. This is called voicemail tromboning, and it can really hurt. Hard to detect, as the calls are usually separated on your bill so you can't associate them easily...

CitizenZiggy
CitizenZiggy

I Twittered this too but for those of you who don't follow @citizenziggy, I figured I'd comment here. Any opportunity to take money out of the hands of big carriers is worth the effort.

If you are going to U.S. for SXSW or any other reason and want to use data on iphone at good price.

Once you get over border, get a T-Mobile PREPAID SIM.

Call support number and tell them you want to activate the "sidekick data plan" (1$/day unlimited data)

DO NOT TELL THEM YOU HAVE iPhone. (tell them sidekick or HTC smartphone if they persist).

as for phone calls remember that the SIM also has free incoming calls.

you can fwd your skype # or cellphone to the new number (charges may apply)

or use http://jajah.com that turns outgoing calls into incoming calls for about 2cents/min.

If you are one of the lucky ones who have a http://grandcentral.com account you can use Grand dialer on your iphone to do the same thing that jajah does but for free.

Incoming SMS is free too =) so, also remember change your twitter cell notifications to save money on text messages.

enjoy SXSW and send lots of data back home and into the *cloud*

cheers!

CitizenZiggy

CZ!

Colin Bowern
Colin Bowern

I wish I had that info about a week ago before I headed down to Seattle. :) I avoided data after learning the lesson of paying $35 for 1MB in December when in Las Vegas. Another option is to pick up a local SIM card but I think the entry fee to get into the game is $30 or so. Were you able to discern if toll-free calls were cheaper? I use Just Dial's (www.justdial.ca) toll free number when in the US if I am calling back home. I also use their service when at home (albeit you have to dial a number first before dialing your destination).

Paul Dowman
Paul Dowman

I use Fido, and when I called them before a recent trip to the US the rep told me that even if you don't answer the call, you actually pay long distance minutes while the caller leaves a message on your voice mail!! Some of the other details they gave were actually wrong so I'm hoping that's a mistake, but I didn't check.

Rayanne Langdon
Rayanne Langdon

Well, I'm scurred. Thanks for all the research, though! Srsly.

James McNally
James McNally

I'm not an iPhone owner or even someone that likes having a mobile phone, but my solution this year was to buy a cheap pay as you go phone and have it shipped ahead to a friend in Austin. I think I paid $30 and that inlcluded $30 of airtime. I'll use this barebones phone everywhere I go in the US and use my iPod Touch where there's wifi to surf.

Not ideal for you iPhone junkies, but I'm not willing to pay Rogers any more than I pay them now.

jaygoldman
jaygoldman

Geoff — that's probably not true. Your device has already received the text and incurred the network access before you've read it. Likewise, it had used some amount of data to download the email's 'envelope' even if you haven't downloaded all of the content.

On the flipside — and this may be what that info was based on — you shouldn't be charged for a phone call if you don't answer it.

jaygoldman
jaygoldman

You should definitely contact Rogers if you haven't already done so. Wireless signals don't respect international borders (unfortunately!), so there will always be some leaking from both sides. Your phone is probably joining a network coming across from the US, which puts you on roaming. Depending on the phone, you might be able to switch off roaming or tell it to prefer one network over another.

jaygoldman
jaygoldman

Good catch! I was just passing along what the Rogers rep told me, but she obviously was wrong. The footnote says:

U.S. roaming is $0.006 per KB and international roaming is $0.03 per KB when you subscribe to a Data plan. If you subscribe to a Flex rate data plan, the U. S. roaming is $3 per MB and international roaming is $0.03 per KB". If you subscribe to unlimited on-device browsing rate, both the U. S. roaming and international roaming is $0.03 per KB

TheKarin
TheKarin

That is true (former Rogers employee skills were brought to answer this question)

Dr Xenon
Dr Xenon

APN is hiptop.t-mobile.com

leave username and password blank

Trackbacks

  1. Twitter Comment


    Helpful article from @jaygoldman on traveling to the US if you are a Rogers cell phone customer [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. Twitter Comment


    Travelling to the US with Rogers [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  3. Twitter Comment


    RT @toddlucier: MUST READ for Canucks heading to SXSW with iPhone: Travelling to the US with Rogers [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  4. Twitter Comment


    RT @jaygoldman: Attn Canadians w/Rogers iPhones: definitive guide to not getting screwed on your bill in the US: [link to post].

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  5. Twitter Comment


    Good reminder on how to NOT get burned by Rogers’ roaming charges RT @jaygoldman: Travelling to the US with Rogers [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  6. Twitter Comment


    RT @jaygoldman Travelling to the US with Rogers [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  7. Twitter Comment


    RT @jaygoldman Travelling to the US with Rogers [link to post] – applicable to BB users as well.

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  8. Twitter Comment


    RT @jaygoldman: Rogers customers travelling to the US beware [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  9. Twitter Comment


    For all the Canucks heading to SXSW this week here’s a great list of tips to save yourself from massive Rogers cell bills! [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  10. Twitter Comment


    RT @jaygoldman: Attn Canadians going to SXSW w/Rogers iPhones: definitive guide to not getting screwed on your bill: [link to post].

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  11. Twitter Comment


    Liked “Rogers US/International Roaming » Jay Goldman” [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  12. Twitter Comment


    Attn Canadians going to SXSW / USA w/ Rogers iPhones: Definitive guide to not getting screwed on your bill [link to post] Please RT

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  13. Twitter Comment


    RT @jaygoldman: also good for March Break: Canadians going to SXSW w/Rogers iPhones: guide to not getting screwed [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  14. Twitter Comment


    Canadian? Rogers customer? Off to the US? @jaygoldman says: [link to post] Jay is http://butterscotch.com/mrmobile

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  15. Twitter Comment


    RT @andywalker: Cdn? Rogers cust? Off to the US? @jaygoldman: [link to post] Jay is http://butterscotch.com/mrmobile

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  16. Twitter Comment


    Travelling to the US with Rogers – [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  17. [...] Rogers US/International Roaming » Jay Goldman (tags: rogers iphone roaming wireless cellphone) [...]

  18. Twitter Comment


    preparing for my trip to NYC by adding the US data roaming add-on for the iphone. great write-up on the costs of roaming – [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  19. Twitter Comment


    iPhone on #Rogers people, if your travelling to the the states, make sure you get the US Data Roaming service [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  20. Twitter Comment


    cost effective voice/dataroaming with an iPhone in USA [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  21. Twitter Comment


    @drowninginkids Sign up for the US data plan and read this. [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  22. [...] are not free at all on cell phone . i plan to call them to … Read the original post: Rogers US/International Roaming » Jay Goldman Rogers iPhone Petition with David [...]


More in Facebook Cookbook, iPhone, Observatory (35 of 82 articles)


I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Leslie Roberts for the Global News show today for a story ...