Should You Switch To T-Mobile?

Reader Shawn asked me the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

Thinking of changing over to t-mobile soon. How have they been for you? Any regrets?

Simply put, switching to T-Mobile has been life changing for me. I shared my experience switching from AT&T to T-Mobile, and also my first experience using T-Mobile’s Simple Choice International Plan.

For those of you not aware, T-Mobile offers unlimited data in over 140 countries around the world, and you can even make phone calls for 20 cents per minute while abroad (though you can also use Skype or Google Voice to make calls for free).

T-Mobile-International-Plan

I’ve been with T-Mobile for over two months now, and have traveled internationally a lot during this time. I’m just as much of a fan of them today as I was the first day I switched. I’m paying half as much as I was with AT&T, and am getting so much more.

What stands out to me about T-Mobile?

  • Prior to switching, people warned me that T-Mobile’s service wasn’t as good in the US. I’ve noticed zero difference in my service in the US compared to when I had AT&T (which isn’t to say that will be the case for you, but it has been the case for me).
  • T-Mobile’s Simple Choice International Plan is simply incredible. Being able to stay connected while abroad without having to worry about charges has been life changing in terms of keeping in touch with my family and friends, and up to date on work.
  • With AT&T I wasn’t able to tether at all, since I had a grandfathered unlimited data plan (which was such a ripoff, in retrospect). I didn’t even consider this when making the switch, but tethering has proven so useful. I am so much more productive nowadays, as I can work on my laptops while in Ubers, while sitting on the plane waiting for boarding to finish, etc. I get a couple of extra hours of productivity out of this every week.
  • An hour of free Gogo wifi on every flight, plus unlimited free messaging, is awesome as well.

T-Mobile-Wifi

Are there any downsides to T-Mobile?

Well, I’m not sure I’d call them downsides, per se, but rather considerations. As T-Mobile publishes, the Simple Choice Plan is available in 140+ countries. There are almost 200 countries in the world, so it goes without saying that not all countries are included. In my travels since switching to T-Mobile, the plan wasn’t available in Morocco or Fiji.

T-Mobile-International-Data

Also, to be realistic, T-Mobile offers 2G speeds abroad. That’s by no means high speed. That being said, I’m not using my phone abroad to watch videos while roaming the streets. 2G is just fine for Twitter, Instagram, email, maps, Googling stuff, etc. Do keep in mind sometimes they offer faster speeds in certain areas. For example, all summer they’ve been offering 4G speed in Europe, which has been awesome.

Bottom line

T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan is everything I could have hoped for and then some. I pay half as much as I had paid with AT&T, and get so much more. If you haven’t made the switch yet, I can’t recommend T-Mobile enough. The only other service worth considering is Google-Fi, which Tiffany has written about in the past.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. One thing to add around Project Fi is they now offer 4G worldwide. This was a bonus update in the last few weeks.

  2. +1 T-Mobile is life changing for international travel. Also it is a great deal considering the price. We pay less than $100 total for 2 lines Simple Choice w/ unlimited data. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with them.

  3. Have to say, I don’t regret switching to T-Mobile from ATT one bit. Sure, there are tradeoffs The coverage IS NOT as good as ATT. It’s spotty in some areas, and I’m talking about Los Angeles. Not the countryside.

    If you travel overseas a lot, T-Mobile is definitely the way to go. I went to South Korea a three weeks ago and the coverage was perfect. No need to purchase a wifi egg or prepaid sim card. The best part, when I got my bill, it was only $81.00 for two lines!!!

  4. I have T-Mobile and am very happy EXCEPT in rural areas. I had last week where I was lost with waze and couldn’t maneuver due to Tmobile having bad coverage and it did not roam on AT&T which is sometimes the case. I did find however that Tmobile on the west coast (LA and beyond) is on par with Verizon. That may be the reason you don’t see a difference.

    I am however afraid that once they become the big guy on the street they’ll forget about being UNCARRIER and they’ll go back to their old days when they were in merger talks with AT&T and they couldnt care less about their customers.

  5. Even though they only promise 2G data speeds, your sometimes get more. I’m in Capetown now and consistently connecting at 3G.

  6. One thing about T-Mobile’s rural coverage is that it has been improving rapidly with their expansion of Band 12 Extended LTE. For instance, I was recently in mid-Michigan, and my Galaxy S 6 (with Band 12) ran great, great calls, data, etc. A friend’s smartphone without Band 12 was really hobbled, no LTE, actually flipped to roaming a lot, etc. If you are in an area with Band 12 coverage it’s worth looking into getting a phone with Band 12 capability. Most phones made since early 2015 have it.

    http://www.spectrumgateway.com/compatible-phones

  7. My two cents: I used TMobile for 1 year, until my new job required me to switch to Verizon in order to get reimbursed. Coverage in NYC was far worse with TMobile, about on par w/ VZW on west coast, but the second you stepped out of the city, service was non-existent. Loved having it for international travel but found the 2G coverage to be *completely* useless. Also, TMobile has a very annoying habit of sending endless text messages to you (e.g. Bill is almost due!, Bill is due!, etc.)…although I feel like Verizon has started to do that too.

  8. I just switched to TMobile this week and have noticed a difference. I had AT&T before and had good (not great) service in my house and office. Now in both places I have NO SERVICE. I called them and they were really helpful have sent a personal hotspot for my house. Hopefully it works but it doesn’t solve the office issue…..

  9. T-Mobile is great when travelling. Just one very ssmall caveat; when you turn on your phone, wait an extra minute before cursing. In my experience it first sends me a no netwok notice and 60 seconds later I get a text welcoming me to a new network. There is nothing to do but wait.

  10. Switching from AT&T to T-Mobile has been one of the best decision ever.
    After 10 plus years of paying a fortune moved the entire family over for huge savings.
    Service had been great and the free international connectivity has been awesome to have to keep in touch with family and friends as if I was home.
    Would very much encourage others to do the same.

  11. Hi Lucky,

    Welcome to T-Mobile. I’ve been a fan of them since last year after watching how they kept innovating and disrupting the mobile industry for the better – not for the worse like other carriers.

    Lots of major PROs:

    ■ Canada and Mexico are treated like the US and hence, fast 4G speeds and free calls back and forth.

    ■ Get the T-Mobile Tuesdays app for freebies every Tuesdays. So far, I’ve seen a few movies at the theaters on them, bought and rented movie downloads, free year of magazines and even 1 share of T-Mobile that was worth over $40.

    ■ 2G Internet roaming in 140 countries – but do realize that it’s really slow at times in certain countries. All speeds are throttled down to 2G speeds – even if a country’s slowest base speed is 3G, you get throttled down to 2G. Still… 2G for free is better than nothing or paying a LOT of it on other carriers.

    ■ The fast 4G speeds temporary promo in Europe for this July-August is nice. Let’s hope they offer it more often and in more countries.

    ■ Free texting in those 140 countries is appreciated – cheapest and fastest way to communicate with friends and family.

    ■ For myself, I have not noticed much difference in coverage or signal strength from other carriers. It used to be an issue a few years ago but much less so now.

    A few CONs:

    ■ Like most companies, they can screw up. While in Asia a few months ago, they charged me $2 a minute instead of $0.20 a minute for calls (in/out) overseas in 1 of those 140 countries. I noticed the discrepancies and after 2-3 calls, was able to get those refunded. Still… check your phone bill and make sure you’re being charged the correct rate.

    TIP: Send all incoming calls automatically to Voice mail while overseas to avoid all phone charges as (like all carriers) an unanswered ring will cost you a minute. With half my calls coming from spammers and scammers, I had to do this.

    ■ If you’re switching over from another carrier and giving up your old phone to buy a new one, don’t expect the best (or even competitive) rebate on your old phone. Keeping your old phone and not buying a new one from them is the cheapest way to sign up for T-Mobile. Asking T-Mobile to break your previous contract with another carrier can cost a lot up-front since you have to buy a new phone from them and send in your old one.

    ■ Like I said previously, slow 2G speeds in those 140 countries. I’ve tested the speed in a lot of countries and it’s consistently throttled down to 2G speeds. In a few, it’s even worse but that could be due to the remotest of where I was. What does 2G speeds mean? It’s mostly fine for most web surfing and maps (loads a little slower) – a little patience is needed. However, half of my uploads to Twitter from recently taken 5 MB photos fail. That’s my biggest complaint with the 2G speeds – but half the blame falls on the Twitter app for not giving users an option to reduce the file size before uploading.

    That’s it for now. Sorry for the long post but I hope you found it useful.

    :: Jerry

  12. 4 lines, unlimited talk/text/data for $150.. how can you beat that? Went to Europe over the summer and having LTE data was a god send. I ended up being the guide for everyone in my group. Only downside is bad building penetration at home but I can live with that to pay half the price.

  13. After more years than I can remember with AT&T, we switched, too.
    Coverage is bad in some areas, just like AT&T was bad in some areas. But two things I couldn’t be happier with: exemplary customer service reps (not AT&T’s script readers) and the fact I no longer have to pay a minimum of $80 every time we go overseas. Having mapping in my pocket is terrific!

    As an AT&T subscriber for so many years, my savings is almost nil; around $5, with ™, but I would actually pay more for the benefits.

  14. @Patrick. Not sure what brand of phone you have, but remember to turn on wifi calling while you are in a building. That should take care of your connection problem. Just be aware that if you are on the phone and decide to take a walk outside, it will likely drop the call as it transitions from wifi to cellular.

  15. I’ve had T-mob for a long time. I have the $30/month plan since I don’t make a lot of phone calls. That gets me 100 calling minutes, unlimited text and “unlimited” data (5GB at 4G and then throttled down after that, but I don’t think I’ve ever hit the limit). My Nexus 5X just got Android 7.0 last night and they’re supposed to be rolling out essentially the Google Fi service’s connection to trusted wifi in order to save your mobile data. Since I am not a constant traveler I just get a new data SIM when I travel abroad and that’s always worked well for me. Most places it’s really cheap.

  16. I switched two months ago and have been thoroughly amazed how well T-Mobile lived up to and actually surpassed all my expectations. I too am now able to tether for the first time. I finally can use my phone in Europe! And on top of everything, I signed up for the iPhone upgrade program at Apple and got a new phone and will trade up yearly. And everything combined is $30 less per month than my AT&T arrangement. Just life changing like everyone says.

  17. Love T-Mobile! We switched a couple years ago and haven’t looked back. It’s been wonderful for traveling internationally (used extensively in Australia and New Zealand), and our coverage in the US has been good.

    One important thing to note, though, is that LTE band 12 made a BIG difference in our coverage (1-2 extra “bars” pretty much everywhere). It penetrates better into buildings and reaches much further outside. They call it “Extended Range LTE”. For iPhones, this is currently only present on the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus or iPhone SE. DCjoe posted a great link above to see if your phone supports it ( http://www.spectrumgateway.com/compatible-phones ). If you want to have the best experience and coverage on T-Mobile (or any coverage in some places, like in your house/basements), you need a phone that supports LTE Band 12.

  18. Just be careful with your usage… I had T-Mobile for nearly a year, and was traveling quite frequently every few weeks. My data exceeded above 50% outside of the USA, which violates their T & A and my line was flagged and deactivated.

  19. I recently switched all my lines from Verizon over to T-Mobile (had one line with T-Mo as a business line) and I’ve been 98% satisfied.

    My Only pain point? Airports. T-Mobile is just dreadful at airports. LAX recently got a boost in speeds but Airside at TBIT is still pitiful.

  20. Switched to T-Mobile from Verizon earlier this year and haven’t looked back. In South Florida there’s no noticeable difference between the two. Free data and texting while traveling is awesome! Although you might have had to pay higher rates in Morocco at least you had the option. Verizon doesn’t offer service in Morocco at all. While traveling there last year I was without service for the entire time.

  21. I think TMobile is great if you spend all your time in major cities, but it drops off sharply in more rural areas. My partner has TMobile and on rare occasions when we are traveling somewhere more rural my ATT service is way better than his. And while it might be rare, the situation of a car emergency on a country road or something similar does warrant some consideration.

    A couple with one on TMobile and one on ATT or Verizon could be a good match though.

  22. eye84u, was it just the data usage and not days out of the country that was the problem? I assume you returned to USA often.

  23. I understand everyone’s experience is different, but it still boggles my mind when I hear people say T-Mobile is terrible in rural areas. I live in a VERY rural area on the East Coast (farm land in Maryland) and we have 100+Mbps LTE here from T-Mobile…far and away better coverage than any of the carriers even Verizon who essentially started in this area! (Now granted, T-Mobile just upgraded to LTE here from 2G Edge at the very end of 2015, so we’re not on the leading edge of technology by any means in this area!)

    Back in December, I drove from here to the mountains in western North Carolina to visit family following a route through mostly rural Virginia (along I-85) and had full LTE service the entire ride…listening to free Pandora and iHeartRadio the entire 7 hours.

    T-Mobile service in rural areas isn’t as bad as people seem to make it sound…at least in my experience.

  24. I’m on Tmo and I actually have several different tmo prepaid plans and I have traveled all over testing out different configurations. The Tmo simple choice plan in my opinion is not worth it at all. Its 2G speed with very little data. You have to fork over another $50 for 3G for 500megs. I can chew through 500 megs in 2 days. Most people probably won’t use 500megs but if you do anything like set your apps or phone to auto update say goodbye to that 500 megs. Also, none of their simple choice “prepaid” plans allow you to have international access beyond mexico and canada. Only the post paid simple choice plans can go fully international. Incidentally, many countries 3G speed is better than our 4G in the US. Anyway, here is what I found to be the best thing to do. Get yourself a google voice #. Its free, Install hangouts and hangouts dialer. It works off of data. Give your friends your google voice # to call. While you are overseas and on wifi your phone will ring and will only use data. The caller won’t know the difference and will be dialing your # as they normally would. In the country you are visiting, get a local sim card. It will be much cheaper than the tmo monthly price and much much more generous with data. For example, in thailand 1.5G at 3g speed for a month with voice cost me $9.
    This way you can call back to the US without paying a dime and you use voice to make local calls in the country you are visiting. The other thing is you need a gsm phone for overseas since all those sim cards are on gsm. So if you are on sprint and verizon it won’t work. If all of this sounds like its too much hassle (and I can understand that) google project fi is in my opinion the next best bet. I don’t use it because I find my setup with my tmo $30/month 5 gigs of 4g data plan to be the cheapest.

  25. Just returned from visiting 6 countries in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Russia). Had fast data speeds in all 6 countries. I ran the Speedtest app on my iPhone and was getting anywhere from 16 Mbps up to 32 Mbps. I was even able to tether my Kindle to download movies (although the T Mobile website says international tethering is not available). Needless to say, I am a big T Mobile fan.

    For those of you with poor cell reception in your home, once the phone is logged into your WiFi network, it should switch to WiFi calling, allowing you to make and receive calls.

  26. Like project fi you can buy 4g data in most countries for pretty good pricing in some countries. The edge speed is slow for what you mentioned but if you want another bump you could always buy it at least from the few countries I visited.

  27. T-Mo Roaming in the Caribbean (Digicel the primary partner) is currently BLOCKED. Twice down to Jamaica in the past month, and a trip to Panama last weekend. Trying to do business and being forced to buy a local sim in a short amount of time is a pain in the ass. No help from T-Mo support when I called: “We’ll file a ticket and get back to you in 72 hours” – never got back. Now I don’t trust T-Mobile when roaming Int’l. #Disappointed.

  28. Love it love it love it, that T-Mobile! I live in Mexico at least 6-7months out of the year and AT&T was killing me with their roaming rates. I basically had to pay for data even if I turned the service off while in Mexico because it was outside of my plan and beleive me AT&T sticks it to you where there is no light. With T-Mobile it works GREAT, clear calls, no more data roaming charges. On a recent trip to the Europe and on a Celebrity cruise (Turkey, Greece, Italy Croatia, UK, etc., I was happily surprised that I could tether my iPhone 5S to my PC, and since most of the cruise I could see land way off in the distance I could always roam off of who knows what tower that was out there! Did all my work on board and never ever had to use or pay fo the LOUSY/SLOW/OVERPRICED internet service that Celebrity is famously know for. T-Mobile for me rocks. I could never think of being without it now when traveling internationally or when cruising. No regrets here, only praise and no reason even to consider Google-Fi even though I am an avid Google user.

  29. Project Fi offers 4G speeds around the world as well as free incoming calls and text messages, so calls from friends and family at home are free or cheap. Service has improved over the last year and is very reliable. I’ve a connection as soon as I step of the plane. The only country I’ve been to without service was Laos.
    If you can live with a Nexus phone, it’s a good service.

  30. One of the best decisions I ever made. Saved easily $100+ per month by switching from AT&T. The international coverage is the same but T-Mobile costs nothing to use. I don’t worry about making calls now as they cost just twenty cents a minute and when on wi-fi they are free regardless. No apps or special ways of dialing, just straight in and it works like a charm.

    Free wi-fi on American Airlines as well is a nice bonus too. For the international traveler, there simply is no one better.

  31. In addition to unlimited free high speed data in Europe this summer (which I really appreciated and made my European travels much easier), T-Mobile offered unlimited free high speed data in Brazil during the Olympics. I really appreciated this and this allowed me to utilize my time well while on buses, waiting for things to start, etc.

    For as long as T-Mobile is the only international carrier offering free data roaming, I plan to switch with this service as I find it hard to think of anything another carrier can offer that can top this.

  32. I switched from Verizon about 2 months ago. I have not traveled internationally yet, but will be and looking forward to that.

    I have unfortunately had some major issues with getting service. I had to go to the ER twice in the last month, both times, no service at all… although everyone else in the place had service. Ditto in a hotel room that is actually like a house. I don’t think I ever saw “no service” in all my years with Verizon, but now in the space of a few months I have seen it many times. I am told this is because I have an Iphone 5s, with no band 12. I was not going to get a new phone, but now I guess I have to. This issue has been in major cities, as well as when I was driving on an interstate in a less populated area (but one that always had full bars on Verizon).

    So, while I want to love Tmobile, I am not there right now as it has put me in a bad spot a few times now, most recently stuck in a hospital alone in another city unable to call anyone.

  33. AT&T thinks it still 1982 and Verizon is dancing like its the 1990s… umm no. T-Mobile all the way. My coverage is excellent in LA and most places across the US. A bit spotty in smaller cities/rural, but not bad.

    When overseas you use the premiere carrier in each country, so speed is excellent. I even get online in China and can access google, facebook….pretty much all apps. If you wish to have 3 and 4G speeds, you just call T-mobile before departure, you get a code and upon landing cycle your phone, and for $5 per month, higher speed.

    But honestly, the 2G overseas is MUCH quicker than 2G in the USA which in case you were not aware…US speeds are greatly throttled back.

  34. After reading glowing reviews and having an upcoming trip to Brazil and South Africa in October, decided to switch to T-Mobile from Verizon. When we get back, probably going to switch back. The coverage is terrible at my house, the only way I can get service is either go outside or use wifi calling. The phone doesn’t work for me at indoors at work either. The LTE speeds are frequently super slow, not sure what the problem is, just because I see LTE it doesn’t seem to be LTE speed. This is with an iPhone 6s Plus and I’m in Tucson. Glad others are having success, it’s been awful here.

  35. There is mor eto service than just the network. Phones might not have all the bands that are used for signals. T-mobile is expanding use of LTE band 12 which is greta but only if your phone can pick up band 12!
    If you have a phone, OK but if you are buying a new phone make sure it gets band 12 which is best for indoor locations.
    My daughter was using a VZ phone with T-mobile (yes, in some cases you can) and sometimes texts went out late. It seems to have been a problem for those people using VZ phones that could not get a T-mo band at certain times.

  36. I tried T-Mobile last year. I agree the prices and roaming options are great.

    The trouble is that data coverage is limited outside of big cities here in WA.

    I switched back to Verizon.

  37. @Stannis

    It was definitely the data usage. I was in South America during the months of Jan-March without entering the USA (fair bit on Wi-Fi), no issues. In the summer I took advantage of their “Summer Unleashed” promo (unlimited LTE in Europe) was in Scandinavia/Russia regions for 2 weeks, streaming tv eps/movies occasionally while on the train etc (25-30gigs over the two weeks). Several weeks later upon returning I got a text stating my line is scheduled to be deactivated on *X date* I called in to dispute it but was told the only way around it was to create a new T-Mobile account since my line has since been flagged and locked.

  38. I switched from Verizon 2 years ago and have been very happy with data usage worldwide. One caveat: when driving cross country in the U.S. there were many occasions when I was connected to a non T-Mobile cell tower in rural areas. They call this “domestic roaming” and with all of their plans its usage is capped per month. I managed to blow through my cap by streaming music. You are then forced to buy more data. Here’s the link for more details: https://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-3299

  39. Using a GPS app “waze” worked great in Spain, driving from Madrid, Valencia to Barcelona worked flallessly.
    -City and rural areas- mostly main roads the whole 2 weeks

    In Massachusetts we have dead spots on the mass pike go figure…

    Calling home with twin teen girls all connected to one plan our bill was just a few dollars over our regular monthly

    No need to buy temp phones changing SIM cards or buying phone cards when we are traveling anymore.

    In short we are happy with the service

  40. How fast is the data overseas? I was in China on China Mobile which only gave me EGPRS which was PAINFUL. When I switched to China Unicom, I was back on 4G, and the plans there were super cheap anyway. Also, some services overseas require you to have a local number, such as WeChat Wallet in China. I usually just get a sim in whatever country I’m in, but I like the idea of not doing so, if it ends up being as good as it would be with a foreign SIM.

  41. I switched some phones from ATT to T-Mobile in January. I was planning to bring over all 10 phones of an approximately $5000/year ATT plan, but T-Mobile’s domestic coverage is problematic. Near DFW, for example, T-Mobile blocks the port used for Skype messaging. (Other data works, wifi works, ATT data works). Other locations have problems with data or even SMS and calls.

    In Australia, many towers don’t seem to provide 2G data, so the phone would show excellent signal on LTE but wouldn’t work, because there was no 2G coverage and the T-mobile plan doesn’t give access to anything but 2G.

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