The best wireless carrier for the int'l traveler: Google Fi now with unlimited plans

With several international trips a year, I can attest to how great it is to have Google Fi, which is a no-contract wireless carrier that comes with int'l high-speed data and texts at no additional charge.  The fact that you never have to worry about int'l data, WiFi hotspot locations, and renting pocket WiFi devices and int'l SIM cards is huge.  Google Fi's flexible plan is $20 per month, which includes unlimited domestic talk and unlimited domestic and int'l texting.  The required high-speed data add-on, which includes domestic and int'l data in 200+ countries is simply $10 per GB, pro-rated down to the MB, which come down to a penny each.  Any data after 6 GB is free, so the most you'll ever pay is $60 for data domestically and internationally.

Yesterday, Google just announced a few new options to their already outstanding flexible plan.  Group flexible plans are now cheaper, at $20 for the first user and $15 for each additional user all with unlimited talk and texts plus the standard $10 per GB of combined data usage.  They've also added a $45 unlimited plan per person for 4+ people groups that includes unlimited talk, int'l text, and int'l data.  The unlimited plan also includes unlimited talk to 50+ countries when calling from the U.S.

So which plan is for you?

This of course will not only depend on your data usage, but also if you make int'l calls from the U.S.  Whereas the unlimited plan includes free calling to 50+ countries, the flexible plan is pay per minute for int'l call.  Also, if you're flying solo or with <3 people in you group, the unlimited plan rates will be higher per person:

So if you're flying solo and use <5 GB of monthly data, then the flexible option will probably be better for you.  What's interesting about the flexible group plans is that data is capped at 10 GB for 2 users, and capped at an additional 2 GB for each user thereon after (12 GB for 3, 14 GB for 4, and so on).  So everyone's data usage for group plans is also something to consider as well, though you can switch plans at any time.

Cell phone compatibility

In the U.S., Google Fi rides off of T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular's 4G networks, so most smartphones are compatible with their network.  They allow you to bring your own phone over to their service, including iPhones, though there are some limited features with iPhones in terms of iMessages.  Additionally, only phones "designed" for Google Fi allow for switching to the best available of the 3 networks.  So if your phone is compatible but isn't "designed" for Google Fi, then you'll be stuck with one network (specifically, T-Mobile).

They also sell their own Pixel and Moto phones with discounts as high as $300 off with activation.  Last November during Cyber Monday, they even offered phones including their flagship Pixel 3 for essentially free after travel gift card rebates.  The Pixel 4 will be released in the coming months, so if you're looking for an even better deal on their phones then it may be a good idea to wait for the Pixel 4 or for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Free data-only SIM cards w/flexible plan

One lesser known "free" add-on to the Google Fi flexible plan is the ability to add up to 4 additional data-only SIM cards.  So if you're traveling internationally with a companion, you can give your companion a data-only SIM card and your companion will be able to use high-speed data that will be charged to your account as normal data usage.  Or you can simply let friends borrow your data-only SIM cards and they can tag off your account when traveling internationally or whenever they want.  Just don't let them get away with YouTube and Neflix HD streaming, which could really add up!  Fortunately, Google Fi will display the exact usage of every additional data-only SIM card on your account, so seeking reimbursement from friends is quite simple.

Bottom Line

It's great to see Google Fi expand the horizon for their already formidable network.  In my opinion, they're the hands-down best option for those who travel internationally, even if it's just once a year.  Their plans are simple yet comprehensive, and you'll never be locked into a contract.  If you're interested in signing up for Google Fi, I would appreciate it if you used my referral link so that we both get $20 credit.


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