AT&T works on travel transparency

Have AT&T? Going somewhere out of the continental United States? Click here to find out exactly what it’ll cost you.

Phone companies have a filthy habit of not being terribly transparent with their mobile plans or landlines, i.e. you have all these fees and taxes you don’t expect on your bill, you aren’t sure what roaming costs and whether you’re doing it, and you never seem to know what you’re going to be charged for calling a random foreign country — or calling from a random foreign country.

I don’t have AT&T and sometimes I send text messages to Norway, and I swear it’s cost me something different every time. It bet costs my friend nothing to text back — it’s probably included in her insurance (darn Norwegians have it so good). (I’m just kidding.)

In any case, AT&T has taken some guesswork out of travel fees. You can visit their site and build yourself a whole itinerary of countries in which you’ll be using one of their phones and specify which phone, or even select the phone you are considering getting and the countries you’re going to. The site will immediately tell you whether or not they have coverage in that country for voice and/or data — they have voice coverage in over 215 countries and data in over 170, which is more than anybody else. They also have voice and data on over 130 cruise ships and 3G in 80 countries.

So, they tell you whether or not voice and data are available, and then you can click a little “details” button and they’ll tell you how much it’s gonna cost to communicate there. Straight up. That’s darn near enough to make me pay the $200 to get out of my current contract. You can also pay AT&T $5.99 per month for their World Traveler plan, which provides discounts on all those little premiums. If you travel a lot, that’ll save you bank.

Here are some additional tips for saving money when traveling abroad no matter who your carrier is:

  • Turn off your data roaming.
  • Use WiFi instead of 3G, GPRS, or EDGE when possible
  • Turn off the auto-check e-mail function
  • Reset your usage tracker to 0 when you get there so you’ll know what you’re spending
  • Don’t go downloading photos and watching YouTube, fool — it’s gonna cost you!

They’ve got international data plans if you need your YouTube fix. Seriously, AT&T wants you to travel. So: It’s totally worth your while — and that’s a hint to step it up, other mobile service providers!