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Google Fi Review: Why It’s the Best Phone Plan for International Travelers

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Staying connected while traveling is a necessity these days, whether you need to monitor work or just need data to navigate a new place.

Major cell phone providers each have their own offerings to stay connected abroad. We think Google Fi service stands far above every carrier for international phone and data service. It’s the cheapest, easiest, and most effective international phone plan, period. It offers coverage in 200-plus countries, almost always with lightning-fast speeds.

Google Fi has rolled out new enhancements like beta service for iPhones and a new, unlimited data plan – in addition to the pay-as-you-go international data model. It can easily be the best cell phone plan for travelers, whether you make it your main cell phone carrier or just turn it on and off while traveling.

Here’s why Google Fi is the best option.

 

How It Works

It’s safe to say that Google Fi isn’t quite like other cell phone service providers.

Rather than running its own network of cell phone towers, Google Fi piggybacks on the networks of T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular in the U.S. to keep you connected at home. The result is 4G connectivity in most major U.S. cities, and a 3G connection across much of the country. There are just a few pockets where domestic service is weak, including much of Alaska.
 

google fi review 

It also offers coverage in more than 200 countries or territories and counting. Check out the full list of countries, and you’ll see that every major destination (and many of the smaller, less-touristed spots) is covered, from Albania to Zambia.

Very few countries don’t make the list: Cuba, Lebanon, Iran, and Syria won’t have coverage, nor will many small island nations in the South Pacific and many East African countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.

Safe to say, you’ll likely have coverage no matter where you’re heading. And it will almost always be at blazing fast 4G speeds, which means you can also easily use your phone as a hotspot to connect via laptop when you need it.

But that’s only half the equation. Google Fi is great on your wallet, too.

 

How Much It Costs

Unlike traditional cell phone carriers that levy big charges for international service, the prices don’t change whether you’re at home or abroad. 

And Google Fi now offers two plan pricing options:

  • An unlimited plan starting at $70/month with unlimited texting worldwide; unlimited calling in the U.S.; 22GB of high-speed data per month (slower speeds after 22GB of data usage); free international calling from the U.S. to 50 countries; calls worldwide for 20 cents per minute; free Wi-Fi calling worldwide
  • Pay-as-you-go starting at $20/month plus $10/gigabyte of data with unlimited texting worldwide; unlimited calling in the U.S.; free data after using 6GB each month (capping your monthly bill at $80 maximum); calls worldwide for 20 cents per minute; free Wi-Fi calling worldwide.

 

Here’s a look at the monthly cost breakdowns between the two Google Fi plans for one cell phone line. Keep in mind those per-line rates will drop as you add more lines to your plan.
 

google fi review 

We think these two plan options give Google Fi some unbeatable flexibility to suit travelers’ needs. Want high-speed service at home and while traveling without having to think about it? The Unlimited plan is probably right for you. It’s roughly the same as what you’d pay with any major carrier – but will keep you connected no matter where you travel without paying a penny more.

Looking for a service just to take with on your travels while keeping your favorite phone and provider at home? The flexible plan could easily make sense depending on how much you travel.

And there’s one unsung benefit that makes it even more compelling.

 

Pause Your Service When You Don’t Need It

That’s right. You can pause your service when you don’t need it – and not pay a dime to do so.

This is one of the most generous policies you’ll find among cell phone providers. If you only want Google Fi when traveling, this ability to pause your service in three-month spans is unbeatable.
google fi review

Google allows you to pause your service for up to three months at a time – but you can continually go back to extend the pause as needed. Or log back in and resume your service earlier. And Google doesn’t explicitly cap how often you can pause Fi service.

Pausing your account is as simple as logging in online or via its smartphone app. It will automatically resume when your three-month pause lapses, but you can choose to re-pause the account.
 

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Great Phones … with Amazing Photos

Maybe you’re a diehard Apple fan who will be buried with your iPhone. That’s OK, you’re not alone.

And thanks to some recent strides in Google Fi’s service, it’s not a dealbreaker. Almost any iPhone (iPhone SE and up) can be moved over, though there are still plenty of bugs to work out as it’s still in a beta period. Your iPhone on the Fi network won’t have Wi-Fi calling, access to your usual visual voicemail, and texting non-iPhone devices will take some extra setup.
 

google fi iphone 

Safe to say you’re probably better off sticking with a phone designed for Fi. And Google’s Pixel phones are worth a second look if you ask us. The interface may feel foreign at first, but it’s straightforward and easy to use.

But whether you go for the entry-level Google Pixel 3a or the Pixel 4 or Pixel 4XL, one thing is for sure: You can take some killer photos. While the iPhone 11 Pro piles on accolades, we still think that for the money, the Pixel takes some of the best photos with little help or editing.

Here’s an unaltered shot from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan.
 

tokyo japan 

And another of Muscat, Oman using the Pixel’s outstanding “Night Sight” mode.
muscat oman

Why bring another camera when you can slip a Pixel in your pocket? We think these photos are that good – for all but the professionals out there, it should make your camera irrelevant.

You can pick up these phones for fairly cheap, either as part of a monthly installment or paying upfront. At the time of publication, the Pixel 3a is currently just $299 when you activate your Google Fi service within 30 days of purchase. Or pick up the Pixel 4 and 4 XL starting at $799, and 50% of the purchase price back in a Google Fi service credit.

But hold tight, these phones go on sale many times a year including Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

 

Bottom Line

Whether you want an everyday phone that keeps you connected abroad or a travel-only phone, we think Google Fi is far and away the best option. While the hiccups with using iPhones aren’t quite smoothed out yet, the price, convenience, and speed of Google Fi easily beats other major carriers’ international plans.

Sold on Google Fi? Use our referral code for $20 off your first monthly bill!
 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

11 Responses

  • Missed last years BF deal by 5 min (BC Google ended promo hours early) opted for BYOD and $200 service credit.

    Used 15 GB of LTE data with Fi data only Sim in a phone for a shared Hotspot for me am DW for 3 weeks in Israel – streamed some Netflix, video chatted with family, and with photos the hardest thing to replace, reall time backup to Google photos. We had signal 98% of time from Eliat to the Golan and around the country.

    We still kept our T-Mobile SIM in our phones and texted as normal but no slow loading of ride share, social ,edia, etc.

  • The network switching between Sprint, t-mobile and US Cellular is only available on Pixel phones. If you have an iPhone you will stay on T-mobile.

  • The other benefit of Fi is free data only Sims. Your phone can be the main phone but you can get extra sim cards for your tablet and your partners phone. All the data is charged to your line with no extra fees. The data only Sim is designed for data and not calls/texts, but you may already have a way to text without your phone, for example I use the Hangouts app, but WhatsApp might work for you.

  • Look at Mint mobile. Far less cost and provides service worldwide. Uses the T-Mobile network. Free calls to Mexico and Canada. Reduced rates in those two countries and reasonable rates in the others.

    • Have T-Mo ONE plan and had Plus plan which provided 2X data speed 3G – a painful bad joke at 256 kbps – But Mint doesn’t offer 4G international. IIRC T-mo does but it $50 /mo and not sure about speeds or data cap. Google Fi fits bill perfectly being able to pause between trips.

  • Hi, I ordered a Pixel 4 thru Google Fi and never received the phone althu they claimed that they have delivered the phone and “Reception A” has signed for it. Well guess what, my name is not “Reception A”! I have reached out to them for a week and they only said “our specialist is investigating the issue and they will reach out to you via email”. No timeframe, no insight into what they have done so far or what they are going to do as next step. Finally today, as I was talking over the phone I received an email saying Google delivered the phone and there is nothing else they can do about it! so I have reached out to my bank to file a dispute to atleast get my money back. They have the worst customer support ever. I would never recommend their service to anyone.

  • Question: At home I have a family plan through Sprint but I’m getting reading to deploy for a year and would like to use Googlefi for my travels. Anyone know if I can suspend my Sprint service until I return, but still use the same phone number for Googlefi service?

  • Google Fi customer service is the worst. I bought the service for my son who is studying abroad for a semester. It worked for 3 days and has been down for a week now. After multiple escalations, dozens of calls and chats with support, it is still down. They are no longer responding. I have to assume that Google Fi does not want my son to be using their service. It’s absolutely horrible.

  • Google FI is a scam. You’d think you were dealing with some shady corner store rather than a $1 trillion dollar company the way they nickle and dime you and hide everything in the fine print. My wife and I are “digital nomads” and we enthusiastically switched to FI from Verizon so that we could make calls within countries we visit. I own a Pixel 2 and she has an iPhone 11 Pro. After one month of being ripped off, I am switching back to Verizon.

    Exhibit A: if you are using an iPhone, you cannot make WiFi calls. WiFi calls are free on Verizon and other carriers. Google Fi charges you $0.20 per minute. After my first month, I was shocked to see $168 in international calling charges. My wife and I live abroad and our clients are in the United States, so we depend on WiFi calls.

    Exhibit B: If you are using any other type of phone and are making calls while connected to WiFi, Google FI charges you $0.20 per minute. They say it’s because you have a weak WiFi signal and they want to give you the best service, but that’s a lie. They never gave me an option to switch between carrier service or WiFi. They just charged me $0.20 for every call I made when I was connected to WiFi.

    Exhibit C: When I called them and explained all of this and how their policies seem like a scam compared to Verizon, they told me that there was nothing they could do.

    Google: The $1 trillion dollar company that steals from their cell phone plan customers.

  • I currently have Google Fi, because I plan to travel internationally. The switch to Google Fi is the worst decision I’ve ever made as a customer. Within two weeks of having Fi while still in the US, I noticed that my microphone does not work for any phone call or Google Hangouts chat. I later found out that Fi was not notifying my phone when I was receiving calls. I experimented with switching the SIM to an old phone without success. I believe, at this time, it’s only possible to speak with customer service via an online messaging service.
    With my experience, I’d say Fi is completely useless as a phone service, but the data is okay.
    I would never recommend it and hope to save you headaches if you’re reading this 🙂

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