Consumer Action offers advice for using wireless devices abroad

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A recent WirelessED survey of cell phone users found that 77% of respondents would access materials providing easy instruction and direction on how to use cell phones outside of the U.S., but only 57% know where to find such information.

To educate consumers about how to best use their wireless devices as they venture overseas this summer, Consumer Action is releasing the third and final educational brochure in the WirelessED program, "Roaming the World With Your Phone."  The brochure provides consumers with advice on being prepared for traveling abroad, especially understanding what "roaming" means for your wireless device and how to minimize unexpected charges on your cell phone bill during international travel.  This is especially timely given the large number of Americans who go abroad in the summer.

Of the survey respondents who have a working cell phone and have traveled outside of the U.S. in the last year, or plan to over the next two years, 69% said that they would like to use their cell phone when travelling outside of the U.S.  40 percent of respondents said they do not know where to find information on the best plans to use cell phones when traveling outside of the U.S.  The findings are from a CARAVAN telephone poll conducted on behalf of WirelessED on June 23-26, 2011, surveying a total of 1006 adults in the continental U.S.

"With the growth of international travel and the ability to use our wireless devices anywhere, the survey highlights the need for informational programs like Consumer Action's WirelessED, which provides consumers with the resources and tools needed to effectively manage and understand their wireless devices," said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities, Consumer Action.  "The survey shows that consumers are using their devices on U.S. soil as well as abroad and they want information on how best to use their wireless devices overseas."

The WirelessED brochure, "Roaming the World With Your Phone" offers important tips for travelers like how to significantly reduce costs for data usage while roaming.  Such tips include:

  • Turn off your mobile network unless you are using it. (Check your manual or contact your carrier if you need help with settings.)
  • Set "fetch new data" and other "always on" data-using functions to off or manual. You can temporarily activate them when you need to. (Auto functions include RSS news feeds, text message reminders and push notifications, for example.)
  • Turn off applications (such as weather and Facebook) that check the Internet automatically.
  • Set email on manual. This allows you to use data but prevents a large email file from downloading automatically.
  • Set your phone to airplane mode. Turn it off if you need to make or receive a call. You should still be able to connect to Wi-Fi in airplane mode.
  • Turn off functions or apps after you've finished using them.
  • Use Wi-Fi instead of wireless carriers' data services whenever possible. In some cases Wi-Fi may be free, but not always, and rates for Wi-Fi may vary around the world. For example, you can use your hotel's wireless internet connection to download email to your device when you're in your room.

These tips and more are available on the WirelessED website,

WirelessED is a multilingual educational project sponsored by AT&T. It includes an educational module with three multilingual brochures and a training packet to assist community-based organizations (CBOs) in educating their clients through both one-on-one and group presentations. Over the next year, informational materials and training sessions will be provided to Consumer Action's network of more than 8,000 CBOs across the country with the goal of helping more than 200,000 hard-to-reach consumers. The website,, contains the project's publications as well as a variety of interactive tools to help consumers with wireless plans.

To access the WirelessED materials online, visit To receive updates through Twitter, follow @KnowUrWireless. Find the campaign on Facebook at

WirelessED materials will be available in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese. A multilingual hotline, 415-777-9635, provides advice and referrals in English, Chinese and Spanish for consumers with questions about wireless devices and plans.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Consumer Action focuses on financial education that empowers low to moderate income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. Our diverse staff provides expert commentary on key consumer issues supported by solid data. We offer access to victim testimony, as well as expertise on current financial issues affecting low to moderate income and limited-English-speaking consumers.




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