T-Mobile Adds New Travel Perks In Latest ‘Un-Carrier’ Move

What’s happening

New travel benefits for its pricier tiers include 5GB of data per month while roaming internationally, Wi-Fi on more flights, a free AAA membership and discounts at the gas pump.

Why it matters

It’s always good to see better international roaming benefits.

T-Mobile is upping its travel perks. On Thursday, the carrier announced new programs including slightly faster free international data, free Wi-Fi on more flights and discounts on gas at Shell stations. 

The self-described “Un-Carrier” has long offered free international data and texting in over 210 countries with a number of its plans, but data speeds were capped at a painful 128 kilobits per second. Starting June 21, the carrier is bumping up that speed to 256Kbps, an improvement that should allow for better handling of tasks like email or basic web browsing, even if it still doesn’t allow for video calls or video streaming. 

A speed of 256Kbps is “great for basic navigation and basic web browsing, and a lot of things that people do when they internationally travel,” said Mike Katz, chief marketing officer at T-Mobile.

For reference, Zoom recommends connections of at least 600Kbps for one-to-one video calls in non-HD, or “high quality,” while Netflix recommends 1Mbps connections to view content in standard definition (or at 3Mbps for 720p HD). 

Those on T-Mobile’s priciest Magenta Max unlimited plans will get 5 gigabytes of free high-speed data each month at “up to 5G speeds” in the over 210 countries it already offers free international roaming. Enterprise clients on the Business Unlimited Ultimate tier also get this benefit.

Those with Magenta plans will also get 5 gigabytes of data at up to 5G speeds in 11 European countries where Deutsche Telecom operates. (Deutsche Telecom is a majority shareholder in T-Mobile.) This includes Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. 

After the 5GB are used up, your 5G speed will drop down to 256Kbps, though T-Mobile will continue to offer faster data starting at $5 per day for 512MB of high-speed data and unlimited calling for 24 hours. T-Mobile still doesn’t include calls with its international benefits, leaving its 25 cents-per-minute rates intact, though calls over Wi-Fi are free. Travelers are mostly consuming data, Katz said, and when they make calls, they’re usually around Wi-Fi.

While still not a massive upgrade, the improvements continue to put T-Mobile ahead of AT&T and Verizon for basic connectivity, each of which charges $10 per day for those on its unlimited plans to be able to use your regular talk, text and high-speed data in over 210 countries.

AT&T’s Day Pass program includes the same data speeds as your regular domestic plan, and the carrier says it will only cap charges at 10 days per billing month. Verizon’s Travel Pass program only includes high-speed data for the first half-gigabyte you use. After that, it slows down significantly to “2G speeds” unless you buy more high-speed data at half-gigabyte increments ($5 per half-gigabyte in Canada and Mexico, $10 per elsewhere). 

Depending on your plan, AT&T and Verizon also require you to opt into their respective travel pass programs or risk being charged significantly higher pay-as-you-go rates. 

More Wi-Fi in the sky, discounts on gas

Beyond the incremental data jump, T-Mobile is also expanding its Wi-Fi on planes partnership to include American, Alaska Airlines and Delta flights from June 21, with free Wi-Fi on United Airlines coming in the future. T-Mobile has offered Wi-Fi on planes through GoGo since 2014 and the company said that option will remain as well. 

Those with the company’s highest-priced Magenta Max or Business Unlimited Ultimate plans get free Wi-Fi for the entirety of their flights. Those with Magenta, Business Unlimited Advanced or similar Sprint plans can get free Wi-Fi for up to four flights per year plus one hour of free Wi-Fi for “every flight after that.” 

Beyond traveling abroad and in the air, T-Mobile is also adding a couple of new perks for those moving around domestically including a free year of AAA’s $60 annual Classic plan and 25 cents off of a gallon on gas at Shell through Labor Day weekend via the company’s T-Mobile Tuesdays app and Shell Rewards. T-Mobile said the offer allows for a discount for up to 20 gallons per week, which makes out to $5 saved if you buy up to the cap. 

T-Mobile’s new perks arrive shortly after rival AT&T removed HBO Max from its priciest wireless subscription tier. T-Mobile’s Katz declined to comment on whether any of the carrier’s plans would bundle in HBO’s streaming service now that the entertainment company is no longer owned by AT&T. 

“If there are opportunities for us to build more value into our proposition for customers, we’re certainly open to looking at it,” Katz said.

Correction, June 16: One of the plans listed for free Wi-Fi on planes was incorrect. Customers with the Magenta Max and Business Unlimited Ultimate plans get free Wi-Fi for the entirety of their flights.

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