Three becomes latest mobile network to charge for roaming – are you affected?

8 min Read Published: 24 May 2022

Three becomes latest mobile network to charge for roaming - are you affected?

Three is the latest mobile network provider to introduce roaming charges for customers using their mobile phone abroad. Previously, it was possible for Three customers to use their phone abroad at no extra cost but in December 2020 - following the EU trade deal - mobile networks were allowed to reintroduce roaming charges. As a result, mobile phone providers have been gradually reintroducing roaming charges, with Three being the latest network provider to charge its customers for using data abroad. Despite this, in January 2022 Virgin and O2 announced that they would not be introducing EU roaming charges for their customers.

In this article, the changes that will be applied to Three contracts and who is affected. We also reveal which other network providers charge a roaming fee.

What changes have been made to Three's network?

Three has reintroduced roaming charges abroad for customers who have taken out a new contract or upgraded since 1st October 2021. Those travelling within the EU will be charged £2 a day to access their UK allowance when abroad. Those travelling outside of the EU will be charged £5 a day to use their allowance.

Three said:

"We know that Go Roam has always been important to our customers and we had hoped to retain this benefit, but unfortunately there are now too many unknowns, which has made it commercially unviable for us to continue. This includes variations to the underlying cost of roaming, meaning we now have no visibility over the maximum amount it will cost us to provide a service for our customers to use their phone while abroad.

We want to keep our roaming pricing as simple and affordable for customers as possible, and we think a flat charge of £2 in the EU and £5 outside the EU reflects this. It also means only those who roam will pay for the service, rather than customers who stay in the UK also absorbing this."

Who is affected by Three's new roaming charges?

Customers who took out a new contract or upgraded with Three on or after 1st October 2021 will need to pay to use their allowance whilst abroad. The daily fee of £2 for using your phone in the EU and £5 outside of the EU gives you access to your mobile phone allowances for 24 hours. If you use your allowance up when roaming abroad you can buy an Add-on or get access to lower roaming rates.

If you took out a contract prior to 1st October 2021 or you are a Pay As You Go (PAYG) customer you are not affected by the new roaming charges. Customers roaming in the Republic of Ireland are also unaffected.

How much does it cost to use your phone abroad with Three?

Examples of the Three roaming fees outside of your contract allowance are shown below:

Spain USA
Calling a UK number 3p per minute 3p per minute
Calling a local number  3p per minute £1.40 per minute
Texts to UK 2p per text 2p per text
Texts locally  2p per text Up to 2p per text
Receiving calls  Free Free
Receiving texts  Free Free
Using internet and data  1p per MB (£45 data roaming limit) 1p per MB (£45 data roaming limit)
Using voicemail  3p per minute 3p per minute
Unlocking your UK allowance to use abroad  £2 per day £5 per day

What other mobile networks charge EU roaming fees?

Three is the latest mobile provider to introduce roaming fees for Europe. In the following table, we highlight some of the top UK mobile providers that charge EU roaming fees. The daily fees charged are for you to access your existing allowance when abroad. If you exceed your allowance you may be subjected to additional fees and you will need to check how much these are with your network provider.

Mobile network EU roaming charges  Daily cost  Who is affected?
EE tick £2 Customers that renewed or took out new contracts on or after 6/7/21*
giffgaff cross N/A N/A
O2 cross N/A N/A
Sky Mobile tick £2 All customers
Tesco Mobile cross N/A N/A
Three tick £2 Customers that renewed or took out new contracts on or after 1/10/21*
Virgin Mobile cross N/A N/A
Vodafone tick £2 Customers that renewed or took out new contracts on or after 11/8/21*

*customers that took out new or renewed contracts prior to these dates are not currently affected by the new EU roaming charges. PAYG customers are also unaffected. 

How to avoid roaming charges

If you want to avoid a hefty phone bill when you return back to the UK you can follow these quick and easy steps:

  • Turn data roaming off - go to the mobile data section within the settings on your phone and turn off mobile data and data roaming. This can restrict all of your data access to Wi-Fi only and will help to avoid any charges when abroad.
  • Buy a data add-on - most mobile networks allow you to purchase data add-ons for a set fee. For example, Three allows you to purchase a 'Data Passport' add-on which gives you unlimited access to data for £5 a day.
  • Download content ahead of time - One way to save money when abroad is to download your music or TV shows when at home in the UK before you go which means you can watch or listen without needing access to the internet.
  • Use Wi-Fi - Use Wi-Fi wherever you can to save money on your data charges. You may also be able to make calls over Wi-Fi using social apps such as Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp.
  • Get a local pay-as-you-go SIM - if you need to access data when away from a Wi-Fi network you may benefit from purchasing a local SIM card and topping it up with cash as and when you need it. Ensure that you check that your phone and the local SIM card are compatible before buying.

How to switch mobile phone providers

If you would like to switch mobile providers - perhaps to a network that has not yet reintroduced roaming charges - then you can do so easily by sending a text on your phone. To switch but keep your mobile number simply message 'PAC' to 65075 to find out any early contract termination fees and to get your 'Porting Authorisation Code' (PAC). The PAC code can then be given to your new network provider when you switch. More information on how to switch can be found in our article, 'How to switch mobile network provider with a text message'.