As a financial advisor, you are a trusted confidante for your clients and a go-to consultant in times of trouble. When a client needs your help, or when markets take a turn and make a client nervous, you must be there to take the call.
But what if you are travelling at the time – within Canada, south of the border or on a boat in the Indian Ocean?
Here’s how to create a personal communication system that will keep you accessible and responsive – without it costing the earth:
– Short U.S. trips
Canadian cellular network service providers have come a long way in supporting customers travelling overseas. Most providers offer short- or long-term roaming options, depending on your travel patterns. There are many alternative providers in Canada, but we’ll concentrate on the Big Three.
For quick turnaround, Rogers Communications Inc. (rogers.com) offers Roam Like Home, a service that allows subscribers to its consumer plans to pay $6 a day to use data, text and voice minutes from their Canadian plans while in the U.S.
Similarly, Telus Corp.‘s (telus.com) Easy Roam plan charges you $7 a day for the same privilege while you’re in the U.S.
Bell Mobility‘s (bell.ca/mobility) Roam Better plan offers two versions. One permits you to use unlimited calls and texts, along with data from your existing Canadian plan, for $6 a day in the U.S. The other version offers unlimited talk and text, but doesn’t use data from your Canadian plan. Instead, you get 100 megabytes (MB) of separate data a day, which costs $5 a day for travellers to the U.S.
What if you want to travel for more than a few days? Daily flat-fee charges could get expensive. Rogers handles this by charging you for Roam Like Home for up to 15 days each month, while still permitting you to use the service for more than 15 days.
Other providers provide more permanent roaming options. For example, Telus offers a specific version of its Your Choice plan that offers unlimited text and calls to most U.S. and Canadian numbers while travelling in the U.S., and the selected data allowance is available in the U.S., too. This option costs $10 more than Telus’ unlimited Canada-only plan.
Bell offers a more permanent U.S. and Canada roaming feature at a $10 premium.
– Travelling farther afield
But what if you’re roaming farther afield? A lot depends on where you’re going.
If you’re a Rogers or Telus customer, you can use Roam Like Home or Easy Roam in more than 100 other countries for $12 a day or $10 a day, respectively. However, those plans aren’t supported in every destination.
Similarly, Bell’s Roam Better costs $12 a day in more than 135 international destinations if you’re using the version with the data included in your existing Canadian plan. The version in which you get 100 MB of separate data a day costs $10 a day.
Bell also offers monthly passes for destinations other than the U.S., grouping countries into zones. You can purchase a monthly pass that offers varying amounts of data or various bundles of voice, text and data.
Packages such as these can get expensive quickly, and if you’re a heavy user, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars in overage fees.
– Change your sim card
Depending on your travel plans, you might find using a different cellular service provider easier and cheaper when travelling abroad. To do this, you will need to swap out the subscriber identity module (SIM) card in your cellphone.
Your SIM card contains a microchip that identifies your cellphone on a local network and tells the carrier that owns that network which company is your regular service provider. If a cellphone with a Bell SIM card finds itself talking to a Verizon cell tower in the U.S., then Verizon will know to charge roaming fees via your Bell account.
Swapping out your SIM card allows you to use another service provider instead of your own, which enables you to take advantage of better deals in some places. (A new SIM card means a new cellphone number, so you should notify your contacts of the change.)
There are two kinds of alternative SIM cards available. The first is a card from an international roaming service provider that offers coverage in many countries.
One such provider that supports travellers to the U.S. is Roam Mobility Holdings Inc. (roammobility.com), which offers Canadian users more variety when travelling in the U.S. You could pay $40 for one gigabyte (GB) of 4G data while in the U.S., along with unlimited video messaging, calls and texting. If you go over your data limit, you still can use unlimited 2G data, which operates at far slower speeds. You may not be able to conduct a Skype call then, but you still can send and receive emails if you don’t mind the wait. You can buy your SIM card in Canada and schedule it to kick in when you arrive in the U.S.
If you’re travelling beyond the U.S., Knowroaming Ltd. (knowroaming.com) offers an international roaming SIM card that operates in more than 100 countries. Rates vary, but calls to and from Canada while in Thailand, for example, would cost 25¢ to 28¢ a minute.
Knowroaming offers a variety of devices, including a roaming global hot spot. This data-only portable hardware acts like a Wi-Fi access point, allowing multiple devices to connect to it wirelessly. It works in 140 countries and provides unlimited data for US$8 a month. That’s a useful addition if you’re a data-intensive advisor who likes to check websites frequently and process a lot of email.
Another option, a local prepaid SIM card provided by a local carrier, offers a short-term plan on that network while in a specific country. For example, T-Mobile U.S. Inc. (t-mobile.com) offers a “tourist plan” with 1,000 voice minutes, unlimited texts, up to 2 GB of 4G data and unlimited 2G data. US$30 gets you three weeks of service.
– The satellite option
If you’re really going off-grid and want to stay in touch, you will need a satellite phone.
Cellphone providers will rent you a unit and charge you far more for a smaller number of calls and texts. For example, Globalstar Inc. (globalstar.com) offers 125 minutes a month for $79.99, which equates to 64¢ a minute. That increases to 99¢ if you use more minutes, and you must sign a 12-month contract for that plan. Globalstar’s lowest-cost enterprise data plan costs 8¢ per 15-second data session.
If you want to rely on data alone and use your existing cellphone, consider Thuraya Telecommunications Co.‘s (thuraya.com) SatSleeve phone dock, which allows you to make calls and send and receive data from many locations, including while at sea.
Thuraya’s data plans cost US$7.50 per MB on a pay-as-you- go basis or 10 MB a month at US$59.99 through a contract.