Rob Carrick is on holidays so this week’s newsletters will be written by Globe and Mail personal finance reporter Erica Alini.
Ah, the thrill of checking your cell phone bill after a vacation to see if you’ve been dinged with roaming charges! Personally, I rank those surprise fees as the worst part of travelling abroad as a Canadian, right after the high chance that your flight will be delayed or cancelled and your luggage lost along the way.
But I write today bearing good news. While there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to our flying woes, roaming fees may soon be a worry for the past. You can thank e-SIMs for that.
The name stands for embedded SIMs, a digital version of the unique identifiers inside our cell phones that are quickly replacing physical SIMs in newer devices. Some phones currently have a physical SIM and an e-SIM that can be associated with a second phone number and different data provider. Others support two active e-SIMs at the same time.
You can guess what I’m getting at: When you’re travelling, you can assign a plan by a foreign provider to your e-SIM and pay for service like a local. No more signing up for expensive international roaming plans that make it all too easy to go over their low data caps. And no need to swap your physical SIM for a foreign one, either.
I gave this a try over the holidays while I was in Italy visiting family. I paid less than $15 for 3 gigabytes worth of data with Italian carrier Vodafone and am happy to report that I didn’t spend a cent on roaming fees. And neither did I spend any time stressing about running out of data or busting through my data limit.
The easiest way to take advantage of e-SIMs for travel is likely to buy a local prepaid data plan through an online e-SIM store. On the recommendation of a colleague here at the Globe, I used Airalo. The setup was relatively easy, and I appreciated the fact that the service cuts you off when you run out of data, instead of charging exorbitant overage fees. If you need more data, you can buy another plan or top up the one you have. A quick Google search reveals there are several other e-SIM marketplaces.
The only catch with my Airalo plan was that it would only work for data. Had I made calls or sent texts with my Canadian phone number, I would have been roaming. But I easily got around the issue by relying on the WhatsApp app for local calls and messages. That said, it’s a good idea to parse user ratings before you buy. On Airalo, for example, customers in certain regions of the U.S. and other countries reported issues connecting to local networks.
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Erica’s personal finance reading list
40 ways to ‘make less trash’ (and save money)
A reasonable and practical list of tips to cut down on your household waste. I love that the advice includes using what you already have at home rather than buying all the new eco products. We don’t hear that often enough.
Yes, the quality of the stuff we buy truly is worse
One of my favourite memes on the Internet right now compares a new and an old fridge. The 2021 appliance, according to the joke, will break within two years. Meanwhile, a 1980 fridge is quoted as thinking: “I will outlive you and everyone you love. I am eternal. I am time itself.” This article by Vox journalist Izzie Ramirez explains why the quality of almost anything we buy is deteriorating and what we, as consumers, can do about it.
A guide to the First Home Savings Account
First Home Savings Account (FHSA) will be become available for the first time this year. It’s a new registered account meant to help Canadians over 18 and save up to $40,000 tax-free to buy a first home. Interestingly, any unused funds in an FHSA may be transferred to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). Here’s a plain-speak guide to the new savings plan.
The best allowance apps for kids
The personal finance blog Savvy New Canadians reviews the best apps to help kids manage their allowance.
New products that caught my eye
A modest New Year’s resolution for me is to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. Here’s where I started my research as I look for alternatives.
Today’s financial tool
Behavioural biases – we all have them, and they affect our ability to think clearly about money. Here’s a tool to help you check your own biases.
The money-free zone
I haven’t cracked it open yet, but Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town, and the Road to Reconciliation by Douglas Sanderson and Andrew Stobo Sniderman (with whom I briefly overlapped during my time working at Maclean’s magazine) is next on my to-read list.
Listen to this
In episode 231 of their Rational Reminder Podcast, Benjamin Felix and Cameron Passmore, portfolio managers at Ottawa-based PWL Capital, talk about the basics of investing. A must listen.
What I’ve been writing about
- Scotiabank declined her account application, then set a deposits cap. She still doesn’t know why
- Auto makers want to charge you for subscriptions and aren’t giving up
- Decisions on passenger claims will extend to other travellers on same flight, CTA says
More Rob Carrick and money coverage
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Even more coverage from Rob Carrick:
- 🎧 Catch up on Stress Test: Is the middle class dead for millennials and Gen Z? • Gas prices are soaring. Are electric vehicles an affordable solution? • Crypto is booming, but should you invest? • How are young Canadians dealing with soaring rents? • Inflation is squeezing our finances. What can we do about it? • Is a hot housing market squeezing Canadians out of their small towns?
- ✔️ The housing file: How bad is housing affordability? Even a crash won't help • Sell the family home to lock in profit and then rent? Better not • Why young adults can't afford houses: Hard work got you more in the past than it does now • Five reasons you should not buy a house till you're at least 30 • Now more than ever, owning a house is not a retirement plan
- 📈 Investing: The 2022 ETF buyer's guide: Best Canadian equity funds • The 2022 Globe and Mail digital broker ranking: Does the zero-commission revolution flip the script on who's best? • With bonds sinking, conservative investors are waking up to risks they never saw coming • A five-step plan for dealing with the sad fact that almost every investment is falling lately • The best financial advice in advance of retirement? Work on your marriage • One-year GICs are the best deal in town for safety seekers • What to do if the financial plan you paid thousands for disappoints
- 💰 Your money: Are you prepared for the pandemic wealth boom to blow up in our faces? • This hard-working 24-year-old is nailing it financially. But where’s the happiness? • Who should and shouldn’t worry about the wave of rate increases this year, and what every stressed-out borrower should do right now • Don’t make this potentially costly assumption about the CPP Survivor’s pension