Google Fi announces new Unlimited plan with free international calling, 50% discount on phones
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Google Fi has made itself the go-to cell phone provider for many international travelers. In over 200 countries and territories, travelers can connect to the local cell towers using their Google Fi phone — paying just $10 per gigabyte for data and no more than $0.20 per minute for international calling.
For Katie's and my nomadic travels around the world, it's truly been a game changer. While we may be able to save a bit by getting local SIM cards in some countries, the simplicity of having cell and data work as soon as we touch down in a new country has made it our primary source of mobile internet and data for years.
Now, Google Fi is changing the game again with a new plan option:
New "Unlimited" plan
On Sept. 17, Google Fi unveiled its new "Unlimited" plan. Rather than paying a base rate for text and calling plus the $10 per GB of data users, Google Fi users can now opt in to pay a flat price for unlimited international data plus free international calls from the U.S. to more than 50 countries and territories. Rates start at $70 for one line and decrease to just $45 per line for 4-6 lines:
Of course, no plan is truly unlimited. Google Fi will "reduce speeds after 22GB of usage per person in a given month" and "may also optimize video streaming quality to 480p" — which Google Fi points out is "DVD quality."
The 56 countries and territories where you'll be able to call for free from the U.S. are listed as:
American Samoa, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, China, Christmas Island, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jersey, Korea, South, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Singapore, Spain, St. Martin, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, Vatican City, Venezuela, Virgin Islands
Note that the free calling "only covers calls to standard, non-premium mobile and landline numbers."
Does it make sense to switch to the Unlimited plan?
As with so much, it depends. One might assume that the primary driver of whether or not you should switch is the amount of data that you generally use. However, the price differences between the existing "Flexable" plan the Unlimited plan aren't as drastic as one might think. Since January 2018, Google Fi has capped data charges for the Flexible plan at a regressive 6GB- to 3GB-per-person rate depending on how many people are on your plan:
So, if you assume 5GB per user per month of data, the two plans are fairly similar with the Unlimited plan never worse than the Flexible plan:
At 3GB per user per month of data, the Flexible plan is better for 1-3 users, but worse for 4-6 users:
However, one potentially-significant difference between these plans is the free calling from the U.S. to 50 countries. If you don't make that many international calls, this feature isn't going to matter much, but it could be a huge price difference for those that have a lot of international calling.
Another noteworthy difference is when Google Fi starts throttling data. Under the Flexible plan, a user's data is reduced to 256 kbps when that user hits 15GB of data. With the new Unlimited plan, Google Fi "will reduce speeds after 22GB of usage per person in a given month." A Google Fi spokesperson clarified that this speed reduction is applied "on a per user basis in a given month." The throttled speed isn't disclosed. Regardless, the increase from 15GB to 22GB before a user is throttled could make a big difference for some power users.
Thanks in part to hitting the 10GB cap on paying for data, Katie and I have averaged paying for 8.7GB of data per month this year. Adding that $87 average cost to the base charge of $35 ($20 for the first person and $15 per additional line), we are paying $122 per month before taxes/fees and international calling. With the new plan, we will pay $120 per month while getting virtually uncapped data and a number of international calls that we make will be free. So, for us, it's worth switching.
How to switch to the Unlimited plan
For us, switching plans is a no-brainer. So, let's show you how we did it. First, you'll want to head to Google Fi's switch plan page. Select "unlimited" and click next:
The next page will confirm the details of the new plan:
At the bottom of this page, Google Fi notes that "your first bill will be higher than usual" as you'll pay for data at the beginning of the month — instead of a majority at the end of the month. This will cause a much larger bill at the time you switch over, as you're going to pay for the prior month and the next month at the same time.
If you agree, click "schedule switch" and re-agree to the Google Fi terms and conditions. The plan switch will be effective at the beginning of your next billing cycle. Unfortunately for us, that means waiting almost a month before we get to switch to an unlimited plan:
50% off Pixel 3 phones
To celebrate the new plan, Google Fi is offering 50% off Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones through Sept. 18 or until supplies last. That drops the pay-now price to as low as $399 for a Pixel 3 and $449 for a Pixel 3 XL. No discount code is needed. Just head over to the Google Fi shop to start your purchase.
I personally upgraded from a Pixel 2 to a Pixel 3 XL when Google Fi offered a spectacular 100% rebate (via travel gift card) on the purchase of a new Pixel phone. In addition to a speedy processor and massive screen, the phone's camera has been a complete game changer. My Canon G7X camera has been barely used since I switched over to the Pixel 3 XL, with a majority of my flight review photos now being taken with the Pixel 3 XL.
I highly recommend putting the purchase on a credit card that provides extended warranty protection. Thankfully Katie put her cell phone purchase on her Chase Sapphire Reserve in September 2016 and she received a check for the entire purchase price of the phone when it died suddenly in December 2017.
Once you’re signed up for the service, you’ll want to put monthly bills on the Ink Business Cash Credit Card or the Chase Ink Plus (not open to new applicants) in order to earn 5x points on your cell phone bill (on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary).
If you’re at a higher risk of breaking your phone, you’ll want to put the bill on the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card instead. This card earns 3x on cell phone bills (on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary) and provides cell phone damage and theft protection up to $1,000 per claim, up to three claims in a 12-month period with a $100 deductible per claim.