Travelling overseas? Woolworths has a special SIM that will let you call home for a fraction of the cost of roaming.
Woolworths recently introduced the Woolworths Mobile Global Roaming SIM to provide mobile service in more than 200 countries at lower rates than you'd normally pay while roaming.
The call rates
The SIM (suitable for phones that take a regular or microSIM) costs $29, but that includes $10 credits. How quickly you'll use that up depends on where you are and where you're calling.
For example, calls within the UK cost 18c per minute (no charge for incoming calls), and SMSes are 14c each.
Within Singapore, incoming calls are 41c per minute, outgoing calls are 46c per minute, and outgoing SMSes cost 34c each.
The latter rates also apply when you call home from China.
These rates are a fraction of those charged by local carriers. For example, Telstra customer in Singapore pays 85c per minute to calls a local number, $1.55 per minute to call an Australian number, and 40c plus $1.47 per minute for all incoming calls.
Data charges are as low as 6c or 9c per 100KB in various countries, and are charged in 25KB increments. But beware: in the US you'll pay $1.15 - but that's still better than Telstra's roaming charge of 1.5c per KB plus 50c per session.
So it's easy to see how the initial cost of a Woolworths Mobile Global Roaming SIM or similar product can be recouped with even quite moderate use, especially as call credit lasts for 365 days between top-ups and you only need to make one "billable event" (call, SMS or data session) per year to keep the SIM active.
Get your own Australian number
Another feature that will be welcomed by some people is that for $6 per month you can add an Australian phone number to the service.
Apart from being a convenience for friends and colleagues (who can thus contact you without making an international call), you can also divert your normal mobile number to this number.
Even if you're in a country where the Woolworths service charges for incoming calls, that's almost certainly cheaper than your regular carrier's roaming charges.
There are some caveats
Outside of the UK, the Woolworths Mobile Global Roaming SIM is a ring back service. This means that when you dial a number the initial call is automatically terminated and after a brief delay your phone rings and on answering you hear the ringing tone for your call.
Some people find this disconcerting at first.
To get the lowest possible rates in some countries (eg Singapore, China, Hong Kong, India) it is necessary to manually select the local carrier. And you'll need a suitable unlocked phone.
Avoiding huge bills when you're overseas
The cost of using a mobile phone while overseas is so much of a sore point that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy once stated that it was "one of the most common complaints that I hear".
And while the Federal Government has floated rules that would make carriers charge local rates in New Zealand , that still leaves a lot of other destinations.
BIT's guide to beating the mobile roaming charges provides several suggestions, including purchasing a local SIM in the country you're visiting, or a SIM for travellers, like the Woolworths Mobile Global Roaming SIM.
One advantage of a SIM for travellers is that before you begin your trip you can tell the relevant people (close family, the airline, anyone you're visiting) what your number will be. That's not possible if you don't buy the SIM until you reach your destination.
The cheapest way to use your smartphone while overseas is still to rely on free Wi-Fi at your hotel (if you can get it) and other venues in conjunction with VoIP services, but if you really need to stay in contact, Woolworths Mobile Global Roaming SIM, TravelSIM and other services of this kind will save you money without the inconvenience of buying a SIM in every destination country.