Google Fi – Cellular and Data for the World Traveler

[Updated: June 07,2022]
OK, they’re on to us. Google Fi’s Terms of Service state that Fi is intended for residents on the US. Before 2022, they seemed not to intent on enforcing this section of their terms. But since I had been using Fi outside of the US for several consecutive months without connecting to a US cell tower, they discontinued my data access, although I can still make calls, and send and receive SMS messages while abroad. While Fi may be a good option for people who often travel internationally from the United States, it is a less attractive option for permanent overseas residents.

The following is my original post from like 2017:

Google Fi service costs $20/month and $10 per GB of data (after the first 6GB data – the next 9GB are free). International calls cost an additional $0.20/minute, but I just use Skype, Messenger, WhatsApp or Hangouts and call for free using data. Add another line for an additional $15/month (in this case the free data doesn’t kick in until 10GB). You can also add a data-only SIM card for a tablet or compatible phone for free; just pay $10 for each GB of data it uses.

Google Fi works in most countries and there’s no need to switch settings or cards when traveling. Land in another country, turn off airplane mode and you’re online within a few minutes. Anyone calling your US number reaches you regardless of what country you’re in.

Fi also allows you to suspend service for up to three months at a time. Some people get the service just for travelling. They use a local cellular contract, suspending the Fi service when they’re at home and re-enabling it  when they travel. In this case, many couples also use just one line and get an additional data-only SIM card for the other spouse.

There are a few downsides. First, using Project Fi means I have a US number and not a local Korean number. This isn’t a big problem for me as virtually all of my communication is via messaging services.  Second, when I do make a phone call from outside the US, it costs $0.20/minute. But, if I need to make a lengthy call, I’ll usually use Skype or Hangouts and use data or Wi-Fi instead. Third, many Korean institutions expect users to have a Korean cell phone number to receive SMS messages. I finally relented and got a super cheap prepaid Korean SIM just for this purpose.

Crunching the numbers, I find that I’m paying a little more on average while in Korea than I would with a locally available plan (about $70/month vs. approx. $55). But in the summer, I’m no longer paying $120 for 2 months of AT&T’s prepaid plan while still paying for my $55/month Korean plan. I’m also not paying $20-50 to get a prepaid card every time I land in another country. I just keep paying about $70/month to burn through an average of 5GB of data through Google Fi. Due to the 6GB cap on data cost, my bill is never over $80 (plus tax).

If you’re interested in using the service, just head over to https://fi.google.com and feel free to use this referral code https://g.co/fi/r/9CV9YJ to get a $20 credit on your account.

Non-Fi Countries as of May, 2019

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