Receiving SMS/Calls to US Number Abroad
August 30, 2018 4:43 AM   Subscribe

I need to be able to receive calls, or at least voicemails, and SMS on a US number while outside of the US, mostly in the EU. I don't need to send calls or SMS from this number/service, I can continue using paid Skype calling services or my local number.

Most USians in Europe short term keep their US cell contract and add an international component, but for long term use this is too expensive and I don't have a dual sim. I no longer have a US phone contract and just do pay as you go with different numbers whenever I'm visiting the US.

Based on a review of other asks it seems like Skype or Google Voice might have a solution so I set up a Google Voice Account but it seems to be for call forwarding to a US number and I had access problems when not in the US. Is Skype my only option then? Any other services I can consider?

I expect a paid service, but would like to keep it low cost. I'm in the US now and can do the setup here if that makes a difference. Android phone.
posted by perrouno to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I use Skype and my US Skype number costs me about 30 euros a year. It is a US number that I set up so my parents can call me. It is in their area code too so it is a local call for them or others in my family. I set it all up from here in Europe.

When they call me, it first rings me on Skype if my Skype is up. From there it next rings my European mobile number which I set up as a forwarding number (I can change this anytime)

What works really well for me is that if I call a number in the US, say, using Skype the number that shows up on their phone is the US number.

So this all works well for my needs.
posted by vacapinta at 4:53 AM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have Google Voice forward to my e-mail address rather than a phone, and receive all messages that way.
posted by metasarah at 5:33 AM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

I did the same as Vacapinta when I was in China with similar results.

Note that you can't receive SMS on the US Skype number.
posted by duoshao at 5:49 AM on August 30, 2018

I was able to send/receive calls and texts from the US to a smartphone in Nicaragua through a google voice app using a US google voice number. I would expect this to work in Europe as well.

The only fee was Google knowing all.
posted by aniola at 7:10 AM on August 30, 2018

PS - You CAN use google voice for call forwarding but you don't have to. The number associated with my google voice is an old number that hasn't been mine for years. There's even websites set up to hand out free temporary US phone numbers so you can set up google voice accounts.
posted by aniola at 7:12 AM on August 30, 2018

SMS is pretty important because I've had issues with paypal, airbnb, and other sites verifying my device/account with text only despite my requests to do it by email. I'll try to tweak Google voice again and see if I can fix it.
posted by perrouno at 7:49 AM on August 30, 2018

I'm in Poland and I'm using the Magic Jack app on my phone to send and receive texts from US numbers. My Magic Jack number is a regular US phone number. Works beautifully for me.
Check out their website for more details.
posted by M. at 7:56 AM on August 30, 2018

It's worth noting that there a distinction between texts from a regular user with a regular number, and from a shortcode (like a bank would use for verification). I've had mixed success getting shortcodes to work--per this forum thread, it appears that it may be that because Google Voice numbers are reported as landlines, some services refuse to even try to send the SMS, while others send it anyway. If your use case is specifically to receive SMS from businesses, I think Google Voice just isn't going to work 100% of the time.
posted by yuwtze at 8:14 AM on August 30, 2018

PS Android phone
posted by M. at 8:34 AM on August 30, 2018

yuwtze makes a good point about shortcodes. I have issues getting shortcodes from my bank on my GV #.
posted by AugustWest at 9:33 AM on August 30, 2018

I live in the US but travel internationally quite a bit, and unfortunately still haven't found a good solution to this. The best option to date for me has been to keep my US number w Verizon and use Wi-Fi as much as possible (and worst case pony up the $10 / day for travelpass). Fortunately I don't normally incur roaming charges for incoming texts, so it's worked okay for 2FA purposes. I know this is the option you're specifically trying to avoid though.

One alternative might be to get the cheapest possible US plan that'll allow you to receive texts internationally (don't need data obviously) + a cheap burner phone. Not sure what the best option would be, but I know several colleagues who have T-Mobile specifically because of their free international roaming. Maybe you could keep one of your US prepaid numbers for this purpose - just throw the SIM into a cheap phone?

Failing that, I know several folks who go the Google voice route, although I've never tried it. It might be your cheapest (if not always the most reliable) option - there's a charge to port a number to Google Voice but the service is free.
posted by photo guy at 10:55 AM on August 30, 2018

im on google fi, with an unlocked phone and can send/receive sms internationally with no fee. I'm really happy with Fi, but i live and travel in areas with good coverage, ymmv
posted by askmehow at 12:18 PM on August 30, 2018

I have my old landline number parked with Numberbarn for $2/month. Occasionally I get voicemails or texts via email.
posted by the_blizz at 4:59 AM on August 31, 2018

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