Keeping my cell number alive for 2 years
August 4, 2007 10:11 PM   Subscribe

CellPhoneFilter: What's the cheapest/best way for me to keep my US cell phone number while I'm gone abroad for 2 years?

I'm moving to Austria for two years, but would like to keep my US cell number (Mostly so I can add a voicemail message with my current contact info, and so I can use it occasionally when I'm visiting home).

My T-Mobile contract expires next month, and I was planning on switching it to T-Mobile Prepaid. Seems like if I purchase 1000 minutes for $100, then those minutes will expire after one year, and I can get smaller increments of minutes after that with the same 1-year expiration.

Advantage: Relatively easy, don't need to get a new SIM card.
Disadvantage: 1000 minutes may go to waste the first year (aka minute expiration is irritating)
Net expense: $100 + whatever minutes I need the second year. ~$0.10/minute for the first year.

Are there other options I should consider? Can I move my cell number to a SkypeIn account or something snazzy like that? (Not that having a prepaid cell in the US when I visit is such a bad idea)
posted by sdis to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This exact question was asked before.
posted by k8t at 10:20 PM on August 4, 2007

I ported my cell phone number from Verizon to Vonage for a year when I was abroad and then ported it back when I got back. I will say that the process is somewhat frustrating - beware that it may take longer than you expect (a couple weeks to a month in my case).
posted by bertrandom at 12:35 AM on August 5, 2007

Seems like you should be able to find a workaround using GrandCentral.

Since Google bought it, it went private beta, but I can probably swing one invite if you decide it'll help. Email me, Sdis, if so.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2007

If you port your number to Grandcentral or Skypein and the like, you may have a hard time porting it back to a cellular in the future (because the companies involved aren't required to port your number, the way they are in a cellular-to-cellular situation). The theory behind Grandcentral suggests that you wouldn't want to anyway, but keep that in mind before moving your number away from the cellular carriers.

I kept my US cell number while I was overseas for 18 months by doing exactly what you suggest with T-Mobile prepaid -- and that's what I'd recommend that you do.

This is wrong, though:
Disadvantage: 1000 minutes may go to waste the first year (aka minute expiration is irritating)

The _minutes_ don't expire, the account does. To keep the account open (after you've purchased your first $100, and are a "gold rewards" customer), you must buy at least $10 in minutes once a year. As long as you keep refilling before your account expiration date, they won't take your old minutes away.

So, if you buy 1000 minutes on Jan 1st, don't use any, and then just before they expire, buy 100 minutes on December 31st, your original minutes will be given another year before expiration. They'll all be waiting for you when you return to the US.

Incidentally,, sells T-Mobile minutes at a 5% discount.
posted by toxic at 10:30 AM on August 5, 2007

You've probably already gone to Austria, but I saw this question while I was searching for something else, and had a good idea that maybe someone else might find helpful if they encounter this post.

If you went with the idea of getting the Tmobile account with minutes you wouldn't be able to use, you could "loan" the phone to someone who needs a phone for outgoing calls only (for example, an older relative who wants a phone in the car for emergencies). You would just set the ringer to silent and tell them not to answer calls.

So you get to use the voicemail by accessing it remotely, and they get to use the minutes. If you split the price, you would both get a good deal.
posted by clarissajoy at 12:58 PM on November 22, 2007

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