Ask LH: How Can I Keep My Mobile Number When I Travel Overseas?

Dear Lifehacker, I am about to go travelling overseas for at least a year. I’d like to hang on to my current Australian mobile telephone number for when I return. I have heard that if your number is inactive for a certain period of time, the phone carrier can re-use the number with another account.

Is this true? And if so, what is the best way of making sure that my number is not taken? Are there any good 365-day expiry prepaid options you’d recommend? Thanks, Number Keeper

Holiday picture from Shutterstock

Dear Number Keeper,

You’re correct — if you stop using your number, it will go back into the pool of generally-available numbers, and will eventually end up used by someone else. If you want to retain it, then your best bet is indeed to go for a 365-day prepaid plan, but those aren’t as common as they used to be.

The standout offer right now is Vodafone’s 365-day plan, which you can sign up to for just $20. Virgin’s cheapest 365-day deal, the next best, comes in at $49.

Optus will let you recharge for $30 for 186 days expiry, but doesn’t offer a year-long option. Telstra has a $70 recharge that lasts for a full 12 months, but I can’t see the point of paying $50 more than Vodafone given you’re not planning to actually use the phone during that time.

We’d always advise caution when choosing a provider. In the last year, we’ve seen three companies which had well-regarded 365-day plans disappear: Crazy John’s, PennyTel and Savvytel. Crazy John’s customers were shifted to Vodafone, but PennyTel and Savvytel shut down altogether. If that happened and you were overseas, then you’d have difficulties in ensuring your number stayed in place. With that said, it seems unlikely that any of the carriers whose priced we’ve listed above are going to disappear.

One final thought? Leave the SIM and account details with a trusted family member or friend. If you decide to extend your trip, it may well be easier for them to extend the plan from Australia than for you to do so from overseas. Enjoy your travels!


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