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

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

Hi Lifehacker, What’s the cheapest way of keeping a mobile phone number if moving overseas for a period of a year or more? Thanks, Number Squatter

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Dear NS,

This is a question we are asked quite often. In practical terms, the cheapest option is to find a prepaid plan which offers a 365-day expiry, and move your number to that. We haven’t yet encountered a plan that runs more than a year — if you’re away long than that, you’ll need to top up again. (That said, if you’re really going to be away for more than a year, how badly do you need to keep that number?)

Vodafone offers a 365-day plan for $20, and that’s the cheapest deal we’ve seen from a major carrier. ALDI Mobile also has a similar deal for a slightly-cheaper $15, but to be frank we’re not completely convinced it will still be around in 365 days. In this context, sticking with a well-established brand is a safer choice.

There are lots of other prepaid options with shorter expiry periods, so if you’re happy to top up online occasionally, you could explore those too. Amaysim’s As You Go plan, for instance, has a 90 day expiry and a $5 minimum credit, so that will also cost $20 for a year. If readers have found other plans with better pricing, tell us in the comments.


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  • OK, I’ve done this. And what I know is that if you’re not planning on actually USING your phone overseas with your Australian SIM, you can not only take advantage of a long-expiry prepaid plan, but ALSO the carrier’s grace period during which they don’t assign your number to someone else even if you have no credit on it, and they just wait for you to top up. So if you’re staying for a year and a couple months, you’re probably fine just getting a 1-year long expiry plan with a carrier that offers one. Check with your carrier to find out for sure what their grace period is. When I did it, I think I had a 1-year plan with a 180-day or maybe 90-day grace period after that. I’ve had the same phone number since 2006, despite spending the majority of my time between 2006 and late 2010 out of the country, returning approximately every year for 2-4 weeks, and that’s how I did it. Definitely, it was worth it to me to pay for the 1-year plan just so that I didn’t have to think about topping up every few months.

    Details: I got my first Aussie prepaid phone in December, 2006. I met a lot of Aussie friends during that holiday that I wanted to be able to meet up with again when (not if) I came back the next year. And the next. And the next. Keeping my phone number appeared to be the easiest way for them to get in touch with me (and me to get in touch with them — I was from a CDMA country and had to buy a GSM phone here in Oz, and stored all my phone numbers in it). And then I moved to Australia in 2010, and was still using my original Australian Virgin Mobile phone number from 2006. Still am, 7.5 years later. I’ve had my Aussie phone number longer than I’ve had any phone number in my home country!

  • I was going to be away 1-2yrs and had a Telstra account which cost $10/mth to keep alive. That was handled by direct debit, except at some point Telstra cancelled the direct debit, allowed the account to go into debt and then handed it over to debt collectors. At no point did it occur to them to try to contact me, and they couldn’t explain their actions in cancelling the direct debit. #areyousurprised

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