Hi Lifehacker, I’m heading overseas for 12-18 months and I’d like to keep my mobile phone number active as it’s the failsafe/reset for several online services I use (Gmail, LastPass and so on). I won’t be using it for outbound calls, just to be able to receive the occasional SMS or incoming call for verification.
I’d like to pay as little as possible to keep the phone number active while I’m overseas and also make sure the bill stays topped up either by auto-payments or similar. What carrier/plan would you recommend?
Travel picture from Shutterstock
We’re asked this question quite regularly — holding onto your number is a common desire for travelling Australians. The last time it came up, we singled out two current plans as offering a cheap rate and a relatively long expiry period. Both are still available at this writing and allow you to easily recharge online:
- Vodafone’s $20 365-day recharge, which lasts a full year before needing to be topped up.
- Amaysim’s As You Go plan, which lasts for 90 days and has a minimum recharge of $5. That’s almost as cheap as Vodafone over a year.
Both are good general options, but in your case there’s one important caveat: you’ll want the service to work overseas so you can receive confirmation texts. (Google asks for these quite often if you log in from unfamiliar locations.) That in turn means you’ll need roaming enabled, which usually isn’t the case by default on cheap prepaid plans — so make sure you organise that before departing.
Another problem when roaming is enabled is that if anyone who has your current number rings you from Australia, you’ll quickly deplete your credit (since you pay for receiving calls as well as making them). One possible solution? Set up a new number on a SIM and switch your verification to that before you leave. Since you won’t have supplied that number to anyone else, the problem is reduced. The other option is to only put your SIM in your phone when you’ve specifically requested a confirmation text. (In practical terms, you could do this as well as changing your number.)
Last time we discussed this topic, reader Barb noted that most carriers have a grace period, so even after your credit expires, your number may not be immediately reclaimed. While that could help if you’re returning just a few days after a 365-day plan expires, personally I wouldn’t want to risk it, especially if the number controls access to email and bank accounts.
If readers have other plans to recommend, let’s hear it in the comments.
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