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Thread: US expat seeks advice for phone plan - keep a USA #, receive bank text codes abroad.

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by e.mote View Post
    @OP

    It's been suggested banks usually allow e-mail as an alternative for verify. Check. If true, it obviates your need in this thread.

    Becoming an expat entails a lot of things to consider. It's a specialized need that normal services don't cover. At the same time, it is your number one need that may require changing your various services and not just your phone plan.

    Ex: Change bank for lower exchange rate & ATM fees? http://google.com/search?&q=expat+banking

    Suggest you do a lot of searches if haven't already. Search 'expat [service]'. Find expat forums that can help you for much more than a phone plan. 'expat forum [country]'. Avail of the experience of other expats.


    >However, things change.

    Change is one thing you don't want. That's why you should choose a large company/provider vs a small one. Its plans are less likely to be volatile. MVNOs as a whole are not durable. Google being a big dog is an exception.

    >So I'd have to buy a new phone [for Fi]. And as stated a few posts ago, I'd like my next one to be a dual SIM phone.

    You're letting the tail wag the dog. What's more important, your phone service or your old phone?

    Fi does support iPhones if that's you have. Some functionalities are lost, and there's no network switching (a moot point for expat).

    Anyway, I think you're conflating the need for a new (dual-SIM) phone with the need to nail down what is your financial lifeline. Assuming you pick Fi for service, and assuming you need a new phone, then spend the $100 for its Moto G6. It's cheap but a good phone, and should fit your minimal use as a means of bank verfication, and basic talk/text.

    Edit: OK maybe not G6. You need a world phone, ie one that has LTE bands for the telecoms of the country you'll be in. For China, B40,41 are popular. For Japan, B1,8,9,11,18,19,21,28,41. S.Korea, B1,3,5,7,8. This is where a flagship phone (iPhone/Pixel/Samsung) proves its worth.

    As for a new dual-SIM phone, this is not the place to ask. The better place is the country you'll be living in, assuming you'll be there for the foreseeable future.


    >I'm wondering if Verizon, Sprint, etc., may have a Pay As You Go plan or a low post paid plan that would work.

    Don't wonder. Search. http://google.com/search?&q=verizon+paygo

    Yes, there's a VZW PAYGO. No, it doesn't have intl roaming (TravelPass). TravelPass is expensive anyway, at $10/day/device.

    As for Sprint, 'long-term' and Sprint don't fit in the same sentence.

    "It's been suggested banks usually allow e-mail as an alternative for verify. Check. If true, it obviates your need in this thread."

    Yes, I've responded to that a few times already. Banks are rapidly moving away from that and insisting on Text or Voice Call.


    "As for Sprint, 'long-term' and Sprint don't fit in the same sentence."

    What do you mean by that? They change terms rapidly?

  2. #32
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    I wasn’t sure if you got the answer to the Wi-Fi not incurring roaming cost question from few posts back, but Wi-Fi is billed as if made domestically, regardless of where you are when you make the call. They specifically say in the ultra roaming section that Wi-Fi calling doesn’t incur roaming, so using it will be more cost efficient.

  3. #33
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    I guess I've been really lucky with banks. I've used a GV # as my primary phone # since 2009, and GV #s have been my ONLY phone #s since March, 2017.

    I currently use 18 different banks, investment, and credit card companies. Of those 18, of the ones that have needed text verifications, the ONLY one where texts with verification code just never arrive is Chase. I used to have 4 Chase credit cards, but I now only have the Chase Amazon Visa. I let the other 3 go because they all charged foreign transaction fees. But Chase gives the option to email verification codes, at least as of the last time I needed one.

    I think Capital One was mentioned above, but I have several Capital One deposit accounts and a Capital One Visa, and I don't recall ever needing to have a verification code texted, so I can't speak to that. My Capital One deposit accounts were previously ING Direct accounts that were purchased by Capital One in 2012, if that makes any difference.

    Also, I was able to get Uber support to manually add my GV # to their system, and I've successfully used Uber off and on since March, 2017, most recently in August, 2019.

    Finally, the only other work-around I've needed for using GV as my only phone # was when I set up my online IRS account. I wasn't allowed to use my GV # for instant verification. Instead, I had to request and wait a few days for a letter to be sent by USPS with a verification code. Fortunately, I didn't have an urgent need to access my IRS account online, and waiting for the letter wasn't too inconvenient.

    Anyway, all this to say that while I'm sure you tried, and perhaps the banks you're dealing with are somehow more unreasonable than the entities I've mentioned above, but I wonder if you still might be able to find a work-around to be able to use a free and permanent GV # for your situation?
    Last edited by Boz1; 09-12-2019 at 01:10 PM.

  4. #34
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    In my experience, having lived outside of the USA for years at a time, it is extremely important to also have someone back home as a co-signer on your bank accounts with full privileges. No matter what communications systems you have set up they sometimes do not work and being able to simply call your trusted party and have them transfer funds, pay a bill, or whatever is priceless. In my experience, GV is not reliable for sms verification codes, and with some banks it never works. One thing to watch out for is the number you chose as a contact number for things like an investment account. If you subsequently lose access to that number it can be very hard to change, and you may lose access to that account until you can prove who you are.

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    Thanks for all the excellent feedback, guys.

    Keep it coming if anyone has more suggestions.

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    I'm in a very similar position, having been expatriated for the past couple of years, and with lots of things back in the states that would benefit from having a real, functioning US number.

    At some point during a previous stint overseas, I had a Skype number and a Skype handset. But as you and others have noted, VOIP services and numbers are frequently blocked nowadays. I anyway gave up my Skype number once it became clear that they were not going to really keep developing their handset integration. The best solution seems to be a very cheap plan through a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO, AKA reseller), since all the big 4 US operators massively overcharge even for prepaid plans.

    For others who are in a similar position, here's my take on what works.

    *Definitely get a google voice number. Works pretty well by default for voicemails and some SMS, as long as it's not rejecting VOIP.

    *If you need real SMS, and only need SMS, you could probably get away with one of TMobile's funny little free plan SIM cards, which give you about 200 megs of free data per month, and a few SMS receptions. I've had one of their cards in one of my Ipads for years, and I moved it to an old iphone recently and am able to get confirmation SMSs to the card's phone number overseas. This won't take phone calls however, and to my current chagrin the SIM can't be switched onto a Tmobile prepaid plan that does.

    *What you really need is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Nework Operator) prepaid plan, which are cheaper and more limited than the plans the big 4 companies offer.

    Things to look for in an MVNO: Must allow for WIFI calling. This basically means that when you're home (overseas that is), your phone will ring and receive messages without international roaming. Effectively, you'll be in the US as far as the cellular provider is concerned. Not all MVNO providers do allow Wifi calling, although I believe all the ones who use Tmob's network do allow it.

    Here are some MVNOs which seem good to me:
    Mint $15/month, unlimited talk text and data (with an irrelevant 3GB LTE limit; we won't be using data)
    Ting $12/month, 100 calls and 100 texts
    Ultra Mobile PAYGO $3/month for just the phone number, you pay per text and call.

    Google's project FI STILL doesn't offer wifi calling on Iphones, so buyer beware. In addition FI is kind of overpriced for our purposes.
    AT&T offers a prepaid plan where you supposedly only pay them $2 on days of the month that you make or receive a call, or that you SEND an SMS. (Meaning presumably you receive for free). I am investigating this plan further, to see if it can be set up with an Esim and if it allows Wifi calling.

    *Get a VPN installed on your phone. I have a NordVPN paid account, but also frequently use Speedify's AWESOME connection bonding (several gigs/month free) and will switch to their paid service when my NordVPN runs out. The VPN allows you to tunnel to a US proxy, so that any services which check your location will think you are in the USA. Think Venmo and the like. In addition, the Speedify VPN bonds Wifi, Cellular, and Wired DSL connections to double or triple your internet access speed, important if you're in a country with cruddy speeds (like me).

    *The problem I am running into right now is that none of the MVNOs offer ESIMs, which means you have to get a physical SIM card while you are in the US, so an account can't be set up while you're already overseas. Ting is trying to become an ESIM operator, but it's taking them much longer than expected to set up the infrastructure for Esims (they even bought another company specifically for this purpose a couple of years back). A further worry is that even if I got myself a Sim card delivered here, the phone might have to spend time on the provider's network first, to allow it to provision itself before you can take it roaming and wifi calling.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattolejack View Post
    *If you need real SMS, and only need SMS, you could probably get away with one of TMobile's funny little free plan SIM cards, which give you about 200 megs of free data per month, and a few SMS receptions. I've had one of their cards in one of my Ipads for years, and I moved it to an old iphone recently and am able to get confirmation SMSs to the card's phone number overseas. This won't take phone calls however, and to my current chagrin the SIM can't be switched onto a Tmobile prepaid plan that does.
    This is a very novel solution to this problem. I was under the impression you'd run into problems if you put those SIMs into non-iPad devices. How long have you had it in your iPhone? Is this a prepaid SIM, or one tied to a postpaid T-Mobile account? I didn't think international roaming was allowed on T-Mobile prepaid SIMs. This thread on T-Mobile says as much.

    Quote Originally Posted by mattolejack View Post
    Ultra Mobile PAYGO $3/month for just the phone number, you pay per text and call.
    According to their webpage, the first 30 texts (or minutes) are free, then 10 cents each. If Google Voice or Truphone aren't working for someone, this seems like the cheapest straightforward way to have a "real" US wireless number solely for SMS verification. Still, at a cost of $36/year, you better getting your money back sticking with that particular bank.

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    Quote Originally Posted by djphilosophy View Post
    I was under the impression you'd run into problems if you put those SIMs into non-iPad devices. How long have you had it in your iPhone? Is this a prepaid SIM, or one tied to a postpaid T-Mobile account? I didn't think international roaming was allowed on T-Mobile prepaid SIMs.
    The SIM is from their old Free Data for Life promotion. I just looked it up and realized that unfortunately they've ended new signups to the promotion. I had assumed it would go on forever since it's such a small data cap and sort of spreads Tmob goodwill. It works fine in my iphone 6s; at present it's the only Tmobile service I've got (no active postpaid accounts). I haven't bothered trying to roam internationally on it, since I only use that phone at home and work via wifi calling. For the use case presented in this thread, I think international 'roaming' via Wifi calling is more than sufficient.

    Apropos of the AT&T plan I referenced above, it appears that they have a silly requirement that in order to use an Esim, you have to be physically present in one of their stores. So you can't just sign up for an Esim on the internet and activate your phone overseas.

  9. #39
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    On https://www.ultramobile.com/paygo/, it says:
    "Does my plan support International Roaming?
    International Roaming is supported on your plan and is charged from money in your PayGo wallet. Rates for international roaming are located at ultramobile.com/paygo."

    Where exactly are the international roaming rates listed on ultramobile.com/paygo?

  10. #40
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    Boz,

    Yeah, that link was circular -- so I used Google to find their roaming page. I have made the assumption they intended to link to the international roaming page, not the paygo page: https://www.ultramobile.com/international-roaming/

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by high technology View Post
    Boz,

    Yeah, that link was circular -- so I used Google to find their roaming page. I have made the assumption they intended to link to the international roaming page, not the paygo page: https://www.ultramobile.com/international-roaming/
    Thanks. Maybe that's it. The funny thing is, I emailed that question to Ultra Mobile right after I posted the question here, and they haven't replied with an answer yet!

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattolejack View Post
    The SIM is from their old Free Data for Life promotion. I just looked it up and realized that unfortunately they've ended new signups to the promotion. I had assumed it would go on forever since it's such a small data cap and sort of spreads Tmob goodwill. It works fine in my iphone 6s; at present it's the only Tmobile service I've got (no active postpaid accounts). I haven't bothered trying to roam internationally on it, since I only use that phone at home and work via wifi calling. For the use case presented in this thread, I think international 'roaming' via Wifi calling is more than sufficient.
    OK, so one needs to use the SIM in a T-mobile device that features Wi-Fi calling. I have one of the Free Data For Life SIMs but no T-mobile device, so that rules out this as an option for me.

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by djphilosophy View Post
    OK, so one needs to use the SIM in a T-mobile device that features Wi-Fi calling. I have one of the Free Data For Life SIMs but no T-mobile device, so that rules out this as an option for me.
    Well, one would need to use the SIM in any device that supports WiFi calling on T-Mo. It doesn't have to be a T-Mobile-sold device. Pretty much any relatively modern iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or unbranded Motorola (sold direct by Moto or Amazon, rather than from a carrier) should work.

    Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk
    --
    Todd Allcock, Microsoft MVP: Mobile Devices 2007-2011

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boz1 View Post
    I guess I've been really lucky with banks. I've used a GV # as my primary phone # since 2009, and GV #s have been my ONLY phone #s since March, 2017.

    I currently use 18 different banks, investment, and credit card companies. Of those 18, of the ones that have needed text verifications, the ONLY one where texts with verification code just never arrive is Chase. I used to have 4 Chase credit cards, but I now only have the Chase Amazon Visa. I let the other 3 go because they all charged foreign transaction fees. But Chase gives the option to email verification codes, at least as of the last time I needed one.

    I think Capital One was mentioned above, but I have several Capital One deposit accounts and a Capital One Visa, and I don't recall ever needing to have a verification code texted, so I can't speak to that. My Capital One deposit accounts were previously ING Direct accounts that were purchased by Capital One in 2012, if that makes any difference.

    Also, I was able to get Uber support to manually add my GV # to their system, and I've successfully used Uber off and on since March, 2017, most recently in August, 2019.

    Finally, the only other work-around I've needed for using GV as my only phone # was when I set up my online IRS account. I wasn't allowed to use my GV # for instant verification. Instead, I had to request and wait a few days for a letter to be sent by USPS with a verification code. Fortunately, I didn't have an urgent need to access my IRS account online, and waiting for the letter wasn't too inconvenient.

    Anyway, all this to say that while I'm sure you tried, and perhaps the banks you're dealing with are somehow more unreasonable than the entities I've mentioned above, but I wonder if you still might be able to find a work-around to be able to use a free and permanent GV # for your situation?
    I need to report that I just logged into Chase, and noticed that the site looks completely different from before. So I decided to try to set up text alerts using my GV #, and the Chase system texted me 1) a verification code, and 2) a welcome to alerts text, so it looks like Chase has finally fixed their system to be compatible with GV #s!

    When I got those texts from 124273 (Chase) to my GV # in Hangouts, I saw in that text string that I had tried to send Chase some commands back in 2017 that were never replied to, so I guess that's further proof that Chase has now finally fixed their system to work with GV #s, since today's texts from Chase were from that same # (124273).

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    Thanks for all the input, guys.

    I'm going to try Google Voice for my main #, as several here and elsewhere have suggested, despite my hatred of Google's invasiveness.

    Can you please help me understand something about it:

    I linked it to my MagicJack # when I first set it up, so whenever I test call my GV # it rings in on the MJ phone app because it forwards to the MJ #.

    Can I use my computer only, and have it make a call from my computer and ring in on its own app on my computer, as Skype does on the Skype app, without forwarding to an external phone #?

    I'm on the computer on voice.google.com, unchecked forwarding to the MJ #, but it doesn't matter - if I "dial" a # on the computer via the voice.google.com page, it states it will connect to my MJ # on my phone and then it connects me with the # I've called via the MJ app.

    Is there anyway not to do this and as I've stated have it call and receive using the web app only with no phone involved?

    Likewise, can I use the Android app and have it call and receive on the "Voice" app only - as Magic Jack does on the Magic Jack app - without being forwarded to another phone #?

    Thank you.
    Last edited by succeedextend; 10-08-2019 at 07:44 PM.

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