In an effort to cut costs, my wife and I decided to switch our cell service from Verizon to Straight Talk. We would have done it sooner had we realized that we could use our existing Verizon phones with a Straight Talk SIM card. I had assumed since Verizon was CDMA, and not GSM, that we would have to buy new phones to switch, but that turned out not to be the case. We decided I would be the guinea pig and port my phone first.
I verified our phones were indeed eligible and ordered SIM cards from their BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) site. Even though we’ve lived in Tampa over a year now, I still had my Atlanta cell phone number. My original plan was to establish service with a new Tampa number (time to get local!), and keep my old service active for awhile until I determined whether Straight Talk’s service was any good. Then I could give people my new number, and discontinue my old service with the Atlanta number. Seemed like a good time to make the switch.
The first hiccup in my plan was that in order to activate an already active phone on Straight Talk, you have to port your existing number from your current provider. You can’t just take out the old SIM card and put in the new one. They are very explicit about this in the activation process. I was hoping to avoid the potential pain of the porting process, but it seemed there wasn’t really going to be any way around that. Oh, well.
I started the activation process around 8pm, and hoped it would be done in a couple of hours. It wasn’t. When I woke up the next morning, Straight Talk’s website still indicated the porting process was “in progress”, with no additional details. Around noon, it still showed “in progress”. I finally initiated a customer service chat to make sure there weren’t any issues.
When you fill out the porting form with your existing carrier account information, one of the things they ask for is your billing zip code. As it turns out, they don’t want your current billing zip code. They want the billing zip code that you used when you created the account. So if you moved at any point after establishing service with your original carrier, your port will get stuck. But Straight Talk won’t tell you that. (To be fair, I guess they would have eventually). Straight Talk’s porting forms gives no indication of this, it just asks for your “billing zipcode”. But the customer service rep stated this requirement as if it should have been obvious.
I had to think back to when we first established service with Verizon to remember what our zip code was. I gave it to the rep, and apparently I guessed right! She told me, very specifically, my port request would be “completed today at 3:37 PM EST”. Pretty sure it was actually done a couple of hours before that. Once it went through, my phone service was indistinguishable from when it had been directly with Verizon; it was just a lot cheaper. The phone even still showed Verizon as the carrier, which makes sense, since Straight Talk is just reselling their network (as well as those of other carriers).
I still really wanted to get a local Tampa number. I found out that you have to order a new SIM card to do this. After selling a bunch of stuff on eBay, I decided this would be a good time to finally upgrade to an iPhone 6+. That way, I could establish the new number on my new phone, and keep the old service active on my old phone while I transitioned and gave people my new number.
So, I ordered a AT&T compatible GSM SIM card from Straight Talk, and when it was delivered, picked up my iPhone 6+ at the Apple Store. That, by the way, was a smooth process. I ordered the unlocked phone using the Apple Store app on my old phone, for pickup at the Apple Store. Walked in, showed them my order with a QR code displayed by the Apple store app, showed them my ID, and they brought it right out and I was on my way.
But I digress! This part of the process was much more straightforward. I logged on to Straight Talk’s website, entered all the requisite info about the SIM card, and my phone was activated pretty much instantly. The one thing that was a little disappointing was not getting any kind of choice on the number. With some phone services (e.g. magicJack) you can pick from a list, or even request a specific number if it’s available, so you can pick one that’s easily memorizable, but with Straight Talk, you apparently just get whatever they decide to give you.
Now the conundrum: what to do about my Atlanta number? I set up call forwarding on that line to my new one, but that’s only a very temporary solution. Obviously I wasn’t going to maintain two lines of service. I gave my new number out to my family, but there are so many people that still have my old phone number from over the years. What to do?
Then I wondered if you could port a cell phone number to a Google Voice account? If I could associate my Atlanta number with a Google Voice account, I could just forward all the calls to my new number, and not have to pay for service for that old number. I could also hold on to that number for a good long time! Turns out you can! Bingo! I had an old Gmail account with an associated Google Voice number that I haven’t used in years. It should be noted, Google does charge a one-time $20 fee for porting the number, which is refunded if it turns out they can’t complete the porting process for whatever reason. You can even keep your original Google Voice number as well, if you want, for another $20. Otherwise, it goes away 90 days after the porting process completes.
I did a few google searches to see what other people’s experiences had been, and then I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for it. A couple of hours after I initiated the process with Google, I got a notification from them that there was a problem with my port. They indicated that I had given an invalid account number.
Straight Talk didn’t show me an account number on the “my account” screen. According to the Google searches I had done prior, if you had a BYOP SIM, the account number was the last 15 digits of your SIM card number and your billing PIN was “0000”. I think that is probably true for GSM phones (e.g. AT&T or T-Mobile), but I finally found that since my phone was a CDMA phone, the account number was actually the IMEI or MEID number on my phone. (On the iPhone, you can find this in Settings -> General -> About). I believe I entered the IMEI number; at least on my phone they were the same number, except the MEID number had one less digit at the end. Also while reviewing this, I realized I had set a PIN on my Straight Talk account, so I used that instead of “0000”.
After resubmitting, I didn’t hear back from Google for awhile. I did receive a call from (866) 667-6470, which I didn’t recognize, so I didn’t answer. In my experience, these types of numbers are usually either telemarketers or bill collectors looking for somebody I’ve never heard of. I usually google these numbers just to check, and it turns out this one is associated with Straight Talk. But, they didn’t leave a message, so I didn’t do anything. I checked my account on their website a little while later, and noticed where my Atlanta phone number used to display, it now showed the SIM card number instead, and labeled it an “inactive phone”. Google, however, still showed the port in progress, and I checked, and still had service on the phone despite Straight Talk’s page claiming it was inactive.
Nothing else happened until the next morning, when I woke up I had an email from Google indicating the port was complete! It took a total of about 22 hours from the original submission. Mission accomplished!
Hopefully somebody else will be searching Google like I was, and find this information helpful!