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A Step by Step Guide on How to Switch Phone Carriers and Keep Your Number

Hiker at a crossroad

If you’ve made it here you’re probably looking into switching carriers. Well, we’re going to try to answer all of your questions. We’ll cover what you need to do before you start the switch, and what you should do to make sure you can keep your number. Plus, some Visible-specific information, ya know—just in case you’re considering us as your new carrier.

Before switching

There are a couple of things you’ll need to get ready and/or remember before starting to switch:

1. The first one is really crucial: do not cancel your service with your current carrier before you’ve completed your number transfer. You won’t be able to keep your phone number if your line has been deactivated.

2. Collect all your account information. You’ll need things like your account number, billing information, any account PINs or passwords. Your new carrier will likely need some or all of this information to begin moving your number.

3. If you’re going to be using the same device, make sure it’s unlocked! You don’t want to go through all the steps to keep your number and move carriers only to find your device is locked to the old one. You might also need your IMEI number. Find that by “calling” *#06# on your device and making a note of it.

Switching carrier

All ready with your info, device, and new carrier selected? Great. Whoever you’ve chosen, here’s how you’ll do it:

1. Figure out whether your device uses a SIM card or an eSIM. A regular sim is the little chip that you will have inserted when you first set up your phone. An eSIM is just a digital version which is downloaded and stored on your device.

2. Go ahead and purchase a new plan (and new device or SIM as needed) with your new carrier.

3. Here’s where you’ll need all of that info you collected. Have it ready to input or give to your new carrier.

4. Your new carrier will take it from here. They’ll contact your current carrier and start the process. If you're bringing your device, they should let you know how and when to swap your SIM.

5. Your old plan should be deactivated automatically once your new one is active, but if you have any questions, expect termination fees, or have any issues, you can give your old carrier a call to check on everything.

Coming to Visible

We wanted to help you out regardless of where you’re going, but if you’re coming to us we’ve got some more specific guidance. Follow the video along with these step-by-step instructions to join the Visible squad, and we’ll be waiting to welcome you on the other end.

1. Signup for Visible or download the Visible app
2. Click “Yes” when asked if you want to keep your current phone number
3. A number must be active at another carrier to transfer
* Click “Yes” if your number is currently active
4. If you intend to use your own device, it will need to be unlocked
* Click the “Yes” button to confirm your equipment has been paid off in full and is unlocked by your previous carrier
* See How to Unlock a Phone When Switching Carriers for more
5. Enter the phone number you intend to keep then click “Next”
6. You will now be asked to provide additional information
* Your current carrier account number
* Generally found in your billing invoice
* Can also be found while signed into your carrier online account
* The account PIN or password
* Generally 4-digits
* PIN numbers could have been updated or changed
* Visible may be capable of helping retrieve PIN numbers when provided a contact number during sign up
* The ZIP code where the current bill is mailed

If you want to switch to Visible please don’t cancel service with your old provider until you activate service with Visible. Need more information on how to do that? See our article on How To Insert SIM Card and Activate Service for more information.


Can I keep my cell number if I switch carriers?

Yes! Of course. When changing carriers, just make sure you don’t cancel your existing service before you transfer your number. You should also check your contract for early termination fees and/or outstanding balances that you’ll need to consider when making your decision. Then follow all the steps above to make sure it’s a smooth process. You may request service from a different company at any time. When changing companies:

Can I use my phone during porting to a new carrier?

Yes, but with some considerations that may change depending on whether you’re changing devices. Best to confirm with your new carrier when you initiate the switch.

How long does it take to switch?

It should take at most 24 hours. It may be even quicker, because the wireless industry in combination with the FCC agreed on a goal of 2.5 hours or less.

Will my current carrier allow me to switch to a new carrier?

You’re allowed to request to switch at any time. Before you do that you should make sure your phone is compatible, and check your current contract for early termination fees, loan balances on any devices you have financed through your prior carrier, or other outstanding balances.

How can I check if my number is eligible for transfer?

You should be! However, there are few exceptions. The biggest one is if you are moving to a new geographic area. If that’s the case you may not be able to keep your number. In rare instances some rural wireline service providers have waivers so that they don’t have to meet porting requirements. If that applies to you, you can contact your state public utilities commission for further information.

You also have to be the owner of your number, so if your wireless account is in someone else’s name (whether it is a family plan or a business plan), then you may not be able to move your number without the owner’s consent, with some limited exceptions.

Will I lose service during the porting process?

You shouldn’t, and it’s likely that for a short period your number may work on both carriers, but you should confirm this with your new carrier when you initiate the switch.

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