Don't Lose Your Cellphone Number When Porting

Impatient consumers can shoot themselves in the foot when trying to port their number from their old cellphone provider to their new one, reports the NYT. Instead, make sure you follow these basic steps:

1. Order your new cellphone service
2. Request your old provider release your number to your new carrier
3. Wait for the new carrier to pick up the number
4. Cancel old service

Don’t make the mistake of canceling the old service first to try to save money. Then your number gets released to a general pool and you’ll have a hard time getting it back.

(Photo: iamblueone)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ducksauce says:

    I thought usually the new carrier could do all of those things. When I switched from Sprint to TMobile I just had to call TMobile. They signed me up for their service, requested my number from Sprint, and cancelled my old service for me. I didn’t even have to sign anything.

  2. scoobydoo says:

    I’ve never heard the requirement of asking the old provider to “release” the number. In all the times I ported a number the new provider was the one that sent the donor provider the request for transfer, usually by giving them my account number and the last 4 of my social.

    The only reason I’d call the old provider is to be sure that the contract is indeed over and that you can port out without being hit with an ETF.

    You don’t even have to cancel the old service; once the number has been ported out your old service has automatically been canceled, of course, it can’t hurt to call and check.

  3. apotheosis says:

    1.) Pants first.
    2.) Then shoes.

  4. valarmorghulis says:

    @scoobydoo: I had to do this with ATT/Cingular when I switched to TMo. The caveat is that my account was under a corporate plan with Att/Cing so *I* didn’t actually own it and had to jump through hoops to get them to ask my old company if it was ok to give me the #. A general personal account to personal account xfer? should simply go through the new company and then a check with the old company to make sure they aren’t still gunna charge you for no service.

  5. Buran says:

    Isn’t this about landline number porting, not cell phones? That’s the impression I’m getting from the article.

    When I ported my cell number from Sprint to AT&T a year and a half ago, the cancellation of my old service was handled automatically during the porting process and I never lost service though I carried two phones for a day or two until I was sure the switch was in effect.

  6. sleze69 says:

    @apotheosis: T.G.I.F

  7. QuantumRiff says:

    When I went from USCellular to Sprint, I did the number porting, giving my USCellular info to the sprint rep, and 2 hours later, my new phone was ringing. 2 weeks later, I got a check in the mail from USCellular for the remainder of my month’s service. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how simple it was.

  8. DrGirlfriend says:

    @apotheosis: On extra-sleepy mornings, I’ve done 2, then 1, more often than I care to admit.

  9. chrisdag says:

    For cellphones at least my perception is that the carriers seem to have worked most of the kinks out. I had the “lucky” fortune of being tapped to activate the new corporate iPhones, including porting over Verizon numbers from employees who wanted to bring their personal number onto the company phone (small company; employees had been using personal phones and numbers for business …)

    I did five ports over a few days and only had one minor problem with an employee who had forgotten that his Verizon account was PIN-locked. All the ports completed in mere minutes and doing it all through the ATT “porting center” was a breeze.

    For the employees who ported over from Verizon their accounts were automatically closed. Verizon even handled cases (like my own) where they left my EVDO data card active and (correctly) just ended service on my handset.

    My $.02 of course!

  10. B says:

    I just did this yesterday. My trick: Have you co-worker’s sister who works for the company to whom you are switching take care of everything.

  11. donTHEd says:

    Porting used to be a major pain. Nowadays though, it’s a piece of cake. The customer doesn’t need to do anything but give the new provider some simple information, and wait anywhere between a few minutes and a few hours. (On rare occasions it can take several days).

  12. PermanentStar says:

    The only bit I would add, is check your bill date with your old provider. Some companies will bill you for the full month of service if you port 29 days into the cycle, or 1 day in. Most companies, with a decent argument will agree to prorate the charges, but it depends on who you get, and also your contract information.

  13. EmperorOfCanada says:


    It says cell phone in the article..

  14. drjayphd says:

    @apotheosis: I prefer “stick, gloves, shirt” myself…

  15. SabrinaFaire says:

    Ya I didn’t have any problems with TMobile to Verizon either. Porting from Vonage to Verizon was a MAJOR pain though.

  16. lasereric41 says:

    I’m pretty sure the new carrier does all the work, as long as you haven’t cancelled. Except with landlines, but that’s a whole different animal.

  17. TechnoDestructo says:


    Wow, account closure sure goes smoothly when it’s in a government-mandated context.

    But, you know, regulation is a bad thing, because Ronald Reagan said so.

  18. krom says:

    There’s no “releasing” involved. And if you’ve already ported your number once, your current (not new) provider doesn’t have a lot to do except eventually clean up its own record of the number.

    The new provider talks to the original provider i.e. the owner of the number block, and asks them to (basically) redirect it to the new carrier.

  19. linoth says:

    Whee, lot of telecom stories lately.

    Porting both landline and cell phone service is easy. I can refine it into 5 steps that even cover the bad ports.

    1) If you’re unsure about your contract, call your current provider and politely ask them if there would be any fees or account problems if you were to port your number in the near future. If you still have two weeks on your contract before the early termination fee bites you, this keeps you from saying “Oops” and having to pay a fee that you could have avoided.
    2) Set up service with new company, including the port over. They should submit all necessary documents for you.
    3) Unless something goes wrong, DON’T MEDDLE! Most companies will recieve a port request, negotiate the cut over date if necessary, and automatically forward a note to customer service to have your account close on the day of porting if applicable. If you meddle, nine times out of ten the customer closes their account before the port takes place. And then you lose your number. So just let the companies that do this on a daily basis handle the details and all will go well.
    4) In the unlikely event that something DOES go wrong, remain calm and polite. Regulations require that your number be kept in a “holding” pool a certain period of time before it can enter circulation again. Rescueing it from that hold isn’t incredibly complex, but the CSR is more likely to be willing to take those steps if they don’t hate you.
    5) After all is said and done, call the previous carrier to politely ask them to make sure that your service has been stopped and to find out if a final balance is available yet. It may not be, but they can still make sure that your service and billing have been brought to a close.

    After working in a telecom company, I have to say I’m disappointed that Consumerist is recommending you call your previous carrier to work out any details. That’s what MAKES mistakes, not what prevents them. These companies do this multiple times per day, every day. They’ve got it down to a science that works well when you don’t stick your nose into it, and you don’t try to force them to port on your schedule.

    Exceptions include: Sprint and TimeWarner, both well known for grabbing numbers and forgetting to submit the all important Letter of Authorization. Some day, they shall be caught…

  20. marleydustin says:

    It’s usually free. You also control your number after a new bill was passed back in 2004 by President Bush. As long as you pay your bill you are good to port to a new carrier. This website give a timeline for number ports with all the major carriers and prepaids