I’ve written before about cell phone burners and churning as an integral part of travel hacking, but it’s been a long time since then and there are some recent opportunities available right now that are likely to go away when the calendar turns. So, a refresher on why you should have burner phone numbers:
- Many FinTech companies tie their account to a phone number, so scaling them requires new numbers
- Many referrals and referral bonuses work by referring another phone number
- Many online stores use a phone number for two factor authentication and as a back-door way to quantity limit
- If you’re shutdown by, I don’t know, Dell or AA, a new phone number is a big part of spinning up a new account
- Many amazing mobile phone deals or mobile service deals require porting in an existing phone number
Burner phone numbers give you scale, access to great deals, cheap phone swaps and upgrades, and help you recover from different types of account shutdowns.
Getting New Phone Numbers
Burners are part of the game, but not all burner telephone numbers are equal. For example, free phone numbers from TextNow can’t be ported out, and often companies and services will recognize and block these and other VOIP numbers. Phone numbers from Google Voice usually aren’t eligible for referrals, referral bonuses, or porting out bonuses. Companies have closed the obvious loopholes.
To make sure your burner phone number works with essentially everything out there, you’ll want to get a new number from one of the providers on this list published by Visible, which is mirrored by essentially all the services out there. There are a few easy and cheap options on that list:
- Ting: Most of the year you can get a SIM card with a new phone number for $1 at BestBuy and Target. The SIM card comes with $30 in credit which covers all the time you need to port out a number
- Google FI: Using a referral code will get you $20 in service credit, which will more than cover the couple of days that you’ll need to hold a number to port out
- Mint Mobile: You can get a seven day “trial” service for $2, also at BestBuy and Target. Unfortunately you have to ask customer service for your account number for porting out so I prefer the above options to Mint
Once you’ve got phone numbers from the above, you can either hold them for long-term use or use them to unlock new deals.
Holding Phone Numbers
If you want to hold a phone number long-term, there are a few cheap options:
- Google Voice costs $20 to port-in, but there aren’t further fees afterword
- Tello costs $5 per month with free port-in
Talk about burying the lead eh? Everything above was to bring us to this point. December has some crazy good phone deals, and I’ve linked to some of the best ones here but others are available. Note that if slickdeals says one of the below deals is dead, it’s lying. As always, if you go for one of these deals make sure you use a portal for cash back.
- Visible: Get an iPhone 13 with a $200 Amazon or BestBuy gift card and AirPods Pro and $15-30 back via a portal with a phone number port in
- Costco: Buy one iPhone 13 and activate a T-Mobile line, get a second for $720 off
- Visible: Swap an old cell phone for a new one (Moto G Pure is the best option) and $15-30 back via a portal with a phone number port in
- BestBuy: Swap an old cell phone and open a new T-Mobile line for a (probably) very high trade in value against a new high-end phone like the iPhone 13
- Metro: iPhone XR for $130 or Samsung Galaxy A52 for $60 in store, one month service required
- Xfinity: Bring your own device for a $200 gift card per line (90 day service required, but you can have up to 10 phones on the same plan for a total cost of $15 per month, whether its 1 phone or 10 phones)
- Cricket: iPhone SE (second generation) and three months of service for $180 (these phones can be traded in at BestBuy for $300+ when opening a new line, and BestBuy doesn’t care if a device is locked)
With the T-Mobile deals, you can open a “Talk and Text only” plan for $20 per month, or switch to that plan right after opening. T-Mobile will automatically unlock phones after about 45 days but will do it sooner when asked. Visible will unlock phones automatically after 60 days. Metro will unlock phones after six months. There’s also a way to unlock phones with AT&T SIM cards if you’re crafty.
Coincidentally, The Daily Churn Podcast just released an episode on flipping iPhones which is quite complimentary and relevant to the above.
What Scale Looks Like
I’ve been through at least three dozen Ting phone numbers in 2021 alone, and I feel like I could have done quite a few more but frankly I just focused on other things. With most of these deals, you can do five to ten in a single sitting, so it doesn’t have to be a slog.
I also know of a particular reader who did over a hundred lines with a particular Visible deal in a single month, and I’m sure there are people out there who’ve done more than that.
Good luck out there!