How to get SMS verifications for banks while traveling?

Any suggestions for seamlessly receiving SMS Verifications from US financial institutions and other sites while traveling internationally continuously? Won’t keep my US Verizon account due to cost and currently plan to use local sims at each destination (T-Mobile and Project Fi are NOT an option as they terminate for continuous roaming). In summation, I won’t have a US mobile account.

Unless I’m missing something, which is very possible, this appears to be the single most complex issue I’ve encountered in my preparations, and one that no one addresses. I would greatly appreciate any possible solution that works 100% of the time. Can’t afford surprises in this regard. Many Thanks! Jack.

The ONLY long-term viable solution:

Keep your home country mobile phone subscription. Put that in a low-end backup phone that can receive SMS (like Android). Make sure it’s GSM and multi-band compatible for world wide usage.

Now receive SMS anywhere.

Virtual numbers are bullshit, they don’t work or stop working. Google Voice is same. Twilio same. You can’t change your number every new place you go.

The simplest solution: Keep. Your. Subscription.

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So if I understand correctly, I place my current sim in an internationally adequate burner phone.
I then assume that I will need to maintain a mobile line with a minimal data access plan so looking at about $50-ish a month to keep my current subscription alive. Won’t I incur international roaming and receive phone calls (both pricey)?

I really like the concept if I can find an inexpensive way to make it happen. Any additional clarification is much appreciated and thank you so much for the informative reply. Great to encounter someone with a viable definitive solution. Thank you and I’d love to hear more when time!

Have you tried one of virtual numbers? My home country phone number does not work outside home/Europe so I was thinking about getting some Twilio number and getting those SMSes to my email or something, just did not have time to look into it.

You don’t need data for SMS. My provider offered me a $4/month subscription or prepaid option to keep the number / stick with them when I told them I’m leaving the country for a while.

No, won’t work. See my post. Virtual numbers work temporarily or not at all.

The whole point of SMS verification is to have real subscriber phone numbers so that humans are behind it.

Get a home country SIM and 2nd phone!

Same I pay $3/m to keep my number and get free SMS worldwide

Spoke at length with all US Verizon agents in various departments (regular/ pre-paid/ international). Bottom line… no solution comparable to what others have mentioned here… other than maintaining my full plan. Not an option… cost prohibitive.

If anyone knows of a US based option for inexpensively remedying this dilemma I’d greatly appreciate the information!

Thank you!

It was actually a question for you about virtual numbers (forgot the mention).

Did you try it? Was the apps declining to accept the number or SMS just did not arrive to that number? I think I seen some mentions that some people use that, but did not dig around too much.

Home country SIMs more or less suck, so not sure if that would be an option (will need to explore once I’m close to it).

Thank you for this, @levelsio! I was beginning to think that was the only option, so I’ll have to bite the bullet when I get back to Canada. Hopefully, there’s something less than the $10 I found so far :sweat: Canada’s a killer on phone bills

Anyone have a recommendation for the best (more importantly cheapest) Android phone as a burner for this purpose? I’d honestly only also use it for testing purposes other than SMS verifications and constant Canada phone number.

I ported my USA number over to Number Barn it’s a few bucks a month. My texts get emailed to me. The phone number I forward to a virtual number through Talk-a-tone app.

So texts to my old number go to my email, phone calls forward to a voip number and I use local sim for 4g.

I have lots of two-factor services and they all work fine. Signing new ones up with the number is hit or miss, but old ones (banks etc.) seem to be fine. @levelsio has been on the road longer than me but this has worked for 2+ years with no major issues.

There is a security risk that you are two-factor auth codes go to your email. If you know that your device is compromised, your best bet is to force log-out all other devices.

@jackgopack I also spoke with Verizon about this. What I like about my solution is if you go back to the USA you can port your number back from NumberBarn to any carrier.

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Used to be a major problem for me too. But I got Hushed and it works great. Used it for banks, brokers, paypal and no problems. They have different plans available, so you can do 30 day, 90 day or yearly unlimited plans.

https://hushed.com/

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I’ve had the same US phone number for 15 years—it now lives on Google Voice. It works fine with my banks and 99% of services I’ve tried that require a phone number.

Twilio would be perfect except that it won’t receive sms from short code numbers because it isn’t recognized as a mobile carrier by telcos. So it’s mostly useless for 2fa sadly.

I have three ways to receive SMS from US numbers remotely.

  1. Google Voice - have not had any issues with it yet in about 15 country after 4 years of using it. 2FA works ok with this from my use.
  2. Telzio VoIP (http://telzio.com/) - have used primarily with my business number; have used the SMS feature only on a few occasions so can or cannot vouch for it, but it seems to work ok.
  3. T-Mobile Tablet Plan - have used primarily as my backup international mobile data on my phone. It’s on my primary phone when traveling, but I switch it out to my burner/backup phone after I get a local SIM and service when I get to a location. This costs $30/month.

See my take on this, I think (unless you are using your phone excessively or never return to the US at all) you should be fine with Project Fi at least.

Apart from that try getting a bank account which provides you with a special extra factor (Estonian banks call it a “pin calculator”) that lets you access your account regardless of being able to receive SMSes. I don’t know which (or if even) US banks have this, but you should do some research, maybe even your own bank has something like this, you just never needed it.

That said, @levelsio is completely right in that there isn’t any good digital solution, receiving sms-es on virtual numbers and the likes is always a hit or miss, no matter the provider, don’t risk it.

A propos, don’t risk it, I can very much recommend having multiple bank accounts and multiple credit cards if you are going to start traveling. Not being able to access your money from abroad, thousands of miles away from a branch office is one of the worst things that could happen to you (it’s certainly one of my biggest fears), so it never hurts to have multiple options, maybe even some of the new fintech stuff like Revolut or Monese, besides having at least two credit cards and ideally two separate bank accounts/cards.

I once had some of my credit cards expire on me in Singapore, then one of the ATMs took one of my credit cards, in total I lost 3 cards in a few weeks on a long trip. I still had 2-3 cards/methods to get cash so it was fine but finally it paid out having stuffed my wallet with multiple credit/debit cards in the past few years.

@levelsio Whilst it’s true that virtual number are hit and miss in terms of forwarding directly to another number (because of international wholesale carrier deals always changing and simply dropping the SMS channels), if you use say a Tropo number to forward to email and/or IM there’s absolutely no issue with this technique. :slight_smile:

There are also providers who offer SMS to email gateways but for that cost you may as well keep a SIM. Note that with Tropo, you have to know how to configure it, i.e. setup a (handler.js) script that forwards an outgoing message to another medium. E.g.:

answer()
var msgText = currentCall.callerID+": "+currentCall.initialText
message(msgText, {network:"JABBER", to:myJabber})
message(msgText, {network:"SMS", to:mySMS})
hangup()

If you want to get fancy you could set it up to allow you to change the forwarding number by sending it an SMS from your new SIM (with a password command!), or handle voice forwarding too.

More and more banks are replacing their SMS codes with push notifications to apps, so I’d be inclined to choose a bank with that offering, as the notifications are tied to the phone, not the SIM. Of course if you have multiple app store accounts it becomes a bit of a hassle to swap accounts and update it… but that’s pretty minor.

You may be right on continuous roaming although I have not had a problem yet.

But I used to use Truphone (https://www.truphone.com). It was a great service but really not cheap. They are meant for global people and have NO continuous roaming charges unless you are outside the 100 countries they serve.

How often do you get back to the US? If you do maybe once a month like I do, you will be fine.

Thank you! Great info :slight_smile: