How to get SMS verifications for banks while traveling?

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:

FYI, my google voice number actually works for most of these. The picky ones that don’t all have email options for 2 factor codes (Bank of America seems to be the main offender that I recall). I did port my old cell number to google voice (and it had been used everywhere prior to porting) which may make a difference…Three years and no issues yet. So, fortunately I’ve found no need to keep a $$$ us cell line active or resort to anything exotic to make this work.

It’s worth remembering why banks are actually performing SMS verification, as not many people know all of the use-cases, and coming up with a solution to keeping your number while traveling may break one or more of these - Which is more likely to get your payments flagged for suspicious traffic.

The obvious one:

2FA - Banks want to perform some kind of two factor authentication, so they send the one time password via an SMS, which you enter back on a portal.

However more often these days banks are also using this to perform:

Location Checks - When a bank sends you an SMS they’re generally able to do it in a way that gives them a current location for that Phone/SIM, I’m not talking about an accurate GPS location, but they’re able to see which mobile network and country you’re currently roaming on.

As you can guess, if they see your card getting used in the USA, but your mobile number is currently roaming in the UK, they’re more likely to block that transaction as it simply looks strange.

SIM Swap Identification - Similar to the location one, part of the process for sending an SMS provides some basic SIM information back to the sender. So if you’ve sent an SMS before, you can compare the SIM information and see if the SIM card has physically changed. This would be a clear suggestion of SIM cloning, man in the middle attacks or social engineering if this got triggered, especially with an odd location match as well.

The above can be one of the reasons why virtual numbers from someone like Twilio can be problematic, personally I would use real pre-pay SIM from your home country (or where the bank account is located) and have it in a cheap phone for this kind of SMS, just top up with a few £/$ every 3-4 months to keep it active.

I have a business line that I had with Verizon for a long time (US). I ported that number to Google Voice ($20 for a 1 time port charge) then bought a 3 month number from Skype ($20 - this is extendable for $20 every 3 months). I will never sign up with a US provider again. Total cost for 3 months is $40. And the 3 months after that is only $20 + the cost of a cheap sim card.

I forward all calls to my original number (now with Google) to my skype number.

Works like a charm and the best part is that I can buy a local SIM card and get skype over a data plan if I am not in WiFi range.

In this way I was able to keep my original business number and no one is the wiser. I can receive calls on Skype and make calls out if I have to. I use google voice for free texting and when in other countries I often use What’s App because that’s what locals are using.

I have used it for verification purposes no problem.

I found HUSHED to work flawlessly. Cost about $30 a year and you get a lot of minutes and SMS. Never missed a bank or paypal code yet.

I’ve been in Vietnam for 2 years now. I run a business which relies on text messages being sent out / we have a one time password feature, so I’m pretty familiar with Twilio, telephony, and text messaging systems.

I ported my number to Google Voice in October 2016 and it’s worked great since then. I also have a US Skype Number. I usually give out my Google Voice number to US people / US banks and park myself in front of the computer when I need to take a call (this is free, Skype costs money to receive calls). I could have Google Voice forward to Skype and then have Skype forward to my local Vietnam number when I absolutely can’t be in front of the computer, but that seems like too much “forwarding” to me and it could take a long time to connect.

When I know I’ll be out and about or when I need someone to potentially wake me in the middle of the night, I give out my Skype Number which will forward to my Vietnam Number. Google Voice cannot forward to anything but a US number.

This setup works well for all my OTP needs - I’ve successfully used it for banking, stripe, etc. I definitely suggest you port your number to Google Voice ahead of time because it can take up to 3 days, and that may make things confused if you’re also traveling at that time.

I use ‘Cloud SIM’ which is an iOS app. You can use it to create a phone number for the UK, US, Canada or, weirdly, Poland.

Subscriptions in GBP at 99p/1 mo, 3.99/6 mos, 6.99/1 year - so in USD I guess like $10 a year.

It’ provides me with a legit UK number, so whenever I need to verify anything (banks etc), they text, I just open the app and the text is there (you can also use it for making/receiving calls, sending texts etc).

The only issue I’ve had with it is that it doesn’t reliably notify you - so because of this, I don’t use it as a way for people to contact me (as I could miss calls or texts) - however, when you open the app, texts have been there 100% of the time so far, always received (unlike some other cloud services I’ve used) - so it’s been perfect for banks, whatsapp, whatever else because I just open it when I know I’m expecting a verification text and it’s been received 100% of the time.

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