How to keep your old phone number when you switch mobile networks

Save money without changing your digits.

I’ve been a fan of switching mobile networks for a long time now. Though most major networks are charging a fortune for your calls, texts and data, you can pay a fraction every month for the same service at one of the many challenger brands.

I know a lot of people get put off doing this because of two things. One, they worry about reception. And two, they don’t want to change their number. Neither of these is going to be a problem.

Once you’ve found a new network (that might even offer the exact same signal as your existing one), then it’s time to request your Port Authorisation Code, aka PAC. Here’s how to get it and what to do.

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How to switch and keep your number

A few years ago new rules were introduced to make getting a PAC really easy, and bypass the dreaded customer service agent who would take forever to issue you the code.

Now to get your PAC you now just need to text ‘PAC’ to your old network via the number 65075. It’s the same whichever network you are with. You’ll then get sent your code within a minute. Though I’m not switching I gave this a try, and I was also required to include my date of birth.

You then need to give this number to your new mobile provider. The code is valid for 30-days. Your new network will then sort out everything and move your number over within one working day.

In practice, this means you will start the day on your old network, and at some point that’ll go dead. That’s when you need to swap your SIM card over, which will now be working on your existing number. 

So don’t submit your PAC on a Friday as you’ll have to wait until Monday or even Tuesday for the change to happen. I also make sure I’m not out and about or expecting any important calls.

Why you might not want to use this method

So this method certainly makes it much easier. Not only is it quicker, but you avoid having to listen to increasingly desperate sales teams trying to stop you from switching away. I know people who will be incredibly grateful for this as they hate those conversations.

But for me, those calls are the reason I was able to cut my monthly bill without switching away. I now pay just £8 a month for 12GB of data with Three, rather than the standard price of £12.

Each time I’ve called up Three to get a PAC having found a cheaper deal elsewhere, they’ve come back with a huge saving. And four out of five times I’ve taken the deal. So it really can pay to go through the pain of a 20-minute chat (they really can be painful) for some substantial savings. In fact, maybe try live text chat instead so you can do something else at the same time!

My main tip if you do choose to haggle is not to take the first offer. They need to beat or at least match what you can get elsewhere. So do some research before calling, and do take into account extras you might get.

Of course, even with a text message PAC request there’s nothing to stop your old network calling up and trying to get you to change your mind, so if you really don’t want to make that initial call you could always give that a go.

Things to bear in mind when requesting a PAC

You can get the PAC before you open a new contract

Just because you ask for a PAC, whether by text or in a phone call, you don’t have to use it. And it’s valid for 30 days. So it’s probably worth calling up and asking for your PAC to see what deal you are offered before opening up a new contract elsewhere.

You’ll get charged to switch if you’re in contract

If you are in the middle of a contract when you try to move networks it’s likely you’ll get charged for however much time you’ve got left, so it’s probably worth waiting until your contract is due to end. You can text ‘INFO’ to 85075 to find out what this cost will be.

You don’t have to have a new number

If you want to switch networks and start again – but still close down the old account at the same time – then you can text STAC to 75075.

Why switching network can save you money

You really can save money either by switching to a cheaper network or haggling on your current price. I’ve written about this a few times, so I’ll let you read more about “virtual” providers out there offering cheaper tariffs with the same signals as the main networks.

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