Porting your number away from TracFone/Net10

The FCC mandates that carriers allow customers to port their numbers to another carrier. This usually works quite well; however, if you are a customer of an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) such as Tracfone, you may run into a paradox of sorts: since Tracfone uses another major carrier's towers (T-Mobile in my location), the web-based number porting eligibility tool tells you that your number is ineligible because (in my case) it is already a T-Mobile number.

Despite this fact, it is still possible to port your number. You just need to place your order; your phone will get a temporary number. Then, call your new provider's customer service, explain to them that you are currently a customer of one of their MVNOs (or "wholesale partners"), and you will be on your way. Just make sure your Tracfone/Net10 account information matches the information you tell the customer service representative.

This whole process took around 20 minutes for me, although T-Mobile told me it would take up to 72 hours (3 days). I was pleasantly surprised when I received a text message on my new phone stating "your new number is XXX-XXX-XXXX" and my old Net10 phone displayed an "Unregistered SIM" message.

Note that the process is different if your Tracfone's underlying carrier is not the carrier you are looking for. (Use the sign-up tool on Wireless AMBER Alerts to determine the underlying carrier). In those cases, the number portability checker will say that your number is eligible, and will prompt you for an account number; you will need to enter either your Tracfone's IMEI or the full number.

Posted on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Tags: mobile, cell phone

Comments (15)

Friday, April 2, 2010 at 7:57 AM
Thanks. That's an interesting way to find out what your underlying carrier is.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 9:23 PM
Thank you so much! I was on the phone for over an hour trying to get this figured out with them and I told them it was a MVNO phone under them and they still couldnt figure it out and then I read the "wholesale partner" thing to them and they immediately knew what to do.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 9:39 PM
@John Glad it worked, though the support rep understood me right away when I told her it was an MVNO. I guess some of them know the terms and others don't.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 7:04 AM
Thanks for the tip and the MVNO terminology. I have Tracfone, and have been feeling afraid of changing phone companies, due to a bad experience with porting my number in the past. Some of the T-Mobile plans are looking very attractive, and I feel more assured after reading your article.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 8:50 PM
@Shanne | Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans Check out their "Even More Plus" plans; you'll need to call them up to order them since they're not on T-Mo's website. As a general rule, one of these costs $10 less per month than a contract plan, and is obviously contract-free itself.

$50 a month will get you 500 talk, unlimited text, and 200 MB web (or unlimited web if you get a non-smartphone).
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 10:38 AM
Thanks. I switched from a tracphone with super expensive air time refill cards to at&t go phone. Your whole bijig about figuring out who my underlying carrier was through the amber alert trick and the MVNO/whole sale partner thingy majig was really useful. The Local Number Porting agent for at&t knew what to do --all thanks to you!
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Mike P.
Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 7:10 PM
Thanks for posting these tips! Without them I would have likely given up after my first phone call, where all was going well until I was transfered to the T-mobile prepaid department and 2 customer service reps told me my number couldn't be converted or ported. Luckily, I had the knowledge in your post on my side and simply told the agents, thanks, but I'll call back for a more knowledgable rep(s) as I know this can be done. Sure enough, the second time around I explained to the rep what I was trying to do, transfer a net10 number (that was a wholesale t-mobile # already) to a new t-mobile phone - instead of cold transfering me to the prepaid dept. she explained everything to the 2nd rep who took no more than 3 minutes to process my request. This morning I received my text and all is good! You deserve huge props for supplying the Amber Alert method of figuring out who your "prepaid" wholesale phone carrier line is with - this information is simple to understand and invaluable for those of us trying to figure out how to keep our phone numbers in a non-convential transfer. Thanks, Mike
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Friday, March 9, 2012 at 8:40 PM
I did this and saw nothing about an "underlying carrier" or anything else.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 10:16 PM
@nookkin Look up Smozzy Beta on android market (if you have a smart phone) :) It's a bit experimental but it should work on all networks now. (only if you have unlimited text)
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Monday, September 24, 2012 at 4:13 PM
I am so glad that I found this post! I called yesterday and spoke with a rep who told me that I could not port my number from Virgin Mobile to Sprint, Virgin Mobile being a "wholesale partner" of sprint. Once I saw this, I called Sprint immediately. The rep was willing to do the research and he was able to accomplish the request and my port is in process as I am typing. Thank you again so much for this greatly needed information!!
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Sunday, August 25, 2013 at 3:16 PM
The wireless Amber Alert tool was discontinued in December 2012. Is there somewhere else I can find my Tracfone's underlying carrier?
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Sunday, August 25, 2013 at 3:37 PM
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Monday, August 24, 2015 at 11:36 PM
There is no "underlying" carrier. Your carrier is the one you signed up with. Just because they rent another carrier's tower/lines, does not mean that the larger carrier is your carrier. Quite the opposite. They are not. None of the smaller carriers/cell phone companies have their own towers. Only AT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile & Sprint have cell phone towers. They rent to everybody else. So, if you sign up with a smaller company, they are your carrier. It makes no difference whose towers they are renting to provide the service.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 8:54 PM
@babyboomer1001 That's what "underlying carrier" means. If you buy a phone from Tracfone, you're definitely a Tracfone customer (not a T-Mobile/AT&T customer), but the phone itself still uses the T-Mobile/AT&T towers. You'll still get a number from the underlying carrier which is indistinguishable from a customer of that carrier based on the exchange code (middle 3 digits). There's no real difference as far as the phone is concerned. So when you sign up with, say, T-Mobile as a new customer and attempt to port your Tracfone number (which is active on the T-Mobile network), it will appear as if you are trying to port a T-Mobile number to T-Mobile.

Granted, this article is over 5 years old, so things may very well have changed since then. I know the AMBER alerts website no longer works for one.

Also there are definitely more companies with their own towers. Duet IP, for instance, has their own towers -- they don't rent from other companies.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 10:39 AM
Thanks for your informative posts..when I signed up with Net10 I never dreamt keeping my number if I wanted to leave Net10 would be so hostile. Jeesh. Never going back to TracFone. Ever.
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