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Lessons Learned from Switching My Cellphone Carrier

Lessons Learned from Switching My Cellphone Carrier

For the last couple of months, I’d been thinking about switching my cellphone service from Virgin Mobile prepaid to Verizon Wireless prepaid for several reasons (which I’m going to write about in a future post). I had thought I would do it after Christmas, thinking there might be some extra deals on phones then, but I had to move up the date when last week my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone completely died on me. It would power on but would get stuck at the Samsung logo and I couldn’t access any of the data on it by connecting it to my computer. Although I had insurance for it, I couldn’t use it with Verizon’s plan, so there was no point getting it fixed.

Fortunately, since I had already been researching it, I knew which plan (Allset) and phone (Motorola Luge) I wanted and could have the latter sent to me overnight for free. So I signed up online and provided my Virgin Mobile info so that my phone would be shipped to me already set up to use the same phone number. And I figured since both phones are Androids, it would be pretty painless to set up the new phone.

Of course, anything related to technology is unlikely to involve the word “painless,” and I did run into a few glitches along the way. And to be honest, I STILL don’t have the new phone working properly and it’s been four days since I got the phone. So I thought I would share the various issues I’ve experienced so you can avoid the same problems the next time you switch phones. Not that these things may or may not apply to iOS, Windows, or other phones.

(By the way, if you’re wondering why I’m not freaking out about this, it’s because I don’t actually use my phone all that much. And I do still have a landline phone so I can use that when necessary.)

Lesson 1: Don’t sign into Google until you’ve connected to Wi-Fi.

The setup started out really well. I plugged in and turned on the phone and it just took a few minutes to give me a notification that it was ready to go. I don’t remember exactly how it went but at one point it asked me if I wanted to sign into Google. This didn’t surprise me because Android is Google’s operating system, but I didn’t think much about what it meant.

But as soon as I signed in, I started getting notifications that all the apps I had installed on my old phone were automatically being added to my new one. My initial reaction was “Yay!” because I had been expecting that installing them all would be the one headache in making the switch, like reinstalling software on a new computer.

However, that happy feeling didn’t last long when I then got a notification that I had used up all my data allowance (500MB) for the month! This really took me aback because a) my Virgin Mobile plan included unlimited data and b) even with that, I think the most I had ever used was maybe 100MB. That’s because I mostly used my phone at home where data was downloaded via Wi-Fi, not the phone service.

With my new phone, I had been prompted to log in to Google as part of the initial setup so I hadn’t set up my Wi-Fi connection yet. So all those app downloads ate up my allowance in about two minutes.

I immediately went to the Verizon Wireless support page and started a chat session with someone and explained the situation. They weren’t able to re-credit my account with the used allowance but they gave me a phone number I could call and the rep there did it for me. So kudos to Verizon for that save!

Lesson 2: Don’t assume making a phone call successfully means it’s ready.

I really don’t understand how cellular service works. I don’t get why you can’t just buy a phone and use any provider with it and move your phone number without a problem. But that’s the way it is.

So when I had made the call to Verizon to deal with the used data issue and then received a text message back about it, I thought my number had been transferred over and everything was good to go. I spent some time setting up some more apps and then put the phone down since I didn’t really need to use it right then.

The next day I suddenly thought I should probably call the phone from my landline to see how it responds to calls. Except it didn’t. Respond to my call, that is. It went straight to voice mail and didn’t even register the call in my phone’s call history. Hmmm…

I couldn’t find a voice mail app on the phone to check its settings (which is weird, right?). So I did some Googling and found a code to stop forwarding calls, which I tried. I didn’t really expect it to work, since I had never set up forwarding to begin with, and I was right. Calls still went to voice mail. I did find a LOT of people complaining about this online but unfortunately no clear answer as to how to fix it. So I went to Verizon Support to set up a chat session again, but unfortunately they don’t do chats on weekends. (Whaaaa?) So I called them and talked to a rep. Very shortly after I told him what was happening, he told me he had fixed it.

At that point I realized to test it out I would have to hang up the phone. I said that to the rep and he said he would call me right back at my landline number. So I hung up and waited. And waited… No call from the rep. Then I tried calling my cell again and it still went straight to voice mail. Anti-kudos to Verizon for that!

I then sent this tweet to Verizon Support.

They quickly tweeted back to me to ask for more info, but at about the same time I came to…

Lesson 3: Check your landline voice mail.

When I signed up at Verizon, they asked me for a backup phone number. I gave them my landline number, which I almost never answer because it’s virtually always a telemarketer. Fortunately, since I had that phone right near me, I decided to check my voice mail and, sure enough, Verizon had called to let me know they didn’t have the right account number for Virgin Mobile and I needed to provide it to complete the phone number transfer.

I have no idea how I could make phone calls from that phone if the number hadn’t transferred, or get text messages or voice mails, but I figured that was the problem behind the other things not working. So I went to the URL provided to enter my Virgin Mobile account number.

Which brings me to…

Lesson 4: Virgin Mobile hides your account number from you.

When I was filling out the Verizon form to begin with, and it asked me for my Virgin Mobile account number, I went to my VM account page to get it. There was nothing listed. I looked through emails from them and they referred to my phone number as my account. So that’s what I entered in the form.

Unfortunately, that was not the account number at all, as Verizon informed me. So I had to call Virgin Mobile and ask them what my account number was. Seriously.

I was worried they were going to try to convince me to stay with their service but they didn’t. They did ask me the reason I needed the account number and when I told him, he just said that was fine and he needed it for his records.

So I went back to the Verizon form and submitted the new info. I got a confirmation notice that it was the right number and that the transfer should be completed in x hours. (I’m saying “x” because I really don’t remember what the message said… Maybe 24 hours?)

I alerted the Verizon Support team on Twitter that I may have solved the problem myself and would get back to them if I still needed their help.

Where we are now…

So I’ve been checking my phone for the last couple of days to see if the switch had taken place but no such luck. Verizon’s website has had a notice posted that VM has released the phone number and I should get a text confirmation within 4 hours welcoming me to Verizon. By this point, it’s had that message for well over 24 hours. *sigh*

So I’ve gone back to tweeting Verizon Support. I asked for an email address to send all the details, but apparently they don’t have one. Seriously.

Anyway, so that’s where I am now. I’ll update the post when I have a fully functioning phone but, in the meantime, I hope some people find the above lessons helpful when it’s their turn to make the switch.

One more random tip.

Despite all of the above, the thing that has caused me the most frustration throughout this entire process was trying to get the stupid plastic screen protector off my phone! I tried picking at each edge of it and I could NOT get under it to pull it off. Fortunately, a quick Google search found a tip that worked perfectly: Stick a piece of scotch tape to the protector and pull. Success! 🙂

Update 1: Reply from Verizon Wireless Support

Just got a tweet back that they don’t provide support for prepaid accounts and they told me to call the same number where the rep told me he fixed the problem days ago but didn’t. So now I’m right back where I started… Ugh.

Update 2: Huzzah!

After a bit of a call transfer-palooza, I finally got connected to two people who could actually help me. I had to reset my voice mail and turn my phone off and on again, but phone service is now mine again!!! 🙂

Elizabeth Kricfalusi

View Comments

  • Elizabeth, hello. Is this the most recent info on unlocked phones and prepaid accounts? I didn't see others, but thought I'd checked. I read all the big branches and little tributaries here and nothing is real current. I am especially curious about coverage "out west" (Nebraska, Colorado). I have a flip phone (Virgin Mobile) much to my wife's chagrin. She ditched VM some while ago and went to something else (with same phone). She periodically gets a whole mess of coded text messages. Her new carrier (?) cannot seem to fix the problem, thinks it is caused by Sprint. Still, my wife keeps pointing out that my balance in VM keeps going up and up....I don't use it that much. And, of course, she is right. I agree with you. I cannot see spending hundreds of dollars (for either phone or service). Yes, they are fun, and convenient at times; but not quite enough for me to come out of the dark ages. But that's why I've reread these posts...to see if maybe there is something out there now that is good enough AND cheap enough to cause me to ditch my VM flip phone.

    • Hi Rick.

      This is definitely and older post as is this one that has some additional information about prepaid phone plans:

      How Prepaid Cellphone Plans Work and How They Can Save You Money

      I'm not clear on what you're trying to find out. Are you wanting to get rid of your flip phone because you want a smartphone or do you just want to stop using Virgin Mobile.

      If I'm understanding correctly, you have a high balance on your VM account because you pay in every month, which gets carried over to the next month, but you're not using it enough to pay it down. If that's the case, I had that issue once a few years ago and I found a good way to use the balance was to donate to my favorite charities that accept mobile donations. These are the kind that say "text DONATE to 55555" or whatever number and it will donate $10 or another amount to the charity. That amount comes off your phone bill, so it was a way to draw down my balance while doing some good. I don't know if that would work with your VM account, but you could try it out once and if it does, make more donations to causes you care about.

      Also, it's hard to make any recommendations without knowing what your definition of "cheap enough" is. I currently have a prepaid plan with Verizon where I pay $40 a month for unlimited calling and texting and 2GB of high-speed data. I got a refurbished Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone from Groupon a year ago and it's still going strong. Here are a couple of posts with more information about buying used phones:

      Three Tip Thursday: 05/25/17 (Tip #3)

      Sharing: Advice for Buying Used Smartphones

      - Elizabeth

  • When you switch provider, you're new provider automatically gives you a temporary tel# until the number porting (official term) is completed. That's why you can call, text, do whatever you want, except receive incoming calls/texts on the number you THINK you have.

    In most phones (every Android phone at least) you can find your actual number in Settings > About device > Status (exact menu depending on your Android version).

  • We recently switch from Virgin prepaid to Verizon prepaid -- had no problems whatsoever! Sorry you had such a rough time in the transition, but wanted to comment that that doesn't happen for everyone.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Kathleen!

      And I haven't had any problems since I made the switch so I'm still glad I did it.

      - Elizabeth

  • I'm sorry no one was able to warn you away from Verizon. The trick is to get a prepaid phone that uses their towers, but never to actually provide them with first-person business. Get out as soon as you can. They thrive on human misery.

    • Ha! It's weird... When it comes to cellphones, I find the most problems happen at the very beginning. (Virgin Mobile was the WORST!) But once everything's set up, things seem to go smoothly. So, since my initial issues, I've had no problem with the phone.

      And their network is definitely better than Sprint's, which is what VM uses. I get coverage in lots of places now where I couldn't before - including the D.C. metro system.

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