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Changing Phone Numbers Is Hard


Changing phone number within the same country is hard. But it is definitely not as hard as when changing to a foreign number. If you’ve ever moved abroad or live abroad, and wanted to mostly ditch your previous phone number, you know what I am talking about.

I’ve been living in the Netherlands for more than 3.5 years. Some people could think that, because it’s within the EU, that I could keep using my Portuguese number indefinitely. However, that is not true. I can still use it, but it can’t be my main number due to fair usage policies.

It is also undoubtedly more convenient to have a phone number from the country where I live. I’ve had my Dutch phone number since I’ve moved here. I’ve probably gotten it during the first week of weeks. I don’t know exactly, but it doesn’t matter.

I’m not planning to return to Portugal in the foreseeable future so I decided it would be a good idea to start moving as many as possible things to my Dutch number.

At the moment, my Portuguese phone number is a physical SIM card, while the Dutch one is an eSIM. But only one number can be attached to the eSIM at any given point in time. This can reveal itself to be tricky if I decide to travel abroad and use a travel eSIM for better pricing. And my Dutch number is my main number.

So my idea would be to actually have the Dutch number as physical SIM and the Portuguese as eSIM. Changing the Portuguese number to an eSIM will already be more complicated than I wish, and I will need to go there in person, to a shop, to do this. Ridiculous.

Anyways, about “places where my phone number is”. Most things, such as online services, play well with it. There is nothing odd. But then… then come the banks and the government services. Uhhh, how much does the Portuguese government like foreign phone numbers?

First, the bank. I added my Dutch phone number to my Portuguese bank account. Lo and behold: it worked. Kinda. Now I want it to be my main number. They sent me a magnificent letter by snail mail, which I had to sign and send back. Haven’t heard anything back yet.

And then the Portuguese government. We have this thing for online login, like most countries. And it’s connected to a phone number… because why not. I changed it to my Dutch number. It worked. But then, I go login on government websites with it and everything breaks down. Because I have a foreign number. Nothing works. I changed it back to the Portuguese number and, without any surprises, everything works again. Horrible.

What I find incredibly weird is that changing the phone number on the authentication service works. But then using such service to authenticate onto other websites makes the login of the other websites fail. During the authorization process I can always see the data that is passed on to the service I want to log in to. I would bet that the services see a foreign phone number and panic (pun intended for the Go developers out there).

And who knows how many other services have my Portuguese phone number. There are a few services from Portugal that I use sometimes when visiting that I can’t simply change to a foreign number. And changing the Portuguese number from a physical SIM to an eSIM is also a madly complicated process.

Anyways, I have already filled a complaint with the digital services from the government. Ah, I had forgotten to mention that: both of the services that I could not login to are also from the government. So… they let me change the authentication mechanism thing to my Dutch number, but then effectively their own things don’t work.

Why is technology so complicated? I wish I could just somehow redirect everything that comes to my Portuguese number to my Dutch number without having it on my phone. However, I don’t think such service exists.