Getting Old Phone Number Back: How to?

Here’s how to get your old phone number back:

Phone companies and carriers own phone numbers. They are in charge of deactivating and reactivating them, along with recycling them. 

If you have an old phone number that you want back, contact your carrier.

If your carrier can’t help, you might have to negotiate with the new person who has your old number.

If you want to learn all about getting your old phone number back, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Getting Old Phone Number Back: How to?

Why Are Phone Numbers Deactivated?

It’s easier to understand ways to get an old phone number back when you know more about how and why it might be deactivated in the first place.

It all really comes down to the phone company or carrier that assigns the phone number, and there are a few variables at play.

If a phone number isn’t used for a period of time, it is standard procedure to deactivate the number.

This can happen even if the line with the number is kept active and paid on time. 

Most carriers have an automation deactivation policy, and it usually works on a 90-day principle.

If a phone line isn’t used at all for a specified number of days, the number is automatically deactivated.

After another window, the phone number will be recycled.

There are a number of reasons for these policies, but it is easy to imagine a situation where someone permanently moves out of the country but forgets to deactivate the phone line. 

Automatic payments can keep things going, but it’s not good for either party.

The same could be said for the death of a line holder and a number of other potential situations.

Another situation where a phone number is deactivated is when a phone line is successfully canceled.

If a phone number is associated with a canceled line, it usually gets recycled faster.

Sometimes, a phone number will be recycled in as little as 30 days.

How Do You Reclaim a Phone Number That Wasn’t Recycled?

This will be managed by the phone company or carrier.

If the number hasn’t been recycled, the first thing you can do is try the phone line in question. 

Assuming it is a cell phone line that you haven’t used in a while, you can simply try placing a call from the phone.

This will require activity on the SIM card. 

If the line has not been deactivated yet, using the line will reset the countdown for deactivation.

You can use the phone and the phone number normally.

If you don’t have the old phone, you can try using the line with new hardware.

Ultimately, phone numbers are paired with accounts rather than physical phones. 

You can get a new phone and then request a SIM card from the carrier.

It will connect to the same phone number.

As long as the number and phone line are operational, this is just like the previous scenario.

If the phone line isn’t active, then you will need to contact the carrier.

You can explain that you are trying to reclaim your previous phone number. 

As long as it has not yet been recycled, then the carrier can help.

They will walk you through any steps they need you to follow, and you can once again reclaim your phone number.

How Do You Get Back a Phone Number That Was Recycled?

If the number is recycled, the phone company no longer has direct means to help you get it back.

The number is associated with a new account, and the person in possession of that line and phone number has certain rights. 

The carrier can’t simply take the number away from them and give it to you.

That would disrupt their access to phone services, and that is a violation of federal regulations.

Instead of going through the phone company, you can contact the new user with your phone number.

You can discuss a situation where they would be willing to relinquish the number to you. 

In most cases, you can expect to have to pay them money directly.

If they agree, they will incur charges from their carrier to switch numbers, so it’s easy to see why they might want compensation.

Still, if they agree, the carriers can make the switch work.

They end up with a new number, and you can get your old number back.

Obviously, there are no guarantees with this method, but it is really your only chance for reclaiming a recycled phone number.

Can You Just Buy the Phone Number You Want?

The short answer is no.

Carriers cannot sell any number that you might want at your request. 

In theory, they can provide a number you like if it is a viable number that is not currently in use by someone else, and some carriers are willing to accommodate such requests.

But, it’s important to remember that phone lines and their infrastructure are entirely managed through publicly regulated utilities.

You have a technical right to have access to phone lines, but you don’t have a right to any specific number. 

Instead, your phone service comes with access to an assigned number.

Phone companies are not allowed to sell the numbers for any type of real or literal ownership. 

The number itself is part of the infrastructure, and regulations require that numbers be recycled under a number of different circumstances.

Your phone number is never really yours; you are merely granted access to it.

Can You Keep Your Phone Number if You Switch Carriers?

Yes. The process to do this will depend on how your carrier runs logistics.

Ultimately, as long as the carriers are willing to accommodate your request, the switch is quite accessible. 

They may charge special fees for transferring a number (but in many cases, they do not).

It just depends on the carrier and their policies. But, porting your number to a new carrier is one of the best ways to avoid losing the phone number. 

Just remember to bring it up before you make the big switch, and you’ll be in a much better position in regard to your phone number.

To clarify, the new carrier is the one that will carry out this service.

Once you select a plan with the new carrier and establish your account, they will make a formal request to the previous carrier to transfer control of the number. 

This is a common practice, and phone companies do it on a daily basis.

But, it helps to know who needs to receive your request for the port and who is in control of any fees that will be charged along the way.

Are There Other Ways to Retain a Phone Number?

Yes. Depending on the circumstances, there are actions you can take to make sure you retain access to your phone number.

One common reason you might lose a phone number is inactivity on the line.

To prevent this from being a problem, you can look into parking the phone number. Most carriers offer this service. 

It entails the carrier making a commitment to keeping your number reserved even if you don’t have a phone line at all.

This is ideal for situations where you won’t have access to a specific line for an extended but definite period of time.

Overseas work is a common example. Someone on a long deployment can park the number until they return. 

The phone company will charge a fee to reserve the number, but that fee is significantly lower than the price of keeping the whole line active for the duration of the time spent abroad (at least, theoretically, it saves money).

This is a simple way for you to reserve your number for when you get back without paying the cost of an unused phone line, and it’s a common service for most major carriers.

Another way to retain a phone number is to port it to a different kind of service.

Resources like Google Voice allow you to use a phone number via the internet. 

To set this up, the phone number cannot yet be recycled. You need access to it, so this is best done before canceling the service associated with the phone number.

Using Google Voice as an example, you can pay a fee (to Google Voice) to port your existing or old phone number to the service.

This is like porting a number to a new carrier. 

The difference is that Google Voice can enable call and text forwarding which allows people to access you on the old number without charging you for a full phone line. 

Google Voice services cost significantly less than a cellular line, and you can use the phone number you port anywhere in the world.

It runs over internet connections instead of cellular or phone infrastructure, and that makes it more accessible.

Remember that Google Voice is an example here.

There are a number of online services that compete with each other to provide these same features. 

The main takeaway is that you can use a VoIP (voice over IP) service to port your number and keep it from being recycled, even if you have to travel overseas.

Similarly, if you just want cheaper phone access, you can look into this option.

How to Access an Old Phone Number of Yours?

Do you need to access your old phone number for things like password resets or other authentication?

Avoid worrying about your phone number and use the other resources available from the account holder. 

To prove your identity, you can usually use email accounts, backup phone numbers, security questions, and other methods.

However, if you absolutely need the old phone number, you should contact the carrier.

Learn all about how to access an old phone number of yours here.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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