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Help! Expat trying to keep my PAYG phone alive in the USA

Mark-USA
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OK, O2 is proving a real challenge. Like many expats I like to keep a UK phone number for return visits that everyone knows and PAYG is the cheapest way. I know about the 6 month rule etc so I have it on my calendar to make a chargeable call every 5 months. Last time I did this was December 1st so this is at the 5 month point.

 

So, I try to do this today and I can't. It says I don't have enough credit, a nonsense, as both of the phones we use have £20 or so. My O2 says my phone has zero credit, and my wife £19. Either way, both SIMS give the same message (last time I looked online both reported with the balances mentioned). 

 

This is frustrating - everything is set up to roam in the USA where I live but things just don't seem to work and the SIM balances are inaccurate. I saw this same kind of thing last December and had horrible trouble (interestingly the balance showed as zero and eventually corrected itself and I bumbled through eventually)

 

Does anyone have any suggestions? I want to keep the numbers, and I want to keep the credits. Help!! Please!! Oh, and I can't simply top up here (which would be fine) as the system is set up for UK credit/debit and it all falls apart when I provide my zip code instead of postcode. Grrr...

 

The only thought I have is that O2 here on the West coast seems to roam on T-Mobile and my house gets a pathetic T-Mobile signal and I wonder if this is confusing things. I'll try taking a quick drive to see if I can get a better signal somewhere but I don't know what this would affect  the balance for my phones shown in MyO2.

 

Frustrated as heck, even more so as these work so well when I'm in the UK.

 

Please help folks!

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Mark-USA
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Right I have the scoop! Following a long conversation at 2.30am my time where O2 were nice enough to restore my balances, I got an explanation that makes sense.

 

(1) The limit is 6 months to keep the phone alive so I can confirm that. The three month notion is probably because of some version of the next thing giving that impression, but it's definitely 6 months.

 

(2) The reason my balances plunged to zero is DATA. Putting a SIM in an otherwise active US phone, even if you don't use the internet, uses data just on the background apps. If you stroll away from your wi-fi to get a mobile signal, so you can make a chargeable call, even for a couple of minutes as I did on my driveway, and when I took the car on a drive for a stronger signal, this gets you.

 

(3) Hah, you say, that's just a few Meg, max, no biggie, right? 

 

(4) Then you find out 1M of data in the USA is charged at £7.20. Yes, £7.20 - 720x the UK rate. That's shocking beyond belief and, I have to say it, unjustified under any circumstances. All you need is a few minutes of cellular data roaming and that's it, your account is emptied! That's what happened to me.

 

(5) for the curious, O2 PAYG does not allow wi-fi calling so you'd be racking up calls at £2.00 a minute regardless of strong wi-fi. Curiously O2 txting does work on wi-fi.

 

So, to avoid the issue, it's imperative that anyone making chargeable call every 6 months make sure that their cellular data setting is OFF. Since I have spare, recently retired iPhones, I'm just going to set them up that way and leave the SIM card in. If I need data in the UK, I'll turn it on then but never when I'm in the USA.

 

So, to make those calls every 6 months, you have a choice: make a quick 1 minute call costing £2, or send a quick txt at £0.50 but risk data usage (as you seem to have to be outside your wi-fi for it to be chargeable) which could cost you way more given it's £7.20 a meg. Personally I'll going to make a call as £2 once or twice a year is a bargain to keep the phones alive.

 

So, now I get what's going on, this is the scoop. I hope someone finds it helpful.

 

PS. I fully intend to try the PayPal idea if I'm ever stuck with no credit - which might happen if I'm rushed for time as I fly out of the UK.

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jonsie
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Apparently the 6 month rule is now a three month rule

The sim needs to be activated again and customer service will have to do that for you

Call any of the freephone numbers using Skype

Guide: Coronavirus Community Help and Support 

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Cleoriff
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@Mark-USA 

You could call O2 noting the time difference. They open at 8am UK time. However with the current pandemic, many of O2's services are restricted. Numbers to call are in this guide Guide: Coronavirus Community Help and Support 

One of our members lives in the US. I will mention @Bambino  and maybe he can offer more advice than me.

Not sure what time he will be online but look out for a message from him.

Best of luck. Stay safe x

*The Game Is On*

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Cleoriff
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@jonsie wrote:

Apparently the 6 month rule is now a three month rule

 


When did that change @jonsie ?

New one, I've never heard of?

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Mark-USA
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Really - it's 3 months? Well, I could actually still work with that but it's frustrating to find this out. I would have actually been in the UK to get this sorted more easily right now had it not been for CV-19, then again a few months later. I'll have to call them - the problem is the 8 hour time difference on the US West Coast even given the problems getting through. I guess I know what I'll be doing at midnight and into the small hours then.

 

Usually I'm about a year between visits and I really want to keep my known numbers - plus changing a rule and using it to confiscate my credit is not on if that's what they're doing. That's not a case of money so much as principle.

 

Really? 3 months? Did they actually publish that anywhere? 

 

Cheers,

Mark

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jonsie
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It's been advised to a number of customers recently though it's never been written into the t&c's

You will get the credit back once you have been reconnected.

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Cleoriff
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@Mark-USA 

I've not seen it published anywhere and I wrote the 'How to Top Up' guide. rolling_eyes

Must be something that O2 have implemented without making it official.

Ridiculous.

O2's official guide here. Nothing in that.

https://www.o2.co.uk/help/pay-as-you-go/help-support 

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MI5
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There has been one non verified claim that I have seen mentioned on here of it been 3 months but nothing has been announced officially. In fact O2 would rather we didn't know and kept on topping up every month wink
I have no affiliation whatsoever with O2 or any subsidiary companies. Comments posted are entirely of my own opinion. This is not Customer Service so we are unable to help with account specific issues.

Currently using:
OnePlus 6 (O2 & Sfr), Z3 Tablet (Three UK), iPhone 8+ (EE)
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jonsie
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A nd yet the OP's phone has been deactivated before his diarised date to make the 6 month call.

Or I could have just led to the assumption that this was the reason.

Thinking further, he said that he had no credit and was unable to make the call. I thought the phone was automatically disconnected after what we always thought was the 6 month rule.

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jonsie
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Oh and we have had two more customers who have been told it's three months by customer service

so in fact, three unsubstantiated claims

I also seem to remember that we asked admin to find out for us.

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