Keep your WhatsApp account when you change number

Using a local number when you travel overseas

Maybe just because a lot of people are on vacation and change phone numbers temporarily, I'm getting emails from readers asking what I think is essentially the same question: how can I use my WhatsApp account on a different number?

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The basic idea is that WhatsApp requires a mobile number to identify every user without having to ask you to choose a username, email or password. If for some reason you are not going to use your usual mobile number — perhaps you have lost it, blocked it or are going overseas on holiday — you can still keep using your account migrating all your settings and chat history.

Everything will be more straightforward if you have just changed the SIM and keep using the same device. WhatsApp is tied to only one number on one device so even if you are allowed to switch and re-verify, it will be much easier keeping the same smartphone you used to use before.

On your iPhone, you just need to ensure you have the app installed and running before you change numbers. Once you have your new number operative (able to text and call) you can proceed to migrate your account directly from the app to your new number. Navigate to Settings → Account → Change Number. A screen will appear asking you to confirm your new number is up and running, to later ask you to enter your old number and your new number.

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Right on this step is where readers are having issues, as they might be forgetting to change the country code (dialling code starting with a +) or adding it on the incorrect format. It might be a good idea to test the correct format with a missed call or a SMS to a friend so you can confirm you're typing the correct one. In the UK, for example, the first zero on mobile numbers is not used when adding the country code +44, so there might be some exception for you too.

Travelling overseas

Tip if your contacts don't appear on the contact list. When you travel to a different country you will need to add the country calling code in front of the telephone number to be recognised. To call a friend in United States I will need to dial +1 before the number I usually call. Just add the international prefix with a + on your phone's contact list if you haven't done so. Wikipedia has a full list if you don't know yours.

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Changing the number associated to your WhatsApp account will transfer all your payment status information, groups, profile and chat history (the contacts are taken from the phone's native contact list on the phone app anyway). This process will delete your old number from the WhatsApp contact list of your friends, so what you what to do it to let them know you have changed number so they save it on their device. Once this is done you should keep your past messages and carry on with your new number.

Using your usual number 'on roaming'

If you are just on vacation and are not planning to buy a local SIM with a new number, you can still use your mobile number on roaming mode. I have written about the cost of using apps like WhatsApp and Viber abroad and how to keep cost to a minimum, which I think it's still the best option when travelling.

Top image by Christopher Elison