2 Proven Ways To Receive Verification Codes Abroad
My 2FA Death Spiral Experience
The 2FA login abroad death spiral. You’ve been locked out of your bank account while you’re traveling abroad. They send an OTP to the phone number to log in. But you’re abroad, and the OTP doesn’t go through because you can't receive texts abroad. So you go to change the phone number on your account so you can get the 2FA verification. But you can’t log in to change it, because you’re abroad…
Been there. It sucks.
You may be able to call your bank and change the 2FA verification number to Hushed (below). But when I tried calling Chase (definitely not a digital nomad-friendly bank), they told me, “tough shit” (paraphrasing slightly).
The only thing that saved me was my mother was a cosigner on the account (opened it like 15 years ago), and she was able to go into the local bank branch and change my 2FA number. But WOW. Banks are very slow to adapt to the remote-work lifestyle.
Two Ways To Receive Verification Codes Abroad
Note #2: As a "last resort" option - you can add someone you trust (a lot) as an authorized user on your account. This means, if all else fails, they'll be able to go into your bank and change your account phone number to a Hushed number (more on that below).
Option #1: US Mobile - The Direct Approach
Advantages Of Using US Mobile For 2FA Abroad:
- Wallet-Friendly: For the price of a beer (or a couple, depending on where you are) - about $5, you get an autopay plan for 50 texts a month. That comes out to $0.10/text.
- Home and Away: Heading back to the US for the holidays? After all, what’s Christmas without listening to your uncles argue about the political gridlock from which you’ve long since checked out on. No worries. You can top up on data, SMS and calls and you can use US Mobile seamlessly as your stateside provider.
- Consistent Digits: With US Mobile, it's all about your US number. No song and dance of changing your 2FA number every time you set foot on home turf (here's a few more ways to keep your US number when you head abroad).
Downsides Of Using US Mobile For 2FA Abroad:
- Porting: Brace yourself. You'll need to port your existing number to US Mobile. It’s actually not nearly as painful as it sounds, but it can be incredibly difficult if you’re locked into a contract with a provider like Verizon.
- Activation Geography: Activating your number requires you to be in the US. Bit of a hassle, but hey, the results are worth it.
- Radio Silence On Calls: This method's Achilles heel? No outgoing or incoming calls on your US number. Texts only, please.
How To Turn On US Mobile Service For 2FA Abroad
If your phone supports eSIM, I recommend setting up US Mobile as your eSIM. Then, you can use your physical SIM slot for local SIM cards.
- Go to Settings>Cellular
- Tap your US line (like the screenshot below)
- Toggle it to "on". Wait a minute or two, and then you'll be able to start receiving 2FAs. Then once you're done, remember to turn it off so it doesn't drain your battery.
Option #2: The Hushed App - Great For A Dedicated 2FA Option
Hushed is basically a virtual phone number. You pick a US number (you can pick based on state and area code), download the app, and boom. You’ve got your US number for verifications.
Advantages Of Using Hushed For 2FA Abroad:
- One Place: No need to switch gears or services. Just your phone, this app, and you're good to go.
- The Full Stack: Beyond just receiving those OTPs, you can send/receive calls and texts. That's a 360-degree solution, my friends.
- Budget Savvy: Three bucks a month for 60 texts? Sign me up. That's less than my cold brew this morning.
Downsides Of Using Hushed For 2FA Abroad:
- Prep Work: Before heading out, ensure your 2FA number is set to your Hushed number. Prepping is key here.
- Memory Games: Remember, once back in the homeland, you’re playing a game of switcheroo. Either continue using the Hushed number for 2FA or revert to your original. A little juggling act, but once you've got the hang of it, you're golden.
Just remember, avoid the 2FA death spiral by getting out in front of it and setting up 2FA while you’re stateside, before heading out.
For more tips on nomading, check out our guide on digital nomading here.
Travel well! And if you want to travel better, check out our 2-in-1 laptop case that doubles as a stand below.