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Buying a SIM card in France: problems with 2-factor authentication?

Our family will be in France from May 24-June 10 and we're planning to buy SIM cards for those of us whose phones are unlocked. I would love any recommendations about our best options for that, but I'm also a little concerned about the fact that so many online services require 2-factor authentication now. For example, while I was on vacation in St. Thomas last year, I had some fraud on my credit card and in the process of getting it cleared up, the card company sent verification codes several times to my phone. If I hadn't been able to receive those at the time, I wouldn't have been able to clear up the issue. It seems like I will also encounter this I try to log in to some websites/services that I use from a "new" device. What do you do about this when you have a French SIM card and don't have access to your own phone number in the meantime? Thanks for any advice!

Posted by
2010 posts

Firstly, the SIMs, available from one of these companies: SFR, Orange, FREE, or Bouygues. Offers change constantly, you can check online and be ready with a choice once you have arrived, or simply pickup a French SIM at the airport. Some companies, such as Orange, have boutiques at the airport which sell SIMs and configure your mobile for you.

Secondly, 2-factor authentication. Using 2FA is a good idea, and there are numerous options. One, probably the weakest option, is SMS authentication. Obviously, if you are only using 1 SIM and you change it, you will not receive SMS notifications unless you contact your bank with a new phone number. Your bank may not accept your using a foreign number. You could also do what I do, use a phone with 2 SIM capability. Many banking institutions also offer 2FA using an email address, which you are not going to change and will work just as well.

Some financial institutions use tokens for 2FA, either hardware tokens or software tokens. These are probably the most secure types of 2FA and what everyone should be using. Changing a phone number does not alter their effectiveness. Use tokens whenever you have the option.

Lastly, website logins. Logins are app/browser based and use cookies to store login information. You are not changing your phone, only the SIM. Longins should not be affected by a SIM change; however, they can be affected by your attempting to access a US website through a foreign ISP. This will vary by app/website and can be typically circumnavigated by using a VPN.

Posted by
967 posts

I am in Europe now using an eSIM data plan and have not had any problem getting 2-factor authentications.

Posted by
745 posts

"have not had any problem getting 2-factor authentications"

Are those notifications by SMS or eMail ?

Posted by
2 posts

Mardee, what provider are you using for your eSIM? On a previous thread, several mentioned Orange Mobile. Their plan looks reasonable, but I wouldn't mind doing some comparison shopping before committing to a plan! Thanks!

Posted by
11 posts

I like the Orange Holiday Zen card, available from Amazon. The only issue is that it's only good for 14 days before you have to re-up. But it's only $25 and comes with 8GB of data. That covers all the navigation, maps, What'sApp texts you want. We buy it before leaving and just pop it in when we get there.

Last time, I had a lot of trouble doing the registration to get more data after 14 days. This time I have registered the SIMs using my passport before leaving. I hope it will be easy to pick up a 10 euro recharge card in a Tabac and apply it to my account. I also hope that registering them early didn't activate the 14 day window early too, but I don't think it should.

For anyone there for 14 days or less, it's a really great deal compared to Verizon's $10/day/phone plan. Hoping the re-up will be easier this time around having preregistered.

Posted by
21 posts

Interested to know about the 14-day question. We are going over July 14 and I was nervous about installing the eSIM too early because I was afraid it would activate it and start my clock. Would love to hear from others on this!

Posted by
745 posts

To add one more note to 2FA.

I notice when I use my daily driver bank App, signed in using FaceID on my iPhone, I never get asked for 2FA authentication - it's only when I use the bank's website and that's been the same even when using a foreign SIM card. On the other hand, my preferred airline needs 2FA either way.