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Online purchases with European SIM card and American Bank

Our daughter is studying abroad and needs to make online ticket purchases. We've set her up as an authorized user and joint owner of a credit card and checking/debit card accounts. She's changed her phone to a European SIM card so her phone no longer has a US based phone number. Websites required text code verification - and with our bank that's to a US based phone number.
Does anyone have any insight to fixes? She also has Covid so ordering food in might be nice....
I'm wondering if Gift Visa card are sold in London as they are in the US?

Posted by
4325 posts

Similar problem for my daughter. As one of a couple of workarounds, my number is listed on the account. So the bank can text me the code, which I then message on to her. It’s far from perfect, but works ok for the occasional need. And might get you through Covid.

Posted by
10 posts

I'm surprised this isn't covered more in all the prep materials. Phone plans are so complex, the simplest (cheapest) path seemed to be to accept the offered European Sim card.

Does Rick Steves cover online purchasing? On his shows he encourages people to buy tickets for museums, etc. ahead to avoid lines. If people have bought burner phones or swapped Sims they'd run into this issue.

Posted by
496 posts

This was always a nightmare using local sims - you either have to swap back to your home sim to receive the text or change cards to a bank that has got with the 21st century and uses other methods to verifty.

esims makes it easy though an esim is only for data leaving your phone and texts still coming to your home number - you can receive texts for free

Posted by
10 posts

This is a lot to wrap my mind around. We are going to meet up after the study abroad term ends. We, the parents, will probably add international plans to our phones for the month+ so should be ok with online purchases. But now I want to look into eSim more.

Posted by
412 posts

How about a fintech account? The popular ones are Wise or Revolut, and both offer Visa debit cards, with 2FA by push notification (and support all international phone numbers as a backup). It will take her only a few minutes to open an account, and she'll get a virtual card immediately for online transactions, and her physical card should arrive within a week.

Both our kids are at university overseas, and both have Wise accounts. Given that it took my son three months to open a UK account, it was a good idea! Our home bank does 2FA by push notification, but we still felt it was a good idea for them to have an additional account just in case.

Posted by
10 posts

I've wondered if a virtual card through our bank might work - but don't use them myself so am unfamiliar with the machinations. I"ll look into WISE too. I thought I did once but can't remember why I dropped that research. Just skimmed a Forbes article. I think it was the fees. At that time I was looking at ATM fees. We landed on a a bank with no (conversion and/or transaction) international POS or ATM fees (within network). So far transactions have reflected this. I'm always like - what's the catch? Maybe it's hidden in the posted POS converted price, purchased in local currency.

Posted by
412 posts

Re costs, check exchange rate and ATM fees - Wise's rates are generally not quite as good as my Singapore bank, but better than my Australian bank. Not sure how they would compare with US banks. Off the top of my head, they cap monthly cash withdrawals and charge a small fee for withdrawals over the cap. But in the UK your daughter is frankly unlikely to be using cash at all - everyone pays with card. Or she can use her US card in person and Wise for online transactions.

I don't think a virtual card from your bank would solve the problem, as it would still need 2FA.

Posted by
18725 posts

I'm living here and I just decided to hang on to my TMobile US phone for the time being. Internatiknal is part of the base cost. I only turn it on to get the bank text and sometimes I need to use it when a US website is blocked to all but US IP addresses. Renewing a driver's license for instance. Yes, it costs me $50 a month. But for now it's worth the convenience.

Posted by
27405 posts

I've definitely read complaints about preloaded cards not working in Europe. I don't know whether it's a problem with just some of them or is a general issue, but I would look for a different solution. I suspect Wise would work out OK, but I haven't used it.

My phone allows eSIMs, so when Google Fi cut off my data service (but not my phone service) at Day 85 last summer, I added an eSIM. Inbound texts continued as before. I had to change a setting on my phone so I could send outbound texts from my Google Fi SIM (which are free); that continued to work once I made the necessary change. I figured out what to do by Googling; I suspect the tweak varies with the type and brand of phone.

Posted by
408 posts

A couple of suggestions:

  1. She could rent an American phone number through Skype (Microsoft) and provide the bank that number to receive calls or text messages. She probably would find it easiest to load the Skype app on her phone so she can access her account easily. There probably are options other than Skype but that's the one with which I'm familiar.

    --or--

  2. When presented with the bank web page about receiving a text message, look closely at the page. Some banks have a small font question somewhere on the page saying something along the lines of: "Having trouble receiving text messages?" That's probably a link that, if you click it, gives you the option of receiving the code through email. Why it's not offered as an option initially is a mystery, but it probably is perceived as being somewhat less secure, since someone could log into your email account from anywhere without being in physical possession of the phone that's linked to the account.

I haven't had an American SIM for over a decade. It was a pain at first to deal with U.S. banks and credit unions from Europe, but over time I've found a few workarounds.

Posted by
18725 posts

I spend so much time over here that TMobile always cuts my data, but not while I'm here, only when I return. That can be more inconvenient.

Posted by
10 posts

If anyone is still reading - a funny for your day. The laundry units in the student housing run off of phone apps - which must be loaded by debit (or credit?) cards? We're moving backing into the real world after the lull of covid and PNW icestorm. Now I'll pour another up of coffee... have a good morning or evening where ever you reside or are traveling.

Posted by
4325 posts

Phone apps for life…. reminds me of this “to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.” 🤣

Posted by
1259 posts

Call bank/credit card company to discuss solution. Some will allow verification by email. Some can temporarily disable verification.

Posted by
2500 posts

A quick chime in to note the Visa gift cards are a hassle to use in the US, so using them overseas is going to be a pain (and might not even work depending on the card). Also talk to your bank about adding her international number to your account - it may be possible. Also not sure but check if PayPal is a choice for payment on her end, you can link your credit card behind the scenes. PayPal claims to work in 200 countries so it's worth a look at least https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/country-worldwide

Posted by
82 posts

I'd suggest TextNow for a U.S. phone number. Free calls & texts (with ads), and a few options.

  1. Sign up with their website (free, you can use fake info, but you need to give a working email) You can send and receive calls and text free, with a PC or with an app (IOS or Android). This does not work for 2FA (just like all the other free texting services)
  2. Optionally, you can pay $1.99/week (plus tax) to "Lock in" a U.S. phone number. That's what I do, and it does work for 2FA. I use it for all my Google accounts as a verified phone number. I pay the $1.99/week out of a Google Pay account, so no credit card needed.
  3. For a one-time $4.99 (I paid w/ Paypal), they will mail you a TextNow sim card which will allow your cellphone to do free calls & text in the U..S. using the T-Mobile network (in the U.S. only). I bought 2 of their sim cards and put them in 2 spare cellphones to have as backup phones.
  4. You can pay more to remove the ads, I don't remember the price but I don't do that.
  5. You can pay more to have unlimited data (U.S. only), $4.99/day, $39/month.

I really like the Android app, it coexists fine with my "normal" AT&T sim card, and gives me 2FA and a backup way of communicating. And I don't have to give any real personal info or credit card. Using the TextNow app should work fine outside the U.S. as long as you have wi-fi. If I really needed 2FA away from wifi, I'd use my wife's cellphone as a hotspot (she is on AT&T and when we arrive in Europe she gets a text offering to give her 7 days of roaming for $35.)

Thanks to all of you for the good info!
-TravelerGuy

Posted by
412 posts

Re the laundry washing machines using apps to operate, same with our kids' university accommodation. One of many things nowadays...

Posted by
15 posts

My iPhone has eSIM (US number) and physical SIM (local number) when traveling overseas. Also I setup WiFi calling to use my US number as if I am in the US. Receive 2FA from bank or credit card company while using Wi-Fi calling. Just turn off US number when not on Wi-Fi to save international roaming fees. I can use FaceTime and iMessage with my local SIM to stay connected to family members back in the US and they know to use the apps if needed to contact me.