Phone verification in Germany
This guide discusses several services and SIM cards that can be used to receive German text messages for free, when being abroad. This is particularly useful for 2-factor authentication purposes. We also discuss a service with 100 minutes of free wifi calling that provides a free German phone number.
We consider a scenario where somebody living in Germany is planning to move abroad or become a perpetual traveller. If this person keeps German financial accounts that require 2-factor authentication via text messages, they will also need to keep a German phone number. Moreover, it is also beneficial to keep a German number to communicate with financial institutions or German authorities. Finally, we are also looking for phone services that can easily be used to provide low-cost data plans and free calling, when visiting Germany.
Our goal will be to find low-cost prepaid phone plans without any maintenance fee, which can be used to receive text messages and calls under a German number. We also consider services that allow the forwarding of text messages to your email address, so that do not even need to switch your SIM card, when travelling.
Prepaid pay-as-you-go SIM (international roaming)
One of the simplest solutions of keeping a German phone number when moving abroad is to purchase prepaid pay-as-you-go SIM, which does not charge a maintenance fees. There is quite a large number of such prepaid services.
We recommend Kaufland Mobil with the following features:
No monthly fees if Pay-As-You-Go ("Basic") is chosen. Note, however, that you will need to add at least 7.99 EUR per year to keep the plan active. You will receive a reminder text message and email.
Best available German network (D Netz of the German Telekom) with best possible reception, even rural areas.
Free reception of text messages in most countries of the world, so it is an excellent solution for 2-factor authentication when travelling.
Not a VoIP number, so compatible with verification services that do not allow VoIP numbers.
Free messaging option that allows you to use slow internet in Germany, so that you can use WhatsApp and similar messaging services for free. This is the main difference to other plans, which are almost indistinguishable, and the reason we recommend this plan.
A large variety of prepaid plans that you can activate specifically for a limited time if you travel back to Germany. In particular, there is a six-months plan for 29.99 EUR that gives 6 GB of data. Other alternatives are XS Smart (1 GB for 4 weeks / 4.99 EUR) and S Smart (3 GB for 4 weeks / 7.99 EUR). All of these plans also include a free callings / texting during the plan.
Great way to keep your German phone number. You can port most German numbers for a maximal fee of 6.82 EUR to a new provider. If you leave Germany and want to keep your phone number, you can use this to keep your number for extended period of time.
As cheap Pay-As-You-Go solution for international travel, we recommend Surfroam*, where you pay 0.01 EUR per MB in most countries.
SIM quadrat (SMS to Mail service)
Another free solution that allows you to receive text messages is SIM quadrat. They provide a SIM or even eSIM with a prepaid plans, which also include Pay-As-You-Go plans without any maintenance fees. The key feature is the function "SMS To Mail", which can be added for free using the Feature Store. Any received text messages are then automatically forwarded to your chosen email address. Note, however, that the text messages need to be received on your mobile phone, before the text message will be forwarded to your email. There are no monthly fees.
We therefore recommend the following approach:
Sign up for SIM quadrat.
Receive your SIM or activate eSIM.
Use an old phone (or buy a cheap used phone).
Connect a phone to permanent power source and place it somewhere with reception. If you travel a lot internationally (including countries where SIM quadrat may not be supported), you could potentially store this phone with family or parents.
Login to your account (see below), choose the "Feature Store" and then activate the free "SMS To Mail" Feature.
This is particularly useful for receiving 2-factor authentication when travelling internationally with limited SIM reception, assuming that you still have internet to access your email. In particular, you do not need to switch SIM cards to receive verification text messages.
Satellite App (free German number plus wifi calling)
The Satellite App by Sipgate offers a free German VoIP number and up to 100 minutes of free calling to phone numbers in more than 60 countries. With this app, you can be reached under your German number wherever you have internet (either through wifi or mobile internet). There is also the option to pay 4.99 EUR per month for unlimited international calling. You do not need an additional SIM card, but everything is available through the app whenever internet is available, i.e., you can use it in parallel to other services and your regular phone number based on your SIM card.
Unfortunately, receiving text messages is currently not supported, but may become available in the future (see this article). Therefore, the Satellite App cannot be used for text verification, but it can be used to communicate with German banks and authorities or complete verifications through automatic voice calls.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I use Android Apps of another country when I do not want to change the country on Google Play?
You can install country-restricted Android Apps of different countries if you create several Google accounts and add them to your Android phone. In the Google Play Store, you can then swap to another Google account (click on the account picture in the top right corner in Google Play Store) and select under Settings -> Account and device preferences -> Country and profiles the country you want. You can change the country of a Google account once per year and you are usually required to be in the respective country, so that the button "Switch to the [Country] Play Store" appears - if you are currently in a different country, you can use a VPN server (such as the free ProtonVPN service) and the button with the correct country should appear. This way, you can have accounts with several different Play Store Countries and install apps of all these countries (you always need to change to the respective Google account when searching for the relevant country-restricted app). All installed apps can be used normally.