Verizon sells prepaid devices like the Moto G4 Play (XT1609) or the Moto e 2nd Gen (XT1528) at a huge discount compared to the normal unlocked versions at places like Best Buy, Family Dollar, or Walmart. They subsidize these phones so you’ll pay for their $40/mo+ plans to get their money back. Technically, these phones will work with any MVNO that use the Verizon network or even Verizon’s own postpaid accounts. The only issue is that you aren’t supposed to use these phones on anything other than Verizon’s own in-house prepaid service.
Verizon prints on the back of their prepaid smartphone boxes (as of about January 2016) that you must make 12 payments on Verizon Prepaid or some other comparable payment in order for the phone to qualify to be used with alternate Verizon services. This is not true. In order for a Verizon Prepaid phone to qualify for Verizon postpaid (and therefore all Verizon MVNO’s), you just need to activate on 1 month of service of Verizon Prepaid. Most just chalk this up to paying a Verizon $40 ransom fee.
How to Get Hotlined
If you try to use the Verizon Prepaid IMEI during activation of a new Verizon MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), it will fail as Verizon has not yet approved that IMEI for Verizon non-Prepaid accounts. So to get around that, you can go find a donor phone with a valid IMEI to activate the SIM (this can be done at a cell phone shop that is cool with it. They will probably ask for $10 for their time). Then you place the MVNO Verizon SIM in the Verizon Prepaid device and it works…. HOWEVER, you risk getting hotlined. It took 8 months for Verizon to hotline my phone number on a Verizon MVNO and it was a complete mess to fix, unless you know the right steps.
This guide assumes you have already “unlocked” your Verizon Prepaid phone as that is what allowed your SIM to function in the first place to be hotlined. If you insert a Verizon non-Prepaid SIM in the phone, you’ll be prompted for an unlock code. Verizon charges $35 for SIM card unlock codes, or you can get them for $2-3 on eBay.
What is “Hotlining”
If you put a SIM card in a Verizon Prepaid phone that is from a Verizon MVNO or Verizon’s postpaid, they will eventually “hotline” or suspend your phone number (for me, it took 8 months to get hotlined). You can also get hotlined for not paying your bill. This means your phone number is temporarily blocked in Verizon’s system until you associate your phone number with an IMEI from a phone that is compatible with normal Verizon service. Your texts, calls, and data will not work. If people call you, they will get an error message that you are disconnected.
If you are with a Verizon MVNO, even if your MVNO tells you to, do NOT call Verizon postpaid or prepaid support at this point as they can do nothing to help you. The only thing Verizon can do is verify in the DMD (Device Management Database) that your device ID under features has the Prepay Eligibility flag set to 00 (which means postpaid eligible). See this Reddit post for more info.
Basically, if your account get’s hotlined it is a problem with your phone number in Verizon’s system, NOT your phone, and NOT your SIM. So you could stick a different SIM in the Verizon Prepaid phone and it will work just fine. However, it’s only a matter of time until they hotline/suspend that Verizon non-Prepaid phone number.
If you are hotlined, your Verizon MVNO SIM card will not work in any Verizon phone even if the phone is a Verizon non-Prepaid. It requires manual activation from your service provider with a different IMEI to unlock.
What to do if you are Hotlined by Verizon while you are on a MVNO
There is nothing you can do to un-hotline your phone number if you don’t have a donor Verizon phone with an IMEI that will pass their checks. If you do have an unused donor phone, just give your Verizon MVNO your donor phone IMEI, they will re-activate (un-hotline) your phone number. However, you still need to follow the steps below to make your Verizon Prepaid phone Verizon postpaid eligible.
You also can get your phone number un-hotlined if you have another Verizon phone you are currently using under a different active line. In my case, I had 2 phone numbers with my Verizon MVNO: one working and one hotlined.
This only works if Verizon sees your hotlined phone number attempt to connect from a different (not the Verizon Prepaid phone you were hotlined from) valid IMEI. Here are the steps:
- 1. Remove the SIM cards from both phones
- 2. Insert the Verizon Prepaid SIM into the Verizon Prepaid phone you received when you bought it
- 3. Go to verizon.com/activate. Sign up for the $40 plan. Go through all the prompts until your phone is active and place a test call. Wait 15-20 minutes.
- 4. Optional Next Step: Call Verizon and ask them to check the DMD (Device Management Database) for your device ID and tell you what it says under the Features tab for the Prepay Eligibility. If they say 00, you are good. I have also found that if you use a Verizon MVNO IMEI checker (like this one: https://music.rokmobile.com/signup-byod), you can get a real system error code as to the current Verizon status of your IMEI.
- 5. Call Verizon Prepaid at (888) 294-6804, get through all the prompts, and tell them you want to sell your phone to a private party and need it deactivated. They will tell you that you will lose your $40 plan you haven’t really used yet unless you have a phone to replace it with. Your choice.
- 6. Call your Verizon MVNO and tell them you have another phone IMEI you’d like to place on your non-working phone number. Give them the IMEI from your other working phone that was on your other active phone number. When they tell you that you can’t use the same IMEI for both phone numbers, give them the Verizon Prepaid IMEI to use on your already working phone number/SIM card.
Your hotlined phone number should now be active. You can have your Verizon MVNO swap the IMEI’s back to the original phones you wanted.
This is a pretty straight forward process, but it is easy to get confused as you are dealing with multiple phone numbers, multiple SIM card numbers, and multiple IMEI’s. So just go slow. Leave any questions or comments down below.