Area Code Map for New York Area

How to Get a Cell Phone with a 212 Area Code

What is a phone number with a 212 area code worth? Evidently for Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), on the TV sitcom Seinfeld, it means the difference between getting and not getting a date with someone you have your eye on.

Eight years ago, I wrote a blog post that I never would have guessed would become one of my most popular: A cell phone with a 212 area code?

The post was only one paragraph long. But, according to my website statistics from Google Analytics, it has delivered many more visitors to my website via search engines than I ever expected. In fact, three of the top 10 search terms include variations of “212 area code.” Having dedicated much of my career to Hispanic/Latin American marketing, I would have guessed that those themes/terms would dominate the list. And indeed, there are 4 variations of “estrategias marketing digital,” (digital marketing strategies, in Spanish). Nevertheless, it provides a good reminder to remain open to unexpected surprises.

Years ago, just before I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, I took advantage of the then new FCC (Federal Communications Commission) policy that enabled me to “port” my 212 landline number to my cell phone provider. More typically today, consumers use the “Local Number Portability” to transfer numbers between cell phone providers so as to maintain the identical phone number. According to this article on, roughly one in 20 phone numbers are moved between telecom carriers each year.

After setting it up, friends oftentimes asked me, “‘A 212 cellphone number? How did you get that?” If you live in Manhattan and are lucky enough to have a legacy 212 home number, you can easily do the same: just ask that your cell phone provider transfer your home number to become your cell phone number. (See more detailed steps below.) Alternatively, brokers such as sell 212 phone numbers for a one-time fee of between $125 and $500. IP-based telephone networks like Vonage may also help facilitate number portability. And still other services such as charge on-going monthly fees as part of providing that specific service.

Does the “status symbol” of a 212 area code make a difference? Some people find that their calls are more likely to be answered with Manhattan’s area code, according to this article in The New York Times.

Cellphones have proliferated in New York City so rapidly that Manhattan will need yet another area code by late 2017. There are approximately 8 million phone numbers within each area code. It took about 45 years to use up all of the 212 numbers. In contrast, it will have taken about 20 to exhaust the inventory of 646 numbers (Manhattan’s other area code).

When area codes were first created, 212 covered all five boroughs of New York City. As telephones became more popular, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and eventually the Bronx adopted “718.” By 1992, 212 became exclusive to Manhattan. Today, 212 phone numbers only become available when customers give them up. Those numbers may then become available through Time Warner, Verizon or another service provider.

Note: According to this article on, the FCC’s rules on phone-number portability only cover moves from one service to another (wireline, wireless or Voice over Internet Protocol) within “the same geographic area.” In this situation, Internet-based calling services allow you to keep existing numbers. But first you have to see if a “VoIP” service can take your number at all. Most have simple forms on their sites where you can enter your digits, or just the area code and exchange, to see if they can handle the port.

In conclusion, here are the FCC’s instructions on how to “port” your phone number from one service provider to another:

  • Review your current contract. Your contract may contain early termination fees and/or outstanding balances that you are obligated to pay.
  • Do not terminate your service with your existing company before initiating new service with another company.
  • Contact the new company to start the process of porting your number.
  • Provide the new company with your 10-digit phone number and any additional information required.

And you can also read the FCC’s phone number portability checklist here.

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  1. Joe…I just stumbled upon this old post you wrote about 212 numbers. It is timely again now as NYC is getting a new area code this week (332). With the news of the 332 release…my company has been getting more and more requests for 212 area code numbers.

    There is something about a 212 number that is just different than other area codes across the country. Area codes such as 312 in Chicago or 415 in San Francisco are also popular ones but people can still get them from their local phone company. Most phone companies haven’t had 212 numbers in many years unless someone cancels service and releases their number back

    Let me know if you would be interested in doing another article on the topic

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