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. (See video below.)

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, it surprised me that those terms dominated my top 10 keywords list.


Porting My 212 Number

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 Slate.com, 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 212AreaCode.com 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 RingCentral.com 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.


NYC Phone Numbers Proliferate: 212, 646 and now 332

Cellphones have proliferated in New York City so rapidly that as of 2017 Manhattan now has yet another area code: 332. 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 took about 20 years 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 USAToday.com, 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.


FCC’s Steps to Port Your Phone Number

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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