Vanity Phone Numbers–Free

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You've got the vanity license plate, E-mail address, and even monogrammed shirts. Now you can have a vanity phone number, too. Something like 314-COOLGUY. But unlike commercial vanity numbers, say 314-TAXICAB, you can get one free of charge.

This falls dangerously close to being a Stupid Tech Trick, but in our household all the personal numbers–land line and cell–spell something. It is even useful on occasion, as people more quickly remember something like 314-NERDGUY than they do a 10-digit number.

Before calling the phone company to establish service, check which exchanges are available to you. Exchanges are the second group of three numbers in a 10-digit phone number, and they are largely limited by local geography, particularly for land lines.

Once you find which exchanges are available, visit a website that does the number-to-word conversion. My favorite is PhoneSpell. Type in your area code and exchange, and up pop all the potential words or word combos. By the way, you're out of luck if your exchange has a 1 or a 0; a traditional phone keypad assigns them no numbers, which is also why most area codes can't be used to spell anything.

The key is getting a friendly agent when you call the phone company. You'll be peppering him or her with your choices, hoping to find one that's available before the agent's patience is exhausted. If that happens, kindly take your leave and call back, starting over with the numbers and/or words still untested.

It takes a bit of effort but not much more than getting your personalized license plate number. And if you have one of those, you already know that vanity has its price.