The thought of long distance phone calls evokes images of expensive phone bills. But making international calls doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, in some cases, it can be free.
Whether you’re leaving the country on vacation or need to get in touch with family overseas, don’t settle for the expensive rates your phone providers will charge. Explore our list of cheap international calling services and find one that works for you.
Skype’s Phone Service
Skype is ubiquitous as a video-calling app, but it’s also possible to use the app as an affordable way to make long distance phone calls. Skype’s phone feature allows you to makes calls both domestic and abroad through the internet from your Skype account. The long distance rates depend on the country you are calling, but they’re considerably lower than traditional long distance phone calls. Think: 2 cents1 per minute or less to call countries like India and China.
You can either pay as you go using Skype Credit or buy a monthly subscription to a particular country or region. You can also use Skype To Go to reach friends all over the world from your mobile phone or landline at low calling rates without using data or internet. Just add the international number you want to call as a Skype To Go contact and Skype will provide a local number to dial instead.
International Calling Cards
You can turn any local phone into an international phone with calling cards. Find prepaid calling cards online or in-person at gas, stations, supermarkets, and airports. To use the card, simply call the toll-free number on the card and enter your PIN before placing the call. Prices are often dependent on how regularly you are making calls, but some offer minutes to countries like China for as low as 1.4 cents2.
Keep in mind that some companies charge maintenance and recharging fees, so read the details before you decide which calling card company to choose.
FaceTime on Apple Devices
Apple users can reach each other for free from the FaceTime app on their devices whenever they have Wi-Fi. You can also make calls using your data plan when you’re on the go. Just sign in with your Apple ID and choose a contact to call. You can make both video and audio-only calls.
VoIP Landline Service
In addition to Skype and Facetime, you can use VoIP service from a landline phone. VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is essentially a service that allows you to make calls over the internet, instead of through traditional landlines. You can buy a VoIP phone or use an analog telephone adapter through services like Vonage to connect traditional analog phones to a digital VoIP network. With these services, you can make unlimited calls abroad for less than $30 a month plus taxes and fees3.
International SIM Cards
Prefer using your own phone? As long as it has a SIM card slot, you can swap your U.S. SIM card for a global SIM card and call loved ones in another country on your own device for as little as 29 cents a minute4.
If you are travelling, you can also buy local SIM cards with low international charges once you arrive at your destination. Just be sure to unlock your phone from your wireless carrier before you leave America. Phones generally come “locked” out of the box so that you can’t use rival providers, but U.S. carriers help you unlock your phone if you’re traveling outside of their network.
Swedish-based start-up, Rebtel, is hoping to revolutionize international calling. If both parties download the app, unlimited international app-to-app calls are just $1 per month. Rebtel also offers extremely low non-app international calling rates, with popular deals including $10 per month5 for unlimited calls to India. Rebtel is currently only available in 50 countries, but it’s expanding rapidly as it grows in popularity.
1 Prices as of July 2016. Determine current cost here.
2 Prices as of July 2016. Determine current cost here.
3 Prices as of July 2016. Check most current cost here.
4 Prices as of July 2016. Determine current cost here.
5 Prices as of July 2016. Determine current cost here.