How To Get A Toll Free Number

Toll-free numbers have been around for awhile now (since 1960 to be exact), but it is only more recently that they’ve become so popular. There are a few reasons for this. For one, companies and families alike have discovered their many benefits. But even more importantly, the process for getting one — once both overly complex and expensive — has become streamlined into the simple, easy and cheap process it is today. Nonetheless, before setting up a toll-free number, for company or personal use, there are a few things you should know ahead of time. To start, what exactly a toll-free number is. Well, it’s just like a regular phone number except that instead of the caller being charged for each phone call, the called pays for it — that is, the owner of the toll-free number. Most often associated with the 1-800 format, there are actually three other toll-free formats currently in use: 1-888, 1-877 and 1-866. (1-855, 1-844, 1-833 and 1-822 have all also been reserved by the FCC for toll-free status, but aren’t yet in use.)

Okay, but why would you want a toll-free number you might ask. It costs you more, right? Well, sure. But it also comes with quite a few benefits. For example, if you’re a business, especially a customer-focused business, and you want to reach out to customers beyond your area code, a toll-free number is almost a must. For one, it’s expected. Put simply, it looks unprofessional to have a regular phone number if you’re not a local business. Second, it builds trust and credibility. It shows that you’re not some fly-by-night organization and it tells any potential customers that you’ve done your due diligence and are taking the next step to reach out to them, putting their interest ahead of yours. Third, toll-free numbers are often catchier in the sense that they stick in your head, especially for so-called vanity numbers (for example, 1-800-FLOWERS). Fourth, and most important of all: they work. They increase leads, ad responses and sales. Which, at the end of the day, is why just about every non-local business has one today.

All that said, toll-free numbers have many uses outside of a business context too. Like for families. For example, if you’re a parent with a son or daughter away at college, setting up a toll-free number makes it incredibly easy for for everyone to stay in touch. For me, when I was a broke college student, having just moved several states away for school (and not owning a cellphone), the toll-free number was my lifeline to family and support. Likewise, when I was in highschool it was how I let my parents know I was done with track practice. Or if I was in an emergency. Of course, with the prevalence of cellphones nowadays a family-only toll-free number is becoming less and less useful. All the same, it is still helpful for kids too young for their own cellphones, or for families who can’t afford them. Also: it’s much cheaper than calling collect.

(Note: If you do decide to setup a toll-free number for home use, you probably don’t want to advertise it past a small group of people — family and (maybe) close friends — as you have to pay for every call. And to those you do share it with you should let them know that it should only be used when necessary and not to share the number, especially on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.)

So now that you’re familiar with a.) what a toll-free number is and b.) how they can be beneficial, let’s look into how you actually get one — and whether or not it makes sense for you to get one.

Choosing a Toll-Free Number Service Provider

When it comes to choosing a toll-free service provider there’s actually quite a lot of choice. Still, I’d advise starting with what you know: your current local or long-distance service provider. While not every phone company offers toll-free services, almost all of them do — including all the major phone service companies (AT&T, Sprint, etc.). So give them a call and ask for information on what plans they offer, features they provide and for a quote on price. This should give you an idea of what your options are as well as a rough-estimate of what it’s going to cost you. (Note: while prices can vary quite a bit depending on where you live and the plan you offer, you can typically expect a per call cost of somewhere between $0.05 and $0.30.)

Now, if what your current provider is charging seems a little high (and it usually is), I’d advise looking next into the current lineup of companies in which toll-free numbers are their only business. There are currently hundreds of these companies, though, so it can take some effort if you want to find the best deal possible. Nonetheless, these companies tend to be much cheaper and offer more (and better) features. To start this search I’d suggest looking online (Google: “toll-free numbers”), but you can also check the yellow pages or ask around.

If you still can’t find a good deal there’s a third and final option: going the VOIP (Voice Over IP System) route — basically, running your toll-free number through your Internet connection. This option has become quite popular as of late since it’s both cheap and easy. So long as you already have a working computer and Internet connection you can set up a VOIP toll-free number and you’ll receive all your calls through your computer — which you can hook up to an “actual” phone if you prefer. And since it all runs through your computer, it is incredibly cheap. Prices are typically similar to that of regular long-distance calls. However, there is one large drawback to the VOIP approach: it only works so long as your computer and Internet are working. Either of those two go down, and so does your toll-free number. Well, until you get it all back up and running again. Once again I’d advise looking online to find the VOIP service provider that works best for you.