What is a toll-free number & how do you get one?

At one point or another, you’ve probably dialed a 1-800 number to ask questions, get help, or connect to a sales rep. These phone numbers are called toll-free numbers because they are completely free for the person placing the call.

But what is a toll-free number exactly? Below, we share everything you need to know about toll-free numbers, including what they are, how they work, what they cost, and how to get a toll-free number for your business. 

What is a toll-free number?

A toll-free number is a phone number where the recipient — not the caller — foots the bill. Business owners often use toll-free numbers so customers and prospects can get help without worrying about a looming (and expensive) long-distance phone call. 

A toll-free number usually begins with area codes like 800, 888, or 833 (more on this below).

Whatever the format, the process is the same: Dialing a toll-free number is free to the caller, with the inbound call being charged to the recipient.

4 key benefits of toll-free phone numbers

A few major reasons companies use toll-free numbers include:

  1. A toll-free number gives you a phone number with a distinctive area code such as 800, 855, or 833 in North America. Think of it almost like a premium web domain.
  2. People in the U.S., Canada, and eighteen other countries can dial your team without paying long-distance charges. This can be especially useful if you have customers across multiple countries you want to make calling your support, sales, or any other team as easy as possible. Anyone that lives in one of the countries or regions covered in the North American Numbering Plan can call you for free.
  3. Since toll-free numbers aren’t tied to any specific location, your company can appeal to customers around the world.
  4. Businesses with toll-free numbers are also often seen as larger and more established, which can help with landing larger clients or just giving you that extra boost of credibility.

What is a vanity number and how does it differ from a toll-free number?

A vanity number is a phone number that spells out a word or phrase. 1-800-flowers and 1-800-contacts are examples of vanity numbers. It is a marketing and sales technique to make it easier for customers and prospects to remember your number.

When it comes to functionality, there is no difference between a vanity number and its regular toll-free number. For example, 1-800-flowers translates to 1-800-356-9377 and 1-800-contacts translates to 1-800-266-82287. (Fun fact: If your vanity number is more than 10 digits, it will still work. In fact, the call will be made after the first 10 digits, no matter if the extra numbers are dialed or not.)  

How do toll-free numbers work

When it comes to the caller, a toll-free phone number works exactly like any other phone number. You simply dial to get connected with a customer service rep or other personnel. The only difference between dialing a toll-free number and another number is long-distance calls are free, even when placed from a landline.

If you are a startup, small business owner, or large corporation, how your new toll-free number works depends on your phone service. Some VoIP service providers charge extra for receiving toll-free calls, so it’s important to do your research when selecting a service.

How do I get a toll-free number?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) controls who receives a toll-free number. Toll-free numbers are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and they’re typically distributed through a “Responsible Organization” (RespOrgs), which reserve, manage, and distribute toll-free numbers to business owners. 

OpenPhone is an FCC-approved provider of toll-free numbers. With OpenPhone, getting a toll-free number is incredibly easy. To get your number, follow these steps:

  1. Sign up for an OpenPhone account using your email address or Google account.
  2. Pick your OpenPhone number by selecting “toll-free numbers.”
  3. That’s it! Simply enter your payment information to begin a seven-day free trial. 

Once you finish the OpenPhone setup process, your toll-free number is ready to use and your customers can make toll-free calls to you. 

What countries support toll-free numbers?

Typically, toll-free numbers are not free to use outside North America. Technically, a toll-free number is only free when placed within the United States or Canada. If a caller is dialing outside the US or Canada, they will face long-distance charges. 

How much does a toll-free number cost?

Since toll-free numbers are distributed through a number of providers, pricing will vary. Some FCC-approved providers will charge $15-plus per month to manage a number, plus $0.06-$0.30 per minute for incoming calls. 

Translation: A toll-free service can easily impact your bottom line, so it’s important to do your research when searching for a toll-free number provider.

OpenPhone provides affordable, transparent pricing when it comes to toll-free numbers. With OpenPhone, pricing starts at just $13 per month, per user. If you choose a toll-free number as your phone number, it’s free of charge. When customers make toll-free calls to you, you’re not paying any extra fees.

Why should you choose OpenPhone for a toll-free number?

what is a toll-free number: mobile and desktop view of OpenPhone

With OpenPhone, getting a toll-free number is simple and affordable. Plus, OpenPhone offers a number of advanced features that make it easier to field customer service requests coming in through your toll-free number.

Here’s why you should choose OpenPhone as your toll-free number provider. 

1. It’s easy to use

With OpenPhone, you can get and set up a toll-free number within minutes. Simply download the OpenPhone app to your cell phone, select a number with a toll-free code, and start placing and receiving toll-free calls from your mobile phone. 

2. You can easily improve customer service 

You get a number of advanced features with OpenPhone like auto-attendant, call recording, call routing, auto-replies, and snippets to improve customer service.

Using OpenPhone, you don’t need a large team to manage incoming customer service or prospecting calls — automated replies and a virtual assistant help field calls, thereby saving time and energy.

3. You can have multiple numbers

With OpenPhone, small business owners and solopreneurs can have a 1-800 toll-free number in addition to their regular local number. Business owners can easily manage incoming calls, voicemails, and SMS messages for both numbers right from the OpenPhone app, without the burden of managing a second line. 

4. It’s affordable

With OpenPhone, having a toll-free telephone number is extremely affordable. If you want to use a toll-free number as your regular number, it’s just $13 per month per user. If you wish to add a toll-free line to your existing phone number, it’s only an extra $5 per month.

Choose OpenPhone to get a toll-free number 

A toll-free phone number is free for incoming callers, with the bill given to the person receiving the call. Toll-free numbers are useful for corporations and small business owners alike, as they can help field customer service and sales requests.

Toll-free numbers are controlled by the FCC, and you need to find one through an approved provider. If you’re a small business owner, startup, or solopreneur, getting a toll-free number through OpenPhone is the best choice for your business.

OpenPhone is a user-friendly, intuitive, and affordable solution for toll-free numbers. With OpenPhone, you can set up a toll-free number within minutes. From there, you can utilize solutions like auto-attendant, auto-replies, snippets, and toll-free call recording to improve your customer service offerings.

Ready to see how a toll-free number from OpenPhone can transform your business?

Sign up for a free seven-day trial today.


How do I get a toll-free number for my cell phone?

To get a toll-free number for your cell phone, you need to find an approved provider through the FCC and sign up for their service. If you’re a small business owner, startup, or solopreneur, OpenPhone is an easy-to-use and affordable solution that gives you access to toll-free numbers within minutes. With OpenPhone, you can enjoy features such as auto-attendant, auto-replies, snippets, and toll-free call recording to help improve your customer service offerings.

Is there a difference between 800, 888, 877, and other area codes?

All toll-free numbers begin with a three-digit prefix beginning with the number eight. There are seven different toll-free prefixes available, including 855, 800, 833, 844, 866, 877, and 888
There is absolutely no difference between phone numbers with any of the above formats. However, they are not interchangeable — if you dial someone with a 1-800 area code, you will reach someone different than if you dialed the same number beginning with 1-888.

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