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

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

You’ve probably dialed a 1-800 number at some point 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? And how can you get one for your business?

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?

Traditionally, a toll-free number is a phone number where the recipient — not the caller — pays for the call . Today, whether the recipient has to pay for that specific phone call depends on the provider. For example, VoIP systems like OpenPhone don’t charge by the minute for any calls received on a toll-free number. You only pay to use the number itself, as well as any international calling rates to reach clients outside the US and Canada. 

Business owners often use toll-free numbers so customers and prospects can get help without worrying about expensive, long-distance phone calls. They can also field customer service and sales requests from customers outside their local area.

A toll-free number usually begins with area codes like 800, 888, 844, or 833 (more on this later ). Numbers can be attached to desk phones and landlines, forwarded to your mobile phone, or used virtually through a VoIP system so you can make or receive calls on any device.

Toll-free numbers are controlled by the FCC, which means you need to buy them through an approved provider. If you’re a small business owner or manage a growing team, getting a toll-free number through OpenPhone may be the best choice for your company.

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 since it can be more memorable than a local number. 
  2. People in the US, Canada, and 18 other countries can dial your team without paying long-distance charges. This is especially useful if you have customers across multiple countries and you want to make inbound calling 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 you land larger clients or just give you that extra boost of credibility.

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 a local number r is that long-distance calls are free — even when placed from a landline.

The extra features that come with your toll-free number (like auto-attendants, hold music, or call recordings) depend on the phone service you choose. Some VoIP service providers also 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), RespOrgs 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 to try out OpenPhone free with a seven-day trial.
  2. Pick your OpenPhone number by selecting “toll-free numbers.” You can choose a US toll-free number or a Canada toll-free-number.
  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. Customers can make toll-free calls to your business in 15 minutes or less. Best of all, with OpenPhone, you don’t need to worry about paying extra for inbound calls. And all outbound calls to any US or Canadian numbers come free with your plan.

Get started with one of these toll-free numbers

or choose from thousands more numbers with 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, and 833 toll-free area codes

Toll-free phone number look-up

What countries support toll-free numbers?

North American toll-free numbers are typically not free to use outside North America Numbering plan regions and countries. If a caller dials outside these areas, they may face long-distance charges when calling a toll-free number. 

How much does a toll-free number cost?

Three factors determine the cost of a toll-free number:

  1. The number itself
  2. Inbound and outbound calls
  3. Your contact’s location

Let’s take a closer look at each.

The number itself

You can buy toll-free numbers from any Responsible Organization (RespOrg) approved by the FCC. However, prices for numbers may vary dramatically depending on the provider you use. Some FCC-approved providers charge $15 per number per month, while others go as high as $30 or more. 

With OpenPhone, plans start at just $15 per user per month. Each user comes with one free toll-free, local US, or Canadian number. This means you are getting more bang for your buck. . Any additional toll-free numbers cost $5 per number per month.

Inbound and outbound calls

Some service providers charge for every call you make or receive on your toll-free number. These include call origination fees (for calls received) and call termination fees (for outbound calls).

There are typically three different pricing structures used by service providers:

  • Per-minute pricing: You pay a small fee for every minute you stay on the line
  • Bundled minutes: You pay a set amount of money for a set amount of minutes (like 200 minutes per user per month)
  • Plan rates: Depending on your service provider, you may get more toll-free minutes by upgrading to a more expensive plan

Desk phones and mobile phones can have different termination rates depending on the carrier and call destination (more on this later).

If you want to avoid inbound and outbound call fees on your business phone number, you can use OpenPhone to make and receive calls for free. Once you sign up for the Starter plan ($15 per user per month), you can make unlimited calls and texts in the US and Canada. 

Your contact’s country or location

The location and destination of toll-free calls can also have an impact on pricing. For example, it may cost $0.02 per minute to receive inbound calls from the US, but $0.10 per minute to answer inbound calls from Australia. Some carriers require you to buy an international calling package to make or receive calls outside the US.

Thankfully, there are more cost-effective business phone systems available for toll-free numbers. With OpenPhone, you only pay for the toll-free number(s) you want to use. You never have to pay for inbound calls. Plus, you have access to free unlimited outbound calling to the US and Canada, so you can maintain a national presence anywhere in the world.

Need to call customers outside your local area? Our international calls have competitive and transparent rates. You can easily calculate your monthly costs in advance without worrying about hidden fees or other nasty surprises.

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 (like auto-replies, snippets, and call recording) that make it easier to field customer support requests or follow up with your professional contacts.  

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

1. Work together

If your teammates work in separate shifts or need to collaborate together in real time, you can use internal threads in OpenPhone to stay on the same page. Internal threads are visible only to your team and can be used to tag colleagues with access to shared numbers.

Shared numbers in OpenPhone let your team split the load for handling incoming calls and text messages. Plus, managers can easily see who responded to specific contacts (and when they did) from any shared number.

2. It’s easy to use

With OpenPhone, you can get and set up a toll-free number within minutes. Simply download OpenPhone to your cell phone (or use our browser or desktop app), select a number with a toll-free code, then start placing and receiving toll-free calls from anywhere with a WiFi connection.

3. You can easily improve customer service 

Every business needs great customer service to delight their callers and encourage customer loyalty. With OpenPhone, you can get a number of advanced features that help you do just that, including:

  • Auto-attendants
  • SMS and MMS support
  • Call recording
  • Auto-replies
  • Call routing
  • Snippets

Plus, using OpenPhone, you don’t need a large team to manage incoming customer service or prospecting calls. Auto-replies plus our integration with Zapier let you automate touchpoints with your customers so you can dedicate more time and energy to more complex tasks. For example, you can use a templated Zap to send appointment reminder texts to customers who fill out a form.

4. 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 from any location with a WiFi connection. 

5. It’s affordable

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. With OpenPhone, having a toll-free telephone number is extremely affordable. If you want to use a toll-free number as your regular number, plans start at only $15 per month per user. You can also confirm OpenPhone is a good fit during a free, seven-day trial. Then if you wish to add a toll-free number to your existing business plan and don’t need any additional users, it’s just an extra $5 per number per month.

Choose OpenPhone to get a toll-free number 

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-replies, snippets, and toll-free call recordings to improve your customer service.

Ready to see how a toll-free number from OpenPhone can transform your business? Sign up for a free seven-day trial of OpenPhone today.


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

You can get a toll-free number you can use on your cell phone via an FCC-approved provider. OpenPhone is an easy-to-use solution that lets your business have a toll-free number within minutes. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though.
You can save your team hours — and still exceed your customer’s increasingly higher expectations using OpenPhone. Phone menus, snippets, toll-free call recordings, and other features help both your customers and your team.

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. Keep in mind vanity numbers don’t have to be 10 digits or less. Calls are made after you dial the first 10 digits, regardless if you enter the extra numbers or not. 

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.

How can I obtain a vanity toll-free number?

You can purchase vanity toll-free numbers from several Responsible Organizations in the United States. However, you should know vanity numbers are no different from toll-free numbers in terms of functionality — they’re just customized toll-free numbers. This means you can make a vanity number out of any toll-free number by choosing the right digits (like picking 1-833-743-7373 to spell 1-833-SHEPERD).
With OpenPhone, you can get a toll-free number starting at $15 per user per month.

Is it possible to use toll-free numbers for texting and calling on cell phones?

Yes, it is possible to use toll-free numbers for texting and calling on cell phones. With OpenPhone’s SMS and MMS support features, you can easily communicate with your customers or prospects using a toll-free number on your cell phone. This allows for a more efficient and professional communication experience, as all messages are kept in one place rather than being scattered across multiple devices.

Is 800 a legitimate area code?

Yes, 800 is a valid area code for toll-free numbers. Toll-free numbers with the prefix 800 are commonly associated with large companies or national businesses, but they are available for use by any business or individual. With OpenPhone, you can easily get a toll-free number starting at $15 per user per month and manage all your calls and messages from one convenient.

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