If you’re still paying a lot every time you pick up the phone to call grandma in the next state or your best friend in another country, you’re doing it wrong.

Subscribing to an expensive long-distance calling plan or paying a high per minute rate is a thing of the past—or at least, we think it should be. There are cheaper alternatives.

Sometimes, even free.

The ONE Case Where Long Distance Calling Comes Up

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember when calling anyone outside your immediate location added extra costs to your telephone bill. If you tried to call internationally? The charges doubled or even tripled!

Thankfully, that’s mostly a relic from the past, at least for long-distance calling in the U.S. Most U.S.-based cellular service providers include calls and texts within the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, even on their most basic plans. There might be limits, but generally you can make these calls for free.

The only time you’ll pay extra for long-distance calling is if the person you’re calling (or you) are overseas. Whether you have parents living in Europe, are nurturing an international long-distance relationship, or doing the digital nomad thing yourself, there are many reasons you want to hear a friendly voice thousands of miles away.

Another reason is today’s global marketplace. Perhaps you need to contact a business halfway around the world about a complex issue. Email just won’t cut it. You need to pick up the phone and call.

The point of all this is that international calling is still alive and well and isn’t going anywhere for now. We think what should go away is having to pay a lot to do it.

The Old Way to Do Long Distance Calling (Still) Isn’t Worth It

In the old days (like way back in the ‘90s), the only way to make long distance calls was pretty expensive. You paid by the minute, and the price changed depending on where you were calling, whether within or outside the U.S.

You only really had two options back then. You could add a very expensive long-distance calling plan to your monthly telephone service or incur huge roaming charges and extra fees per call. Either way, you were tied to your phone provider’s plan and usually ended up with a shocking phone bill each month.

If you were daring, you could try an app to make your calls. But even that wasn’t a sure thing back in the old days. Calls dropped unexpectedly, or the quality of the connection would make everyone sound like robots. If you were really unlucky, you experienced both on a single call. Not a practical alternative.

The relatively good news is that today, the costs with major phone providers for long distance calls have come down. But it is still not cheap.

Let’s say you regularly make calls to friends and family in countries beyond Canada or Mexico (two places usually included in the long-distance calling included in your monthly mobile bill). Verizon offers a plan for $15 extra per month per line with their Global Calling Plus package. AT&T offers unlimited calling to 85 countries for $15 per month per line. Adding a plan like this is one way to keep unexpected phone bills at bay, at least if you’re calling from the U.S.

But let’s say you’re the one traveling abroad. To stay connected with friends and family back home, the big-name providers still charge pretty hefty fees for you to do it. For example, Verizon’s international calling plan costs $100 per month per line, and limits you to 250 minutes of talk time.

So what is a person who wants or needs to call internationally to do?

How to Do Long Distance Calling for (Mostly) FREE

The good news is that if you need to make a long-distance call, there are lots of free or low-cost options out there. The better news is that most include a video component, so you can hear a friendly voice and see your loved ones, too. The best news is that many of these options are totally free.


What’s not to love about an app that is free to download, free to use, and lets you voice or video call with just a single tap? WhatsApp ticks all the boxes. That’s probably why it’s one of the most popular global messaging apps in the world, used by more than 2 billion people.

The app is available for both iPhone and Android, and relies on your phone’s WiFi or data connection to work. Both users must also have the app installed on their phones in order to start audio or video calls. But once that’s sorted, there are no long-distance fees, no matter where in the world you or the person you’re talking to are located. You can even do group calls.


If you and the person you want to call both have iOS devices, Apple’s built-in communications tool is a great option for free long-distance calls. Facetime offers the option of audio or video and costs nothing for the call. You both just need WiFi or data on your devices. Nothing to download, either. Facetime is preinstalled on all iOS devices.

While you can’t use Facetime to call a non-iOS user, it is a great option for iOS users to communicate with each other no matter where in the world they are. Facetime supports group calls, too.


Skype is one of the oldest communication apps around. It debuted in 2003 and was acquired by Microsoft in 2011. It has an impressive 40 million users every day. You can use Skype to chat for free with anyone else who has the app. Audio and video options are both available.

You can also use Skype to connect with any landline or mobile number anywhere in the world, even if that person doesn’t have Skype. You can load Skype Credit onto your account and use it to call other countries for as low as 2.3 cents per minute to landlines or 10 cents per minute to mobile numbers. Skype also offers international calling subscriptions at cheap rates.


Viber is another free app that offers audio and video chat functionality. There are more than 1 billion registered Viber users around the world using the app to stay in touch with family and friends. Download the app and you can chat or call anyone else using Viber.

Want to call someone who doesn’t use Viber? No problem. Viber Out is a VoIP add-on feature you can get for $5.99 per month. It lets you call landline and mobile numbers in 57 different countries at no additional cost. Need to call a country not on that list? Viber Out offers other monthly plans on a per-country basis and also the option to call anywhere and pay by the minute.


Talkatone is another app that lets you call or text other Talkatone app users for free anywhere in the world. It works on smartphones and tablets for both Android and iOS.

What makes Talkatone unique, though, is that it gives you a free U.S. phone number when you sign up for service. This lets you make and receive free calls and texts to most U.S. mobile and landlines, even if those numbers aren’t using Talkatone. You can also change this number anytime for free and keep all your Talkatone user history.

Talkatone is also really helpful to stay in touch back home when you travel outside the U.S. When you use your Talkatone U.S. phone number on WiFi, you can call or text most U.S. mobile or landline numbers and incur no roaming charges.

Other Long Distance Calling Options You’ll Like

Google Fi

Google Fi is a cost-effective alternative to the big-name mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T. You’ll have mobile and data coverage wherever you are, but at a more competitive rate.

With Google Fi’s Unlimited Plus plan for a single line, you pay $65 per month and get unlimited data in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. You also can make free calls from the U.S. to over 50 countries. Need to call a country not on that list? Prices start as low as one cent per minute.


Rebtel lets you make international calls using WiFi, 3G/4G, or local phone lines. This means you can make your call no matter what. No WiFi or data? No problem. Rebtel is an app-based subscription service that lets you sign up for a country-specific monthly plan.

Need to call people in more than one country? With its Unlimited Calling Worldwide plan, you pay just $12 per month and get unlimited minutes to 50 countries. Single-country plans cost even less. Plan prices and minutes included vary by country. All Rebtel plans are month-to-month with no long-term commitment required.


KeepCalling is another alternative for international calling that offers different plans tailored to your needs. You can choose the Unlimited Plan and pay $2.99 per month for unlimited minutes to a specific country. You can also choose the World Unlimited plan starting at $10 per month for unlimited minutes to landlines and mobile numbers in more than 50 countries.

You can call via a KeepCalling access number that works from any phone even without internet service. You can also download the KeepCalling app to call or text when you have access to WiFi or data. All plans are month-to-month, and you can cancel at any time.

Long Distance Calling Factors to Consider

If you make a lot of international calls, there are a few things to consider before deciding on a plan to lower your monthly costs, with pros and cons to each solution.

The idea of using a free app like WhatsApp or Facetime is pretty appealing, but both require the person you call to also install the app. If they don’t want another app on their phone or you need to call an overseas landline, then these app-to-app solutions won’t work.

Other apps like Skype and Viber offer add-on solutions that offer free app-to-app calls and international calls at a reduced rate. But you’ll need internet access to use these apps. If you can’t find free WiFi when you want to make the call, you’ll be using mobile data if you have it. If you don’t have data or don’t want to use it, your call will have to wait.

You should also consider how often you need to make international calls, under what circumstances, and how much your convenience outweighs costs. Is your international calling only needed temporarily, like while you’re on vacation out of the country? If so, it may make sense to add a temporary plan offered by your mobile carrier to cover the time you’ll be away. It will likely be more expensive, but saves you the hassle of downloading a new app or starting a new subscription service.

Finally, if you have friends or family overseas that you regularly want to call, but you don’t want to be tied down to WiFi or reliant on your mobile data, then Google Fi, Rebtel, or KeepCalling might be a great long-term solution.