Picking up the phone, making a call, and hearing the person's voice on the other side is a good feeling. Especially when your friends or loved ones live in different countries – a phone call can make the distance feel a lot smaller. This article will show you how to call international or long-distance numbers if you’re in the United States, including details on basic rates. While the steps for calling internationally from the U.S. can vary by carrier, once you know the basics, you can call anyone successfully.
How to make an international call from a cell phone
Here’s how to call international numbers or long distances from the U.S.
- Start by dialing “011” on your keypad. That’s called the International Access Code or International Direct Dialing (IDD) number. It lets the phone network know the number you’re about to dial is outside the U.S.
- Dial the country code next. Determine the country code for where you want to call. Every country has one, and it's usually a two- or three-digit number, though some countries use one digit. For example, if you were calling the Philippines, the country code is 63. So you would dial 011 (IDD number) and then 63 (country code).
- Dial the city or area code (if applicable). People typically provide the city or area code as part of a phone number. Its purpose is to narrow your connection request to a specific region within the country you’re calling. Area codes are usually 1 to 4 digits long.
- Dial the phone number. This is typically between four and seven digits depending on the country.
How to make an international call from a landline
To make an international call from a landline, you have to use the same process as when dialing with your cell phone.
- Dial the exit code. This number is 011 for calls placed from the U.S.
- Next, dial the country code or IDD number. That’s the two-to-three-digit number assigned to the country.
- Dial the area code for the region or city. Country codes are usually one to four digits long.
- Dial the phone number. This is generally between 4 to 7 digits in length.
International calling plans
Today staying connected with friends and family outside the U.S. is more affordable than ever. Most phone carriers have international calling plans or add-ons that will allow you to make an international call from the U.S. – and rates are pretty reasonable – though dialing landlines will increase rates a bit.
To help, here’s a review of international calling plans from popular solution providers.
|BOSS Revolution (pay as you go with optional special calling plans)
|U.S. Cellular1 ($3.99/month – Existing plan required, includes calls to Mexico & rate discount to 200+ countries)
|Boost Mobile2 ($10/month – Existing plan required)
|T-Mobile3 ($15/month – Existing plan required)
|Mint Mobile4 (Pay as you go, existing plan required - starts from 15$/month)
Note that the rates for monthly plans only apply when you go over the specified allotted minutes. You may also need to have an existing phone plan with a carrier to add international calling.
The data shown in the table is up to date as of November 8, 2021. Current data may differ slightly due to changes in policies and fluctuations in the calling rates.
If you have to call overseas regularly, it's worth signing up for a plan or using a pay-as-you-go solution like BOSS Revolution – where you can also grab special monthly or daily international calling plans.
Best calling apps & online platforms
As noted earlier, you should consider using an app or get an international calling plan if you have to make overseas calls regularly. But you should be selective as some apps are better than others. Ideally, any app that will let you stay in touch with your friends and family without incurring huge fees is a winner.
Here are some excellent apps to consider.
- BOSS Revolution – This app is super simple to use. The developers went through a great deal of trouble to provide a fantastic user interface (UI). So no surprise it’s one of the most used apps for dialing international mobile phones and landlines. BOSS Revolution works on Android and iPhone devices, plus the rates are very low. You can top-up through the app, via the online web platform, or over the phone. You also can top up other phone numbers.
- Skype – This is one of the best-known international calling apps. Skype is free to use, but you’ll have to pay to make international calls, and fees vary based on country. The company also offers international calling plans with a set number of minutes (fees apply if you go over).
- Google Voice – With this app, international fees are tracked and billed at the end of your billing cycle. To use the service, you’ll need a Google account. Besides making and receiving audio calls, you can do other things like make video calls and set up conferences. You can use the app via a web browser, Android, or iPhone.
- Dingtone – The mobile application works on phones and tablets using iOS or Android. It allows users to make unlimited free calls over the Internet. Additionally, calling others within the Dingtone network is always free, including international calls. However, you both must have an Internet connection.
- TextNow – You can call most parts of the world with this app. It’s free to download and available on Windows computers, Android, and iPhone. International calling rates vary, and for some parts of the world, calls are free. However, you need to keep your free TextNow phone number active by making calls regularly7. Paid users do not have to worry about regular use to maintain an active number.
Prepaid calling cards
You can make international calls with prepaid calling cards. Here are some solutions to consider.
- BOSS Revolution – Offers refillable, pinless physical and virtual calling cards. 'Pinless' means you can set up a pinless dial or save your phone number with the card issuer. This removes the need to enter a pin code every time you make calls. Also, note that you’ll have to register for an account on the BOSS Revolution website to use virtual prepaid calling cards.
- EZcalls – This company provides pinless rechargeable prepaid calling cards for domestic and international calls.
- Aquacalling – these cards let users make domestic and international calls with no payphone surcharge, though you can call from any phone.
How to call international for free
When it comes to free calls abroad, there are several options you can use. But they all rely on the Internet, and in most cases, you and the other person must have the same app. For example, you can call international numbers from the U.S. for free using Facebook Messenger as long as: both parties have access to the Internet and are using Messenger.
Additionally, you can’t make calls to landlines using solutions like Messenger. Sometimes companies will have promo offers that allow users to call international numbers from the U.S. to a landline, but rare.
That noted, here are some ways to call abroad for free.
- Skype – Skype-to-Skype international calls are free; otherwise, fees apply.
- WhatsApp – This is another app worth considering for calling internationally from the U.S. Like Skype, you can make calls and send SMS messages to any WhatsApp user. Calling anyone outside the network or app is not possible.
- FaceTime – FaceTime only works between Apple devices. So if you have a Mac computer, tablet, or iPhone, you can use it to call abroad for free. Note that you’ll need an Internet connection.
Here are additional tips to keep in mind when you want to call an international number.
- Always remember that 011 is the prefix for North America. If calling from a country other than the United States, you’ll need to locate the country’s IDD.
- Sometimes people list international phone numbers with a “+” sign before the phone digits. You can use the “+” symbol in place of “011” if dialing from a cell phone. The “+” sign is usually the same key as “0” on a smartphone’s keypad.
- Some countries share a country code. For example, Canada, the United States, some places in the Caribbean, and Guam share “1” as a country code.
- Countries with different methods for calling mobile and landline phones may require a number after the country code. For instance, you must dial “1” after the Mexican code (“52”) to reach mobile phones.
- Some smaller countries don’t use city codes. In such a situation, you’ll have to dial whatever phone number you have.
- Ask them for it instead of looking it up whenever someone doesn't give you a city or area code, even if you know their address. A person’s current address isn’t always the same as their area code. That’s because a phone number doesn't have to be in the same place it was acquired.
One of the prime concerns for many when making international calls is cost. The good news is you can sign up for affordable international calling plans. Most pay-as-you-go international calling options also give you the rate upfront. So you can relax and enjoy conversations with your friends and family without clock-watching to avoid huge bills.
Sources: all third party information obtained from applicable website as of November 8, 2021
This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to address every aspect of the matters discussed herein. The information in this article is not intended as specific personal advice. The information in this article does not constitute legal, tax, regulatory or other professional advice from IDT Payment Services, Inc. and its affiliates (collectively, “IDT”), and should not be taken or used as such by any individual. IDT makes no representation, warranty or guaranty, whether express or implied, that the content in this article is current, accurate, or complete. You should obtain professional or other substantive advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the information in this article.