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International Calling Costs: Everything You Need to Know

Marc Prosser
Updated Aug 24, 2022

All the details on international calling costs and how you can reduce them.

When doing business with people in other countries, international calls will likely become more frequent for your business. Understanding international calling costs and how to keep your prices as low as possible will help you maintain consistent communication with your clients and partners in other countries. Here is what you need to know.

What are international numbers?

An international number allows your company to receive calls from many countries, even those with different dialing procedures, to one organized line. 

When setting up your international number, you can choose a virtual phone number or a universal international freephone number (UIFN). A virtual phone number, sometimes called direct inward dialing (DID), redirects to any line of your choosing. You can also pair your virtual phone number with local or toll-free exchanges. 

A UIFN adds an extra digit to toll-free numbers so the new number can be used consistently throughout the world. A UIFN is especially helpful for branding purposes and vanity numbers. 

TipTip: You can manage high call volumes by increasing your customer service training, adding a FAQ page or implementing automated responses.

What are international calling costs?

Basic rates for international calls are nondiscounted calls from landlines without any international calling plan. Basic rates may also require additional charges if you place calls to mobile phones. 

Your international calling costs and rates are dependent on a variety of factors, but here’s the average the FCC listed: The basic nonplan rate to place a call to China is $5 per minute, while the U.K. is $3.50 and Mexico is $3.50. It’s easy to see how those costs could add up quickly. 

What affects international calling costs?

The average international cost per minute will vary based on your phone provider and plan, whether you’re calling via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or a landline, and the countries – even cities – you’re calling to and from. We’ll take a more in-depth look and explain how these factors affect your international calling costs.

Rate differences by country and city

Your international calling rates will differ for each country. If you are using VoIP, your costs will vary depending on which city within a certain country you call, and if you are calling a landline or mobile phone. Phone.com’s rates are fairly typical, so we’ll use theirs as an example. 

Country

Rate range per minute

Brazil

3.9¢-6.5¢

Canada

3.9¢-11.1¢

China

3.9¢

Japan

3.9¢-6.5¢

U.K.

15.7¢-27.1¢ 

Are VoIP or traditional phone lines cheaper?

Your international rate also depends on whether you are using VoIP or a traditional landline. VoIP providers have a standard country rate – both landline and mobile – but often have cheaper rates for cities that are popular for business calls. For example, although Phone.com’s VoIP rates for Mexico are generally around $0.12 per minute, they are only around $0.04 (less than half a cent) per minute if you are calling Mexico City.

However, traditional landline providers offer the same rate for the entire country. So, whether you call Mexico City, Puebla or Tijuana, it will be $0.09 (less than 1 cent) to call a landline. In general, VoIP service and hardware costs are significantly cheaper than traditional hardwired systems, which is important to factor in when comparing international rates.

Your plan

Your international calling rates and overall costs will vary significantly depending on the phone plan your company purchases. Some providers offer plans where you pay an extra $5-$10 per month for a set amount of free minutes to use on international calls. Plans like this can be a solid option. Just make sure you read the fine print. Many of these international plans advertise deals like “1,000 free international minutes” and then only work with certain numbers or countries. So, do your homework or you might end up overpaying.

Here are some of the best and most cost effective phone systems to consider for your business:

Nextiva 

Nextiva offers messaging, voice and video tools. We’re fans of Nextiva because of its analytics and reporting tools. For instance, supervisors can monitor their staff’s talk time and call numbers using wallboards that can be filtered by user or location.

RingCentral

We found both RingCentral desktop and mobile to be user-friendly. RingCentral offers features like Team Huddle, which provides chat-friendly video spaces for remote teams. RingCentral is geared toward meeting your team’s goals without paying large fees for third-party software. It also integrates with many third-party tools so you can take calls while working in other CRMs. Learn more in our review of RingCentral.

Ooma 

Subscriptions with Ooma have many appealing options, like over 30 VoIP features and unlimited calling to the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Every plan includes internet fax, intercom, texting and overhead paging. We liked Ooma for how quickly its systems could be used both on-site and remotely once purchased, as well as 24/7 customer support. Learn more in our review of Ooma.

You can also check out other top-rated business phone systems and plans to find the best fit for your company’s needs.

TipTip: If you’re shopping for phone systems, you might benefit from having a call center tailored to your needs. You can check out the various features of call center systems to see what would work best for your team.

International numbers: 800 and local

There are two main kinds of international numbers: local and toll-free. Here’s the skinny on each:

Local international numbers

Local international numbers are the most common, although each provider handles them a bit differently. If you obtain a local number in Mexico City with RingCentral, then your number will have the same area code as the locals. In this case, you won’t have to pay additional fees for incoming calls; however, you’ll still pay standard international rates for outgoing calls.

With Phone.com, you can obtain a local international number for around $5 – for over 30 countries. The number will be local, but international rates will apply to both incoming and outgoing calls. Customers calling from their local areas only have to pay local rates instead of international rates. This is the most popular and easiest international number to purchase.

International 800 numbers

International 800 numbers are less common and not all providers offer them. They are also a little pricier than local international numbers. For example, RingCentral charges $15/line/month. It is much like a U.S. 800 number, just within another country. Anyone calling your international 800 number within their country does not pay any call fees. Consequently, you still pay international rates for outgoing and incoming calls. Businesses that want an added sense of class and professionalism may opt for an international 800 number.

How you can save on international calling costs

Now that we have reviewed basic costs: how can you keep those fees as low as possible for your company? Follow these steps to ensure your business is paying as little as possible for your international calls:

  1. Evaluate your business phone system as a whole. International calling rates are only part of the larger picture. You may be offered good international rates, but are paying way too much in monthly service fees. If that’s the case, you really are not saving at all. Evaluate all areas of your phone system with a big-picture lens to see where you can save. Make sure to compare traditional phone systems to VoIP phone systems. In most cases, VoIP will be significantly cheaper than traditional landlines.
  2. Be willing to leave your current provider. Odds are you already have a business phone provider. However, they might not be the cheapest option for international calling. If you make a lot of international calls and truly want to cut your costs, you should at least reconsider your providers to find one that can save money for international calls. It may be a hassle in the short term, but in the long run you stand to save a solid chunk of change.
  3. Find a provider that has low rates in the areas you call most often. All phone companies have different rates for each country. The fact that X phone company has great rates in Cuba does not help your business if the majority of your international calls are going to Singapore. Find the provider that has the lowest rates specifically for the countries and cities you are calling.
  4. Read the fineprint and ask questions. Many phone providers advertise great international rates and plans. But when you read the fine print, many of them have restricted countries and higher rates for certain numbers. Do your due diligence to make sure you know what you are signing up for.

TipTip: If you’re having trouble finding a good developer, try out freelance sites so you can test drive services on a smaller scale before committing to a long-term contract.

An example of international calling costs

With VoIP providers, rates differ depending on which city and country you call. Take Brazil for example: Mobile rates are the same in Brazil across the board. However, landline rates do vary depending on which city you are calling.

  • $0.046 – General rate to call Brazil.
  • $0.039 – Rate to certain Brazilian cities, such as: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

The first thing that is going to affect costs is which provider you have. Let’s say you are making an international call to a supplier in Mexico. Here are some well-known phone providers and how their rates stack up.

 Company

Landline rate/minute

Mobile rate/minute

Total cost to call a landline

Total cost to call a mobile phone

Xfinity Voice

(traditional landline)

$0.09

$0.27

5 minutes = $0.45

10 minutes = $0.90

30 minutes = $2.70

5 minutes = $1.35

10 minutes = $2.70

30 minutes = $8.10

Phone.com

(traditional landline)

$0.118

$0.342

5 minutes = $0.59

10 minutes = $1.18

30 minutes = $3.54

5 minutes = $1.71

10 minutes = $3.42

30 minutes = $10.26

RingCentral

(VoIP)

$0.12

$0.317

5 minutes = $0.60

10 minutes = $1.20

30 minutes = $3.60

5 minutes = $1.58

10 minutes = $3.17

30 minutes = $9.51

Nextiva

(VoIP)

$0.17

$0.41

5 minutes = $0.85

10 minutes = $1.70

30 minutes = $5.10

5 minutes = $2.05

10 minutes = $4.10

30 minutes = $12.30

It’s best to shop around for rates that make the most sense for your company’s international calling needs; the cost difference could be quite significant.

Additional reporting by Sean Peek.

Image Credit:

jacoblund / Getty Images

Marc Prosser
Marc Prosser is the publisher of small business “how to” website, Fit Small Business. Previously, Marc was the first employee and Chief Marketing Officer of a company that went public on the NYSE.