International Calling Costs: Everything You Need to Know

Business.com / Business Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Any business that deals with international clients or partners will need to make calls eventually. This guide will help you save on calling.

When you start to do any kind of business with people in other countries, international calls have a way of coming with the territory.

But, when it comes to all the technical details, such as rates, local vs. 800 number, etc, things can get confusing.

That’s why I have put together this international calling guide.

After reading, you'll have a better idea of how much International calling costs and what you can do to keep your prices as low as possible.

Related Article: Made in the U.S.A: Is Outsourcing Dead?

Cost to Make an International Call

Your international calling costs and rates are going to depend on a variety of factors, but here’s the average we calculated – click here to find out how.

Average International Calling Cost: 17.6¢ per minute

What Affects International Calling Rates

The average above will vary, based on a number of different factors, including your phone provider, your phone plan, whether you're calling via VoIP or a landline, and the countries and even cities you’re calling to and from. We’ll look at each more in-depth below and explain how they might affect your international calling costs.

International Call to Mexico: Cost Per Provider

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.

 Landline Rate/MinuteMobile Rate/MinuteTotal Cost to Call a LandlineTotal Cost to Call a Mobile Phone

Xfinity Voice
(Traditional Landline)

$.09$.27

5 minutes = $.45

10 minutes = $.90

30 minutes = $2.70

5 minutes = $1.35

10 minutes = $2.70

30 minutes = $8.10

Phone.com
(Traditional Landline)

$.118$.342

5 minutes = $.59

10 minutes = $1.18

30 minutes = $3.54

5 minutes = $1.71

10 minutes = $3.42

30 minutes = $10.26

RingCentral
(VOIP)
$.12$.317

5 minutes = $.60

10 minutes = $1.20

30 minutes = $3.60

5 minutes = $1.58

10 minutes = $3.17

30 minutes = $9.51

Nextiva
(VOIP)
$.17$.41

5 minutes = $.85

10 minutes = $1.70

30 minutes = $5.10

5 minutes = $2.05

10 minutes = $4.10

30 minutes = $12.30

The point? Shop around and see which rates make the most sense for you and your international calling needs, because the cost difference could be quite significant.

VoIP vs. Traditional Business Line for International Calling

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 specific cities that are popular for business calls. For example, although Phone.com’s rates for Mexico are generally around $.12/minute, they are only around $.04/minute if you are calling Mexico City.

Traditional landline providers are different. They have the same rate for the whole country. So, whether you call Mexico City, Puebla, or Tijuana, it will be $.09 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 also vary significantly depending on what kind of phone plan you have. For example, if you get Xfinity’s Advance Business Voice Edge Service, calling to Mexico is only $.023 for calls to a landline (mobile rate stays the same) as opposed to $.09 with traditional Xfinity voice. Of course, you are paying quite a bit more for service, so you have to crunch the numbers to see if the savings in the per minute rate is actually cost-effective in the long run.

Some providers, have specific plans where you pay an extra $5 - $10/month to get a certain amount of international calling minutes for free. Plans like this can be a solid option. Just make sure you read the fine print. Many of these international plans advertise deals like “1000 free international minutes” and then only work with certain numbers and countries. So, do your homework or you might end up kicking yourself.

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Rate Differences By Country and City

As I mentioned earlier, your international calling rates will also be different for each country. If you are using VoIP, your costs will also vary depending on which city within a certain country you call. Phone.com’s rates are fairly typical, so we’ll use theirs as an example. Here we are assuming a five-minute call and Phone.com's Unlimited Plan Rates.

 Landline Rate/MinuteMobile Rate/MinuteTotal Cost to Call a LandlineTotal Cost to Call a Mobile Phone
Brazil$.046$.308$.23$1.54
CanadaFreeFreeFreeFree
China$.039$.039$.195$.195
GermanyFree$.168Free$.84
Japan$.039$.164$.195$.82
UKFree$.448Free$2.24


International Rates Within Brazil

With VoIP providers, rates can vary depending on which city you call as well as what country. Brazil is a good example. Mobile rates are the same in Brazil across the board. But landline rates do vary depending on which city you are calling.

  • $.046 - General Brazil Rate
  • $.039 - Rate to certain Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Belo Horizonte

International Numbers: 800 and Local

There are two main kinds of international numbers, just like domestic: Local and Toll-free. Here’s the skinny on each.

Local International Number

Local international numbers are the most common, although each provider handles them a bit differently.  If you get a local number in Mexico city, Mexico with RingCentral then your number will have the same area code as the locals and you won’t have to pay anything for incoming calls (still pay standard international rates for outgoing).

With Phone.com, you can get a local international number for around $5, for over 30 countries ($12/line for an additional 9 countries). The number will be local, but, international rates will apply on both incoming and outgoing calls. Customers calling from their local areas only have to pay local rates instead of international rates. This is the easiest international number to get and what most business owners end up purchasing.

International 800 Number

International 800 numbers are less common and not all providers offer them. They are also a little pricier. For example, RingCentral charges $15/line/month. It is much like a US 800 number, just within another country. Anyone calling your international 800 number within their country does not pay any call fees. However, 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 to Save on International Calls

Now that we have talked some about costs: how can you keep those costs as low as possible for your business? Here are the steps you need to take to ensure your business is paying as little as possible for your international calls.

  • Evaluate Your Business Phone System as a Whole - International calling rates are only part of the phone cost picture. You may be getting good international rates but 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 and see what you find. Make sure to compare traditional phone systems to VOIP. In most cases, VOIP will be significantly cheaper than traditional landlines.
  • Be Willing to Leave Your Current Provider - Odds are you already have a business phone provider. But they might not be the cheapest options 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 on international calling. It may be a hassle in the short term, but in the long-term, you stand to save a solid chunk of change.
  • Find a Provider That Has Low Rates In Areas You Call the Most - All phone companies have different rates for each country. The fact that X phone company has great rates in Cuba does not help you at all if the majority of your international calls are going to Singapore. Find the provider that has the lowest rates specifically in the countries and cities you are calling.
  • Always Read the Fineprint and Ask Questions - This is a biggie. A lot of phone providers advertise great international rates and plans. But when you read the fine print, many of them have restricted countries and higher rates on certain numbers. Just do your due diligence and make sure you know what you are signing up for.

Related Article: The Best Web Conferencing Apps for Android and iPhone

To Sum It Up

International calls are going to cost your business money. By understanding how international call rates work and shopping around until you find the best match for your international calling needs, you can significantly cut down on your international calling expenses.

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