We’re all familiar with 800 numbers. They were the first numbers we recognized as toll free. But did you know that there are other toll free numbers, too? What about 866? Is that really a toll free prefix?
Indeed it is. But is there a difference between 800 and 866 as far as toll free operation is considered? No, they work exactly the same. Just as 202 and 302 are toll number prefixes assigned to different locations, 800 and 866 are toll free numbers used nationwide.
That’s one difference between toll prefixes and toll free prefixes. Toll prefixes are used to designed numbers in a particular area. That’s why they are called area codes. Area code 202 is assigned to Washington, DC. Area code 302 is assigned to the entire state of Delaware.
The toll free number prefixes 800 and 866 do not have a geographical assignment. You can call an 800 or 866 number from anywhere in the country and you’ll reach your destination. You just may not know where, geographically, the number is being answered.
It should be noted that the idea of associating area codes with the physical location of the assigned telephone is going away with landlines being replaced by cell phones and VoIP or broadband phone. Neither wireless or broadband users are tethered to a particular location by a copper wire. In fact, some VoIP providers let you pick your desired area code regardless of where you happen to reside. That’s especially valuable when most of your calls come from a particular regional area. Calls from an area code to the same area code don’t pay interstate long distance charges. If your phone has a New York City area code, it will work like any other NYC local phone, even if you pick up the calls in San Francisco.
Toll free numbers take this concept to the next level. When someone dials a toll free number, they don’t pay for the toll charges regardless of where they are calling from or where the call is picked up. Please note that most toll free numbers are US only. You have make special arrangements to get an International toll free number.
Now let’s look at what happens on the receiving end of the call. If you are the owner of the toll free number, you’ll pay the cost of any calls you receive. Fortunately, with an inexpensive toll free service that cost will be minimal. What you get in return is a caller who is much more likely to dial your number than if they knew they had to pay long distance charges. This is a powerful incentive for call-in orders and customer service. In fact, customers have come to expect a toll free number and may balk at dealing with companies that don’t offer one.
Are toll free numbers really affordable by smaller businesses? Absolutely. You can get an 866 number assigned to you for just $2 and pay just $2 a month to maintain service. That service includes your exclusive use of the number, forwarding to any working phone including a cell phone, voice mail, plus FAX reception that forwards to your email. The cost of the calls is just 6.9 cents per minute for the continuous 48 US states. Calls from Alaska and Hawaii cost a bit extra.
For the same price as an 866 toll free number, you can also get one with the prefix 877 or 888. They work just the same as 866. You can also get an 800 number for the slightly higher fee of $5 plus $5 per month service fee and the same 6.9 cents per minute rate.