Frugal Living 

How to Save Money on International Long Distance Phone Calls

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Blue Rotary PhoneCalling family and friends overseas is very affordable and very easy, if done correctly. In this article I am going to reveal three affordable international long distance calling options to the old expensive standby, direct dialing. I’ve been doing a lot of research in this for my own needs so I hope you find this article valuable. Each option has the potential to save you more and more money, though sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit of convenience. Naturally, it’s always easiest to pick up the phone can call directly, instead of using a phone card, but only one of those two options is used by millions of people every week at a savings of up to 95% on every international phone call.

Why is this post focused on international long distance calls? Today, very few people have to pay extra for a domestic long distance call that there really is no incremental cost for a domestic long distance phone call. Cell phones charge by the minute, with no consideration of local or long distance. For that reason, we’ve ignored the domestic long distance calls.

Direct Dialing

Direct dialing is the simplest of the options but the most expensive. It’s as simple as picking up a phone (landline or mobile) and dialing an international phone number to which you want to be connected. It’s easy right? No cards to deal with, nothing to hook up, just dial the numbers and go. However, this level of convenience comes with a very heavy cost.

Traditional long distance providers and most mobile service providers simply cannot compete on international rates because they have huge fixed-costs and a bevy of related per-call-costs. You can expect international calling rates in excess of $1.00/min (USD) when you direct dial. Of course, rates do vary and you should check rates offered by your provider before making an international phone call.

Cheaper International Long Distance Calling Options

For many, the majority of international phone calls are made via:

  1. By Computer
  2. By Mobile Phone
  3. With a Calling Card

1. By Computer

Connecting with family and friends overseas by computer is convenient for many people and can be as easy as directly dialing, if you don’t mind being tethered to your computer. Making a phone call from a computer is ideal for people who regularly work from a newer computer with a high-speed (broadband) Internet connection and want decent international rates. Skype is probably the most well-known of the computer to phone calling options available and the rates cited in the table below are Skype Out rates.

Tip: If computer-to-phone dialing is appealing, consider purchasing a computer-to-phone calling plan with international rate accessibility. This will allow you to call landlines and mobile phones from your computer and will give you access to lower international rates. You will need a good microphone and speakers or headset to make a computer-to-phone call.

2. Mobile Phone

Connecting with family and friends overseas is very convenient and is as easy as directly dialing the phone number for the person you want to call. And, being free from a fixed wire/line gives you the additional convenience of being able to make international phone calls from virtually anywhere your mobile service is available.

Tip: If using a mobile phone to make international calls is appealing, consider purchasing an international calling plan from your mobile service provider for an additional monthly fee + lower international rates, or a prepaid calling card to enjoy even lower rates.

3. Calling Card

Calling cards have been popular for decades as the most affordable way to make an international phone call. While it’s the least convenient of the other options, if you don’t mind being attached to a computer, you are rewarded with much cheaper rates (as the table below will attest to). With a calling card, you dial an access phone number, enter in your PIN number, and then the phone number. You can now use most calling cards with virtually any phone. Calling cards are ideal for those wanting the very best rates, allowing them to save up to 95%.

Tip: If you want a calling card, consider purchasing one offering convenience features, like PINless dialing (no need to dial a PIN number), Rechargeable (add more minutes to your card) or Speed Dial (store phone numbers you call to the most). It is also very important to look for a company that offers a calling card guarantee because many don’t.

Now that you know three alternative ways to make international calls to expensive direct dialing, let’s take a look at the typical rates. These rates do differ significantly, so be sure to consider the convenience of each option against the rates to decide which is the best for you.

International Long Distance Rates

The Rate Comparison Chart (below) assumes that your international call will be dialed from the Continental USA and rates are per minute.

Calling Card*
Computer to Phone**
Mobile Phone***





















 Hong Kong



































 South Korea














* Based on calling cards. Rates effective 10/16/09.
** Based on Skype Out (Skype to Phone). Rates effective 10/16/09.
*** Based on Verizon Wireless International Long Distance Value Plan ($3.99 per month + per minute rate). Rates effective 10/16/09.

I truly hope that this article has given you the knowledge you need to go online and select an international calling option that can help you to save up to 95% on your international calling costs. Regardless of which international calling method you choose, it is imperative to choose a provider that guarantees the rates they advertise and will be in business the day you need them the most.

If you have any questions, comments, or want to voice your opinions on anything written in this article, please leave a comment below.

Stay frugal!

This is a guest post writte by Eric I., a Bargaineering reader who I had the chance to meet out in San Diego on a recent business trip. Eric’s a sharp guy who never got into blogging but I convinced him to give it a try. Since he’s been looking at a lot of long distance options to call home and I thought that would make a great money saving post. Be kind to him, he’s a 3rd degree blue belt under the Carlos Gracie Jr. (Gracie Barra) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu system. 🙂

(Photo: bitchbuzz)

{ 22 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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22 Responses to “How to Save Money on International Long Distance Phone Calls”

  1. Chuck says: is a very good service, with very good rates. And the charges are “clean” meaning the rounding is correct, and there are no connection charges or weekly fees. If the person you’re calling is in a country where they offer local numbers, it’s possible to make international calls that are COMPLETELY FREE.

    Also, H2O (a cellular MVNO) includes international calling to several countries in their regular wireless plan.

    Google Voice has decent (not great) rates as well.

  2. This article is a wonderful one and the rates seems reasonable enough. In times like this we need to shop around before committing one self to a deal that seems good.

  3. Jack says:

    I would say that the best bang for the buck is to use SIP based VOIP services. I am using voipbusterpro right now. It offers unlimited international calls in one year for 15 euro. You just cannot beat that if you have a SIP based phone devices (looks like iphone has an app called “isip”).

    I haven’t used phone card for years because it usually cost me about $40 per month if I make calls a lot.

  4. Neil says:

    I think what you really need is a better phone service. I can direct dial the majority of humanity for 3-6 cents per minute. Time spent trying to cut my long distance bill could definitely be put to better use.

  5. troy says:

    +1 for Rebtel

    They were (still are?) the only service that allowed me to call mobile-to-mobile for a reasonable price.

  6. eric says:

    I like my Skype. 🙂

    • daemondust says:

      I’ll second skype. It isn’t a true phone call, but does the job most of the time. The girlfriend of one of my coworkers is out of the country for an extended period of time, and they’re using skype to keep in touch. Best of all, it supports video chat too….

  7. Nice money saving article. Skype is #1.

    And a totally free option is to just go into some chat room, and chat away!

    I love playing Yahoo Spades, so often times when I’m overseas, I’ll tell my loved one to play a game of spades with me in Yahoo Games and we can talk and play at the same time.

    And no, we’re not cheating while playing. 🙂

  8. Dj Hams says:

    I use to call Kuwait. I have tried various sites, and Uniontelecard has the fewest “scam/hidden fee” cards. It is hard finding cards to call unpopular countries like Kuwait.

  9. Austin says:


    I’ve used the Mega Clean & Stable Card for the past 3-4 years. Still satisfied. Having no additional connection or maintenance fees is very nice. Also one of my favorite features is the pinless dialing (up to FIVE different numbers!) which is especially useful when you (and family) are constantly on the move.

    For the people using rebtel, what do you do if you want to call from a different phone than the one originally registered? It seems like you are only limited to call from one phone number. If that is the case, isn’t that defeating the purpose of getting a phone card(pin)?

  10. troy says:

    @Austin: Rebtel’s model is that you have a cell or fixed line that you always call from. The rates are cheap, so you wouldn’t use Rebel in conjunction with a phone card.

    So if you don’t own a cell phone or fixed line, then yes, Rebtel wouldn’t work for you.

  11. James says:

    I checked Google Voice rates with Rebtel on the country I want to call with — Google was cheaper. Plus, Google Voice calls to Canada and all 50 U.S. states are free. Don’t know about U.S. territories or other +1 country code jurisdictions though. But Voice isn’t meant to be a long distance carrier — it’s meant to be your new phone number.

    That said, I’d highly discourage people from using any service that has fees. Services like Rebtel and Voice are just flat billing with no complicated charges. That’s the way to go (unless you’re on the phone so much that some kind of unlimited plan makes sense to you and VOIP is not an option).

    • daemondust says:

      Google Voice doesn’t, however, let you call US numbers that are housed at phone exchanges that charge exorbitant fees to terminate calls. They do so under the guise of being ‘rural carriers’ who have ‘higher costs’, but many of them will share part of that increased cost with the call centers, ‘adult’ lines, and conference call lines that terminate there too.

      This was one of AT&T’s ploys to distract the FCC’s inquiry about their own bad practices with Google Voice. They just spun it the other way and asked why Google doesn’t have to play by the same rules they do, even though GV isn’t a phone company.

  12. James says:

    @daemondust, very interesting. What kind of local exchanges charge high termination fees?

    When you sign up for Google Voice, and you go to choose your number, I noticed that all the phone numbers available in my area code were labeled with completely boondock towns that I’d never heard of. In fact, I was afraid that even though they were in the same area code as me, calls to a Google number there might be long distance for people who don’t live close to that town. So I chose a D.C. number, which is a tiny geographic (yet NOT rural) area code central to the metro area, so I hope longdistance isn’t an issue.

    But I digress from the topic at hand.

    • daemondust says:

      While I don’t have any concrete examples to point to and say THIS exchange charges exorbitant connection fees, they tend to be the smaller, rural telephone companies. Ones that are on the receiving side of the USF (Universal Service Fund, a tax applied to telephone services that goes to the build-out and upkeep of communications infrastructure in rural areas).

      A Google search will turn up many articles on it, though many are sparse on information.

      The debate was brought up by AT&T to deflect some criticism against them for the whole Apple/AT&T “rejecting” (keeping in an unapproved status) the Google Voice iPhone app.

      The crux of the argument is whether Google Voice is a telephone company, and thus mandated to connect to all numbers, no matter what the charge, or more of an overlay service since they do not terminate phone calls, per se, but direct them between existing phone lines.

  13. U Avalos says:

    Actually, @Financial Samurai@, skype isn’t always #1. It assumes that the other person has a decent internet connection — which isn’t always the case. In latin america, where there is no internet, a cheap alternative is for your friends/family to call *you* with their cell phones. They often get 1 or 2 cents a minute for calls to the US. When my wife didn’t have a computer that’s how we got in touch in honduras…

  14. Melissa says:

    My husband and I call family in the UK quite often and the most affordable option that we’ve found is through Jajah.

  15. Bob says:

    Triton Long distance offers great unlimited dialing plans for people in the 616, 231, and 269 area codes. They have a local dialing plan that allows you to dial unlimited within those three area codes for only $4.95 a month, or $14.95 for unlimited national calling. I’ve been using the service for quite some time now and have found it to really cut down on my phone bill. They have more information about their packages at

  16. Cheap Bastard says:

    If privacy is any concern, Skype is the only answer apart from more obscure pc to pc crypto solutions.

    If privacy doesn’t matter, Google Voice coupled with Gizmo5 (sipphone) is entirely free. Free to make and receive calls, no setup fee either.

  17. BetterBanon says:

    Skype is great for computer-to-computer calls.

    But I have not been able to navigate through their payment mechanism (moneybookers) to buy time for to call land lines directly.

  18. Julie says:

    I use Amivox. It allows me to use my landline, my mobile and my computer under the same account. Prices are extremely low and quality the same as I am used to with conventional telephony. Here is an article that made me try their services and I am hooked to them since:

  19. Thanks,all,for the helpful info….for budjet-minded folk!

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