How To Get An 800 Number
Whether you're looking for an 800 number for your business or for personal use, it's important to understand your options. The FCC sets the basic rules for for services that provide toll free numbers, but the prices and included features can vary dramatically from one service provider to the next. This guide will ensure that you get a great deal when you sign up.
800 Numbers- Where Do They Come From?
According to the FCC, toll free numbers not only include 1-800, but 888, 877, 866, 855 and 844 formats. Toll free numbers can also be “vanity” numbers, a number that spells out a word to help customers easily remember a business name (think 1-800-Flowers). The “free” part applies to the caller, who is not charged for the call. There are currently over 400 companies registered through Somos to offer toll free numbers, and they are all governed by basic FCC rules that prevent things like “warehousing” toll free numbers, which is the banned practice telecoms reserving 800 numbers for which they do not yet have customers.
While each of the toll free formats technically work the same way, they are not always priced the same and true 800 numbers are not as widely available. Some providers will charge a special setup fee or higher monthly price for an actual 800 number. It’s hard to say why, exactly, but it’s likely due to a perception that the 800 toll free number is the original, and therefore most recognizable and legitimate-sounding, of all the toll free formats. It’s not uncommon to hear the formats compared to domain names, with 800 most comparable to .com and lesser-known formats like 866 and 877 closer to .net or .info. Also, because 800 numbers have been around the longest and are the most popular, fewer of them are available. There are 7.7 million potential combinations of 800 numbers (some combinations are blocked by the FCC, which is why there aren't 10 million), which may seem like a lot, but there are over 22 million businesses in the United States alone and many foreign companies use 800 numbers to make themselves accessible to US customers.
To get a toll free number, you’ll first need to decide what kind of provider you want to go through. Although there are 400 registered providers, the vast majority fall under one of two categories: a traditional telecom like AT&T or Verizon, or a virtual number provider like a virtual PBX service.
Due to the FCC rules, all providers have access to the same pool of toll free numbers, but they have very different pricing structures and the virtual number providers often include features that the traditional telecoms don’t.
800 Numbers via Telecoms
AT&T charges $14 per month for any toll free or vanity number, including 800, 844, 855, 866, 877, and 888 numbers in the monthly plan. However, AT&T’s plan doesn’t include calling minutes in that price, so you’ll pay 7 cents per minute – an average market price – on top of that monthly fee. Verizon charges a $15 setup fee and $17.25 per month for a toll free number plus 6.4 cents per minute. Of course, these prices are add-ons to an existing traditional phone plan through the telecom. You can’t get a toll free number from a telecom without also purchasing or having another phone plan.
800 Numbers via Virtual Number Services
Virtual Number services are companies that will provide you with a number (local or toll free) and forward calls to that number to any phone number you select. For example, if you purchase the number 800-123-4567 from a virtual number service, you can have all calls made to that number forward to your personal mobile phone. Because these services are managed online, you can change where the calls are forwarded at any time and as often as you like. Google Voice is one of the most popular virtual number services- however, they do no offer any toll free numbers.
For businesses looking for 800 numbers, a “virtual PBX” service is a great combination of price and value. In addition to a toll free virtual number, virtual PBX services include features like:
- Auto attendant- gives you the ability to setup a custom or pre-recorded greeting and have callers choose from a series of routing options or a dial-by-name directory;
- Office hours- schedule calls after business hours to receive a custom “business is closed” greeting and be sent to voicemail;
- Extensions- create extensions that can be reached via the auto attendant to forward to co-workers’ phones;
- Departments- create departments like sales and customer service that can be accessed via the auto attendant and give those extensions custom voicemail and create forwarding rules to have those calls routed to any phone you choose.
(Here is a comprehensive list of commonly offered virtual PBX features)
While most virtual PBX services offer toll free numbers, only a small number include true 800 numbers for no additional cost. Those services include:
- eVoice- pricing starts at $12.99/ month for 300 included minutes
- Phone.com- pricing starts at $9.99/ month for 100 included calling minutes
- VoiceNation- pricing starts at $9.99/ month for 100 included minutes
For companies that receive high call volume to their 800 numbers, some virtual PBX plans offer plans with many more included minutes. Here are some of the highest calling plans that include true 800 numbers: