Insights and Resources • Last Updated 8/1/2023

Here’s What a Toll-Free Number is and Why You Need One

Toll-free numbers are the perfect way to bridge the communication gap between you and your customers.

By Brian Segal

Incoming call to toll-free number

As a business owner, it’s essential that you keep open lines of communication between your company and your customers. Toll-free numbers allow you to do just that. But exactly what is a toll-free number, and how do you get one? That’s exactly what we’re here to break down.

What is a Toll-Free Number?

A toll-free number is a phone number with a special three-digit code that can be dialed from landlines at no charge. Instead, the owner of the phone number is billed for arriving calls. However, charges may still apply to those dialing the toll-free number from a VoIP or mobile phone.

Toll-free numbers were first introduced in 1967 by AT&T as a more practical alternative to collect calling. These numbers have become incredibly popular for businesses who wanted to improve their customer experience, and open more direct lines of communication.

What are Toll-Free Codes?

Toll-free codes refer to the three-digit codes that are dialed first when placing a toll-free call. Commonly referred to as 800 numbers (after the original area code used), toll-free codes have expanded in the United States include the following area codes:

  • 800
  • 888
  • 877
  • 866
  • 855
  • 844
  • 833

As toll-free numbers continue to grow in popularity and use, additional codes have already been reserved for future expansion. These codes include:

  • 822
  • 880
  • 887
  • 889

How Numbers are Assigned

The FCC plays a limited, yet important role when it comes to toll-free numbers. Working in conjunction with what are known as Responsible Organizations (RespOrgs), who are chosen by toll-free subscribers, the FCC assigns most toll-free numbers on a first come, first served basis.

However, there is an exception to the rule. Currently, the FCC has made certain toll-free numbers starting with the 833 area code available through competitive auctions.

There are also certain rules surrounding toll-free numbers. Mainly, the FCC requires that subscribers be allowed to port their toll-free number to a different Responsible Organization when switching service providers.

What is a Vanity Number

You’re probably already familiar with vanity numbers, as you’ve likely come across plenty of them in various advertisements. Chances are, you actually dialed them a time or two. So, what exactly is a vanity number?

A vanity number is a phone number, typically toll-free, that is customized to spell out a specific word or phrase that may be associated with your business or industry. Think of these popular examples:

  • 1-800-Go-Fedex
  • 1-800-Junk-USA
  • 1-800-Flowers

Vanity phone numbers work in the same way as a regular phone number, or toll-free number. The only difference is that they are highly sought after, and make it easy for customers to remember what numbers to dial to reach your business.

Benefits of Choosing a Custom Number

The truth is, choosing a custom toll-free number doesn’t necessarily hold the same value as it once did. With instant access to the internet, and click to call features, most of your customers can easily get in touch with you via a simple web search.

That being said, there are still benefits of custom toll-free numbers that may apply to your business. Here are some things you should take into consideration.

  • Better Branding: From a branding standpoint, a custom vanity number can work wonders. Imagine how much better your company name or service will look on marketing materials compared to a random string of numbers. The more customers see your number spelled out, the more they will begin to associate your business with the product or service they are looking for.

  • More Credibility: While vanity numbers are available for businesses of all sizes, they are still viewed as more credible by most consumers. Choosing a custom toll-free number that is easily memorable, and fits perfectly into your industry can convey trust to your customers.

  • Boost Inbound Calls: If you're a business looking to tap into a national audience, choosing a memorable vanity number can significantly increase your call traffic. There’s actually scientific data behind this. In 2011, a study found that vanity numbers have a 75% higher recall rate than numerical numbers. Meaning, nearly twice as many people will remember your business contact number, which can result in higher sales.

How Much Toll-Free Numbers Cost

Something that comes as a surprise for most business owners is how affordable toll-free numbers actually are. While the cost of a toll-free number will largely depend on the service provider you ultimately decide to go with, you’ll likely be able to find something well within your budget.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you’ll be charged for the calls you receive, not just the number itself. To get a better idea of toll-free number cost and availability, make sure to talk to one of our toll-free experts.

Are Toll-Free Numbers Free Internationally?

Generally, toll-free numbers are not free for international calls. If the person placing the call is outside of the United States, they will likely be subject to international rates just as they would if they were making a call to a local number.

If you are a business that provides products or services internationally, it would be in your best interest to set up an alternative number for customers abroad. This will help improve your overall customer experience, and reduce the costs surrounding your toll-free number.

Where to Get Your Own Toll-Free Number

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level with a toll-free number, the next step is simply finding a toll-free service provider. Luckily, Telnyx makes finding a toll-free number easier than ever with our free availability check and affordable pricing.

To get started, you can talk to an expert from our team. Or, you can sign up for the Telnyx Mission Control Portal, and search for and port local and international numbers for your business.

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