Toll Free Numbers

A Primer on 1-800 Numbers for Small Businesses

Considering a toll free number for your small business? It could be a good call for your business (no pun intended).

As you probably know, a toll free number (or a 1-800 number as they are often called) is a telephone number that can be called by your customers and prospective customers at no cost to the caller.

Toll Free Numbers

You, as the business owner, pay for the call.

But how much do 1-800 numbers cost, what are the benefits of a toll free number, and how do you get a toll free number? We've got all the answers below.

How much do 1-800 numbers cost?

The most difficult part of setting up a toll-free number is finding the prices and determining the best way to reach the providers.

Your long-distance or local phone company probably offers the service, but there are also companies that offer toll-free numbers at a deep discount.

The cost varies, depending on who you get your toll free number from. Typical costs per minute range from less than a nickel to more than a quarter.

What are the benefits of a toll free number?

AT&T developed 1-800 numbers in 1967 as a convenient way for businesses to pay the tolls for their customers who contacted them. Today, toll free numbers can begin with 800, 888, 877, and 866. The area codes 855, 844, 833, and 822 have also been reserved for future toll free activation.

Advantages of toll free numbers include the following:

  • Consumers like toll free numbers - Because they're free to call, customers are more likely to call you if you provide a toll free number. As such, you'll find much higher response rates to your marketing initiatives when you offer a toll free number.
  • Companies also like them because they are portable and they create a more national presence and they have additional capabilities in terms of reporting and routing that local numbers don't have. Another major reason for their popularity is that they have dropped so dramatically in price and ease of use. When they were first introduced they were expensive and hard to get. But now they are so cheap and simple to set up that even the smallest part time business or residential user, almost can't afford not to use one.
  • Toll free numbers are portable - A big advantage of toll free numbers for small businesses is the ability to change the ring to number. If you move your business, you can change your toll free number to ring you at your new location, and there's no cost to do it.
  • You create a big company image - Toll free numbers create a strong corporate image. Give your customers a toll free number and they'll be impressed. They'll never know that you are running your business out of your home office in the basement!
  • You can expand your marketing reach - Toll free numbers give you a national presence. These days, if you want to market outside your local area, you pretty much have to offer a toll free number to be credible.
  • You pay as your grow - Another benefit for smaller start up businesses is that you only have to pay for the usage or calls to your toll free number. If nobody calls, there's no charge. Your bills will only increase as your business grows.
  • You can do the vanity thing - A "vanity" number is a toll-free telephone number that spells your company's name or a related word that you choose. If you sell widgets, for example, 1-800 WIDGETS has a nice ring to it (no pun intended again!) and is likely to generate many more calls than say, 1-800-591-2637. To find out whether a specific toll-free vanity number is available, contact any toll-free service provider.

How do I get a toll free number?

As we've discussed, to get a toll-free number, you don't need an extra phone line. Instead, the number rings through to your business, cellphone or whatever other number you specify.

Toll-free numbers are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Toll-free service providers have access to something called the SMS/800 database, which contains information regarding the status of all toll-free numbers.

Just about all long-distance carriers offer toll-free numbers, so it's worthwhile to contact your carrier. But you can also find toll-free providers who offer numbers at very good prices. You may find a list of all toll-free service providers on the SMS/800's Web site, or you may call the SMS/800 Help Desk at 1-888-SMS-3300.

Share this article

Additional Resources for Entrepreneurs

Lists of Venture Capital and Private Equity Firms

Franchise Opportunities


Business Glossary


Conversation Board

We greatly appreciate any advice you can provide on this topic. Please contribute your insights on this topic so others can benefit.

  • Ravi posted on 8/25/2007
    I have been tasked with getting toll free numbers for my business. This was a very helpful article. Thanks.
  • Jackie posted on 4/24/2009
    Thanks. I wanted to get a toll free number but didn't have much information. I received practical information from your site before considering to buy toll free number.
  • Elliott posted on 7/30/2009
    Helpful. But I wish would have laid out the top five 1800 carriers and their pros/cons and costs.
  • aty1776 posted on 8/6/2009
    I think that this post accurately highlights the many benefits of the toll-free number. I am personally a fan of the vanity toll-free number as it is 9 times more memorable than a regular toll-free number. Many of the Nation's top companies, including 43% of the fortune 500 list, are utilizing a vanity toll-free number. Vanity 800 numbers are affordable and effective really a great tool for any business to reach customers, and to be remember more easily by customers and prospects.
  • Prithvi Softech Limited posted on 2/27/2010
    Prithvi Softech Limited
    I wanted to get a toll free number but didn't have much information. I received practical information from your site before considering to buy toll free number.
  • K posted on 8/25/2010
    I move around on a continuous basis and am interested in investing in an 800 number. Is there a way to have the 800 number moved each time I do to the designated hotel room phone that I am staying in?
  • Ken Gaebler posted on 8/25/2010
    Ken Gaebler
    K, most 800 number providers can point your 800 number to whatever number you tell them to. Google Voice would be a good solution for you. There are no Google Voice 800 numbers, but you can buy an 800 number from somebody else and point it to your Google Voice number. It's easy to have the Google Voice number track you down at your hotel phone number. Good luck.

Leave a Reply

Questions, Comments, Tips, and Advice

Email will not be posted or shared
Code Image - Please contact webmaster if you have problems seeing this image code

Problem Viewing Image? Load New Code