On a recent tour in Europe, I lost a credit card and needed to call my USA bank.
On back of my card were two numbers: an 800 number to call from the USA or Canada, and another number to call “collect” from any other country.
This was the first time I lost a card while traveling abroad, and I had never made a collect call before, so I was unsure how to proceed.
But some fellow travelers gave me the useful information below.
A collect call is only relevant when calling from a landline phone. The purpose is to allow the caller to avoid paying landline changes. To make a collect call from a landline phone, the call must go through an operator.
Collect calls have no relevance when calling from a cell phone. Since most people now travel with cell phones, collect calls are rarely used and have become almost as obsolete as pay phones.
CALLING TOLL-FREE NUMBERS
Travelers are often told that attempting to call a USA toll-free number while traveling abroad may not work. This is true if calling from a landline, but not if using an American cell phone.
In most cases, USA toll-free numbers can be called from anywhere in the world using an American cell phone by dialing +1 followed by the 800 number.
If you call a USA toll-free 800 number using a cellular voice network when outside the USA, the call will NOT be free. The cost will be the same as if calling a non-toll-free number.
However, there are several ways to make a call to a USA toll-free number that will be free of charge.
Some phones and carriers offer a built-in feature known as Wi-Fi Calling that allows making free calls to any USA number over Wi-Fi when outside the USA.
There are also several third-party apps that allow making free Wi-Fi calls to USA & Canada toll-free numbers when outside the USA. These apps include Google Hangouts, Skype, and Viber.
With Google Hangouts, calls to ALL numbers in USA & Canada are free.
With Skype and Viber, only calls to toll-free numbers are free.
Skype also allows free calls to toll-free numbers in several other countries as shown below. When calling from an American cell phone, add the plus sign (+) and country code, and omit any leading zeros that appear before the 8.
Calls to these toll-free numbers are free using Skype:
Australia: (+61) 1800
Austria: (+43) 800
Canada: (+1) 800, 822, 833, 844, 855, 866, 877, 888
Estonia: (+372) 800
France: (+33) 800, 801, 803, 805, 806, 808, 809
Germany: (+49) 800
Netherlands: (+31) 800
Poland: (+48) 800
Taiwan: (+886) 801, 811
United Kingdom: (+44) 500, 800, 808
USA: (+1) 800, 822, 833, 844, 855, 866, 877, 888
The Skype web site mentions free calls to France, Poland, UK, and USA but does not mention the other countries shown above. But I made test calls verifying that free calls can be made to toll-free numbers in all these countries.
Universal International Freephone Number
On rare occasions, you may see a toll-free number in this format: +800-5555-4100.
The number begins with the + sign, followed by 800 followed by 8 digits. This is a Universal International Freephone Number with 800 used as the country code.
These numbers are intended to allow callers from multiple countries to call the number toll-free from landlines.
However, American cell phones may not recognize these numbers as valid.