Can I call a toll-free number from my international cell phone without incurring charges?
November 30, 2008 8:38 AM   Subscribe

My international cell phone provider (Airtel in India) insists that I can get uncharged toll-free calls while roaming in the US and Canada. It sounds too good to be true. Can you shed some light on this for me?

I'm a Canadian citizen with a green card to the US who's been living in India for a while. I've let go of my American and Canadian numbers because I couldn't justify spending $80/month for no reason. So, every time I come back home (US/Canada), I resort to prepaid Rogers and AT&T SIM cards.

This time, however, when I spoke to Airtel (my Indian provider), they told me I could call toll-free numbers free of charge, even when I'm roaming internationally. That means I can use a calling card while I'm here and pay just 4 cents a minute instead of paying upwards of $100 for prepaid SIM refills.

Now, I called Airtel a second time to double-check, and they said they don't charge, but the carrier I'm roaming on might!! Obviously something they should've told me the first time I asked.

If there's anyone who has any experience with this, can you illuminate me? Am I going to get charged while using my Indian SIM on an American/Canadian network to call an 800 number? I'd love to be able to not recharge my pre-paid cards, but I'd rather not get a $1000 cell phone bill.

Any help is greatly appreciated
posted by smersh to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
I haven't used international roaming, but just roaming on a different US domestic cell carrier from the one I have a contract with gets expensive fast.
posted by zippy at 9:45 AM on November 30, 2008

I roamed in the US on a different Indian carrier -- BSNL -- but I remember it getting expensive fast. It seems unlikely that they would allow such a loophole in their system. I was on international roaming for about a month mainly because my parents were willing to foot the bill while I got my act together. I used calling cards but it was still far from cheap.
posted by peacheater at 10:30 AM on November 30, 2008

I can't say for sure but it seems unlikely to me. Typically roaming agreements would stipulate that all calls are charged to the subscriber's company which would then pass on the charges to you. In the US toll-free numbers still count towards minute charges on wireless plans. I find it very unlikely that a US company would waive these charges and also unlikely that if they didn't waive the charges that they were charged.

Also, $0.04 per minute is about what most post-paid plans in the US run (1000 minutes for $40).

If this were a US company I was dealing with I would try and get this information in writing via an email or make sure that your account is remarked regarding what you were told before I made calls.
posted by Octoparrot at 1:19 PM on November 30, 2008

Response by poster: I'm running a few 2 minute test calls to see how they show up on my account. I think that's the only way to know for sure. If they show up, I've lost maybe $5.00 to get a definitive answer.

I'll post my results.

Thanks for the help!
posted by smersh at 4:05 PM on December 2, 2008

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