What’s the Difference Between Toll and Toll-Free Conference Calls?

At Conference Calls Unlimited, and many other conferencing services, there are two main types of phone conferencing: toll and toll-free. While these terms may be familiar to you, do you know what they mean in regards to conference calling? Why or when would a business choose one type over the other? What can a conference participant expect to experience when they dial in with a regular phone number versus a toll-free number?

These are some of the questions we want to address to give you a better understanding of using phone conferencing for your important company calls, meetings, and other audio events. Let’s take a look at what’s involved in each type of service, as well as when and how to use it.

Toll conference calls

A toll conference call is a typical conference call by phone that allows the host to pay a rate for the service and distribute a regular phone number for attendees to access the call. It’s up to those attendees to pay any charges they may incur through their landline or cell phone provider, such as a rate per minute or a higher rate for calling a long-distance number.

In the past, regular toll phone numbers were associated with higher cost for attendees. Calling from a landline typically meant paying a higher long-distance rate for any number outside of an attendee’s area code. However, these days, many more people use mobile phones regularly, including to dial into a conference. Most cell phone providers now have national plans and unlimited minutes packages. This means that for many, a regular toll number makes no difference to them, as the rates are the same as any other call.

Toll-free conference call

A toll-free conference call is a method of phone conferencing that allows the host to provide a toll-free 1-800 number to participants, ensuring that they do not face any long distance charges they may incur to dial in. Any long-distance charges are included in the final cost of the conference service, and attendees dial in for free.

Whether or not an attendee would have higher charges through their phone provider to join the conference, they have the assurance that the call is free. A toll-free number in the United States is distinguished by its beginning three-digit code: 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, or 844. This recognizable numbering is still equated with convenience and professionalism in many people’s minds.

When to use each service

As already noted, the use of toll and toll-free phone numbers has changed significantly over the years. Today, many more people dial in to a meeting or event with a mobile phone, for which they have network plans that cover long-distance charges in the U.S. This means that a toll-free number is less essential for a business to provide. However, many still like to extend the courtesy and professionalism that it suggests, making the experience easier for their guests, no matter what their circumstances.

A company may want to use a toll number for their conferences when:

  • they are interested in a low, flat rate for service
  • their participants are all calling locally/regionally
  • they don’t want to pay for international participant fees

A business may like to offer a toll-free number when:

  • they want to offer no-charge calls to important guests
  • they want foreign guests to have the same easy experience as domestic callers
  • they want the professional reputation evoked by an 800-number

Options for international conferencing

A conference call with one or more participants from outside the host’s country poses a unique set of considerations. What charges will international guests face when joining? Can they use a toll-free number just like callers in the U.S.? There are several possible options to choose from:

International Toll Dial In works like it does for any domestic participant who calls in. Everyone receives the same phone number, so it’s easy to remember for attendees who might be traveling from country to country between regularly scheduled conference calls. Participants pay whatever their phone provider would charge them for an international phone call.

International Toll-Free Dial In provides a toll-free number to participants outside the host’s country as well as those inside. This encourages greater participation from international guests, who can feel comfortable joining the event free of charge. The host will pay for the service, plus a per-minute rate based on where a participant is calling from. See our international toll-free rates here.

International Dial-Out eliminates dialing in altogether and allows the host to call a participant directly and connect them to the conference. This is another option that provides free access and additional convenience to attendees, which is why some conferencing hosts will use it for special guests or high-level executives. The host will pay any fees for dialing internationally.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which of these services best fits your needs, budget, and the scope of your conferencing. When it’s time for you or your business to shop for quality conference calls, check out the toll and toll-free features we have available at competitive rates at Conference Calls Unlimited. Contact us to learn more and start creating better conference calls.