America Calling

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Most Americans have, by now, gotten pretty used to unlimited domestic long distance. Most cellular users have likewise seen the dreaded “roaming” charges disappear, as long as you don’t leave the borders of the U.S.A. But there are some of us who have family, particularly kids or parents, who do live overseas, for any of lots of reasons. Calling them from a traditional landline can be costly, calling from a cell phone prohibitive. If you don’t do it right, that is.

By now, most users know that they can call the landlines in a host of countries at no extra charge, and can call cell phones for a fraction of what it once cost – less, indeed, than it used to cost to call just a few hundred miles away in some parts of the U.S.

What some users – particularly those who are taking advantage of home phone service which at closely parallels what’s available to small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) – may not know is they have at their disposal a simple method of calling loved ones overseas from their cell phones … at rates. Indeed they can call overseas family members from any phone at all in the U.S., say from a friend’s house, and their friend won’t have to pay a penny.

The trick is simply to set up a menu with choices for callers to choose which member of the family they want to reach. For example, press one to ring your phone at home, two to ring your cell phone, three to ring the missus’ cell, and four to reach your son or daughter overseas. Essentially you’re turning the cell phones into virtual extensions of your home phone, exactly the way a business would do it (an awful lot of residential VoIP providers simply don’t offer menus to their customers). Then you can call home from your cell, press four, and speak to your child either for no extra long distance charge if he’s on a landline, or for nickels and dimes instead of dollars if the call is going to his cell. (You will also be using minutes on your cell phone plan, but those are really cheap these days.)

Of course there is a little risk involved. That’s because the call to overseas cell phones isn’t free (hey, has to make a little money!). And your kid’s friends can call your home and ring his or cell cell phone just as you can – but you’ll be paying for the call. By the minute.

Then again, if you’re a really nice Sugar Daddy, you might even get the kids overseas a separate U.S. number. That’s what I did.


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