Finding the cheapest VoIP service is a high priority for many customers. Budget-conscious consumers want to choose a reputable VoIP provider with reliable service and quality features that also promises the cheapest VoIP calls.
Whether you're a residential or business phone customer, finding the cheapest VoIP service is most difficult challenges of finding a VoIP provider. Everyone wants to be sure they're not getting overcharged, especially in difficult financial times. After all, that's probably why you switched — or are considering switching — to VoIP phone service in the first place: VoIP providers offer cheaper rates when compared to traditional telephone companies.
So, how can you be sure your VoIP provider offers the cheapest VoIP calls? How can you find out which VoIP service provider offers the cheapest VoIP phone service? Good questions. Let's see if we can help you figure out which VoIP company will meet your needs for the cheapest VoIP service.
There are a number of factors that will influence your selection of the cheapest VoIP service, such as:
- Financial resources
- Plan type
- Service features
- Calling needs
- Reliability and reputation
What's Your Budget?
As with any big lifestyle decisions — buying a car, planning a wedding, getting a big-screen LCD TV — you should start with the basics. How much service can you afford? Even with the cheapest VoIP calls, you're still spending something — and you need to know how much or how little you can allocate toward your VoIP phone service.
One place to start is your current phone service:
Do you have a VoIP provider currently? Or a regular landline?
If you have a landline, will you be keeping it, or adding a second phone line through the VoIP phone service?
If you're planning to trade your landline for the cheapest VoIP calling service possible, you might find that you'll be saving money overall — and even getting more features (such as caller ID and call waiting) in the bargain. For instance, you can get a monthly plan from Phone Power for as little as $4.99 per month, with at least 45 included call features (the kind your regular telephone company would charge you for).
However, it's good to do a little research just to be sure. Check our compare table (above) for some of the more well-known VoIP providers and their prices.
If you're planning on taking advantage of the low cost of VoIP phone service to add a second line, you'll need to make sure your VoIP service charges don't send you into the red on top of your regular phone service.
Bottom line: Before you do anything in your search for the cheapest VoIP calls, sit down with your budget and figure out how much — or how little — you'd be willing (or able) to spend for the cheapest VoIP service.
Plans: Contracts, Unlimited, and Capped
Once your budget is ironed out and you're looking into pricing, take note of the the various options. Many of the cheapest VoIP service providers offer VoIP service with no contracts, and no cancellation fees. This can have its advantages if you're new to VoIP service and want to test it out, but be sure to check the terms of service (TOS) for any hidden fees or other restrictions.
Other VoIP service providers offer short-term contracts, or contracts that vary with the plan option chosen. Some services such as Vonage offer a monthly or annual term agreement, with a significant discount if you pay for a whole year in advance. PhonePower and VoIPo offer 2-year contracts that result in extremely low monthly payments when the full term is paid upfront (saving as much as 36% over monthly payments for the same period).
Term agreements aside, consider unlimited calling plans over plans with monthly minute allotments. If you happen to exceed your minute limits for the month, you may find yourself paying more than if you went with an unlimited calling plan.
In the end, you'll have to do the math yourself: Check the costs per minute for overage fees and consider your typical monthly phone use. It might be cheaper in the long run to go with an unlimited calling plan. This is especially true if you use your VoIP phone service's softphone to bypass your cellular plan. Then you have to factor in your calls using your cell phone as well as your home phone when evaluating the number of minutes per month you typically use.
What Are Your Must-Have Features?
Even when making the cheapest VoIP calls is your priority, you don't want to sacrifice convenience if you don't have to. There may be several inexpensive VoIP service providers that offer VoIP calling services that will fit your budget and offer the features you can't live without.
It's practically a given that even the cheapest VoIP service will offer more features for less money than your standard telephone utility. Services such as caller ID and call waiting are usually standard (free) features with any VoIP service provider.
So, what are your must-have features? Here are a few of the basic VoIP phone service features you might expect to see offered by VoIP service providers:
- Caller ID
- Call waiting
- 3-way calling
- Local number portability
- In-network calls
However, VoIP phone service charges vary widely from provider to provider, as do the number — and type — of features they offer. ITP offers speed dial, do not disturb, and Find Me/Follow Me. Vonage offers voicemail-to-text transcription and audio file attachments to email, as well as SimulRing and anonymous call block. VoIP.com features include speedi dial and SimulRing.
You'll have to do some comparison shopping to determine which of the cheapest VoIP phone providers includes the convenience features you consider dealbreakers without being budget busters.
What Are Your Calling Needs?
To find the cheapest VoIP phone service that is right for you, you need to evaluate your calling habits — how much do you use the phone, and where/who do you call most often.
Similar to deciding whether to go with a contract or no-contract VoIP service, or unlimited versus minute caps, you really need to know what type of service plan you need — especially when it comes to international calling.
Some of the cheapest VoIP calling services offer specific plans for international calling, such as ITP's Global Unlimited (their other plans offer low international rates, but no free minutes). Other plans (such as ViaTalk, PhonePower, and VoIPo) include a nominal number of free international calling minutes to specific countries. Many of the cheapest VoIP service providers include Canada and/or Puerto Rico in their domestic long distance packages.
Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of international calls may vary depending on whether you're calling a landline or a particular city or cell phone provider — and that may be a footnote in your 'free' international long distance package (i.e. landline calls only). Always be sure to read the fine print!
Reliability and Reputation
No matter how cheap the service, and no matter how many convenient features are included, if the VoIP call quality is spotty and the customer service is rude, it really doesn't matter how inexpensive the cheapest VoIP call is.
VoIP phone service providers are increasingly common, and that puts you in a good position as a consumer — you have a lot of choices. Take the time to do your research.
When you've narrowed down your VoIP phone company candidates to a handful — after evaluating your budget, deciding what features you can't live without, and identifying your personal call pattern — make sure you choose a VoIP service provider with a solid reputation.
Here are some of the things you should look for:
- Guaranteed uptime
- A defined minimum upload speed (and be sure to test your bandwidth)
- Call quality/QoS guarantees
- Network redundancies — no single point of failure
- Emergency failsafes (options for power blackouts)
- Terms of service (TOS) stipulations
- Word of mouth/customer comments
Be sure to read the TOS so that you thoroughly understand their service offerings, exceptions, and penalties. You don't want to find yourself suddenly unable to make calls to certain locations (an occasional complaint with magicJack) or being charged extra due to some circumstance you were unfamiliar with. You might also want to check with the Better Business Bureau or FCC to make sure there are no outstanding complaints or violations.
You'll find plenty of forums and other locations online for customer feedback. For instance, customer reviews of ITP and Phone Power very clearly outline the advantages and disadvantages of their service. Reviews on VoipReview.org cover many key service criteria, including sound quality, reliability, and customer service.