With toll free numbers the charges are paid for by the party who is called instead of the caller. Although toll free numbers are not assigned to a geographical area, calls to any toll free number may be restricted by the customer. Toll free numbers are regulated by the FCC which sets the rules under which the toll-free numbers can be obtained or used. Toll free area codes are assigned by the the North American Numbering Plan (NANP). Currently the toll free area codes for use within the United States, Canada and other countries which are members of the North American Number Plan are 800, 866, 877, and 888. Area code 855 was implemented on October 2, 2010 as a new toll free number. Area code 844 will be placed into service on December 7, 2013. Area codes 822 and 833 have been reserved for toll free service but they are not yet in service and the date of implementation has not been established.

Toll free numbers have been very successful for business owners and consumers. Businesses often provide their customers with toll free numbers to order products or provide customer service. Typically the cost per call for the business is less than the cost per call if the consumer paid long distance charges. In addition consumers are more likely to contact the business if the call is free.

The need for toll free numbers continues to grow even though more and more consumers now have unlimited long distance plans through cell phones, the Internet and traditional land line providers. This is in part due to the fact that the cost of toll free numbers to have continued to decrease and also that businesses have found customers are more likely to contact a company through toll free numbers.

Vanity Numbers are used by many business including toll free numbers. Vanity numbers spell the name of the business when viewed on the telephone key pad. As an example 1-800-Flowers is the same as 1-800-356-9377. For many consumers the 1-800-Flowers is easier to remember than the numeric numbers. Vanity numbers are used for branding and recognition. Other examples would be 1-800-Yellowpages, 1-800-Mattress or 1-800-Plumber. All such numbers are valuable in advertising.

In most cases businesses can capture the callers area code and phone number even if the caller has blocked caller id. This is a valuable tool for businesses to identify the caller for security and marketing purposes. Businesses like credit card companies, banks, brokerage companies and other financial companies use the captured area code and phone number to help verify the identification of the caller.

Prior to the AT&T break up all toll free numbers were provided by AT&T. Although cost to businesses per minute was typically less than the cost of long distance dialing for the consumer, the average cost to most business was around 15 cents per minute. After the break up in 1984 other carriers such as MCI were able to provide toll free numbers. With this competition the cost per minute began to decrease. In 1993 the FCC implemented portability for toll free numbers, much like individuals are provided with today. This meant that businesses could move their toll free number to different carriers and this provided more competition and lower costs. Today, businesses average cost for toll free calls is around 2 cents per minutes. That is about ten percent of the cost in 1984 and adjusted for inflation it is about five percent of the cost, or a 95% decrease.

View more information about each area code, including implementation dates, on our site.

800 | 844 | 855 | 866 | 877 | 888

Toll Free Directory Assistance is available at 1-800-555-1212. Most but not all toll free numbers are listed. Read more about toll free numbers at the FCC website, including information about how to obtain a toll free number or file a complaint. The Federal Trade Commission also has information about toll free numbers and how to protect yourself against scams.