ECG
ECG

Best long-distance service

ECG's domestic long-distance service earns many good reviews, particularly for its low rates. Billing is in six-second increments with a minimum 18-second charge per call (many providers charge you for a minute). One drawback is that ECG long-distance service isn't available everywhere. You must pay your bill with an automatic debit withdrawal or credit-card charge each month
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Est. 2.5 cents per minute Estimated Price
Telna
Telna

Best international long-distance service

Telna beats other long-distance services when it comes to international rates. Although its domestic rate is not the cheapest, you can call many countries (including Australia, Germany, Japan and the U.K.) for the same per-minute cost. There are no monthly fees or minimum-usage charges.
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Est. 4.8 cents per minute Estimated Price
Total Call International
Total Call International

Long-distance service, national availability

Total Call International bills in six-second increments and imposes no minimum charges or monthly fees. The company requires online billing and payment. Customer service is available in six languages, including Spanish. Reviewers say that this is a good choice if service from ECG is not available where you live.
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Est. 3.9 cents per minute Estimated Price
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Long Distance Phone Service Runners Up:

Pioneer Est. 2.7 cents per minute

5 picks including: Calling-Plans.com, SaveOnPhone.com…

UniTel Est. 2.5 cents per minute

2 picks including: SaveOnPhone.com, TollChaser.com…

Finding the cheapest long-distance phone service

Reviewers frequently recommend smaller companies for cheap long-distance phone service over established companies like AT&T or Verizon. Many of these companies no longer send paper bills, instead billing through a credit card or sending an email invoice. We found many long-distance phone companies offering plans for well under 5 cents per minute. Monthly fees and incremental billing (six seconds or one minute are the most common) are also things to take into consideration in judging long-distance services.

Most telecom giants, such as AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, offer a variety of plans for unlimited interstate long-distance calling. However, most reviews favor a smaller company called ECG (Enhanced Communications Group) as the best long-distance carrier. Telna, another small company, has very competitive long-distance rates.

An alternative to traditional long-distance plans is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which uses your broadband Internet connection to place calls. You can get VoIP through your cable company (it's often called digital phone), a standalone service such as Vonage or a software program like Skype. However, these services are dependent on a stable, high-speed Internet connection. See our separate report on VoIP for more information.

Bear in mind that this report does not cover in-state long-distance calls. If a considerable portion of the charges on your monthly bill comes from long-distance calls made within your state (e.g. from Los Angeles to San Francisco), you'll have to do some additional research to find the best rates. Since in-state rates vary greatly from state to state and between carriers, it's impossible to make recommendations for the general consumer.

We haven't found many reviews about the quality of service for the long-distance providers we review; most just compare the various services by cost. SaveOnPhone.com, Telcompare.com, 1CallSaver.com and TollChaser.com are just a few of the websites that maintain charts listing the best long-distance phone services. These charts emphasize cheap long-distance plans, listing rates along with notes on service, availability and extra fees. Many of the same long-distance companies are listed in the top five or at least the top 10 at multiple websites. Other sites, such as MyRatePlan.com, have interactive tables that offer suggestions depending on where you live and what types of calls you make.

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