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.