If you live in the 15 percent of the United States that isn't served by a Baby Bell, reviewers say your best option for long-distance phone service is Total Call International (also known as TCI Long Distance). TCI has better international rates than ECG (the best choice for Baby Bell areas), and customer service has six language options, including Spanish. Although user reviews are generally filled with praise, customer service leads the list of complaints, especially for a slow process for starting service. One of the more humorous consumer reviews is from someone concerned that caller ID displays his number as "call center" and worries that his friends may think he's a telemarketer and not answer.
TCI bills in six-second increments, while many other companies bill in one-minute increments (meaning a 61-second call is billed at two minutes). TCI also offers a plan that costs 2.9 cents per minute, but there is a $15 monthly fee, so it's a better deal only if you make a lot of long-distance calls. You'll pay more on average for domestic calls than you would with the most-recommended service for the other 85 percent of the United States, ECG (*Est. 2.5 cents per minute) .
The best reviews of long-distance phone service we found are at SaveOnPhone.com, which evaluates pricing and customer service for about 350 long-distance plans. Unlike some other review sites, SaveOnPhone.com doesn't seem guided by commercial interests in its rankings. PhoneDog.com has a large array of consumer reviews, most listing pros and cons of each provider.
SaveOnPhone.com claims to keep track of about 350 long-distance plans as the source for this top-10 chart. At No. 4, Total Call International isn't rated highest overall, but it's best for the 15 percent of the United States that isn't served by Baby Bells. The editors are impressed that the customer service agents speak six languages!
Review: Long-Distance Phone Service Comparison, Editors of SaveOnPhone.com
PhoneDog.com is a helpful source for user reviews. The ratings vary by plan -- some of the five TCI plans have only a few or no user reviews, while the two "global saver" plans have more than 100 apiece, with very high average scores.
Review: TCI Long-Distance Phone Plans, Editors of and Contributors to PhoneDog.com
3. 1+ Call Saver
This site gets commissions from some of the companies it lists, though it claims to be unbiased. These rankings appear to favor plans that don't have any monthly fees, even if the per-minute charges are relatively high. TCI ranks third on the chart.
Review: Best Bets: Residential, Editors of 1CallSaver.com
Rated solely on cost, TCI comes in at seventh place in Calling-Plans.com's list of long-distance providers. The editors recommend TCI particularly for businesses.
Review: TCI: Total Call International, Editors of Calling-plans.com