The above prices are only offered to respective members of each service. Like most VoIP services, they require that you sign up with each provider for at least a year (with the exception of Skype). Some of the prices may be cheaper when combined with domestic/unlimited calling plans. Vonage, for instance, offers its members five international calling plans with rates that start as low as $0.01. However, you must be signed up with Vonage's Residential Premium Unlimited Plan ($24.99/mo) to take advantage of the company's cheaper international rates.
Nevertheless, each of the VoIP services is cheaper than a traditional landline, which in the case of Verizon, charges up to $6 more per minute. Other, no-commitment options are listed below.
If you can overlook the lengthy instructions, Talkster lets you make free international phone calls from any phone. Simply register your phone number and the number you wish to dial on Talkster's homepage and Talkster will immediately give you and your friend local Talkster numbers. To initiate a call, you must dial your friend's Talkster number and have s/he hang up and call you back on your Talkster number (you must remain on the line while they call you back). By using both Talkster numbers, you bypass your phone carrier and rely on Talkster's network. Once both parties are calling via Talkster's backbone, you can talk for as long as you want for free. There is a catch, however. In order to provide free international calling, customers are required to listen to a 10-second ad sponsoring your call.
Like Talkster, Rebtel is a VoIP call back service that lets you bypass your phone carrier. It requires that you and your friend obtain Rebtel numbers (you accomplish this for free via Rebtel's homepage) and then call each other from your respective numbers. The service can be used from any mobile, landline, or even a VoIP number. However, unlike Talkster, Rebtel is not ad-based so you don't have to sit through any commercials before your call. In addition, Facebook fiends can take advantage of Rebtel's Reb Me app, which lets you create local numbers for your global friends via Facebook.
This smartphone-based app takes advantage of open hot spots or unlimited 3G data plans and lets you make peer-to-peer VoIP calls for free. The app, which is downloaded to your Symbian, Windows Mobile, or iPhone, lets you call your friends on Fring (they must have the app installed on their mobile), Skype, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Yahoo!, or AIM. For international calls, you'll need a SkyeOut/SkypeIn account, or you can pair Fring with an Internet voice service (SIP). Call quality varies (we tried it on a recent podcast), but fortunately the app has its advantages letting you make calls from mobile-to-mobile, mobile-to-PC, or PC-to-mobile.
Though it's not even a year old, VoxOx has already made a positive splash in the world of VoIP. Like Skype, it relies on your computer to make and receive calls, but unlike its competitor it comes with a free phone number. International rates vary, but you can make calls to Mexico from $0.04 and calls to the United Kingdom from $0.17 cents. Better yet, the app integrates with your favorite IM, text, Facebook, and e-mail apps becoming your one-stop spot for communications.
The above services are just a handful of ways you can make budget international calls. Technophobes will feel more comfortable with traditional VoIP services (like Vonage or ViaTalk), but tech savvy consumers should take advantage of the newer plans, which make international calls cheaper than ever.
However, for the most savings we recommend Skype. Although it offers the second best international calling rates, it doesn't require signing up for a service or calling plan. Instead, pay-as-you-go customers make payments only when they need new minutes (the minimum you can add at a time is $10.)
Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features Editor.