When I moved abroad almost six years ago, it was hard to stay in touch with my friends and family back home. Facebook was just beginning to take off for people not in college, Skype was difficult because my mom lives in the last place on Earth where they still use dial-up, and phone calls were limited to birthdays and Christmas due to outrageous phone card costs.
Things have greatly improved in recent years. We now have an international plan with our phone company (SKY) that allows us to make unlimited calls to any mobile number in America and landlines in The Netherlands for £10 a month. Just about everyone I know is on Facebook now, so I can keep up with the general day-to-day lives of people I care about, something I missed out on for a few years there. Then there is the oh so wonderful Whatsapp that has made my expat life much easier to bear.
I was recently introduced to ZipCall, a company that claimed I could call the USA or Canada for free from any phone. I was a little skeptical to be honest, if it was that easy everyone would be doing it. I decided with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, I would only use ZipCall to get in touch back home. I only use my cell phone for taking pictures or Tweeting, so I have a ridiculous amount of minutes every month that go wasted. I loved the idea of calling friends back stateside while window shopping, giving my mom a ring while bored on a walk; just the simple ability to be connected whenever I want to be.
Although I can call to the USA from the UK on my landline phone, I have to be home to do it.
My Experience with ZipCall
I wanted to try calling America a few times from my cell phone first. As much as I would love to save the £120 pounds a year we spend to be able to call anytime on our landline, the convenience of calling from my mobile was an exciting prospect. (Plus, if all went according to plan I would be able to cancel that landline service anyway.)
How it Works
To make a call to the US from the UK all you need to do is call the ZipCall number- 0333 232 3232. Once you are connected you can then immediately enter in the international number, starting with 001 and followed by a #. Seconds later you will hear ringing and a friendly voice stateside saying hello. That is it. As you are technically only calling a UK number, your standard carrier charges would apply. Most landlines include free UK calls anyway, and if you are like me- you probably have more than enough minutes to spare on your cell. If you don’t have any minutes, keep in mind that you will be charged the typical rate of calling a UK number from your phone, be sure to check before you dial!
Calling Home on Thanksgiving
If there was ever an ultimate test, it would be using the service to call my mom on one of the most important days of the year- Thanksgiving. Walking into town I dialed the ZipCall number and then entered my mom’s mobile number. Sure enough, there she was on the other line, and we were able to talk all things Turkey while I was running my errands. Awesome. Next up, my sister. Dialed in, punched in her number, and a minute later we were gossiping- a very important tradition on Thanksgiving, although much more fun to do together in person.
As far as the quality of the calls, I had no issues to speak of. The line was clear, and there was no static or interference during my conversations.
At one point my phone disconnected from the number, my fault as I can’t help but press buttons I shouldn’t. It was a little annoying to have to re-dial and re-enter the number to call again, but that seems like a teeny tiny inconvenience in exchange for free calls back to the US.
What’s the Catch?
Totally free calls to the USA from the UK and this company is getting nothing out of it? It sounds fishy, but as far as I can see there is no catch. You don’t need to share any of your personal information with ZipCall, there are no fees, you only need to be sure your phone service provider allows free calls within the UK or that you have enough minutes in your mobile package.
I had absolutely no problems using ZipCall, and will be using the service from now on when I need to make calls to the USA from the UK. You can also call Canada and China for free using the same number- so good news for all you Canadian and Chinese expats. We still call The Netherlands pretty often, so we can’t cancel our international landline plan just yet. Luckily, ZipCall says they will be adding more countries soon, so fingers crossed!
How do you stay connected with friends and family back home while living abroad or travelling?
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in partnership with ZipCall. I would never recommend a service or product I didn’t love 100%, as such all opinions and content are my own.