What’s the difference between local and toll-free numbers?

Toll-free phone numbers are a staple for many businesses, but you might wonder why toll-free numbers exist in today’s world. Many people have free long-distance calling included in their phone plans. Also, local and toll-free numbers have very similar functionality.

So what’s the difference? And what type of number should you get for your business?


The most significant differences are that local numbers are associated with a specific location. So if you are located in San Francisco, CA, your local area code would likely be 415 or 628. With a toll-free number, your exact town or city location is not known by the caller. And, as the name suggests, fees are not charged to the caller.

Toll-free numbers have codes such as 800, 855, 866, etc. They’re used by businesses because they allow customers to contact you via a single phone number to answer any questions they might have. 

How can I use local and toll-free numbers for my business?

Now that you know the differences, here’s how you can use local and toll-free telephone numbers to benefit your business:

Local numbers:

  • Reach clients in a specific region or city
  • Build a presence for your local business
  • Build more personal relationships with your customers

Toll-free numbers:

  • Make contacting the business from different regions easier
  • Make sure your clients never have to pay to call you
  • Make the business look larger and more legitimate 

Customer perception of local vs. international businesses

  • For incoming calls, toll-free numbers are a great choice since your clients from all over the United States and Canada can call you without any long-distance fees
  • For outgoing calls, the perception is very different. A toll-free number can look like a telemarketer, spam, or a robocall. It’s likely your call won’t be answered unless your clients have your toll-free number saved in their address book.
  • Local numbers are more trustworthy. They give the impression that a caller will be speaking to a real person and not a robot.

Pros and cons of local and toll-free numbers

Depending on the type of business you’re running, a local or toll-free works best. In some cases, you might need both types of numbers. Here are the pros and cons of local and toll-free numbers:

Local Phone Number Pros:

  • Local calls are more likely to be answered
  • Local presence and brand awareness
  • Can build trust between your clients and your business by being “closer to home”

Local Phone Number Cons:

  • Your clients can be charged fees for long-distance calls

Toll-free Phone Number Pros:

  • Makes business look larger
  • Builds a global reputation
  • No fees for national callers

Toll-free Phone Number Cons :

  • Toll-free outbound calls are likely to be ignored as spam or telemarketing
  • Toll-free numbers are less focused on target regions
  • Toll-free numbers are less personal; they’re more appropriate for a team instead of individual business owners

Should I get a local or toll-free number for my business?

It depends. What we can tell you is that when making the decision, there are some important questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is my customer base local or do I have customers across the US & Canada? If your customer base is local, then get a local number. If your customer base is nationwide or international, get a toll-free number.
  • Is my company expanding across the country? If you said no, get a local number. If your business is expanding, then get a toll-free number.

When to use a local phone number

Local numbers are more appropriate for small, local companies that conduct most of their business within specific cities or regions. For example, if you travel between New York and Chicago for business meetings, it may be beneficial to have local numbers for both regions to connect with your business partners or clients.

Local numbers will have an area code that identifies the city or town the business serves. This is great if you have a physical location, office or shop in that city, then your client base knows you’re close by and easy to reach by phone or in person.

When to use a toll-free phone number 

Toll-free numbers are great for businesses that don’t have an actual location but serve a wide consumer base across the US or Canada.

Toll-free numbers are useful for businesses that aim to expand outside of their current location. This is good for businesses that have an international reach. For example, if you are a local art agency, you likely would not require a toll-free number.

On the other hand, if you’re a software company and you offer customer support for your user base across the US, you would likely find a toll-free number much more useful.

How to get both local and toll-free numbers 

Can’t choose between local and toll-free? You can always get both a local and toll-free number with OpenPhone

OpenPhone is a business phone service that allows you to have both local and toll-free numbers in Canada and the US.

Why do I need a local and toll-free number? 

Many businesses, big and small, have several numbers. Multiple numbers are good for companies that require a different line for customer support, an inbound sales number or if they require a shared number for their team.

  • Get a toll-free number for incoming calls and customer support, get a local number to make outgoing calls for sales
  • Get a shared number in order to delegate responsibility among your team easier and even set hours specific for each of your team members
  • Get multiple local numbers so each of your team members can have a separate phone number and personalized voicemail greeting

Get a business phone system with OpenPhone

Getting a phone system through OpenPhone for your business is a better alternative than a regular landline or cell phone.

  • Can be used on mobile phones and desktop
  • Manage your business contacts and keep them separate from your personal contacts
  • You can set your business hours so you’re not getting calls on your off-hours
  • You’re able to have call forwarding to another number and call distribution functionalities for your team
  • Virtual phone numbers are cost-effective especially if you have a team. No need to invest thousands of dollars into new phones for your team members

Whatever you choose, customers should be able to reach you easily. “Easily” is based both on what is easy for your specific consumer base (local or across the US) and what works best for you and your business.Ready to get your business number and start calling and texting within minutes? Get OpenPhone today.

Author

Customer Service and Operations at OpenPhone. Founder of SOUL House artist showcase in the GTA. Art is life!

Write A Comment