A guide to toll-free numbers: mobile calls, overseas use and more


“1800” is widely recognised as the prefix for toll-free numbers: phone numbers that cost nothing to call. It’s common knowledge that’s useful both for customers, who save on call costs; and businesses, who can get more leads over the phone.

There are some exceptions to the rule, however: calls from mobile phones and calls from overseas. These aren’t always free—or even possible—as we’ll explain below.

Calling toll-free numbers from mobile phones

Strictly speaking, calling an 1800 number from your mobile phone isn’t necessarily free. According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), only standard telephone services are obliged to make calls to 1800 numbers free. Other service types, including mobile phone services, have no such restrictions.

However, because of the confusion—and frustration—that this distinction caused, most mobile service providers now offer such calls free of charge. Some smaller, independent carriers may still charge you for such calls, however.

That said, there are no other restrictions on calling 1800 numbers from mobile phones. You’ll be able to reach them, your provider just might charge you for it.

International toll-free numbers explained

Calling toll-free numbers from overseas is a more complicated case. Toll-free numbers are only free to call within specific areas. These areas are determined by the type of phone number you get.

  • Standard toll-free numbers are only free to call within their company of operation.
  • International toll-free numbers are still configured for specific countries but redirect calls to phones outside of them. For example, you could set up an international toll-free number in the USA and customers there would be able to call it for free—but customers from within Australia wouldn’t.
  • Universal international freephone numbers let you choose multiple countries from which they can be called for free. The costs for the number go up the more countries you choose.

Are toll-free numbers free internationally?

If you’re calling a toll-free number outside the country it’s set up for, you’ll have to pay the international rate charged by your service provider (or your provider may have a rate specifically for overseas toll-free numbers).

How do you call toll-free numbers from overseas?

To call an 1800 number from abroad, you’d have to dial the following:

001 (international dial-out code) + 61 (Australia’s country code) + 1800xxxxxx (toll-free number)

There’s no guarantee, though, that an 1800 number can be reached from overseas. Whether or not it’s possible depends on two factors.

First, call routing options for each 1800 number are determined by the owner. Overseas callers won’t be able to reach the number if it’s set up to reject international calls.

Second, the call will be handled by an overseas telco and subject to their coverage. If they don’t support calls to foreign 1800 numbers, the call won’t go through.

This means that if you’re calling an Australian 1800 number from overseas, there’s no overall rule to determine whether it’d be possible or not.

Similarly, if you own an 1800 number, callers may or may not be able to reach it depending on their service provider.

Other questions about inbound numbers?

Are you looking up toll-free numbers for your business? 1800 Numbers Australia specialises in toll-free services, including custom 1800 numbers or “vanity numbers.” Call us at 1800 900 991 or visit www.1800numbersaustralia.com.au