How to Make Free Phone Calls From a Payphone

By Melissa Lewis

With cell phone use on the rise, payphones are becoming a thing of the past. However, because not everyone owns a cell phone, has a signal or a charged battery, payphones are still around, albeit not as convenient as they once were. While the company that owns the payphone is in the business to make money, there are ways to make outgoing calls without having to pay for the call yourself.

Step 1

Dial toll-free numbers for free at a payphone. You do not need to deposit money to dial 1-800, 1-888 or 1-877 or 1-866 exchanges.

Step 2

Make a collect call using a collect calling service such as 1-800-COLLECT (265-5328). Dial carefully. Collect calls are "free" for the person making the call, but the person accepting the call must pay for it. Note that the rate charged may exceed $3.00 per minute, sometimes significantly more. Therefore, research collect calling prices before leaving home or follow directives when making the call to learn the rate prior to following through with your collect call, if desired.

Step 3

Dial 911 or 0 for the operator for free at a payphone. You can also dial a local Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), which is a service used to call a person who is hearing impaired.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rates for payphones vary from phone to phone, even in the same general area. According to the FCC, the rate should be clearly visible on the phone as well as stated verbally after you dial the number, giving you time to hang up the phone if the rate is too high. If one rate is too high, go to the next payphone.
  • Purchase a prepaid card for payphones to save some money. They are available at many retail stores that sell prepaid cards for cell phones, including many convenience stores.
  • You can also call an access number for free provided by your long distance company to make phone calls that will be billed to you later. These numbers are either local numbers, toll-free numbers or begin with 950 or 101.