What Is An 800 Area Code?

7 Ways a Toll Free Number Can Boost Your Business

  1. Improve customer experience
  2. Toll-free numbers are portable
  3. Boost your company’s Image
  4. Cost-effectiveness
  5. Reliability
  6. Be top of mind for customers
  7. Simplify your marketing

Most people have dialed an 800 area code number (or 888, 866, or other common toll-free area codes at one time or another to reach a sales or support person at a business. These are what are known as toll-free phone numbers, incurring no long-distance charges to the caller, because they are paid for by the company being contacted. But what exactly is an 800-area code, how does it work, what are the benefits of having one for your business, and how do you get one?

What is a toll-free number?


Toll-free number prefixes include 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, and 833, with 800 numbers being the most familiar.

These telephone numbers were originally created to offer callers a convenient, no-cost way to contact businesses. The numbers enable customers to contact businesses outside their local geographic area without incurring a long-distance fee when calling from a landline phone. But today, toll-free numbers aren’t necessarily about cost savings, since most people have unlimited cellular calling plans, making national calls essentially free.

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A brief history of area code 800


Historically, the United States and Canada used a flat-rate structure for local calls with no per-call charges for residential phone customers. By contract, long distance calls were artificially high, resulting in subscribers to limiting their long-distance call frequency and duration.

Toll free numbers introduced in the 1950s

Toll-free numbers have existed in the US, UK, and Canada since the 1950s. These calls were routed through an operator when 800 area code numbers were first introduced.

The caller could dial “0” to connect with the operator and request a specific “Zenith” number prior to being connected. The Zenith number told the operator to reverse the charges for the call, so the business receiving the call covered all associated long-distance charges. This was an affordable way for businesses to attract customers from outside their local area.

800 numbers automated in the 1960s

When new technology allowed toll-free calls to be automated, they were assigned the area code 800 for US intrastate calls in 1966 and then for interstate calls starting in 1967. These calls were routed through special fixed-rate trunks, based on their specific calling area, with either no limit or a monthly specified hourly limit.

Billing for these calls were not itemized at this point and were quite costly, making it cost prohibitive for all but large corporations and government agencies. Service providers offered this toll-free service by zone—the larger the zone, the more costly the service and the further distance customers could be while calling the business free of charge.

Computer-controlled 800 area codes in the 1980s

In the early 1980s, Bell Labs patented a computer-controlled system where any toll-free number could be forwarded to any local number instead of the original 800 numbers. This made toll-free calling more accessible to small businesses and generated an itemized invoice, so businesses were only billed for the calls they received.

This new system removed the connection between a phone number’s prefix and the business’ geographic location. As a result, vanity number advertising became popular where businesses used memorable numbers, such as 1-800-PETMEDS.

Starting in 1986, toll-free long distance was opened to competition from other companies besides Bell Telephone and its subsidiaries.

Competition and lower prices for toll-free calling

In 1993 a Responsible Organization (RespOrg) system was set up to register and index each carrier’s toll-free numbers in the 800 databases.

Local phone service was no longer subsidized by long-distance service, so per-minute charges decreased making 800-numbers affordable enough for any business to use them to take orders.

Until 1984, numbers with an 800-area code were specific to either the US or Canada. The computer-controlled Bell Labs system enables businesses to use toll-free numbers across the border between the US and Canada.

How does a toll-free number work?


The process of calling an 800 number is the same as making any other phone call. When the customer dials a business’ toll-free number, the call is routed through the provider’s cloud telephony destination and directed to the business’s support team.

A toll-free number includes various useful calling features like caller ID, unlimited text messaging, call recording, call routing, and voicemail transcription.

Benefits of a 1-800 number for business


A toll-free business phone number has many short and long-term advantages for any business, small or large. Keep these seven key benefits in mind as you consider getting a 1-800 number for your company.

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1. Improve customer experience

Pre and post-purchase customer communications should be effortless. A toll-free number facilitates uninterrupted communication between your customers and support team. This enables them to avoid issues or resolve them quickly, improving customer engagement and satisfaction rates. Happy customers are easier to retain and become loyal advocates in the long-term.

Portable business number

2. Toll-free Numbers Are Portable

The ability to move your business phone number is a big advantage, eliminating the need to change your phone number when relocating your business. This avoids potential disruptions in customer communications and ensures your customers always know how to reach you. Not to mention the cost involved in reprinting and redistributing any marketing materials or advertising featuring an outdated phone number.

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3. Boost Your Company's Image

A 1-800 number projects a professional image, making your business’s brand appear large and established regardless of its size, location, or longevity. Plus, toll-free numbers are recognizable business contact numbers that come with an additional trust factor.

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4. Cost-effectiveness

Today, toll-free numbers are easy to set up and affordable for businesses of all kinds. Subscription rates are often lower than regular telephone services, with affordable monthly plans or pay as you go cloud options, and no contract.

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5. Reliability

Modern 1-800 numbers free you from traditional phone systems by leveraging online cloud communication platforms with maximum uptime and robust infrastructure.

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6. Be top of mind for customers

An 800-area code number can be easier to remember, especially if you have a custom, or “vanity” number such as 1-800-FLOWERS. You’ll be the first business of your type that customers think of when the need arises and you’ll be easier for them to call, with no need to look up your number.

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7. Simplify your marketing

A toll-free number makes it easier to track your business marketing efforts. Using a 1-800 number with its own unique extension in each different marketing campaign allows you to determine the source of each call. This helps you determine which marketing methods are working best so you can more efficiently drive more sales and better ROI on your marketing investments for faster business growth.

How do you get a toll-free number?


It’s fast and easy to get an 800-area code number for your business. You simply select a business phone number with a service provider such as LinkedPhone which offers the rates and package that best suits your needs. You don’t need to go through your current phone carrier or invest in new, costly equipment. Even better, the rates are often lower than regular phone service.

How to choose a toll-free number


To select your 800 area code number, start by checking to see what toll-free numbers are available. This availability is based on data from the SMS/800 Toll-Free Number Registry, which tracks the North American Numbering Plan of more than 40 million toll-free numbers. You can use some of these tools to check 800 number availability. However, a simple Google search, or just a cold call to the number in question is often sufficient to see if the toll-free number you might want is already in use.

Factors to consider when choosing your toll-free business number include:

    • A custom or vanity number, like 1-800-FLOWERS or 1-800-PETMEDS
    • Any number you think will be easy for customers to remember
    • A number that does not resemble one used by your competitors.

Ready to get an 800-area code number for your business? Choose your number now with a 7-day free trial from LinkedPhone and get started with toll-free calling for your customers!

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A special high five to Margot Howard for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs who are passionate about business success strategies. Thank you Margot! ❤️

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