If you live in the U.S. but have friends, family, or colleagues who live up in Canada, it is important to consider long distance calling rates when choosing a cell phone plan. The rest of the features may sound attractive, but if you're overpaying for long distance, the costs will add up very quickly and leave you with a very expensive monthly bill.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only, and the rates described are believed to be accurate at the time this article was written (August 2013). Check with your chosen cellular provider before making any decisions concerning long distance calls to Canada or anywhere else in the world.
Comparing Plans for Calling Canada
Many cellular providers in the United States offer monthly plans that may include nationwide calling, but these typically do not include "free" long distance to Canada or Mexico. Call quality when using these services for calling internationally should be identical to making calls to American phone numbers from within the United States. Voice quality and signal strength should be largely unaffected.
Users who want to have unlimited calling to Canada may be able to find the best deals through T-Mobile. Families on share plans may find a better value through Verizon Wireless, whereas those who would prefer a competitive per-minute rate may be better served by Virgin Mobile or Net10 Wireless. Roam Mobility, although technically a Canadian company meant to serve Canadians, may also be an option for calling from the United States to Canada too. It operates on the T-Mobile network.
T-Mobile International Talk & Text
While it is not a Canada-specific calling plan, the International Talk & Text option from T-Mobile provides a great value at $10 per month per line. This provides you with unlimited calls to land lines in over 50 countries, plus discounted calling rates in more than 190 countries. All calls to Canada, including both land lines and mobile phone lines, are included in the $10 monthly fee. It also includes unlimited texting to over 200 countries. This fee is in addition to a regular monthly plan with T-Mobile.
While T-Mobile does have limited coverage in more rural areas, it does offer unlimited data options, and according to Top Ten Reviews, both the family and individual plans are "excellent."
Verizon Wireless Canada & Mexico Plans
The Share Everything configuration with Verizon Wireless can represent a better value for families or other people who wish to share their cell phone plan. Phone lines start with unlimited domestic calling and text messages, and then a shared bucket of wireless data can be added on top of that for an additional fee.
Whereas the T-Mobile international option is paid on a per-line basis, the Canada and Mexico plan from Verizon is added to the Share Everything plan. For a single monthly fee of $15, all lines on the same plan can share 1,000 long distance minutes from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico, as well as use those minutes for calls while in Canada or Mexico back to the U.S. It is not unlimited, but 1,000 minutes should be enough for most people. This is more expensive than T-Mobile if used with a single line, but it is more cost effective for two lines or more. This fee is in addition to a monthly plan with Verizon.
One of the greatest strengths that Verizon Wireless has over the competition is that their network is widely regarded as the most reliable in the United States. This minimizes the chance for dropped calls and provides the widest coverage possible.
Roam Mobility Prepaid Plans
For users who only need to call Canada on a periodic basis, Roam Mobility may be an option worth considering. Its target market consists of Canadians traveling to the United States, but there is no reason why a U.S. resident can't also use their services. The prepaid talk and text plans start at $2.95 per day with discounts available for longer periods. The unlimited talk and text includes calls to Canada, a feature that is not included in the similar prepaid plan from T-Mobile. There are no contracts or overage fees; just use Roam at least once a year to maintain your account.
Based on a review by MEGATechNews.com, Roam Mobility has good customer service, and their ability to "time stamp" a prepaid plan ahead of time is a definite bonus. It is also possible to top-up the account and add another plan via SMS short codes.
Virgin Mobile International Rates to Canada
Occasional calls to Canadian phone numbers shouldn't cost an arm and a leg. While the unlimited option from T-Mobile or the 1,000 minute option from Verizon can prove more cost effective for heavy users, the per-minute rate with either of those carriers can be quite expensive. For people who only need to make a call every once in a while, the international rates from Virgin Mobile are more affordable. The price per minute for a call from the United States to Canada is just $0.10. This means that a quick, five-minute call will only cost $0.50.
While Virgin Mobile has had complaints about poor customer service, the overall reviews posted on Viewpoints.com point toward having inexpensive plans that provide a good value. This ease of use "makes this cell phone provider's service both affordable and accessible."
Net10 Wireless Global Card
Net10 Wireless is already regarded as one of the better options for the cheapest cell phone plans in the United States, so it makes sense that it also has some of the more affordable long distance options. Of particular note is the $10 global calling card. This provides you with access to competitive rates from the convenience of your cell phone on a per-minute basis. It is not a monthly card; it is an add-on for international long distance. Calls to Canada vary depending on the province; they range from about 1.21 cents ($0.0121) to 1.53 cents ($0.0153) per minute.
Sold exclusively as one of the Walmart cell phone service options, Net10 Wireless offers among the cheapest cell phone plans in the nation. Customers appreciate that they have "total control" over their monthly allowance with no surprise charges.
The Best Plan Is the One That Fits Your Needs
Just as there is no such thing as the "best" cell phone plan in the United States, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for calls to Canadian phone numbers either. Heavier users will likely find the greatest value with an unlimited add-on with T-Mobile, whereas prepaid users who don't need as many minutes can find the best bargain through Net10 Wireless. All of the plans listed have their merits.