Calling Collect

by Female Abroad

I was recently reading the who to call with my new travel insurance policy with the usual call XXX when in USA, call XXX when in Mexico, call XXX toll free world wide, and call XXX global collect. Check out our website to see what countries you will need to call us collect.

I figured that the Caribbean would be under the toll free number but I wasn't sure about Cuba so I logged onto their website and proceeded to check out what countries I'd have to call collect on this plan.


Turns out it was all countries that aren't in Europe.

Weird I thought but then one question popped into my head "do we still call collect if we are not in prison?" I haven't even thought about doing that let alone heard of it outside of movies /TV shows with calls out of prisons since I had a land line over ten years ago. Then it dawned on me.... "can we call collect from a cell phone?"

None of my travel friends had ever given it much thought and the policies that they sold to their customers listed the same information but none of their customers had ever asked them how to call collect. When we started thinking about other situations that might come up that need us to call collect the thought of reporting lost credit cards or even having everything stolen and having to call home collect for help made this lack of how to call collect more disturbing.

Needing / wanting to be prepared in case of an emergency I decided to delve deeper into the question to find out more about if / how it's done.

Lets start with the basics just in case you need a refresher or have never heard of "collect call" before. This is where you call someone (usually long distance) with the cost of the call being charged to the receiver. (ex. you call your mom collect, if your mom accepts the call, she pays for the long distance charges not you even though you placed the call).

It also looks like a lot of companies from shied away from allowing collect calls to be made unless you are in prison so it's not just a movie/TV trope. A lot of forums where people ask questions to their providers or just other travelers about how to make the calls end up in the awkward "I'm not assuming the person is calling you from prison but..." conversations so it has been difficult to find a direct answer for a lot of providers. There are even more people that say "just use an app". That isn't always the easiest answer; what if you are in an area without Wi-Fi or data? Since for this trip I'll be on a cruise and in the Caribbean as well, lack of Wi-Fi & data is a reality.

The one thing I will agree with (and check out my article on it) is that if there is an emergency, just bite the bullet and make a normal, non-collect call from your phone. If your provider charges $0.20/minute for a call, a 10-minute call will only cost you $20.00 and if that will pay for your hospital stay then it is worth it. Plus most insurance providers will reimburse you for the call anyways (check your policy).

After doing some research it looks like a lot of cell providers don't want to allow for collect calls to be made as the calls are quite expensive (est. around USD 9/call + charges per minute as per USA Today) so a lot of people either won't accept them or they will fight the provider on the cost.

For this article, I've just looked at two Canadian carriers - Rogers (the largest carrier in Canada) and their discount option Fido - as they seem to be the most forth coming with this information. If you are not with either I highly suggest that you call your carrier to find out more. Things also change as well so make sure to check this information if you are travelling in the future.

Now that we remember / understand what it is, lets move into how these two companies do it.

How to Dial Collect if you are with Fido

When it comes to Fido, they use a company called FAIRCALL if you are a prepaid customer (ie. someone not a contract that loads minutes onto their phone "pay-as-you-go"). With this company you can call only within Canada to landlines and cell phones within North America. If you are going to use them:

- Dial *525 from your prepaid phone

- select French or English

- enter the phone number of the person you are going to call

- record your name

If the person on the other end accepts your call then you will be connected. If they can't be reached or they decline the call then you won't be connected and no charges will be applied to either party.

For customers that have a contract, everything that I'm seeing online is from 2015 and Fido clearly states "collect calls on Fido cell phones are blocked. Fido does however accept collect calls if you are calling to the US via a landline". I tried calling Fido and asking but since I'm not a customer they wouldn't release this information. If anyone knows if this is still correct or there has been updated please drop me a line and let me know!

How to Dial Collect if you are with Rogers

For rogers it is very easy to do. All you need to do is:

- Dial 0

- Tell the operator you are wanting to make a collect call

- They will then ask for the phone number of the party and for you to record your name

Again, if the person accepts you will be connected and if they decline or don't answer you will be asked if you want to call someone else. If you are going to call the operator then they can also provide you with the following options when calling:

Bill to Third Party: neither the caller nor the recipient are charged. A completely separate entity/person pays for it (usually for business calls)

Sent to Paid Call: the caller pays for the call themselves (usually when you call the operator to ask some questions {long distance cost, area code, country code} but still need to make a call in the end)

How to Dial Collect if you are using a Landline

If you are calling from a land line within North America then you can just press 0 and the steps will be the same as Rogers.

If you are calling internationally then dial 0170 for an international operator. Once the operator answers give them:

- the name of the person you are calling

- the country you are calling

- the complete phone number (with country codes and any exit codes the country might have) of the person you want to make the call to

*NOTE*: Most providers won't let you make collect calls to a cell phone so make sure you have a landline number!