In many European nations, including Austria, Switzerland and Germany, you know how high the price of making a phone call can be, especially when it comes to international calls. Deutsche Telekom, for example, still charges much more for a phone call from Germany to the United States than it costs to call from the United States to Germany, and that's still true despite increasing competition, cuts to the rates and privatisation. Other German phone companies offer better rates. In 1998, Germany stopped regulating telecommunications, which means that phones rates have gone down dramatically.
It's simply a matter of finding the telecom company that offers the best deal among the competitors that are out there. If you need to navigate the phone calls system in Germany, keep reading for information on getting help. Most people in Germany use Deutsche Telekom (DT) for their landline phone because it's the long standing and traditional choice. The DT T-Mobile branch is who most people use for their cell phone service.
Cutting Your Phone Charges in Austria, Germany or Switzerland
Many people only use a mobile phone in these countries, but most households in Germany still have a landline for the security it offers in their home or apartment. Most of these homes still use DT, Arcor or one of the other German telecom companies. That doesn't mean you don't have options that can save you money, especially on international calls. Here are some of them:
International Calling Cards and Dial Around Services
To save costs, you can use calling cards for making long distance calls. This isn't the most popular choice in Germany, but flat rate calling can save you some cash on international calls. Dial around services, which are also called call-through services, are similar to those used in the United States and can be used from any German home or business. You cannot, however, use dial around calling from pay phones or cell phones. The service does not require any type of registration and you don't have to change your long distance carrier to use the service. All you have to do is dial the prefix number before placing the call and it will be charged to your regular phone bill.
Toll-free calls are not common in Germany, though DT once tried to encourage business in German to use the term when advertising their free numbers. They wanted this to go along with the change from 0130 to 0800 prefixes. DT wanted to make the "toll-free" common among Germans and used it in advertising and also offered use of the "freecall" logo at no charge. Despite this, it's still not a common choice among German businesses. The average cost of a phone call to a German business is 14 euros per minute. That's right – you get charged for calling them!
800 Calls From Germany
It has been possible to make 800/866/877/888 toll-free numbers in the USA and Canada from Germany since 1997. These numbers are NOT toll-free and the caller will still be responsible for the charges of an international call. Callers will hear a warning in English notifying them of these charges before the call is placed. There is an advantage, that being that this type of number was not previously available in Germany. Sometimes the toll-free number is given only in English language versions of the advertisement. Now anyone in Germany can call these numbers, though there is a charge for each of them.
The increase in competition and flat rates have made call-back services less appealing in the European telecom market. Kallback, which is the oldest of these types of services, also offers phone service on the Internet. This service works by using a United States based company that you can use to call any number in the world, using the phone service of the company you're in. To avoid charges, you can hang up before there is an answer. Then, the company calls you back and connects you an operator in the United States to finish the call. The charge for this is usually about half what you'd pay for a normal long distance call. Flat rate long distance or call by call services are usually less expensive, however.
Pay Phones and Smart Cards
Most people in Germany use a cell phone, which means that the availability of pay phones is rare. Phone booths are increasingly becoming a collector's item, rather than something that is used to make phone calls. While cards were popular in the 1980s and 1990s, they are not in use so much anymore.
Cell Phones, Mobile Phones and SIM Cards
The iPhone is one of the best choices for people traveling in Germany or who are expats in the country. A prepaid mobile phone is also handy to have and is an inexpensive way to make phone calls.