Google Voice calls are NOT free!*

*For cell phone users.

Too much hype has been made about Google Voice being free. As a poor sap who just got a bill this morning for $140 *over* my regular monthly bill from T-Mobile, I can tell you that Google Voice calls are not free. Google Voice calls are calls to an intermediary phone number (in my case, one in Palm Springs) that count against your plan’s minutes. T-Mobile charged me for every minute over my “included” minutes. And I went way over my minutes because I thought that my Google Voice calls didn’t count against my minutes. Boy was I wrong.

Upon further investigation, I found that you could use Google Voice to make unlimited calls if you added your GV number to a carrier plan that allowed you to make unlimited calls to a select few numbers— plans like My Circle, Friends & Family, A-list, and MyFaves. I don’t know about other carriers, but guess what? T-Mobile doesn’t offer MyFaves anymore. So your only option for “unlimited calls” is a more expensive unlimited calling plan. And if you pay for that, then what’s the point of using Google Voice?

Google Voice provides some advantages over calls made the regular way, such as the ability to record calls (with the other party’s knowledge), the ability to send and receive SMS (not MMS) without it counting against your text limits (if you don’t already have an unlimited text plan), the ability to receive voice mails over the Internet and have them transcribed for you (as long as you don’t mind that Google is mining your messages for consumer data about you), and the ability to have both your cell phone and home phone ring when someone calls your Google Voice number. All those features may be worth it to you if you understand that Google mines every word in your phone calls, text messages, and voice mails. But as a way to save money? No, sir, no, ma’am. Google Voice calls are NOT free.

Google Voice is not a VoIP service. If you want that, get Skype. That’s what I might do now that I’ve learned my hundred-and-forty-dollar lesson.

Did this review help you? Did it save you $140? If so, would you reward the time I took to write this for you by giving me a small donation of even $1? I work hard on these blog posts and I do them without sponsorship from tech companies or advertisements. If you like, please give.

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Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

50 thoughts on “Google Voice calls are NOT free!*”

  1. I used a third party SIP provider OBITalk to make phone calls from GV, and realized that all my calls from OBITalk were charged to my Tmobile bill. Then I had to login to GV to delete my associated Cell phone number from GV, just to stop the bleeding asap. But GV does not allow me to delete because it says it has to be associated to at least one phone number. So added my landline phone number to GV, and was able to delete my cell number from there.I still don't know how my calls (incoming and outgoing) on GV were charged to my Tmobile, but I don't think it is Tmobile's fault, but the way how GV works and connects the calls.Now I am going to switch to a unlimited cell voice plan. And Net10's $30/monthly deal is appealing: Unlimited voice, Unlimited text and unlimited web on selected old phones.

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  2. I'm not sure I follow, Wally. Why did you log into the Voice app on your phone and replace your cell phone number with your land line number? And what do you mean by "calls from Google chat"?

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  3. I learned the lesson by paying $100 to Tmobile last month instead of my $70 calling plan. When I realized that, I logged on to GV and removed my cell phone number, and replaced it with my landline number. That stopped the bleeding. And even all calls from Google chat were also billed to cell phone bill,

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  4. Well, the problem I had was I was using GV on my mobile phone, thinking it was an "Internet call" when it was really just another call counting against my minutes. Well, make that a lot of calls counting against my minutes! Thanks for sharing, though! It's good for consumers to be aware.

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  5. Hi all! I've discovered something else that is not free about GV…technically. I think the reason, Daniel, that you might have gotten charged (not 100% sure) is because even though you were dialing a "local" number, it wasn't…truly.I do not have long distance on my home phone…because of GV (but I keep the home phone for emergencies). Problem happened when I was trying to fax using GV (and, YES, there is a way so don't give me crap for trying it). When the fax didn't go through correctly, the activity report from my fax machine had a "Sent to" phone number I didn't even remotely dial. I had also noticed when the fax machine dialed, it converted the last number to a different digit on the display. Thinking it was my error, I SLOWLY re-entered the number. Nope, it changed again. Then, I tried using the home phone itself to call my GV number directly and, since I don't have long distance, it asked me for a long distance access code. Which then led me to the realization…When you dial ANY GV number, you are being directed though a "call hub" of sorts…kinda like the old days when you had to call the operator to "put you through" to make a call. My GV number is local to PA AND where I am in Northeast PA. The number that people are **TRULY** dialing when they call my number is a number based in Houston, TX. The "Sent to" number is 713-973-xxxx. So I think THAT is where the charges are coming from. Even if I dialed from my cell phone, I believe it's STILL getting rerouted through the TX number. The only way Google can keep track is to have some control and that would be via THEIR phone records. So, example…I dial 484-504-**** (my GV number) from my landline phone. It secretly goes to 713-973-**** first, then they route it to my GV. number.

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  6. Once again, I don't get the anger and mouthiness of people like this commenter. Where are they coming from? What's their agenda? To visit blogs and use offensive language to tell bloggers how stupid they are? What is the point? I'm a smart guy who mistook something, and I'm helping others by warning them not to make the same mistake. I'm not blaming Google; I'm merely saying that for people to think that Google Voice calls are "free" on a mobile phone is an easy mistake to make, and out of the kindness of my heart I want to disabuse people of that misconception. Shame on people who shame me for being helpful.

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  7. You are really not too bright. 1st of all you have a real [expletive deleted] phone provider. 2nd you have a minute plan. Are you kidding?? Of course you will use minutes. It is not googles fault. It is yours. No i am not going to donate. you need to get your head checked out and please don't drive and use your phone because i am sure you are not smart.

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  8. Only one person has ever donated, and that was $1.50, so as I said, I don't write this stuff for the money. I advocate for myself and others as a consumer for the greater good. You are absolutely right that I didn't do my homework first, but I would add the word enough, because I did check with T-Mobile. Problem was that I thought from what I had read in the articles I cited that Google Voice was a VoIP app based on the fact that it is VoIP for people using GV on computers and the GV text messaging on phones goes over the Internet rather than though the regular cell phone voice & text service (thus saving you money because it doesn't count against your minutes). When I asked T-Mobile, they didn't know much about Google Voice, so I told them it was a VoIP calling program, and I asked them if they would block it (because I had read that some of the carriers were blocking it). They said they would not block it; in fact, they fully supported Google, and they said if it was a data call, it would be included in my data plan. So I did some homework. I just failed to realize that GV is not a data calling feature on mobile phones. And, as you can read in the comments, I was not alone in that. Call it stupid, call it what you will, but it's an understandable mistake that I and many others made.Don't get me wrong: I love making calls using GV on my computer— do it all the time! I love that it's free and it saves my voice minutes on my cell phone when I make the calls on my computer. I'm just warning people that, as the title of my post says, "Google Voice calls are NOT free![….]* *For cell phone users."

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  9. It WAS free when I got my phone in Dec. 2010. When it came BACK and it said FREE, I was more than willing to believe FREE….from GOOGLE of all places!! Hence, the reason for finding out free doesn't mean free.US Cellular gave me an extra 500 mintutes for the month to re-coup the 100 minutes lost to Google and to cover the 2 weeks I had left.YEAH US C!!

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  10. No, I'm not going to donate. You obviously didn't do your homework first. Nothing is ever free, you know that, or should have.If it's 'free', you're likely already paying for it within an expensive voice/data plan that someone else is paying for.

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  11. I sadly found that out 10 hours ago but just found out WHY I was over by 100 from your post.Outraged!They said FREE for ONE YEAR so I thought that meant FREE FOR ONE YEAR.Can't get ahead by trusting anyone anymore!

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  12. I was disappointed to know that GV uses up mobile minutes as well and its not really *FREE*. However, a friend introduced me to GrooveIP and how it works in conjunction with Google Voice to make calls over 3/4G and does not use any minutes. I am going to give this a try and come back to update my post here🙂

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  13. I don't get it.. where did the moron's who are flaming this blog get THEIR information? Did the info magically get transmitted to your brain through the ether? Are you clairvoyant? No. You're not that smart. You had to get the info from somewhere else just like the rest of us. And just because you found the info before those that read this blog doesn't make you smarter. In fact it makes you a lot dumber because you couldn't even think this through. Idiots.

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  14. I just read an article, It's time for Google to let Google Voice live up to its promise. I know that the word "promise" can mean "potential," but it can also mean, well, "promise." I'm not saying that Google itself (or themselves) promised Google Voice would be free, but the implication is out there. I mean, Google Voice on your computer is free in the US (and yes, I use it quite a bit), and Google Voice texting is free on your phone in the sense that it doesn't count against your text message limit. It stands to reason one would expect GV calls to be free on mobile phones as well. I didn't mention this in my blog post, but I did call T-Mobile and spend quite a bit of time on the phone with them. They said, "Our president [or someone high up] said we completely support Google and Android," and when I asked if I made calls using my Internet connection they would not block those calls or charge me for them, they said something like, "we won't stop you." Unfortunately, they did not know enough about Google Voice to tell me that it wasn't going to work on my data plan; they were simply responding to my question given my assumption that GV phone calls would be data calls.I've gotten a lot of flack in comments on this blog post, but I also get comments from others who suffered from making the same mistake. And I do believe it is an understandable mistake. My blog post is old news; I wrote it almost two years ago. It's not like my "stupidity," if anyone wants to call it that, is "fresh," so it feels kind of weird to read recent comments about how I should have known better. Still, the "promise" of Google Voice being free on mobile phones is still a wish, and personally, I don't see why I couldn't at least make free Google Voice calls using a Wi-Fi connection. I guess it's still a matter of "God forbid we should get past paying the carriers for making calls with our cell phones."

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  15. It appears that if you have a Rogers $20/mon pay-as-you-go 5 favorites you can add your Google Voice phone number as one of those favorites, then make all your outbound calls via that number, and direct all your inbound phone calls through that number and you have unlimited long distance calling in Canada and US. Is this true????

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  16. My understanding is that both outgoing and incoming calls count toward your allotted minutes and incur overage charges after that. I don't think she has to pay extra to receive international calls, but you'd better ask T-Mobile to be sure.

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  17. dear daniel…..sorry for this mail…..well i am still confused here……coz everyone was perhaps writing abt calls to US from US only…or maybe i missed something…i am sorry for that…..my story follows…i call my fiance from my country Bangladesh to US everyday…..PC to PC mostly…..i kinda know dat itz free….ok….he he…..now i have been calling her in her landlines and TMobile cell phnz……..my question to you is that whether she will be billed for this Bangladesh to US International call via Google Voice by her TMobile phn company ..(i understand they say itz free….means i can call free to her….but they dun say nethn abt whether they will bill the receiver for the calls…) my confusion lies here…..i dun wanna gv her the burden of billz now…..so it wud b very helpful for me if u cud kindly clarify my confusion….thank you

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  18. You guys can actually use google voice to make calls that don't count against your minutes, only your data. Download a program called sipdroid in the android market place. It can be kind of tricky to configure properly, but there are tutorials out there. You can them makes calls over wifi, 3g and edge (although edge can be kind of choppy). Theoretically I wouldn't need a provider at all as long as I was on wifi.

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  19. I too was a victim of the misconception that GV calls are free in the sense we all have rightfully interpreted it be. Thankfully I caught it before I got a gigantic cell phone bill. Simply stated if you make a call using GV on your cell phone you can be assured that call is logged in your bill. So there is nothing really free about this call. GV calls uses cell min not VoIP. This blog post has been very helpful. It is unfortunate a selected few individuals have made some shameful (lack of a better civilized word) on this posting.

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  20. Daniel, I'm one of the guys that you saved from getting overcharged by my carrier. I found out about the GV app for iphone and got really excited because there was no mention of the fact that you use your carrier minutes when connecting through GV but I got a little suspicious and decided to research on it a bit more and found your blog and also came across more info about VoIP apps from people who commented on your blog. Very Useful! Thanks a bunch!Happy Holidays.-Solomon

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  21. Wow, I'm sorry you lost so much money. It's people like you I was trying to warn. Thanks for writing about your experience, though, and about SB S.3872.As for Google Voice doing VOIP on Android phones, I don't think it's doing that yet, but it would be nice if it did. Something to keep an eye out for…

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  22. Might be time to update this post, now that GV actually does have VoIP calls through gmail. It also has them over ipod touch and iphone through certain apps (I've used it on my ipod touch and it works, though the sound quality is lacking) and I imagine it would work for the Android phones too.I wish I 'd found this article when it was written. My wife and I didn't start really using google voice to place and receive calls until a few months ago (until then, was just using it for text messages). Also around that time I was letting my cell phone bills go to auto-pay without checking the amount, since they'd been pretty constant for years. Suddenly I checked my bill one day and saw that my usually $90 family-plan bill was $380 for that month! I couldn't figure out why. I looked and saw that for the last few months, it had been going up and up and up (I'd been giving my GV number to more friends and family – I'm also on T-Mobile, with limited minutes and no Faves or Circles). I figured out that calls I'd usually been making for free – like calls to my wife that would last an hour a day after work – were suddenly being charged as if they were using minutes! My last bill was $500. Needless to say, I immediately changed the saved numbers in mine and my wife's phones, and I've texted my parents to do the same. Talk about a blunder – GV has costed me about $1000 all told! So much for FREE!I guess I just didn't understand how a number I could use for text messages could also be treated as a landline by the cell-phone companies. Nor did I understand that landlines were treated very differently than cell phones (I still don't understand why). For this reason, I'm strongly supporting Senate Bill S.3872. I think it SHOULD be a requirement that a cell-phone company at least give you the option to be notified when you have hit your minutes-limit, or if your cell-phone bill is suddenly going to be double its usual amount halfway through the month. I suggest you all do too.-P

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  23. Briefly restating the facts as I understand them:Currently, placing domestic US calls on a cellphone using Google Voice causes it to dial out to a local number to connect the call. Thus, your cellphone charges are the same as making a local call.If you want to make free domestic US calls on your cellphone over wifi, currently, the Vonage app does this and works well for me.If you want to make free domestic US calls on your cellphone over 3G, I've read there are hacks on unlocked iPhones to trick apps into treating the 3G connection like the wifi connection.

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  24. Well my friend since you are using t-mobile you could virtually make free calls including your cell minutes. If you have t-mobiles 5 favorites. Then you make your google voice number one of your five favorites and then make sure all incoming calls from your google voice come in as your google voice number (it's under settings). Then those minutes aren't counted against you.

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  25. Excellent post, Daniel. I think the people giving you a hard time just like to flame and nitpick. If you make a Google voice call from the Google Voice application on your cell phone, it still uses your carrier's minutes. Period. They are not free. You will be charged. As far as I know now, there is no good free VoIP solution for making a free call from your mobile phone over the wifi or 3G network (i.e. using my unlimited data plan for $30/month from Verizon to make "free" calls). I believe that is the basis of what you (very clearly, in my opinion) are saying and don't mind the flamers … there are a**holes in every corner of the internet. Civility in inversely proportional to anonymousness.

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  26. Perhaps I should limit my remarks to Google Voice on cell phones. On cell phones, you can generally call any number in the U.S. for the same cost as dialing locally, and all voice minutes regardless of distance are counted toward the number of minutes allotted in your plan. In the case of cell phones, Google Voice calls are not free.Some sources on the Internet compare Google Voice to Skype, Vonage, and VoIP. This may be true for landline phones when you can get Google Voice to call back to your landline phone so that a long distance call is billed as a local call. My landline provider gives me unlimited local calling, so if I used Google Voice for long distance calls on my land line phone, they would be free.The problem is when it comes to cell phones. Yes, there was a time when you could make unlimited Google Voice calls if you had a "friends & family" plan or whatchamacallit. Unfortunately, the cell phone carriers have apparently caught on to this money drain, and they no longer offer these plans. (I tried to get one from T-Mobile but I was too late.) Based on what I had read on the Internet saying that Google Voice was VoIP, I thought that the Android Google Voice app was VoIP. I learned after the first month of service that it wasn't. So, for cell phone users who don't have unlimited voice or friends & family plans, Google Voice calls are not free.I have nothing against Google or Google Voice. If you are making free Google Voice calls on your landline, more power to you. I just want to caution that installing Google Voice on your cell phone won't give you free calls. The only point of using Google Voice on a cell phone is to screen incoming calls and have your voice mails transcribed. And, yes, Google Voice SMS is free. So certainly there are some benefits to using Google Voice on a cell phone. I just wouldn't want anyone else to make the same mistake I did and get a higher-than-normal phone bill because they think that Google Voice calls are free.

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  27. Google Voice domestic, U.S. calls are free. Anything to the contrary is patently false.Whether or not you are billed for airtime by way of your cell company has to do with you and them, not Google Voice.

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  28. MORON!The calls ARE free!BUT your provider charges you as normal minutes DUH!!!! you stupid @#$% &*#@!IF google voice wasn't free GOOGLE would bill you!@#$%& idiot[Obscenities redacted —Daniel Greene]

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  29. I'm smart enough to know that I was in very good company thinking that Google Voice calls were free. It is a widely held misconception.And I don't appreciate your tone. I don't write my blog for know-it-alls. I write my blog posts for the many people who actually benefit from them. The last time I had a know-it-all comment on one of my blog posts, my advice turned out to be viewed by almost a thousand people and generated over twenty comments on Flickr (so far). Just as there are many people who don't know how to write their own hyperlinks, there are many people who think Google Voice calls are free. If you can't appreciate the sharing of vital information with people who can use it, then you might as well take your smart ass to another blog.

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