Tech

How to Get a Free Canadian Phone Number

Updated

Copy

Canada has some of the highest phone plan prices in the world, which can surprise visitors, new residents and first-time mobile phone owners.

If you’re looking for the cheapest way to stay in touch with loved ones, a second number to verify an online account, avoid getting a second phone for your small business, or simply trying to avoid using Rogers, Bell and Telus, the best way to get a free phone number with a Canadian area code is through a VoIP phone service in Canada that will provide you with a virtual phone number to use for phone calls and texting.

All you need is a mobile phone, tablet or computer and a WiFi internet connection. You log into a VoIP provider’s website or app on your phone to use the virtual phone number you have chosen.

What is VoIP?

Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is the method of transmitting voice calls and multimedia (photos and text messages) over the internet, rather than via the cell towers and landlines of telephone networks operated by traditional telecommunication companies such as Bell, Rogers and Telus.

VoIP phone services are much quicker and easier to setup than traditional phone plans – taking only a few minutes. They are also much cheaper – costing as little as free (ad-supported) to a few dollars a month for unlimited use.

The following Canadian VoIP services are free, provide you with a free phone number with a Canadian area code and have Android and iOS apps:

TextNow

TextNow provides a free local number and unlimited calling and texting over WiFi. They make money by serving in-app ads and selling add-ons.

Based in Waterloo, ON, TextNow has 8 million monthly active users in Canada and the US and has $100 million USD in annual revenue.

You enter an area code and they give you 4 numbers to choose from. I confirmed they had the following area codes:

  • 418 (Quebec)
  • 289 (Toronto/Hamilton)
  • 778 (British Columbia)
  • 437 (Toronto)
  • 613 (Ottawa)
Free phone numbers local to British Columbia from TextNow

The catch is that if you do not use your phone number to text and call on a regular basis (varies by usage pattern – but at least every week), they will send you a warning message, and eventually revoke the number, forcing you to pick a new one. It costs $6.99 per year to keep your number through periods of inactivity.

Ads on TextNow
  • Keep number active: $6.99 per year
  • Ad Free Lite: $2.49 per month
    • Only bottom banner ad is displayed
  • Ad Free+: $12.99 per month
    • Removes all ads
    • Voicemail transcription
    • Unlimited photo and video history
    • Keeps number active

Pros

  • Free local area codes from across Canada
  • Unlimited calling and texting over WiFi or internet connection
  • Free texting to over 100 countries from a Canadian IP address
  • Free texts to Canada and US when outside Canada or US
  • Supports short-code (eg. two-factor authentication)
  • Account creation only requires and email address (confirmation is not required to start calling)
  • Reasonable sound quality
  • Supports WiFi/Cell Data handover

Cons

  • Bottom banner ads
  • No voicemail transcription
  • Limited photo and video history
  • Lose your number if you’re inactive
  • e911 only available from Canadian IP addresses

Fongo

Founded in 2012, Fongo is a telecom company based in Waterloo, ON. They offer numbers in 31 area codes from across Canada, primarily in urban areas and in every province except New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland.

They make money by serving banner ads and selling plans for texting, and calling outside their free calling cities.

Ads on Fongo
Free phone numbers local to Calgary, AB from Fongo
  • 418 (Quebec)
  • 289 (Hamilton)
  • 778 (British Columbia)
  • 343 (Ottawa)
  • 782 (Nova Scotia)

You can send and receive unlimited messages between Fongo users and receive unlimited text messages from any number, but receiving photo messages and sending texts to non-Fongo numbers in Canada costs $2.79 per month or $9.99 for 6 months and $3.99 per month or $14.99 for 6 months for global numbers

Account creation requires contact information for 911 emergency purposes as required by the CRTC. You must confirm your email address before you can start using the app.

  • Fongo Plus: $9.99 per month for unlimited US calling, unlimited US & Canadian texting, ad-reduction
  • Ad removal: $1.49 per month or $11.99 per year
  • Canadian texting: $2.79 per month or $17.99 per year

Pros

  • Ads in free version are much less intrusive than TextNow
  • Free phone numbers from 31 area codes
  • Free unlimited Canada-wide calling to any province
  • Free calls to any province in Canada from anywhere in the world
  • View and listen to your voicemails in app and email yourself a recording
  • Caller ID, call forwarding, transferring and call waiting
  • Receive faxes (converted to PDF)

Cons

  • Sending text messages to non-Fongo users requires an add-on
  • Receiving verification (short-code) text messages requires an add-on
  • Calls are dropped when you switch between WiFi/Cell Data
  • Unlimited calling doesn’t include territories
  • Call quality varies, but is generally fine

Over to you

We’re interested to know – what province/country do you live in and where are the people you’d like to call or text? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

About the author

Alex Wideman
Alex Wideman is a consumer rights advocate, serial entrepreneur and the editor-in-chief of Cansumer. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Queen's University. He is passionate about helping others save time and money and has been creating consumer-focused online resources for over 10 years. More about Cansumer Read more

Was this article helpful?

Leave a comment