Making International Cell Phone Calls from 8 Cents a Minute While Traveling

Using an unlocked GSM cell phone, a callback service, and a cheap SIM card, I make international calls from my cell phone from about 8 cents a minute while traveling abroad.

AT&T gave me the unlock code for my cell phone just for asking. There are plenty of SIM cards issued by European providers that offer free incoming calls throughout much of the world. And using a callback service, you convert outgoing calls into incoming calls. When I call the U.S. from Spain with my cell phone, I pay about 8 cents a minute.

Or at least I used to. My SIM card of choice was 09 Mobile from Iceland. But they became defunct. And I hadn’t been happy with the other SIM services out there. Yesterday I was offered the recommendation on Flyertalk for eKit Passport SIM (not their ‘global premium SIM’). It has free incoming calls in over 60 countries, and a ton of additional countries at between 9 and 49 cents a minute. That’ll work. It’s $20 plus $3 shipping, and comes with $10 talk credit.

Using that SIM in conjunction with a service like Call Back World, I’m set.

It works as follows:

  • Dial Callback World. Let it ring once. Hang up.
  • Callback World calls me, I answer, and dial the number I’m trying to reach.
  • I have an incoming call (from Callbackworld), no charge from the cell service/sim provider.
  • I pay only the long distance charges billed by Callback World, which are reasonable from most countries.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This works well, and has always worked well – UNTIL the target number for the SIM card rate table with CBW or any other callback company goes up. which it tends to do every 12-18 months. First, we had iceland mobile numbers, worked great, for a year. then, it was lichtenstein, worked great, about 18 months. Now it is belgium mobiles. One has stay on top of whichever callback company one uses, because they typically don’t alert the user when the rates are changing, they simply change the rate. This ISN’T bait and switch, just poor communication.

    But, this has always been a great international work around for calling.

    At the moment, I am testing a searoam card, which works pretty much anyway, has a USA number as well and it simple .50$ a minute anywhere in like 220 countries. For the most part it has worked well. More later.

  2. Where is the ekit card located? Is it a UK number or UK MOBILE number? If it is the latter, how is it only .08 a minute.?

  3. The only problem that I can see with the way that a SIM card like eKit is the way that they handle outgoing calls. When abroad (anywhere but the US), the way it works is as follows:

    1) You dial a number.
    2) Your phone hangs up and says “Please Wait”
    3) Your phone rings, a voice tells you how much time you have remaining, and then the phone rings to the party you are calling.

    So, in other words, there’s already a call-back connection going on. I suppose that the process above would still work when you call CBW, but once #3 above happens, you should hang up, wait to be called back once again, then dial the actual number you are trying to reach. Oof – a lot of extra steps, but probably still worth the savings.

  4. @mechteach the callback callback has always worked fine, I’ve used it for years now especially with these newer callback SIM’s like UnitedMobile, Telstial, etc. When the final callback works, it really is only the ONE callback and then an INBOUND call to the SIM. That is why there is normally no fee for the inbound call. But, inbound calls to MOBILES are still $$, much more than .08$, so not sure how the author is getting/quoting such a rate.

  5. Ok, here’s the deal. And a new post is currently up to update this one.

    I had been led to beleive that the eKit SIM gave you a number that was treated as a landline. So calling from that number ot the US would have been ~ 8 cents a minute from any country where the SIM offered free incoming calls.

    Turns out indeed that it’s an Isle of Man cell phone number, which generated the higher UK cell rates.

    So I apologize, had been given misinformation about the phone number attached to that SIM.

    My best recommendation at the moment, then, is probably for an Estonian SIM with free incoming calls in a variety of countries — paired with a callback service that would generate 16.6 cent a minute calls to the US from any of those free incoming call countries.

    Thanks for your vigilance, all!

  6. Ok, slight modiciation, so I’ll have to finish my updated post later.

    Callbackworld won’t call Estonian SIMs any longer. Would need a different callback service.

    But the eKit sim in question comes with a US # as well (19 cents a minute incoming calls) generating 27 cents a minute ougoing to the US with Callbackworld.

  7. To make all of my international calls I just use my TracFone. For most countries it costs the same as a local call which is already so cheap. And the quality is outstanding.

  8. I’m with Sandra on this one. I use my TracFone to call my relatives in Mexico all the time. It beats having to constantly make trips to gas stations to buy not- so -reliable calling cards 🙂 It may not be the cheapest way to go but it definitely is a lot more convenient!!!

  9. I’ve found the easiest way to make cheap international calls is using my Tracfone. It costs the same to make an international call as a local call and I get 120 minutes for under $20 with the double minutes feature. I love my tracfone, it makes home (London) feel a lot closer…

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