How to Place WhatsApp International Calls Without Extra Charges

It's all about the Wi-Fi

The WhatsApp app is an incredibly-popular app that’s known for letting users make free unlimited domestic and international voice calls. Yet, despite this claim, it’s not uncommon to hear people complain about being charged for a WhatsApp free international call and getting one heck of a bill shock at the end of the month.

So what seems to be behind these mysterious charges? Well, there are a few possible explanations for a carrier charging you for a WhatsApp international call and some things you may need to check next time you make a call.

Here are some of the more-likely culprits and some tips for making sure you don’t get charged for a free call again.

Can I Make Free International Calls With WhatsApp?

Well, kind of. Much like Telegram, Line, and Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp uses an internet or cellular connection to connect WhatsApp users to one another either via a direct message or voice call. WhatsApp can’t be used to make a telephone call to a mobile number that isn’t in your WhatsApp contacts list. Nor can it be used to phone a landline number.

Elderly couple with a laptop, mobile phone, and phone bills.
JoseLuisPelaezInc/DigitalVision/GettyImages

So, while your WhatsApp call to a contact in another country may look, sound, and feel like an international phone call, it’s actually a voice call or voice chat. This can be confusing because the app uses your phone number when setting up your account but this is done to confirm your identity and to connect you with your phone book contacts, not to give you free phone calls.

WhatsApp isn’t actually making regular phone calls. It's a voice chat service.

Some points to keep in mind:

  • WhatsApp to WhatsApp. WhatsApp lets you call international contacts but only from your WhatsApp account to their WhatsApp account.
  • WhatsApp voice calls aren't phone calls. WhatsApp can’t call landline numbers so if you think you’re calling one with WhatsApp you may actually be making a regular phone call via your device’s default phone app by mistake. Skype, however, can call regular phone numbers.
  • Check your WhatsApp contacts. You can’t voice call a mobile number that isn’t in your WhatsApp contacts. If you think you are, you’re liking just doing a traditional phone call and being charged for it as you would normally.

Does WhatsApp Charge for International Calls?

When doing a voice call to a contact via the WhatsApp app, you don’t get charged for the phone call as it isn’t really a phone call. You do, however, get charged for any data used because the call is done purely over the internet.

If you have an unlimited data plan with your mobile provider, you should be fine, but if your plan has data limits, it is in fact possible to go over this while using WhatsApp, especially if you’re sending media files or doing video calls.

When using WhatsApp over Wi-Fi, you don’t use up any of your cellular data so try to connect to Wi-Fi when possible.

There have been some cases of people claiming to have been charged for international phone calls after using WhatsApp with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. While this technically shouldn’t happen, there are several explanations for this.

  • The wrong app was used. The app icon for the WhatsApp app and the default phone apps on iPhone and Android smartphones do look pretty similar and it’s possible that these were used by mistake to make the calls.
  • Address book confusion. The iOS Contacts app places the Call WhatsApp link directly above a contact’s phone number. Tapping on the number will begin a regular phone call while tapping on Call WhatsApp should be tapped to call via WhatsApp.
  • Mobile carrier charges. Some users have claimed that their carriers will switch a WhatsApp call over to a regular call if the Wi-Fi or cellular signal is weak. To prevent this, if this is indeed happening, turn on Airplane mode when using WhatsApp to ensure that you connect only to a Wi-Fi signal.
  • WhatsApp confusion. Users who are new to smartphones may think that downloading WhatsApp makes all phone calls free. It doesn’t. You must make WhatsApp calls and messages from within the WhatsApp app.

WhatsApp can be a very useful app for staying in touch with friends, family, and colleagues and all communication within it, give or take the minor data charge, should be free. If you find yourself being charged large fees by your carrier for making WhatsApp calls, one of the above issues is likely the cause.