Getting Free Voicemail

Confession: I’m writing this post only so I can have a record of this information when I need it.

Here’s the thing: I’m a cheap bastard. I don’t like paying for services when I know there’s a free workaround. One such service is voicemail on my cell phone plan. Yeah, I can afford the couple of bucks per month. But why do it when I don’t need to?

Here’s my solution for free voicemail. All you need is two things: (1) a free virtual phone number, and (2) forwarding services on your cell phone, usually provided by your carrier at no cost.

Now, if you live in the USA, you can use Google Voice for (1).  Another full confession: even though I live in Canada, I have a legacy Google Voice account, which is now not possible for non-US residents to obtain. Maybe there’s a way, but I don’t know it.  However, while I use Google Voice for a multitude of purposes, including doing radio interviews that I can record directly onto my computer, I can’t use it as a free voicemail provider…. because the carriers aren’t foolish. They don’t allow forwarding to long distance numbers. Otherwise, people would avoid long distance charges by simply forwarding their messages for free to anywhere in the world.

As a Canadian, I use ““, a service that assigns you a free virtual phone number in the locale in which you live. The service also gives you voicemail, a desktop client, and the option to get MP3s of your messages emailed to you.

I then set up my cell phone to forward incoming calls to my freephoneline number if (a) my line is currently in use, (b) I reject the call, or (c) I don’t answer the call.

Every carrier does this last step differently. Some allow you to set it up right in the operating system of the phone. Others do not.

I use Freedom Mobile, a discount carrier in Canada. For Freedom (and for the cracked used Samsung phone that I use, which does not offer full access to the OS), I use the following codes to enable voice forwarding:


Subscriber not available (Call Forwarding on, Not Reachable)
To Initiate: **62*dial number#
To Deactivate: #62#

Forwarding when a call is unanswered (Call Forwarding on, No Reply)
To Initiate: **61*dial number#
To Deactivate: #61#

Forwarding when the line is busy (Call Forwarding on Busy)
To Initiate: **67*dial number#
To Deactivate: #67#

Universal call forwarding (ALL CALLS – Call Forward Universal)
To Initiate: **21*dial number#
To Deactivate: #21#


And that’s it! Free voicemail. You don’t even need to check your messages if you go to the options and choose to have all incoming MP3s automatically emailed to you.

Two huge caveats:

(1) If you want to personalize your voicemail greeting, you have to download the client and record one that way. The audio quality is not great. So I leave it at the default generic greeting.

(2) The service expires after an unspecified number of months, so you have to re-do all of this (including getting a new virtual number) a couple of times per year.  In my case, I usually don’t know the service has expired until someone (usually my mother) tells me that she tried to call and got an error like, “This number is not in service.”

That is all. Have fun being cheap like ,e!