Independent Democracy

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Cell phone voicemail – Don’t be tricked into using your anytime minutes

Maybe some of you already know this but since the tech at the Verizon store I dealt with didn’t know it and he’s been working in the field for more than 4 years, you may not know this either.

Every cell phone provider has a voicemail and all have the “number” preprogrammed into your phone when you buy it. Usually it’s already setup as a speed dial option on the phone using the 1 key. For example, you dial or press and hold 1, the phone automatically calls your voicemail. The number the providers use is not really a number at all. Verizon uses *86 to automatically call your voicemail. When you do this, your phone makes the call but if it’s during your “anytime” minutes, you get dinged for the call and those minutes get deducted from your monthly limit. What they don’t want you to know is there is another way to get to your messages without using your “anytime” minutes.

With Verizon, and all the providers, you get unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes when you call another customer on the network. Verizon calls it “IN CALLING”, Cingular/AT&T call it M2M (Mobile to Mobile). So what you need to do is go into the contact or speed dial section of your phone and find the voicemail entry. Change the default *xx option that’s probably already preprogrammed in there and make it your phone number with area code. Then save the entry. Now when you call back to voicemail, you’re basically calling yourself. Since your line is busy (you’re calling yourself) you will immediately get your voicemail greeting. The default to stop the greeting is usually #. Press it and then you’ll be prompted for your pin or password code. Once you enter it, you’re now in your voicemail and didn’t use any of your “anytime” minutes. Your bill will show the call as “IN” or “M2M” minutes, which are always unlimited.

I did this for years with Cingullar and when I bought my new Verizon phones, I updated the voicemail number the same way. The guy at the Verizon store didn’t even know this. Basically millions of cell phone users are unnecessarily using their minutes when they could be making the call for free.

Hope this helps someone.


March 26, 2007 - Posted by | Helpful Resources, Random


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the great tip on saving airtime! I never knew tht retrieving voicemail messages used up airtime! And a great work-around! any other tips?

    Comment by Ritam18 | February 16, 2008 | Reply

  2. An excellent tip. I never knew about this. Many thanks to the author of this article.

    Comment by Charlie | September 18, 2008 | Reply

  3. Does this still work? I think that I am still getting charged when I dial the number. ‘Course I haven’t really tested it: the call log always shows my full phone number It never shows (*86 or whatever it is). Plus I am on a Palm Centro, so who knows.

    Comment by Joe | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  4. Joe,

    It really doesn’t have anything to do with the type of phone, it’s the wireless network. I know this works with AT&T and Verizon.

    Your best bet it to check your calls on your bill and see if the change (calling your own #) results in unlimited M2M/IN calling minutes.

    Comment by Bob Sacamano | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  5. This used to be the case (circa 2002-2003) but Verizon (at least in the upper midwest) has long since closed this loophole.

    Comment by JDB | November 11, 2008 | Reply

  6. my at&t phone voicemail number can’t be changed – I’ve had this phone for 2 years now. so instead I programmed a speed dial number to my phone – works perfectly!

    Comment by joe | November 13, 2008 | Reply

  7. ,..] is another must read source of tips on this topic,..]

    Comment by Trackback - Cheap Internation Call >> How to make cheap international call | November 19, 2009 | Reply

  8. Dear Author,

    Thanks so much. The cell phone companies are such a ripoff, because most people assume it’s within network.

    In our case, 1400 minute 5 family members, we make about 200 minutes a month for voice mail access. That’s worth at least $20-30 or even more ($100+) if we went over the alloted minutes.

    Comment by Mark | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  9. yes, verizon stil does this. I couldn’t believe I was losing peak minutes for dialing my voice mail. I just updated it. Thanks for the tip!!!

    Comment by Johnpau | July 29, 2010 | Reply

  10. Verizon has started billing vicemail fro Aug 2011 !!! We have not run out of minutes or anything.

    Would like to know if this happened to anybody else.

    Comment by Elena | September 9, 2011 | Reply

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