These days, calling the United States on the phone is rather simple. But did you know that there are over 300 area codes dispersed across the states, with 34 distinct ones in California alone1?
Knowing the area calling code is a crucial piece of information when phoning someone in the US, among other things.
Because of this, read on if you have any questions concerning international dialing, area and calling codes, or communication alternatives.
How to Call Numbers in the US
Ten digits are the standard for American phone numbers, as in (555) 555-1234. The “area code” is the first three numbers and used to serve as a locational clue for phones in the past. People in one region of the nation may currently have phones with area codes from another region due to the prevalence of cell (mobile) phones (since these phones were purchased there). When calling someone from a phone with a different area code than the phone being phoned, you must always add the word “area code” in the call. Even though the calling phone and the one being contacted both have the same area code, the “area code” may occasionally need to be input. (If you’re calling two phones with the same area code, try calling first without the area code; if you get an error message telling you to dial the area code first, dial the phone again by first dialing the ‘area code’, followed by the seven-digit number.)
The majority of the time, you’ll only be given a “local” phone number (7 digits); don’t be afraid to ask for the area code (“What area code is it in?”). You often need to enter “1” before the “area code” plus the 7-digit phone number if you are calling a number that is not in the area code of your own phone. Even though the phone you’re calling is right across the street, you may need to enter “1” plus the “area code” plus the seven-digit phone number when dialing locally in some area codes.
- To make an international call, dial “011”, then the “country code,” “area code,” and 7-digit phone number. The “1” is not necessary if you are calling from a cell (mobile) phone; however, the “011” is.
- If you’re calling from a hotel room or business location, the phone will have its own unique dialing instructions, which will typically entail pushing “9” or another number before the number you’re calling.
US Telephone Number Area Codes
|617, 508 Boston, MA||215, 267 Philadelphia, PA|
|773, 312, 872 Chicago, IL|
415, 628 San Francisco, CA
|214, 469, 972 Dallas/Fort Worth, TX||206 Seattle, WA|
|313 Detroit, MI||202 Washington, DC|
|213, 323, 661, 310, 424 Los Angeles, CA||364, 270 Henderson|
|305, 786 Miami, FL||606 Ashland|
|917, 212, 718, 347, 929 New York, NY||859 Richmond|
When dialing internationally to or from the US, there are no extra codes to keep in mind. Just be sure to press 1 after adding the international prefix (00 or +) for your country. You don’t have to dial 1 before the call if you are contacting another number in the US in your neighborhood.
- Your call might not have been received for a number of reasons, including:
- You failed to call out of your country using the exit code.
- There is a problem with your area code.
- A mobile phone you’re contacting won’t accept international calls
- You typed the number without dialing the +1 first.
People presumably use internet services like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, or Viber to make calls more frequently. It’s definitely just as convenient, if not more so, to utilize one of these methods to connect with someone because dependable Wi-Fi is abundant throughout the US.
There are 446 area codes worldwide, including 20 non-geographic and 21 others, as well as 353 in the US and 52 in Canada. The Caribbean is home to the majority of the other area codes. But some of them, like 684 (American Samoa), 671 (Guam), and 670, are in the Pacific (Northern Mariana Islands).
With 37 area codes, California leads all other states, followed by Texas (28), New York (20), Florida (20), and Pennsylvania (15). There is just one area code-shared by 11 US states. Three area codes in Canada straddle provincial lines, compared to none in the US.
37 area codes are currently in use in California. 213 served southern California, including Los Angeles, 415 covered northern/central California, including San Francisco and Sacramento, and 916 covered northern California, but not Sacramento when AT&T and the Bell System in 1947 initially established it. The most recent addition, as an addition to 209, was 350 in 2022. Of the 37.3 million people living in the state now, 760 have the most population, with an estimated 5.7 million people.
|818, 747 Agoura Hills||949 Irvine|
|510 Alameda||951 Riverside|
|213 Los Angeles||831 Monterey|
|626 Alhambra||909 San Bernardino|
The Origin of the US Area Codes
In 1947, AT&T and the Bell System established the first 86 area codes. They were developed in anticipation of a national unified long-distance direct dialing system, which would enable users to reach any other calling area without an operator.
A zero or a 1 could not be used as the initial digit because they may be mistaken for the operator (technical reasons). The second number was either a 0 for a state/province-wide area code or a 1 for a state/province-specific area code.
Dialing smaller digits, such as 1 or 2, required less time at the time than dialing higher numbers, which took longer because of the use of rotary phones. Areas with a high population and a high call volume were assigned area codes with lower digits that were simpler to dial. Due to this, metropolitan areas got area codes that are much quicker to dial than rural areas like South Dakota (area code 605 requires 6+10+5=21 pulses), such as New York (area code 212 requires 2+1+2=5 pulses), Los Angeles (area code 213 requires 2+1+3=6 pulses), and Chicago (area code 312 requires 3+1+2=6 pulses).
There were just US and Canadian area codes at the beginning. Hawaii, Alaska, and portions of Canada were not yet included.
The 86 area codes:
201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 319, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 418, 419, 501, 502, 503, 504, 505, 512, 513, 514, 515, 517, 518, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 612, 613, 614, 616, 617, 618, 701, 702, 703, 704, 712, 713, 715, 716, 717, 801, 802, 803, 812, 814, 815, 816, 901, 902, 913, 914, 915, and 916.
The Need for the New Area Codes
When the phone formats we commonly use today first came into service in the 1940s and the 1950s, blocks of phone numbers were allocated to a phone carrier in 10,000 phone numbers (ie. an entire 6-digit prefix). Frequently, the 10,000 numbers would be enough for a small town, with larger towns being allocated multiple prefixes. Further, local phone carriers frequently had a monopoly on local phone service which prevented large portions of an allocated block from being unutilized.
In the 1990s, cell phones became much more popular which created an explosion of demand for new phone numbers. Cell phones also reduced the monopoly of local phone providers, reducing the utilization of allocated prefixes. Instead of a single primary phone carrier, cities had two or more carriers – each needing its own prefix. In addition, with the rise in popularity of the internet (dial-up and DSL) and voice over IP (VOIP), local internet service providers and cable companies started to request prefixes. Many of these prefixes included few, if any, subscribers.
Cell Phone Numbers in the US
Both urban and suburban regions, as well as most portions of major roads, have excellent cell phone coverage (motorways). Service might not be accessible in part or all of the national parks and other comparable natural sites, and it might be more scarce in rural and distant locations. In alphabetical order, there are four national cellular service providers: AT&T (previously Cingular), Sprint/Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well as a number of local service providers. A growing number of “prepaid” service providers also buy network access from a national or regional provider and resell it to a consumer, typically together with a cellphone, with airtime payable in advance on either a flat-rate monthly basis or per the minute from a prepaid block of minutes. Whether you plan on visiting several different regions of the US, you should think about this before buying a prepaid phone to see if you can use it there. Low-cost prepaid phones frequently only work in one region or area where the supplier has secured access to the cellular network.
Sprint/Nextel and Verizon offer mobile phone service using the CMDA network protocol, whereas AT&T and T-Mobile use the GSM network protocol and the corresponding SIM “chips” (which will be more familiar to visitors from many other parts of the world). Users of GSM phones should be aware that Europe and some other parts of the world utilize the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands for cellular connection, whereas the US and other North American nations (Canada and Mexico) use the 800/850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands. Users of newer “Quad-Band” smartphones won’t have any issues with their equipment, but users of older “Tri-Band” cellphones may have greater issues with dead spots and signal dropouts (phones designed for Europe are also available but won’t work at all in the US). If you want to bring your GSM phone from home, AT&T (800/850 and/or 1900 MHz service, depending on the region) and T-Mobile (only 1900 MHz) both provide SIMs packaged with prepaid calling plans. Both businesses and neighborhood mobile phone shops frequently refuse to sell to foreigners (no idea why!) and typically do not offer merely the SIM card in their establishments.
Make sure the GSM phone is “unlocked” before making a decision to buy one in the US to use later at home. With a two-year service agreement, US cellular service providers routinely sell “locked” phones—telephones that only work with their networks—for a large discount or even free. The program, or a combination of software and a specialized cable or other gear, may be used to disable “locks,” which are code segments stored in the firmware of the smartphone, but doing so requires additional money or identifying a skilled individual.
As a cost-effective option to save some headaches once you get to the USA, you may also buy a pre-paid SIM card and/or phone online. There are a lot of choices available. Be advised that there is an unstated $0.50 connection cost for ALL calls, whether incoming or outgoing, if you see the “Simple Calling” SIM card. A business named Telestial sells such cards the majority of the time. Visit www.USASIMs.com; they appear to have a solid selection and assert that they can send not just to your hotel in the USA but also to any location in the world. You may buy AT&T SIM cards from Mobi Passport if you reside in Australia or New Zealand. The website www.onlineabroad.com is an additional choice that offers free shipping to any location in the world. On the AT&T network, a variety of US SIM cards are available for purchase, some of which come with free international text and voice service.
There are no FREE incoming calls in the United States, to name a few crucial details. No matter if they are incoming or departing, all calls have a fee. Additionally, there are no different costs for calling landlines vs mobile phones; all are charged at the same rate. The number of calls you may make to “landline” (non-cell phone/non-mobile) phones is restricted by some service providers, such as Sprint/Nextel, after which a “per minute” cost is incurred.
Knowing who to contact and what to say in an emergency is crucial. When the moment arrives, it is simple to feel confused and unhappy. Maintain a list of all crucial phone numbers in one location to make sure that you and your family are prepared.
The United States has a single phone number to contact in the event of a medical, fire, or criminal emergency. Any telephone may be used to dial 911, and you will be connected to an operator who will ask you some questions before connecting you with the proper response team. The operator will question you in a sequence that may include the following:
- the emergency location
- the telephone number you are using
- the nature of the crisis
- Information on the emergency
- It is crucial to remember that you should only call this number in an emergency. Do not hang up if you or someone else in your home unintentionally dial 911 since it will be assumed that an emergency has occurred. Stay on the line and let the operator know that you made a mistake.
Many localities advocate the use of 311 as a separate number for non-emergency access to municipal services. The 311 service offers information on a variety of issues, including the disposal of dead animals, broken street lights, parking meters, traffic signals, potholes, and other road debris.
Additional Crucial Numbers to Keep on Hand:
1-800-222-1222 is the number for the poison control center.
You should also make a list of the following contacts’ names and phone numbers that is simple to retrieve. Ensure that everyone in your home is familiar with these figures.