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When I first heard of Rebtel, the new budget international calling service, I think I shared most people’s initial reaction — um, don’t we have Skype for that? But then I reflected on the evils of monopolies — and I’m not talking about the board games. Competition is healthy in every market, and so I was pleased when Rebtel asked me to poke around their service and write a review.

Rebtel App ReviewQualifications as reviewer include severe smartphone addiction

Design

Rebtel has a fun and user-friendly design. Graphics are colorful and modern and icons help keep navigation intuitive. Flag icons help you visually sort your contacts by country,

Features

Like Skype, with Rebtel you can make free calls to contacts who also have the app installed. You can earn credit when you invite friends to sign up, which is a pretty smart incentive to help spread word about the service.

When it comes to calling international landlines and mobiles, there are a few options. One, like Skype, is to call from a wifi connection. I tested out calling a friend in Indonesia both from Skype and from Rebtel — there was no discernible difference in quality. That’s great, but wifi isn’t always available, especially on the go. So Rebtel also has two other options.

A second option is to call from a 3G connection. I tried this feature twice, with a call to Denmark and a call to the United Kingdom. Unfortunately both were fails — the people on the other end couldn’t make out a word I said. However if you have a 3G data plan, chances are you also have a plan that includes free local minutes.

And this third option is Rebtel’s standout. Using a “Local Call” connection, you can call international numbers at local rates in fifty different countries without a need for an internet connection. It took me a while to grasp how this could possibly exist. So here goes — you use your regular operator for the local call, but the international part is connected by Rebtel over their internet. Basically, I can stand in the middle of Idaho and use my iPhone to call a friend in Indonesia, and my carrier will charge me the same it would to call someone five feet away and Rebtel will charge me a super low per minute rate based on the country I’m calling. Magic! For those that have a plan with free local calls, that means that all you’ll pay in the end is Rebtel’s super low fees — see the next section for details. And if you start your call on a wifi connection but want to head out the door, you can switch seamlessly to the local calls connection using the Keep Talking feature.

There aren’t many frivolous features going on, but I did find you can also set call reminders — a nice touch for those heading out on a big trip that happens to fall over Grandma’s birthday.

So what’s missing? There are two features that are absent entirely from Rebtel’s repertoire — no video calling and no instant messaging.

Rebtel App Review

Price and Rates

Like the Skype app, the Rebtel app is free.

But when you start to look at rates — wow! Let’s compare the country I just came from, Indonesia, and the country I’m heading to next, Peru. Skype’s rate for calling an Indonesian mobile phone is 16 cents per minute. It may seem like a small figure but I racked up some impressive Skype bills during and after my time in Indonesia doing just that, so imagine my surprise when I looked it up and realized Rebtel’s rate is half that at 8 cents per minute. When it comes to texting, the difference is even starker — Skype charges 14 cents per text versus Rebtel’s 2 cents!

For Peru, Skype charges 31 cents per minute for calls to mobile phones. That could add up quick. Credit will last a tag longer, however, with Rebtel, who charges 26 cents per minute. Once again, the biggest difference comes with SMS charges — Skype’s 22 cents per text versus Rebtel’s 5 cents.

Another bonus for Rebtel — it’s easy to find their rates listed in app. In fact, when you first download the app, it will show you rates for the most common country codes in your address book. For Skype, I had to log onto their website and dig around to find the info.

Rebtel App Review

Conclusion

Rebtel really impressed me. When I accepted this assignment I was afraid it would be a challenge to get excited about something as simple as a mobile calling app, especially when I’ve been using a different one for so long without any complaints. Now I realize I was just being complacent. Rebtel ups Skype’s game in so many ways — fun design, innovative features, and most importantly, extremely competitive rates.

However, there is progress to be made. I’m not sure why there is no video calling or instant messaging option between Rebtel contacts — without those features, I’ll never be able to fully delete my Skype app. The 3G calling connection could be cool but is at this point basically unusable. Design wise I found one flaw — the app auto-imported my Facebook contacts, and I couldn’t find a way to hide them.

The greatest obstacle that Rebtel converts will have is getting their friends to also download the app to take advantage of free Rebtel to Rebtel calling. “Let’s do a Skype date soon!” is part of the traveler lexicon and Skype conference calls are part of a typical work day for me for a reason. With that in mind, I’ll probably continue using Skype for those times when I sit down with my laptop and chat for free, usually with video, with friends or family or business contacts also sitting in front of their laptop somewhere far away. I don’t want to be that girl demanding everyone she knows download this app or that app (I’m looking at you, every single person who has ever hassled me to get SnapChat!), and sometimes it’s great to see that face on the other side of the screen.

However, when it comes to putting down dollars and using credit to call landlines and cell phones overseas? I am now officially a Rebtel girl.

How do you keep in touch with friend and family abroad?

Rebtel App Review

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Download Rebtel on your Android and on your iPhone. I was provided with free minutes in order to test this app and compensated for my time in doing so.

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35 Comments...
  • Siobhan
    September 29 2013

    Sounds interesting, I’m downloading it now. I thought at first from reading your final paragraph that it was only available on the iPhone, you should put up a link for your android readers too.

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      Good point Siobhan, sorry that was unclear! I’ll sort that out now 🙂

  • Sky
    September 29 2013

    Looks like a cool new app! Thanks for the thorough review. 🙂
    Sky recently posted..Hey, I’m Sky. Nice to (re)meet you!

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      You’re welcome, Sky! I might have to do more of these in the future…

  • Caty
    September 29 2013

    Thanks,great review!When I am at home and I am calling abroad I always use those cheap pre-dial numbers and then its like 4cents a minute. Unfortunately I don’t have an Iphone yet and my crappy phone doesn’t connect to the internet so I just limit myself to some texts or I use internet cafés. But I should finally have an Iphone next month and then I will definitely try this app.

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      Oh, Caty… just wait until you have the iPhone. Your life will be changed, promise 🙂

  • I love checking out new apps!

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      I’m usually a slow adapter… I feel like I was the last person on earth with Instagram! But I’m glad I had the kick in the butt to try this one!

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    September 29 2013

    Hm, interesting! Sounds like Rebtel is off to a good start, although I’m with you on the places they could pull up their socks (anything that auto-imports my Facebook/Twitter/email contacts without asking me gets deleted ASAP). The idea is promising though, it would be great to see video calling too. All in good time I’m sure. And I’m with you on the SnapChat crap! Leave me alone people, I don’t want your weird 2 second videos!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Vancouver Review: Eating My Way Through Vancouver

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      I JUST figured out how to get my Facebook contacts out of my iPhone address book. Ha! What can I say. I’m slow.

  • Marcin
    September 30 2013

    Rebtel is known for their unreliable service. They operate in CET time zone only, so if there are problems with the service and you’re in another hemisphere, you must wait until the next day to solve a problem.

    Plus once they announced that I won an iPad for recommending Rebtel to others. I have a screenshot from their Facebook account with that and an e-mail in which I’ve been offered to choose whether I want the white one or the black one. And I never got this iPad, as they said: it was just an error by someone operating their Facebook profile. So they are simple cheap liars.

    Google Voice is the alternative to Skype. Rebtel is just a scam.

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      Hey Marcin, I’m sorry to hear about the iPad situation. I don’t like when companies don’t take responsibility for their mistakes. I’d be pissed too. However, I wouldn’t call them a scam. I used Rebtel today to call someone in Denmark during my drive from Pennsylvania to New York, paying just a couple cents a minute. To me, that’s no scam… it’s a miracle!

    • Dennis Engkvist
      October 1 2013

      Hi Marcin! I work as the Online Community Manager for Rebtel. First, apologies for what seem to be something that was not handled well at all. This recommendation contest was before my time at Rebtel. I would really like to get in touch with you to try to sort this out. I can assure you we are a legitimate company that woulnd’t benefit from scamming people, so I hope you are willing to give us another chance at this! Hit me back at dennis@rebtel.com

  • Heather
    September 30 2013

    I’m glad you reivewed Rebtel! I’ve been using Skype to talk to my husband in Zambia, but my GOD did it ever cost a lot to call his cell. Plus, it wasn’t easy to find the Skype rates once I realized I had just dropped way too much on a 1h call (OK, maybe the 1h part was too much). If I’m going to call him more, I’m going to give Rebtel a try. Thanks!
    Heather recently posted..Mystery Solved! How to get a Volunteer Visa for Zambia

    • Alex
      September 30 2013

      Definitely check the Rebtel site for their rates, Heather! I was amazed by the difference.

  • Laryssa
    October 2 2013

    I SO COULD’VE BEEN USING THIS THE LAST 6 WEEKS!

    Ohh well….next trip. 🙂
    Laryssa recently posted..Buying Train Tickets in Ukraine – Is There a Name for That?

    • Alex
      October 4 2013

      Ha, better late than never!

  • James Shaw
    October 3 2013

    Rebtel? Never heard of it ’til I read it here. Will surely try it because of the savings. Great find on this app.

    • Alex
      October 4 2013

      I actually had never heard of it either, until they contacted me! Glad I could spread the word!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    October 7 2013

    I have never heard of Retel,but good to know that their calls are so much cheaper than Skype. Will download the app before my South America trip to check it out.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: The Galapagos islands in photos

    • Alex
      October 8 2013

      Hope you like it Tammy! I think between this and Skype I now have the perfect communication system 🙂

  • Wade
    October 8 2013

    I’m actually writing up a post on making phone calls while traveling…and have dug deeper into Rebtel. Rebtel has some pretty cool features outside of their app. You can use a landline and make free international calls through Rebtel. Pretty awesome product!
    Wade recently posted..Rich Travel Blueprint: Paris in 4 Days

    • Alex
      October 11 2013

      Glad to hear the word is spreading! I’m still marveling at the technology… basically, I’m an old lady 🙂

  • Dana
    May 9 2014

    Alex,

    What a phony review, especially after reading the complaints of other users in other commentary websites. You forgot the most important aspect – customer service. They have no telephone number and they have no live chat line for quick resolution of problems. That tells you everything you need to know, especially when they have taken days to get back to customers but they are SOOO WILLING to resolve your problem after it has been publicized because of lousy, or no, customer support in the first place. Do your homework before you go to bat for someone, it only makes you look bad.

    Dana

    • Alex
      May 11 2014

      Dana, I don’t know what part of my review you think is phony. I tested the app, I shared my opinions, and I disclosed that I was paid to do so. I did not have any issues with the app that would require contacting customer service. I did my homework. I’m publishing your comment because I don’t believe in censorship, and I’m sorry that it appears you’ve had a bad experience, but frankly I think you’ve been a bit rude. Your comments would be better received if they included details of your first hand experience with the company and refrained from personal attacks.

  • Marco Ferro
    December 10 2014

    Hi, Adding something that is unknown by must people is that Skype has a “connection fee”, every time you start talkinf by skype you pay $0,2 plus the minutes used. Only with this Skype tax you can talk more than 10min everywhere on the world with Rebtel.

    • Alex
      December 10 2014

      Hm, I didn’t know about this connection fee with Skype either! I just notice when my account needs refilling 🙂 Thanks for the heads up!

  • Irene
    June 11 2015

    Hi,
    I am an old Rebtel user, and loves it. After reading your blog, I understand much more, as I am technology impaired… I recently moved to Serbia and after a lot of frustrations with customer support, I was told that Rebtel is not supported in Serbia. So I can only make calls from a WIFI connection, which means no free calls for me…

    I can say from personal experience that it is a hassle not being able to call a call center, and waiting the 48 hours to have your issue sorted, is really frustrating.

    All in all, I do like Rebtel, but it has room for improvement.

    • Alex
      June 12 2015

      Sorry to hear that, Irene! I guess 48 hours doesn’t seem terrible to me, but I guess it would be frustrating if they didn’t get back to you with the answer you were looking for! Best of luck finding a better solution.

  • Bema
    December 16 2015

    Never use it they steal my money and I couldn’t make international call

    • Alex
      December 23 2015

      Hey Bema. Try contacting customer service. Thousands of people use Rebtel every day — seems like a glitch is more likely than them “stealing” your money. Good luck!

  • Ricky S
    December 22 2015

    Yes, REBTEL IS A SCAM. I purchased the Unlimited call to Colombia and it ate my money in the frst call. I contacted Customer Service and Kim answered the next day, but never gave me a response why it is not unlimited. I feel Rebtel is a total SCAM. I will contact my credit card and the Attorney General.

    • Alex
      December 26 2015

      Contacting your credit card is a good way to get companies to pay attention when something has gone wrong — I think the US attorney general might be a bit busy to take on this case, though 🙂 Hope you get it sorted soon!

  • Linda O
    January 3 2016

    Hi Alex,
    Great review for both Skype and Rebtel both of which I’ve used at least 5yrs. My major concern is with Rebtel customer service. Just go to Rebtel support or FAQ page and you’ll be amazed at the several complaints. I’ve experienced it a number of times. They simply have no customer service. What they do is have you send an email to their support team and their response would be a generic reply from their website. Not having phone or live support when you need it or having to wait days or weeks for an issue or be addressed(not resolved) beats me and is the reason I’m still on the search for a better provider

    • Alex
      January 4 2016

      Let me know if you ever have one, Linda! I’m always up for checking out new services for travelers like myself!

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