A 'Magic Jack' telephone has really worked out for us – here are some pros and cons

Thinking of getting a second telephone line? VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) can be a good option.

We chose Magic Jack because of the low price. For an initial sign-up fee of $49.99, you get a number assigned and a little USB plug-in device about the size of a match box.

You plug it into a USB port and any ordinary phone cable plugs into the other end. It automatically sets up the software on your computer, then you're ready to go.

If you want to retain your local Canadian area code, there’s an additional one time charge of $10. After that, you pay an annual fee of $19.99, that’s right - $19.99 per year, for unlimited calls in Canada and the USA.

You can use the device on any computer (as long as it has a USB port) in Canada or the USA. The voice quality is quite good and the service seems reliable.

We spend three and a half months in Arizona so we take a laptop and the device with us. This way, we are using the same phone number as at home. We sign up for the internet during the time we are there.

When family and friends in Alberta phone us, they are using our local area code so it's a local call for them. When friends in Arizona call us locally they are actually calling long distance, so we tell them to phone us and we'll call back right away.

If it’s your main personal number there are very few annoying telemarketing calls because the number isn’t listed.

The price includes call display and an answering service. If the power or internet is down, you’ll receive an e-mail with the message attached which you can play back on your media player.

The only disadvantage we've noticed are the 1-800 series of numbers don’t always work. Also, the 911 service is not totally reliable (e.g. if power or internet is down). That’s why we have a regular land line telephone in Alberta and in Arizona, we make sure our cell phones are charged up.

Apparently there’s no charge for 911 calls on a cell phone but you’ll need to answer some questions so emergency services can find you.

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