Free Fax Services vs. Paid Faxing: Which Should You Use?

Nothing guarantees that you'll sit up and pay attention quite like the word "free." The lure may seem especially tempting when it comes time to send a fax. Several services let you send a fax online for nothing rather than making you pay a monthly fee that more full-featured services charge. Is free worth it for online faxing? Here's a closer look at your options, both free and paid, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each type of service.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockTo answer the free-versus-fee faxing question, we looked at several free fax services (HelloFax, FaxZero, GotFreeFax, FaxBetter Free, PamFax and BestFreeFax) to determine what they offered and how they compare with the paid services we've reviewed (including MetroFax, Efax and SRFax. While the terms and conditions vary from service to service, we've formed some general impressions of when free faxing is worth it and when you're better off with a paid service.

Free Fax vs. Paid Fax Services Compared


Send/Receive Limits
Price
FaxZero
3 pages + cover (with ad); receiving faxes not availableFree (5 faxes per day maximum)
GotFreeFax
3 pages + cover (with ad); receiving faxes not availableFree (2 faxes per day maximum)
MetroFax
500 pages send & receive$7.95 per month
Efax
150 pages send & receive$16.95 per month (with one-time $10 setup fee)
SRFax
25 pages send & receive$3.29 per month

Nothing guarantees that you'll sit up and pay attention quite like the word "free." The lure may seem especially tempting when it comes time to send a fax. Several services let you send a fax online for nothing rather than making you pay a monthly fee that more full-featured services charge. Is free worth it for online faxing? Here's a closer look at your options, both free and paid, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each type of service.

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To answer the free-versus-fee faxing question, we looked at several free fax services (HelloFax, FaxZero, GotFreeFax, FaxBetter Free, PamFax and BestFreeFax) to determine what they offered and how they compare with the paid services we've reviewed (including MetroFax, Efax and SRFax. While the terms and conditions vary from service to service, we've formed some general impressions of when free faxing is worth it and when you're better off with a paid service.

The case for free faxing services

There's an obvious reason to consider free faxing — it's right there in the name. But there are some other advantages, too:

No monthly charges or commitments: That's the very definition of "free." None of the free services we looked at have any sort of monthly commitment or charge, nor do they require a credit card.

That said, some services, such as FaxZero and GotFreeFax, have a premium single-use service. FaxZero charges $1.99 to boost the page limit from three to 25 pages, remove the logo on the cover page and give the fax a higher priority on its servers for a speedier delivery.

GotFreeFax charges 98 cents for up to 20 pages, has options for up to 30 pages for on-off faxing, and allows you to buy up to 1,000 page credits at a single time with the creation of an account for a one-time fee of $49.99. GotFreeFax lacks advertising on its cover page and says its free faxes have priority on its servers.

Free services handle common file formats: If you're faxing a document, it's a strong bet that you're saving it as either a Microsoft Word .doc or .docx file, or an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. If you're using those, then you won't run into any issues with a free faxing service. Just attach your document via the service's web page, and you're good to go.

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You can fax to north of the border: Even for free, you can typically send a free fax to Canada. If you want to send a fax elsewhere in the world, most "free" services can do so, for a a per-use step-up fee that covers international faxing. While the fees can vary depending on which countries and which service you use, FaxZero, for example, notes that a 15-page fax to most countries will cost $3.63.

The case against free faxing services

Here are three reasons to steer clear of free faxing, even if it means splashing out some cash.

Tiresome faxing restrictions: Most free services impose page restrictions, with some allowing just three pages per fax. Most services also restrict the number of times you can send a fax per day.

For example, FaxZero limits you to three pages per fax, and five faxes per day. By contrast, FaxBetter Free has generous faxing (including 500 pages sent and 20 received per month), but you have to receive a fax every seven days to keep the account free.

Most free services impose page restrictions, with some allowing just three pages per fax.

Advertising on your cover page: Some services add their own logo to the cover page, which detracts from the professionalism of the cover page, even if that page often is the first to end up in the recycle bin. Some services, like FaxZero, let you ditch the logo, but only if you pay a per-fax step-up fee.

Limited functionality: All but one of the free services we've found are send-only, meaning they are intended for you to send a fax but they lack a persistent fax number from which you can receive faxes. That also means those free services don't have a way to manage faxes via a service's online storage, and free services don't have fancier features, like fax scheduling or fax delivery logs. The exception is FaxBetter Free, but that service's gimmick is that it requires you to receive a fax at least once every seven days to keep your free account.

The case for paid fax services

There's one argument against paid services: You've got to break out the credit card. And it's not just a one-time charge, either. Many paid faxing services discount their rate if you make an annual commitment instead of going month to month. So if you want the best price, you have to be prepared to commit to a specific paid service for at least a year.

But there are plenty of reasons to opt for a paid faxing service over a free one if faxing is part of your regular routine:

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Permanent fax number: Every paid fax service provides you with a permanent fax number. Some services even allow you to get a toll-free number. Most let you pick the area code at the very least, with some, like MetroFax, even letting you choose among several number options.

There's one argument against paid services: You've got to break out the credit card. And it's not just a one-time charge, either.

Fax by email: All paid services let you send a fax simply by attaching supported files to your email. Likewise, received faxes can be delivered directly to your email inbox as PDF files.

Customizable cover page: Most paid services let you customize the cover page's appearance; some go as far as to let you change the layout, graphic and font.

Fax storage: Many services provide free storage for your inbound faxes; some store your outbound faxes as well.

Paid services have their own limits on sending and receiving faxes, but these are typically in the hundreds, not single digits as they are with free fax services.

Fax monitoring and management: Most paid services provide a send/receive log for your faxes. Some, like Nextiva vFax and RingCentral, offer additional fax management abilities, like scheduling faxes and broadcasting faxes, as well as support for additional authorized users who can send and receive faxes from that number.

Few limitations on faxing: Paid services have their own limits on sending and receiving faxes, but these are typically in the hundreds, not single digits as they are with free fax services. The number of pages you can fax at a single time may be constrained only by the file-size limits of your email service.

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With paid services, you can send faxes as many times a day as you want, so long as you stay in the monthly page budget. As with free services, you can fax to the U.S. and Canada, but international faxes will usually have a nominal per-page additional charge.

Bottom Line

It's tempting to opt for a free service, and if you don't have to fax frequently, it's a solid choice. Just be prepared for the fax to take a little longer to get to its destination, as these services typically queue the completely free fax delivery behind paid or step-up faxes. Go with a free fax service if you occasionally need to send a few pages to someone, provided the page and frequency constraints won't get in your way.

Paid faxing is best if you want to both send and receive faxes, and need to do so with any degree of frequency. With a paid fax account, you get the convenience of sending and receiving a fax from your email, and you ditch the pesky page limits and frequency limitations of free faxing. You typically get a host of fax management and delivery logs, too.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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