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 around $60 you have unlimited calls in Canada and the USA. You get a number assigned and a little USB plug-in dongle about the size of a match box attached to an a/c adapter which plugs into a power socket.

The dongle has a data port which plugs into your router and a regular telephone port which plugs into a phone. (Alternatively you can plug the dongle directly into your computer USB).

The annual fee is around $30 dollars and if you want to retain your local area code, there’s an additional charge of $10 per year. 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 dongle with us. This way, we are using the same phone number as at home.

When family and friends in Alberta phone us in Arizona, 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 you use it as 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. For messages you’ll receive an e-mail with the message attached which you can play back on your media player. If the power or internet is down you'll still receive the email when service is restored.

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.