Toll-free numbers are an asset to banking and financial services operations, particularly those offering credit cards, according to a study released by Matrixx Marketing Inc.

Out of 300 people surveyed, 84% had a "favorable opinion" of companies providing a toll-free number, according to the Cincinnati-based telephone marketer.

Nearly 75% characterized "800" numbers as the "most appropriate" means of contacting a company for ordering or billing purposes.

Credit card usage on "800" lines jumped to 9% last year, up from 2% in 1992, when a similar study was conducted. The study suggested an income discrepancy, with 64% of those saying they used "800" numbers for purchases and orders making $40,000 or more annually. The error range was plus or minus 5.7%.

Matrixx is a leading phone marketer - its literature boasts that the "next time you call an '800' number, you may actually be calling a Matrixx call center." But Mike Callaghan, vice president of marketing, insists this didn't skew the study, which was done by the company's research division.

"Sure, we happen to own it," Mr. Callaghan said, but the research arm is "independent, in the sense that it has its own criteria for research."

Almost 25% of those surveyed stated that bills, bank, and credit card statements are their leading source for "800" numbers, up from 10% in the 1992 study.

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