If you want to purchase a prepaid phone card online or over the counter, you will quickly see that there are thousands of cards available. So, how do you choose the right phone card for your individual needs?
Questions to Ask Prior to Purchasing a Prepaid Phone Card
1) What rate does the card offer
to my calling destination
(typically shown as ¢/min)?
Confirm rates before you call and remember that some rates may fluctuate. Also, calls made to international cell phones are generally billed at a higher rate.
2) Do the rates vary depending
on the hour of the day?
Be sure that the rate you receive remains constant throughout the entire day. Unless otherwise stated, the advertised rate should be constant no matter what time of day.
3) What is the Minute Billing
or Minute Rounding schedule for the card?
Rounding (mintue billing) refers to the increments in which phone calls are billed. For example, with 3 minute rounding, a 4 minute phone call would be billed as a 6 minute phone call. With 1 minute rounding, the same 4 minute call would be billed as a 4 minute call.
4) Will I be charged for calls
that do not connect?
Know in advance if you will be charged for attempting a call that does not connect. Please confirm this with the carrier by contacting their customer service department.
5) Are there any additional
fees or taxes?
Some phone card s include additional fees and/or taxes. Adding these fees allows carriers and retailers to to keep their advertised rates extra low. You can avoid many types of additional fees and taxes by using all of your minutes in one call. Remember... fees and taxes effectively reduce the number of minutes you'll receive.
Further, not all phone card retailers are created equal. Many will not disclose all fees and taxes, so be sure to ask before you buy. A retailer using best business practices will reveal all known taxes and fees to you up front.
6) Can I reach a customer
service operator 24 hours a day?
Being able to get a hold of your phone card 's customer service department is important because they will be able to help you with any unforeseen issues that may arise at any time during the day.
7) Does the
have an expiration date?
If yes, any remaining minutes on the card past this date will be lost.
8) Does the merchant/retailer
offer any form of guarantee?
Most prepaid phone card companies do not offer any guarantee on their products. There are , however, a handful of companies that do. A guarantee will further ensure that you get the minutes you pay for.
9) Does the company I am researching
appear to be trustworthy?
10) How will I receive my
Typically, if purchasing over the Internet, your phone card will be presented to via email or right on screen pending a successful transaction and acceptance by your bank. Some companies may send you a physical card, but in most cases the delivery occurs by email or right on your screen.
Basic Usage & Suggestions
1) Before traveling, confirm that your pin is valid. To do this, dial the US access number and enter your pin—make sure not to make any connections so that you will not reduce the balance. Confirm with the retailer and/or carrier that service is available and that the access number is correct.
2) You may be able to get extra minutes if you utilize a local access number (not available on all calling card s or in all regions). If available, the number may be provided when you dial the toll free access number included with your pin and/or online—if the pin was purchased on a website. You may also be able to confirm this information with the carrier of your calling card .
3) Be sure the site you are ordering from is secure. Look for an image or message indicating this, such as SSL, Secure Transactions, Thawte Certified, etc.
4) When choosing a card that does carry additional fees and/or taxes to get the lowest rate possible, consider purchasing smaller denominations so that you can use all of the minutes in one phone call. This will allow you to get MAXIMUM minutes as you avoid scheduled fees and/or taxes. Fees and taxes will not begin until your "first use" of the card.
5) If making long calls, be sure that your card does not have a long call fee associated with it. Some cards will tax you if you make calls that last longer than a predetermined amount of time. Some carriers add in this fee to keep people from using a card in one call. NOTE: This type of fee is not as prevelant as it once was.
6) All cards carry an FCC imposed payphone fee—this fee averages anywhere from 49¢ to $1.00 every time you use a phone card when calling from a payphone. This fee also applies when making calls from other countries if using a calling card sold by a U.S. company.
Glossary of Terms
Connection Fee (also known as Access fee) - This is the most common fee and one that most phone card customers probably know about already. This fee is charged every time you place a call, and it usually varies from 5¢ to $1. The worst thing that can happen with this connection fee is, when the card buyer makes the call and either the answering machine gives a reply or the call is routed to a voice mailbox, the connection fee is charged even though the customer has not really uttered even a single word. Of course the best option to avoid this charge is simply to choose a phone card that has no connection fee!
Disconnection Fee - This fee is identical as the connection fee, except that it is charged at the termination of the each call instead of the beginning of each call.
Taxes - This fee is charged on a per usage basis with reference to the call charges, and it is typically 5-15%.
Minute Rounding (also known as Billing increment) - If a phone card has one minute rounding, a call of 50 seconds will be charged the same as one minute and 3 1/2 minutes will be charged the same as four minutes. Many consumers only choose a card with one minute (or less) rounding in order to avoid losing some of their call time.
Maintenance Fee - This is a very notorious fee (which many retailers keep hidden) that is charged against the phone card . These deductions typically occur in ether daily, weekly, bi-monthly, or on a monthly basis.
Payphones Fee - There are surcharges on phone card s for all calls made from payphones imposed by the FCC. You will pay this fee regardless of whether the call goes through or not.
Access Number - The billing also depends on whether one calls a local access number or a toll-free number. In many cases, using a local area access number will reduce your per minute rate.
Long Call Surcharge - Some phone card carriers charge an extended talking fee if a call goes beyond a specified duration (usually around 20 minutes).
Expiration Date - Most prepaid phone card s have an expiration date, of which there are two types: the date from which you actually begin using the card and a general expiration date. After the expiration date you will no longer be able to use the card even if you have unused minutes remaining.
PIN - This is the Personal Identification Number each phone card has. This code will inform the carrier which card is being used.