Don't get ripped off - choose your calling card carefully!
The Basics | How to Choose | How to Use|
Phone Cards: How to Choose Phone Cards
Remember, due to the low cost of running a calling card business,
the tradeoff for a low price could be poor quality, hidden charges,
and inconvenience - which could cost you more than using
other ways to call home.
Here are some criteria that you should look at when
buying a phone card:
- Possible hidden charges
Make sure that you understand the following hidden charges, and
always check whether they apply to your calling card:
- Connection Fees:
As long as your call is connected you will
be charged, regardless of whether your call is
picked up. So, repeated phone calls to the
same telephone number, even if they aren't picked
up, will cost you the connection fee. Theoretically, cards
with connection fees are cheaper if you tend to make lengthy
calls. Unfortunately, some companies may intentionally
disconnect the line so that they can charge you
the connection fee again.
A surcharge is an additional charge on top of the usual charge for
a service, imposed for a specified reason. For example,
some phone cards may charge an additional $0.75 per call
if you make the call from a pay phone.
- Service Fees:
Some phone card companies charge a fixed monthly service fee on
top of the per-minute rate.
- Incremental Rates:
Say you have two cards, A and B, both with rate of
10 cents per minute. Card A charges you each minute, and card B
charges you every three minutes. When you make a 1 minute phone
call, card A charges $0.10, but card B charges $0.30! This is
perfectly legal, so watch out for it.
- Period restrictions
Your card may expire at some set time after being activated, or after being
used for the first time, usually three to six months, regardless
of your balance. Don't buy too many cards like this from the same vendor
at the same time.
- Stability of the phone card company
The competitive nature of the phone card business has forced many
vendors to shut down their operations. We have heard many stories about
unfortunate students who spent a lot of money on
phone cards, and then ended up unable to use them.
Before you choose a phone card, make sure that the company looks like
it will be there in the long run. Of course, it's difficult to predict which
companies will survive, but you can try to look for companies
that have been around for a while, have a reliable funding source (check their
web site), and are popular with other users.
- Sound Quality
Since many cheap phone cards use IP (Internet) transmission, the sound quality
can deteriorate dramatically when many people use the service simultaneously.
If you find the sound quality unbearable, consider paying a little more
for a phone card that uses a fiber optic network.
- Online recharge and account management
Many online calling cards now allow you (or even your parents back home)
to recharge your card's balance and view your calling history. One good
thing about these services is that you won't be cut off in the middle of
a conversation if you regularly recharge your account. Another plus
is that you can look at your calling record almost immediately
after a call is made.
Telecom Basics How to use phone cards
Because phone cards are not very reliable, we highly
recommend that you purchase phone cards from two different
vendors. That way, if you can't get through with one, you can
always resort to the other.