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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:

  1. 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.

    • Surcharges: 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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
Calling Card V4

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.

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