Even today, calling cards (also known as international phone cards) are still a viable option for people hoping to make calls overseas for a few primary reasons:
- It can be incredibly expensive calling to a lot of countries.
- Phone cards use the good old-fashioned copper lines just like your landline at home which generally means good quality and stable connections.
- If you’re calling elderly people it’s likely they’re still going to have a landline in their home.
One of the downsides to the phone card industry is that it has a fairly bad reputation with a few companies offering less than acceptable service, for example:
- Poor call performance
- Sneaky hidden fees
- Unreasonable expiration dates
- Sometimes these phone cards may not work at all
In this article we’ll examine some of the best ways to find the right card without risking the chance of being ripped off.
How To Choose The Best Calling Card
Like anything when we use the word “best” we really mean what is best for your specific situation.
For example, generally people will avoid calling cards that come with a connection fee and in most cases this is sound advice, but typically phone cards that come with a connection fee tend to offer cheaper calling rates over longer periods.
So if you phone calls go for 40+ minutes then it may be a good option.
“Not all international calling cards are created equal, make sure you check that they have a customer support team and check for hidden fees” – David Samuels, Phonecardpoint.com.au.
I tend to echo that same advice.
Reputable calling card services will be transparent about their pricing structure and will have a customer support team onboard to help with any questions you may have.
In the next section, I’m going to cover off some features to look out for and also how to find a reputable phone card service provider.
How long are your calls?
It’s a good idea to review your calling requirements before selecting your calling card. If your you tend to find yourself talking for longer periods, typically over 40+ minutes then sometimes you’ll be able to find calling cards that offer connection fees in exchange for lower per minute calling rates.
On the flip side, if you think you’ll be making shorter calls then avoid international calling cards that have any kind of connection or disconnection fee as you’ll find that your money runs down very quickly.
Look at the Per Minute Rate
International calling cards will typically be charged in 1-3 minute ‘blocks’ in other words if you have a card that is 10 cents per minute and it charges in 3 minute blocks then you will get charged 30 cents every 3 minutes even if you only make a 1 minute call you will be charged 30 cents.
Look for phone cards that come with 1 minute calling blocks where possible to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.
No Admin Fees
Admin fees are essentially junk fees.
The goal is to increase the overall vale of each customer, these will typically be used by companies who appear to have the lowest calling rates but they will be working with razor thin margins which means they will need to pull that money from other places, this is one of them.
Calling card services have become quite creative at working fees into their cards so read the fine print.
Speaking of creative ways to make more money…
Avoid Unit Based Calling Cards
Some calling cards use ‘units’ instead of minutes.
This is a handy way for phone card companies to make it difficult for their customers to ascertain exactly how much money they are spending.
Even if there is a conversion tool on the back, it makes it a little more challenging for the customer to find out if they are getting a good deal or not.
Buy Country Specific Phone Cards
Country specific calling cards will offer a super low rate for a specific country or even region, Typically, calling cards will be designed to make rates cheaper for specific countries or regions which means they can be excessively expensive in others. Be sure to choose cards that have the best rates for the specific country you’re calling.
How Quickly Can They Fix An Issue?
This falls under actually having a responsive customer support team on hand to help which is invaluable.
From time to time, technical issues can arise and it can be incredibly frustrating trying to get in contact with family and friends with a calling card that doesn’t work.
High quality calling card companies are able to resolve issues within that same day, sometimes with 30 minutes, so if you do go out of your way to speak to the customer support team, ask them how long is takes to resolve technical issues.
Read The Small Print
I mentioned this earlier, but when buying from a store ensure that you are able to read the information on the calling card.
Things to look for are hidden fees, expiration date, when the expiration date starts, customer service number, calling rates, is it rechargeable? Ask the shop assistant what happens if the card is faulty – are you able to get a full refund from them. If possible, call the customer service number on the card.
This may seem a little over the top but considering all of the faulty cards out there it’s definitely worth putting in the due diligence to find a reliable calling card that you can keep coming back to.
It is possible to purchase a calling card that has already expired. This happens a lot since phone cards can be a slow moving product so make sure that you verify with the shop owner that you can refund your money if the card has expired.
Better yet, it’s always a good idea to test the card after purchase to ensure that the card works as advertised.
Be wary for cheap calling cards.
As a consumer cheap is always attractive but it almost always comes packages with some extra “goodies” that you hadn’t bargained for which typically come in the form of:
- Additional costs – admin fees, weird calling charges, not allowing you to use all of your credits, etc. the list is long.
- Frustration – i.e. not being able to get a quality connection or perhaps not being able to get connected at all! Yes, every calling card company will have tech issues from to time, but the best ones are the ones that can fix issues that same day.