Sunday, December 30, 2007

Prepaid VoIP Phone Service

There are some great deals available for those who don't mind paying in advance for VoIP service. Prepaid VoIP plans usually require at least one year of prepayment but they offer dirt cheap phone service. We have reviewed a couple of plans from two different premium VoIP providers.

The first is from ViaTalk. They are offering one of the best deals in the market today. For a prepayment of $199, you will get two VoIP lines (phones) for one year. They are currently offering one year Free so you will get two VoIP phones for 2 years for $199. Each VoIP phone features unlimited calling in the USA and Canada for a mere $4.14 per month. This is simply the best deal in the market today.

JoiPhone is also offering some special deals. These are especially good for people who want to make international phone calls. They offer several low cost international packages that feature unlimited calling to various countries. There basic plan costs only $8.95 per month (when prepaid for one year) and it features unlimited calling to 9 countries.

If you are interested in month-to-month service or other VoIP options that a good place to visit is the VoIP Shop.

Prepaid VoIP service is an attractive option but it does have some risks. A case in point was the sudden bankruptcy of SunRocket Voip earlier this year. They offered cheap prepaid VoIP service and left many of their customers holding the bag.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tel3 Advantage Now Accepts Payment via PayPal

Tel3Advantage announced today that they will immediately begin accepting payments via PayPal for their popular Flex Plan. The Tel3Advantage Flex Plan is one of the most popular prepaid calling plans in North America. It can be used to make low cost domestic and international long distance calls from virtually any phone in the USA or Canada. Tel3 previously required a major credit card in order to open a prepaid account. The fact that they now accept payment via PayPal is a big change that is bound to attract new customers who may have wanted to use Tel3 but did not have a major credit card or were afraid to give out their credit card information on-line. Now they can open an account and make payment via PayPal.

Tel3 Advantage currently has a holiday promotion that lasts through December 31, 2007. New customers who open an account will received up to $20 in Free Calls when they open a new, prepaid account. Visit Tel3Advantage for more information or call 800 441 0321.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Calling the USA - International Calls to the USA

Many Americans living, working or traveling overseas will want to call home during the holiday season. There are also many choices for making international calls to the USA but many people will be shocked when they see the cost. Even calls made with phone cards purchased in many countries are very expensive and the quality may not be acceptable. Therefore, we decided to review a few options.

Calling the USA from Canada - We think the best option for making calls to the USA from Canada is to use Tel3Advantage. The cost is 1.9 cents/min including all fees and taxes. Tel3 also uses the highest quality connections and offers free minutes for new customers who open an account for $25 or more. They also offer a $10 account with no sign-up bonus. This is one of the best options for making international calls from Canada or the USA.

Calling the USA from Europe, China, Mexico, Japan or Russia - We suggest using high quality prepaid phone cards. These offer high quality connections and rates as low as 2 cents/min. They can also be purchased in small demoniations (as low as $3) so they are perfect for calling friends and family at Christmas.

Calling the USA from other countries can be expensive. One option we suggest is to use Web Call. This option is very low cost and the call quality is much better than most phone cards. It can also be used from almost any location. Cell phone users can use a similar service called SMS Call.

Christmas is one of the busiest calling days of the year so avoid the rush by calling earlier.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tel3 Advantage Holiday Promotion

Tel3Advantage is doubling their normal sign-up bonus for new customers through December 31, 2007. What does this mean? Well, if a new customer opens a new prepaid account they will get double the normal promo bonus or Tel3 will add $10 in Free Calls if they open a $25 account, $14 if they open a $50 account or $20 if they open a $100 account. This is a great deal for people who want to make a lot of low cost international calls over the holidays from the USA or Canada. Tel3 also offers a $10 account with no sign-up bonus. If you want to try Tel3Advantage now is the time since you will get a total of $35 in calls for a mire $25. For more information visit the Tel3Advantage website or call 800-441-0321.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

International Cell Phones - International Calling

International cell phones are gaining popularity as more and more people want to stay connected while traveling overseas. The monthly service fee is relatively cheap and many service providers do not charge for incoming calls. They are also convenient since some international cell phones do not require users to change sim cards, etc. when changing countries. They are great for receiving calls while traveling almost anywhere.

However, placing international calls with a cell phone is a different story. Most cell phone service providers charge around $1 per minute for country-to-country calls. This is an exorbitant rate and is completely unnecessary. There are several ways to to avoid these high rates when making international calls. The best service to use depends on your location. If international calls are placed from the USA or Canada with a cell phone, one of the best plans is offered by Tel3Advantage. It is a prepaid plan and there is no contract or other long term obligation. Calls can be placed to most international locations for 2 to 5 cents per minute rather than $1 per minute. Also, using their SmartPlug technology, calls can be placed without dialing any extra numbers. Their plan can be fully integrated with your cell phone so that international calls are automatically placed over their low cost network. However, they only offer this service for making calls from the USA and Canada.

While traveling in other countries, low cost international calls can be made from cell phones using phone cards but they can even be expensive for making calls from some countries. Another option is to use SMS call which allows callers to make cheap international calls using a cell phone from almost any country. Using SMS call a caller sends a specially formatted text message to a computer located in another country. The text message identifies the user and contains the phone number the caller wishes to call. The computer automatically calls the user and connects them with the phone number they want to call. Using SMS call, cheap international calls can be placed using a cell phone from almost any country. Calls cost around 5 cents per minute rather than $1 per minute and there is no extra charge for the cell phone user since an international call was received, not made. SMS call is also prepaid but minutes can be purchased in small increments and there is no long term contract or other obligation. It is an ideal option for people who make occasional trips overseas with an international cell phone.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Phone Card Access Numbers

A good thing to keep in mind when shopping for a phone card or other prepaid calling product is to think about how you plan to use it. Many phone cards have a limited number of local access numbers and charge extra when using a toll free access number. The extra charge for using toll free access can be 1 cent per minute or more. This may not sound like much money, but if you are calling a location that only costs 2 or 3 cents per minute to call, it is a significant additional charge. In order to avoid additional charges, shop for a phone card that has a local access number in the area where you plan to use the card. This may be from your home or it may be in cities you plan to visit while you are traveling. It is very important to check for access numbers if you are planning to use the phone card while traveling overseas since, in general, phone cards only have access numbers in specific countries.

For international phone cards it is easy to use a search tool to find cards that have access numbers in all of the countries you plan to visit. Just visit an on-line phone card website and use the search tool to find a phone card that has access numbers in the countries you plan to visit. You will likely be able to find a phone card that will work from all of the locations you plan to visit.

In the USA it is not so easy since many phone cards only have local access numbers in large cities or they may be concentrated in specific regions of the country. One of the great features of Tel3Advantage is that it has a very wide network of local access numbers in the USA and Canada. They have local access that can be used from most small towns or suburbs which makes it a great product to use for making low cost domestic or international long distance calls while traveling in the USA or Canada. There are phone cards that have a similarly wide network of access numbers or do not charge for toll free access but these are less common.

Be sure and check for phone card access before making a purchase. This simple tip may save you a hassle and will likely save you money.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Calling to Israel - Hanukkah Calling

There are several low cost options for making calls to Israel or other countries during this Hanukkah (Chanukah) season. People who make frequent calls to Israel and other countries from North America (the USA or Canada) should consider Tel3Advantage because it offers high quality and other features at a low price. Tel3Advantage will feature a 10% discount on all calls to Israel from December 4 through December 12, 2007 in recognition of the Hanukkah season. Tel3 normally charges 2.4 cents per minute (including all fees and taxes) for calls to Israel so even the normal price is dirt cheap compared to the cost of calling many other international locations. If you want to save even more money than try a premium phone card with rates that range between 1 and 2 cents per minute. There are even cheap phone cards that advertise rates as low as 0.5 cents per minute. We think it may be wise to stick with Tel3Advantage or a premium phone card since many of the cheap phone cards have extremely poor quality. Have a happy Hanukkah.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cell Phone Call Plan International

Most cell phone users know that it is very expensive to make direct dial international long distance calls with their cell phones. Many use phone cards in order to minimize the cost of international calls but these can be a hassle, especially if one needs to dial an account number or PIN code in order to place a call. Fortunately, there are several other convenient options for making low cost international calls from cells phones. Three of these options are discussed below.

Tel3Advantage offers the most convenient option for making low cost international calls from a mobile phone in the USA or Canada. Using a smart phone and their new SmartPlug Software, international calls can be direct-dialed over their low cost network. All a user needs to do is open a Tel3Advantage account and install a small piece of free software on their smart phone. The software will automatically direct international calls over the low cost Tel3 network. The user does not even need to dial an access number. The best part is that Tel3Adavatage can be used without changing service providers and Tel3 does not require a contract or other long term obligation. Simply open a prepaid account for as little as $10 and start using the service. A new account can be opened on-line in a couple of minutes. Read all about Tel3advantage for more details.

Another similar service for making low cost international calls from the USA is offered by SendGlobal. It is not as convenient as Tel3Advantage because the caller needs to dial an access number but it has similar call quality and lower rates to some locations. SendGlobal also offers a free, no obligation trial of their service. Anyone is the USA can make $3 worth of international calls free of any charges so they can try the service before paying anything. If a user likes the service they can add funds and continue to use the service for as long as they like. SendGlobal also does not require a contract or any other long term obligation. For further information visit free international calls.

A relatively new option for making cheap international calls from cell phones in any country is SMS call. Using SMS Call an international call is placed by sending a text message to a computer located in another, low cost country. The computer recognizes the caller and places a call to their cell phone and connects them to the international number they wish to call. In this way the user does not place an international call but receives one and the savings in some locations can be significant. SMS call can save an international caller a lot of money in countries where telecommunication services are controlled by monopoly phone companies and the cost of making international calls is very high. It does this by by-passing the monopoly phone company and placing call over a low cost network. For further information vist SMS Call.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Calling Russia - Cheap Calls to Russia

Russia is a very popular calling destination so we decided to investigate low cost options for making international long distance calls to Russia. As with all locations, there is a wide range of options so we have listed them below.

Tel3Advantage is a good option for callers from the USA or Canada. It offers high quality connections and nice features but the rates are higher than other options with similar quality. Tel3 charges 7 cents/min to Russia and 2.5 cents/min to St Petersburg and Moscow. These rates include all fees and taxes and Tel3 uses a one minute rounding interval.

There are several good phone cards for making low cost international calls to Russia. The best phone card option depends on where you call in Russia and how much you value call quality. However, We think the following should be considered.

Consider the following Phone Cards if calling Russia from the USA or Canada:
  • Lucky Minutes - Calls to Moscow 0.6 cents/min, Russia 2.3 cents/min. Lucky Minutes has fairly high fees so it is best to buy a small denomination and use quickly.
  • Partner - A nice premium phone card with low fees. A great rate of 0.9 cents per minute to Moscow.
  • Bizon - A premium phone card with low fees and a one minute rounding interval. A very good rate of 3.9 cents per minute to Russia.
  • Jupiter - A high quality phone card with very low fees. We use this card to make calls to Russia. It has a very good rate to St Petersburg.

Consider one of these phone cards if calling Russia from outside North America:

  • Golden Lotus - A good quality phone card with low rates from Japan and most of Western Europe. It can be used from more than 40 countries. Rates to Russia start at 2 cents/min.
  • Fast World - Fast world is a high quality phone card that can be used from over 100 countries. It has very low fees, uses a one minute rounding interval and is one of the best options for making calls to cell phones in Russia.

An international VoIP call plan should be consider for people who have a high speed INTERNET connection and make frequent calls to Russia and/or other international destinations. Joi Phone is currently offering very good rates for International VoIP Plans. Their plans includes local phone service and unlimited calling in the USA, Canada and several international destimations. Their Joi to the World plan includes unlimited calling to Moscow ($14.95 per month) and Joi Worldwide Premium Plan includes unlimted calling to Russia (including cell phones) for $39.95 per month.

There are many good options for making low cost calls to Russia. The best option depends on the needs of the caller. Like with most products and services, one size does not fit all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tel3 Adavantage Announces a New $10 Denomination

Tel3 Advantage announced today that it would start a new $10 sign-up denomination for its popular Flex Plan on November 15, 2007 . Tel3Advantage currently offers account denominations of $25, $50 or $100 and provides new account sign-up bonuses of $5, $7 and $9 respectively. Customers who sign-up using the new $10 denomination will not receive a sign-up bonus but will be able to try Tel3 Advantage without plunking down $25. This may also be a good option for those who want to use Tel3Advantage but may not need to make $25 worth of domestic or international long distance calls.

Tel3 is doing everything possible to make this a cheery holiday season. They recently announced that they were accepting Canadian credit cards again. Tel3 first started accepting Canadian credit cards around 18 months ago but backed out of the market after experiencing a high level of fraud. They must have fixed their fraud detection algorithm beacuse they are back in the Canadian market now. Look out Pingo....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Calling the USA - Cheap Calls to the USA

At any given time there are over 2 million Americans working, traveling or living overseas and most of them will want to call friends and family back in the USA during the holiday season. This can be difficult from many locations and costs and quality vary significantly between products. We looked into this and found several options for making high quality, low cost calls to the USA from almost any location.

One option for calling the USA or almost any location from nearly any country is the AT&T Phone Card. The AT&T card offers high quality connections from nearly anywhere but it comes at a steep price (see below). It has a wide network of access numbers and has now hidden fees or taxes but the per-minute rates are extremely high. We think there are much cheaper options than AT&T which offer similar quality so the AT&T card should only be used when absolutely necessary. One such option is the Fast World phone card. The fast World card features nearly the same coverage as AT&T at a fraction of the cost. It can be used to make international phone calls from over 100 countries and has toll free access numbers in 86 countries. It also uses a 1 minute rounding billing increment like AT&T but charges a 15% tax or usage fee for each call. However, even with the usage fee their rates are 70 to 90% cheaper than AT&T from most locations. The following are some examples on calls to the USA from some popular locations.

  • Call the USA from Germany - Fast World $0.034/min, AT&T $0.40/min.
  • Call the USA from India - Fast World $0.17/min, AT&T $1.55/min.
  • Call the USA from Russia - Fast World $0.076/min, AT&T $0.75/min.
  • Call the USA from Japan - Fast World $0.035/min, AT&T $0.35/min.
  • Call the USA from Mexico - Fast World $0.043/min, AT&T $0.45/min.

You have the idea. You can save up to 90% on calls by using a phone card like Fast World to make international calls rather than AT&T. There are other options for making calls to the USA from specific regions of the world but Fast World has wide coverage and is ideal for international travelers.

Another option that should be considered is Web Call. This is a feature offered by the Continental Phone Card. Web Call can be used to make cheap calls from any country but is not as convenient as a Phone Card. With Web Call, you need to send a specially formatted e-mail to a computer that connects your call from a standard telephone. So you need e-mail access and a phone that can accept in-coming calls. If you have these than Web Call is likely the cheapest option and you should give it a try.

All of the options discussed above are prepaid and require no long term obligation. They are convenient because you can open an account and purchase them on the net in a couple of minutes. Than you can continue to use and re-charge the same account for as long as you like. Also, you can prepay in very small amounts ($3 to $5) so they are handy options even if you want to make one or two short calls. There is no reason not to call home this Holiday Season.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Prepaid Conferencing - Prepaid Conference Calls

Setting up low cost global conference calls is another handy feature of several high quality phone card type products offered these days. Some of these phone cards are actually all-in-one communication accounts that can be used for conferencing, pc-to-phone, voip service or even international callback phone service. A customer can purchase a low cost phone card and use it to save money on all of their communication needs, especially if it involves international phone service. One of our favorite phone cards of this type is the Continental Card since it can be used for all of these purposes. On top of everything else, it can be used to make low cost calls from nearly 70 countries so it is truely a global phone card.

Prepaid conference calling is a low cost option that is popular with small business or even families that are spread out around the world or the country. It is a low cost means for everyone to have a virtual meeting and group discussion. It is very easy to use and is low cost. Participants simply dial an access number and enter a meeting code in order to join a meeting or conference call. It is also low cost, using the Continental card the cost is only 2.3 cents per minute for conference call participants.

This is an especially good option for bringing far flung families together over the holidays.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Save 10% on Calls to India - Diwali Festival Savings

Tel3Advantage announced today that customers will save 10% on all calls to India from November 8th through November 10th in celebration of the Diwali Festival. All customers, new and old, will save 10% on all calls to India. For more details visit the Tel3Advantage website.

There are other low cost methods for calling India from nearly any location in the world. We suggested using the Golden Lotus phone card which is specially designed for making low cost, high quality calls to India and other South Asia countries. Another option from the USA is send global. They offer a free trial of their calling plan which features great rates on calls to India. Send Global also uses the AT&T network so their call quality is very high. If you want to make low cost calls to India there are several good options.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

JoiPhone VoIP International Calling Plans

JoiPhone VoIP has just announced some new International Unlimited Calling Plans that offer good value for people who make frequent international calls. Consumers who spend more than $50 per month on international calls should consider one of these plans. They include local phone service, unlimited calling in the USA and unlimited calling to specific international destinations for one low monthly rate. JoiPhone is currently offering 3 unlimited calling plans.

The lowest price plan is only $8.95 per month if you pay for one year. It offers unlimited calling to the USA and 9 countries. These include Argentina, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom. The plan is $17.95 per month if you pay monthly which is still a good deal.

The second plan features unlimited calling to the USA and 40 other countries for $14.95 per month on a yearly plan. This plan costs $19.95 per month and a month-to-month basis.

Their worldwide premium plan features unlimited calling to the USA and 70 other countries for $39.95 per month on the yearly plan. For month-to-month this plan costs $49.95 per month.

JoiPhone includes 40 features and Free equipment with their calling plans. There is also a 30 day money back guarantee, no cancellation fee or no contract requirements.

These plans are worth a try for callers who have high speed INTERNET and make frequent calls to one or more of the destinations included in one of these plans. Since the SunRocket VoIP experience we suggest people to pay the few extra dollars for one of the month-to-month plans rather than risk paying for one year in advance. SunRocket VoIP had a yearly plan and customers who prepaid for their services lost money when they went bankrupt and shutdown a few months ago.

Those who may be interested should visit JoiPhone for details.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Calling to Jamaica - Jamaica Calling Cards

Jamaica is a popular calling destination from the United Sates and one of the most popular products for making low cost calls to Jamaica is Tel3Advantage. Why is Tel3Advantage so popular? We looked into this and it seems it is due to quality, price and features. No big surprise here. Consumers are pretty good at spotting good deals and it seems they have done so with Tel3. Tel3Advantage has some of the lowest rates to Jamaica when all hidden fees and taxes are included. It also offers top quality and many features like on line call history, PIN free dialing, a huge network of local access numbers and even direct dial international long distance from cell phones with their new SmartPlug technology. It seems that Tel3 offers good value and a superior product for this market.

We concluded this by comparing Tel3Advantage rates to calling cards of similar quality. Tel3Advantage charges 8.2 cents/minute on calls to Jamaica made through local access numbers. This rate includes all fees and taxes. They also use a one minute rounding interval. A popular phone card with similar call quality, low fees, a wide network of local access numbers that also uses a one minute rounding interval is the Jupiter Phone Card. Calls made from the USA to Jamaica using the Jupiter Phone Card (via a local access number) cost 7.9 cents/min plus a 10% service tax or a total rate of around 8.8 cents/min. The rate is similar but Tel3 Advantage offers many more features at a slightly lower cost. There are, of course, phone cards with lower advertised per-minute rates but these tend to have lower quality and more hidden fees and taxes. One of these options is Cheap Street which advertises a rate of 5.6 cents/minute but uses a 3 minute rounding interval and charges a maintenance fee of $0.99 per week and a service tax of up to 35% on each call. The rate on calls to Jamaica using the Cheap Street Phone Card via a local access number is about 7.6 cents/minute. What would you rather use?

We often marvel at how quickly consumers can find the best values in the market. Look for the most popular product and you will usually find the best value. This seems to be the case here. Tel3Advantage is a very popular prepaid calling plan for making low cost calls to Jamaica because it offers the best value. No big surprise....

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Phone Card Review - New Lucky Minutes Phone Card

The new Lucky Minutes Phone Card from NTC appears to have some of the lowest rates on calls from the USA to Asia, especially to China and India, however, first appearances can be deceiving. Potential users should take a closer look before making a purchase and trying the card. The advertised per-minute rates are low (0.7 cents per minute to China and 4.4 cents/min to India) but there are a lot of added fees so callers will pay more than the advertised rates, in some cases, a lot more. The following is a summary of the fee structure for Lucky Minutes.
  • Lucky Minutes charges an 18 cent connection fee for calls that are longer than 1 minute.
  • There is a 88 cent per week maintenance fee.
  • Lucky Minutes uses a 3 minute rounding interval.
  • There is a 28% service fee or tax on each call.

These fees are high and could easily add 1 or 2 cents per-minute to each call.

On the positive side, Lucky Minutes does feature PIN free dialing and it appears to have a wide network of local access numbers. It can also be used to make calls from Canada, China or India.

Like most phone cards, it is likely a good deal for some users but it depends on how a caller wants to use the card. In the case of Lucky Minutes, it is likely best if it is purchased in a small denomination and used to make a small number of long duration calls. If used in this manner a caller can avoid the maintenance fee (if the card is used up within one week) and minimize the impact of the 18 cent connection fee that is charged for each call. The connection fee alone will increase the rate by 1 cent per-minute for an 18 minute call. This will more than double the advertised rate on calls to a location like China. One reason why we shy away from phone cards with connection fees.

Callers who want to make several short duration calls to India or China should use a phone card like Golden Lotus or Jupiter. These cards do not charge a connection fee and, in general, have a lower fee structure. They also include more features like call history and Auto Recharge.

However, if a user wants to make an occasional long duration call than Lucky Minutes may be a good choice.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Phone Card Review - Jupiter Phone Card

The Jupiter phone card from ECC is a dream come true for international callers who want low rates and high call quality. Many calling cards that offer cheap per-minute rates are loaded with hidden fees but Jupiter does not have hidden charges. The only added fee is a relatively low 10% usage fee or tax. We have tested many prepaid calling products but have not found any other low cost product with the call quality and features offered by Jupiter. The following are some of the highlights of this phone card.

  • Jupiter offers PIN free dialing.

  • It has both toll free and local access numbers. It has many local access numbers so most people will not need the toll free number. Using the toll free access number costs 1 cent/min more than local access.

  • Callers receive a 10% discount if they call between 9 PM and 7 AM.

  • It has an optional Auto Recharge capability.

  • There is no expiration date.

  • Jupiter features 1 minute rounding. Unusual for a low cost card.

  • There is no maintenance fee.

  • The only hidden charge is a low 10% usage tax.

In addition, Jupiter can be used from Canada, Israel, Mexico, Russia, the UK and the United States. We just can't say enough good things about this card, if you make international calls from one of these countries than you should try the Jupiter Phone Card for yourself.

Calls are cheap with Jupiter. We found many countries with rates below 2 cents per minute. These include Russia (Moscow), Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Israel, Ireland and the UK.

Free Calls to India and Beyond with Send Global

Send Global has a marketing concept that has been working well for them. They simply offer a free trial of their prepaid international calling plan. Many people try the service, find it offers quality and value, and continue to use the service after the free trial period ends. This marketing concept has worked well for Send Global. They now have over 400,000 customers in the USA and their service is offered in more than 5,000 retail establishments. Their international phone service is high quality since it uses the AT&T network. It is also cheap - Calls to India are around 6.9 cents per minute, compare that to the AT&T rate. It is also easy to use. All callers need to do is dial an access number, then dial the number they wish to call. They do not need to enter a PIN code or account number or anything else.

Send Global offers two types of accounts. Their Basic Plan has no up-front fee while their Elite Plan has a one time fee of $5.95. Callers who plan to use the service a lot should consider the Elite Plan since the rates are 20% lower. The Send Global prepaid plan is an especially nice international calling plan for cell phone users since it is very easy to use. Users can speed dial the access number than speed dial the number they wish to call. Simply press a couple of numbers and make a low cost international call. It doesn't get much easier or cheaper.

Why not visit Send Global now and take a Free Trial.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Call to USA Toll Free Numbers from Overseas

Making calls to USA Toll Free phone numbers from international locations is not possible with many international calling products. There is one product we know of that can be used to call USA toll free numbers from overseas. This is a relatively new feature of the Continental phone card. The continental phone card can be used from more than 60 countries to make low cost international calls. Its is a highly rated phone card with low fees and features such as on-line call history, PIN free dialing, speed dial and auto refill. It is also a very versatile phone card.
In order to call a USA toll free number from overseas all a user needs to do is dial an access number in the country they are in and enter their PIN code. Then they dial the toll free number in the USA they wish to is that easy.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Calling to Nigeria

Nigeria is a popular international calling destination from the United States and we receive many inquiries on the best method for making low cost calls to Nigeria. We have researched this subject and found that one of the most popular options for making calls to Nigeria is Tel3Advantage. Calls to cell phones in Nigeria ranks as one of the top ten locations called by Tel3Advantage users. They have over 500,000 customers in the United States so a large number of their customers are making calls to Nigerian Cell Phones.

Why do some many people use Tel3Advantage to make calls to Nigeria? Their rates are not the lowest at 11 cents/min for calls to Lagos landlines and 19.9 cents/min for calls to Nigerian cell phones. Compare these rates to many international phone cards with rates as low as 4 or 5 cents/min and you will see that Tel3Advantage rates seem high. However, there must be some reason why so many people choose to use Tel3Advantage and pay seemingly higher rates. We think this has to do with value. Tel3Advantage rates may seem high but they include all fees and taxes so there are no "hidden fees" added to the advertised rates. They also use a one minute rounding interval and the highest quality (T1) connections. People likely use Tel3Advantage because it is reliable and the actual rate they pay is not much different than phone cards when all "hidden fees" are included. With Tel3Advantage customers get what they expect from an International Phone Service provider and they continue to use the product.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Not For Profit Fund Raising with Prepaid Calling Products

Selling prepaid calling products is a relatively painless way to raise funds for any charity or not for profit organization. These are products many people use on a continuous basis including phone cards, prepaid calling plans, VoIP phones or even prepaid cell phone cards. Most companies offering these products on-line also have affiliate programs where they pay commissions for sales by agents or affiliates. All an organization needs to do is register as an agent or affiliate (which is free) and start offering these products and services to their members and friends. The organization will earn a commission on each sale (including residual income on continuing usage) and their members and friends can support the organization by purchasing and using high quality products and services at no additional cost. It is a win-win situation for all parties. The only problem is finding good programs to join that also offer quality products and services. We have been in this business for a long time and have a few suggestions.

One of our favorites is Tel3Advantage. They offer one of the premier prepaid calling plans for use in the United States. It can be used from any telephone, without changing companies, to make low cost domestic and international long distance phone calls. It has the highest quality and is a very good and popular option for people who make a lot of international phone calls. They have more than 500,000 customers in the United Sates. It is only sold through agents so the service can not be purchased at a lower price by any other means. Tel3Advantage is free to join and they provide a free website and other promotional materials. The agent earns a commission for each new customer ($10-25) and up to 16% on residual usage.

Another great Telecom affiliate program is offered by SmartGlobalCall. They sell a variety of high quality prepaid calling products including phone cards, VoIP, prepaid cell phone cards, pc to phone and international callback. Their program is also free to join and they provide a free, customizable website to affiliates through their "Own Shop Program". Affiliates will earn a commission of up to 13% on each sale (including continuing usage). It doesn't take long to start earning significant income from this program because SmartGlobalCall offers high quality products at good prices so customer tend to continue to use the products.

For cell phone plans, prepaid cell phones and accessories, we suggest an affiliate program offer by TMI. They offer a wide variety of products and services including cell phone plans from most of the major carriers. They also offer a free website and other marketing support.

Any of the above programs can be set-up in a few minutes with very little effort. They do not require any special INTERNET or computer skills to set-up or operate. A nice thing about these programs is the affiliate or agent does not need to invest money or take any financial risk. The parent company handles all of the inventory, financial transactions and customer service. All the affiliate does is find customers by promoting the product and services.

The first two options, Tel3Advantage and SmartGlobalCall, are great for international organizations or those with a lot of members with family and friends overseas. These companies offer great products for making low cost international phone calls so members and friends can get a good product, save money on their overseas calls and provide financial support to the organization. A true win-win situation.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

SMS Call is a Convenient and Flexible Option

SMS Call is a relatively simple service for making low cost international calls with a cell phone from any location in the world. A call is initiated by sending an SMS (short message service) message from your cell phone. The message contains the phone number you wish to call and the computer does the rest. First, it recognizes your phone number and than establishes a connection by placing a call to both parties. The rates for international calls are super cheap, even cheaper than most phone cards and the call quality is very good.

SMS call service is provided by several third party companies. The service is typically prepaid so an account will need to be set-up and funded before the service can be used. A customer also needs to register their cell phone number with the service provider so it can be linked to their account. It is simple to set-up and use and most service providers to not require a long term contract or obligation.

One interesting service provider is
Continental. They offer one of the most versatile prepaid calling plans. With Continental, all of the following services can be used from one account.

  • SMS Call

  • Web Call - similar to SMS Call except an e-mail is used to trigger calls.

  • PC to Phone

  • Prepaid VoIP

  • Personal USA Toll Free - calls can be redirected from a toll free number to any phone in the world.

  • Prepaid Conference Calling

To top it off, Continental can also be used as a phone card to make low cost calls from more than 60 countries. It is a nice product for people who travel internationally and want a variety of options.

SMS Call is gaining popularity as more people travel with international cell phones. Cell phone service providers tend to charge exorbitant rates on international calls and SMS Call is a relatively simple way to significantly reduce costs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

SunRocket VoIP Contract Buyout

Zingotel announced today that it is offering a contract buyout for SunRocket VoIP customers affected by the recent shutdown of service. Zingotel will provide SunRocket VoIP subscribers a credit of up to 3 months in their Residential Unlimited service plan. The plan includes a full range of features plus unlimited calling in the USA and Canada. They will also allow them to keep their existing SunRocket phone number or choose a new number in the USA or Canada. In order to take advantage of this offer, SunRocket VoIP subscribers should visit the Zingotel website (link below) and enter Coupon Code: SUNROCKET when opening their account. This offer is valid from August 1 - August 31, 2007.

SunRocket subscribers get 3 months FREE!

Coupon Code: SUNROCKET

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Phone Cards for International Travel

Most seasoned international travelers pack a couple of phone cards before leaving home because they know that it is difficult to find another means of making international calls from overseas that offer quality, reliability and low cost. Phone cards also offer convenience since they can be used from nearly any phone including phones in airports, hotels or even pay phones on the street. They also are a good way to budget communication expenses while on a trip. Most travelers want to call home during their journey and phone cards offer a low cost way to keep in touch.

It is important to shop for the right phone card before making a purchase. Most phone cards will not work from every country so shoppers should check the availability of access numbers in the countries they plan to visit to assure the card can be used. There are a few phone cards that stand out from the rest when it comes to calling the USA from international locations. They offer low cost, high quality and can be used from a wide variety of countries. The following are a couple of suggestions.

  • Golden Lotus Phone Card - This card has high quality and great rates from many diverse locations. Travelers to Europe, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Israel and several other international destination should consider using this phone card.
  • Fast World Phone Card - This is also a high quality phone card. It generally has higher rates than Golden Lotus but can be used from more locations. It is likely the best phone card for making calls to the USA from Russia. It can also be used from countries like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan where it is difficult to find phone cards with high quality and reasonable rates.

Of course there is always the AT&T Phone Card. It has high quality and can be used from almost any country but rates for making calls to the USA can be very expensive when compared to cards like those listed above. However, in some cases, the AT&T phone card is the only choice.

One important tip for international travelers. It is a good idea to purchase phone cards before leaving home. Many on-line phone card merchants have sophisticated fraud detection programs that may block a credit card purchase from a foreign country or require some type of time consuming verification process. Also, it is much easier to shop and compare calling card features and rates from the comfort of your own home in your own language.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Phone Card Fees: Maintenance Fees

Most people know that phone cards add fees to the advertised rate per-minute so they shop for phone cards with minimal added fees. In most cases this is a good practice but there are some exceptions. Phone card maintenance fees offer a good example. Many phone card companies charge a maintenance fee so they can advertise a low per-minute rate on calls and still earn an acceptable margin. Customers who hold a phone card for a defined period of time will be charged a maintenance fee in addition to the charges paid for each call.

Many consumers feel these cards should be avoided but they can actually offer good value. The key here is that a maintenance fee is assessed after a defined period of time. The clock normally starts ticking when the card is first used and the maintenance fee is charged after a period of time that is typically one week, two weeks or one month. The trick is to not hold the card for the period of time required to trigger a maintenance fee charge. If the card is fully used before the maintenance fee period ends, there is no added charge. Many phone cards that charge a maintenance fee also have relatively low per-minute rates. Therefore, a consumer can purchase such a card in a small denomination, use it before the maintenance fee period ends and get a good deal.

A good example is the Golden Lotus phone card. It charges a weekly maintenance fee of $0.99. However, it also has some of the best rates to many locations and is rated very high for quality by customers. It also comes with features like PIN Free dialing, on-line call history and speed dial that are not standard with most phone cards. Consumers can call India from the USA with the Golden Lotus card for as little as 4.3 cents-per-minute. People who call India know this is a very cheap rate for a prepaid calling product that offers high call quality.

Consumers should not automatically shun phone cards with added fees. They should understand and analyze the fee structure so they can make an informed choice. They should, however, avoid phone card marketers who do not fully disclose all fees in an understandable manner.

Friday, July 20, 2007

SunRocket VoIP Alternatives

SunRocket VoIP finally notified customers today that it will cease operations and they will need to find another phone company. They indicated that future service is uncertain so customers should immediately find alternative phone service.

They will, of course, not refund any of the money prepaid by 1000's of customers for their VoIP Service. They did recommend two alternative providers, Packet8 and Teleblend, who are providing special deals to SunRocket customers. However, neither of them will honor SunRocket VoIP contracts. SunRocket likely has a deal with these companies and will likely receive a commission for customers who open accounts with one of the recommended companies. We have a SunRocket phone and will not switch to one of these companies because we feel we have already given them enough money.

There are plenty of other VoIP service providers not affiliated with SunRocket VoIP that are also offering deals. Two of these are XVoice, which happens to have one of the best international calling plans, and Zingotel. Use coupon code Zingo1007 for Zingotel and get one month of free service and free shipping until the end of July. Avoice charges $22.99 per month for their international plan and Zingotel charges $19.95 per month for unlimited calling in the USA and Canada. Packet8 charges $24.99 per month so both of these other options are cheaper.

We are planning to purchase service from one of these companies but will stick to a monthly plan for now. We expect other VoIP providers will run into financial difficulties and don't plan to have any prepaid service with the next company that goes broke. We advise others to do the same.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

SunRocket VoIP Crashes & Burns

As reported by the Washington Post (July 19, 2007) and others, SunRocket VoIP decided to pull the plug on their operation earlier this week. It has also been reported that their CEO, Lisa Hook, resigned last Friday. We reported a couple of weeks ago that they were having financial difficulties but had no idea the crash would come this soon. SunRocket had more than 200,000 customers so they were a large player in the VoIP startup business, second only to Vonage. Many customers, including us, prepaid for services so they (we) will likely lose whatever prepaid time remains. Thousands of customers have apparently already lost service but our SunRocket phone is still working this morning. SunRocket VoIP was an aggressive marketer but it seems they had pretty poor financial management, reports indicate they burned $80 million in rocket fuel over the past two years. A few venture capatalists also got burned.

SunRocket has not yet notified customers of anything. Their website is still working and it seems they are still functioning as normal. However, they have ceased accepting orders and it is only a matter of time before their phone service will completely stop. So what does a former SunRocket customer do? It seems they will need to forget the money they spent on their SunRocket VoIP service and find a new VoIP provider? That is, if they still want to rely on VoIP.

Many companies are lining up with special offers for former SunRocket customers. One such company is Zingotel, they are offering the following.
  • One Month of Free Service
  • Unlimited Calls in the USA and Canada
  • A Local Number in any North American City.
  • Free Linksys 2100 VoIP Adapter
  • All Features: Voicemail, Caller ID, Call Forwarding, 3 Way Calling and more.
  • Transfer of your existing number is possible in 46 States.
  • Free Shipping or $10 off any service package through July 31, 2007.

Use coupon code: zingo1007. Visit Zingotel to sign up.

Zingotel has been around a while and offers unlimited calling in the USA and Canada for only $19.95 per month. We will likely change to Zingotel and avoid other prepaid options for now.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

International Callback Phone Service

International callback is a relatively popular method of making low cost international phone calls from countries where telecommunication services are very expensive. The phone service in many of these countries is controlled by a monopoly phone company so the cost of making international calls using the local service provider or even phone cards can be exorbitant. International callback phone service is far cheaper since it essentially by-passes the high cost local service provider and routes calls through a lower cost third country. This can be done using different techniques but the results are the callers can save a lot of money on their calls by using international callback.

What we refer to as traditional callback phone service is used by dialing a special phone number in another country that has cheap telecommunication services. This is often in North America or Europe. The caller lets the phone ring one time than hangs up the phone. The special phone number is actually a computer that recognizes the caller from their phone number (Caller ID) and places a call back to the caller. The caller than answers the phone and finds a dial tone. The caller can then place a cheap international call to any location in the world. The call is routed over the lower cost phone system that may be located in a third country. The cost of the call is actually broken into two "legs". One leg is the cost of a phone call from the third country to their location and another leg is the cost of a call from the third country to the destination they are calling. However, even with two legs, the cost of making an international call using international callback is generally far cheaper than making the same call using a high cost, monopoly service provider. The cost of an international call from Kazakhstan to the USA is a good example. A call from Kazakhstan to the USA will cost anywhere from $0.50 to over $1 per-minute using phone cards or the Kazakhstan phone system. Using international callback the same call can be made for less than $0.10 per-minute.....a very substantial savings.

International callback is normally a prepaid service and there are several service providers and different types of products. One potential problem is that traditional callback is often blocked by high cost countries in order to protect their monopoly phone companies. It can be blocked fairly easily since a call is triggered by placing a phone call to a computer located in another country. The computer recognizes the caller using Caller ID technology so all a country needs to do is block Caller ID and they have blocked traditional callback. However, there are other callback services that are much more difficult or impossible to block. Two of these are often referred to as Web Call or SMS Call. Using Web Call a callback call is triggered using a specially formatted e-mail message while a simple text message from a cell phone is used to trigger a callback call using SMS Call. Both of these products are gaining popularity since they offer a convenient and cheap means of making international calls from high cost countries.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Will SunRocket VoIP Bite Moon Dust?

SunRocket VoIP advised their affiliates yesterday (July 5, 2007) that they were discontinuing their affiliate program managed through the LinkShare network. They also advised that they have not paid affiliate commissions since March and they did not know "if or when payment would be received." Is the end of SunRocket VoIP near?

An Affiliate only gets paid when they sell a product so Affiliate marketing is a very cheap way for a company to market products on-line since it is the lowest cost option. SunRocket has been offering sweet deals to affiliates and new customers, commissions of up to $100 per account for affiliates and up to 3 months of free service to new customers. It seems the deals may have been too sweet and SunRocket likely has a severe cash flow problem. A company would usually discontinue or reduce their high cost marketing channels first, not their low cost one, so the fact they cancelled their Affiliate marketing program is not a good sign. It seems that SunRocket needs a cash infusion or the next step may be bankruptcy.

What will happen to a customer's VoIP service if SunRocket goes bankrupt? It is hard to say at this point. Many SunRocket customers prepaid their SunRocket service for 1 year because they offered a special of $199 per year and 3 months of free service. So many customers may simply lose their VoIP service and the unused portion of their money.

Are there lessons to be learned here? Yes, at least a couple.

1. The VoIP market has been very competitive over the last couple of years and margins have been low. VoIP service provider's have spent a lot of money on advertising and promotions in order to build a large customer base in order to reach critical mass and reap large profits in the future. This strategy does not always work and it tends to favor the large well financed companies. There will continue to be a consolidation in the industry as weaker players continue to fail and larger, well financed companies continue to gain market share.

2. A consumer should be careful when they choose a VoIP Service provider. Maybe it is not a good idea to prepay for a long period of time in order to get dirt cheap service today This may actually be a sign of financial weakness because a company offers these deals in order to improve short term cash flow.

3. The same can be said for all prepaid services. It is a good idea to not pay them to far in advance unless you know the financial condition of the company.

Remember, even large well capatalized companies can fail. Remeber Enron? Could this happen to Vonage? Of course it could. One thing is certain, there will be more surprises in this industry in the future. There are simply too many players and the VoIP industry needs to consolidate.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Phone Card Affiliate Programs

Over the past few years we have worked with several different phone card and telecom related affiliate programs. Many will pay affiliates a one time commission on a customer's first purchase or re-occurring commissions on sales through a link from the affiliates own website. However, in either case, a customer will likely return directly to the phone card merchant's website to make subsequent purchases and by-pass the affiliates website and the affiliate will not earn a commission. In other words, the affiliate will find customers for the phone card merchant and earn a small one-time commission. A very cheap method for phone card merchants to build a customer base while getting free advertising. A very poor deal for affiliates who spend money on advertising.

The phone card business is low margin and the only way to earn a significant income is by selling a lot of cards through re-occurring sales to a large customer base. The cost of gaining customers is high and affiliates will generally lose money if they only get commissions on first or one-time sales. For this reason, phone card affiliate programs with this type of commission structure should be avoided.

The first thing to look for when evaluating a phone card affiliate program is the ability to earn re-occurring commissions. If a program does not offer a means of earning re-occurring commissions than it should not be considered. Top quality phone card affiliate programs will require customers to register an account and the affiliate that introduced the customer will earn commissions on re-occurring sales made through that account forever, period. It should not matter how a customer arrives at the phone card merchant's website.

The second thing to look for is a product that sells well. The best products are those that are relatively easy to sell the first time and customers continue to use so there are a lot of repeat sales and re-occurring commissions. We have sold phone cards in the past that sell well the first time but customers rarely repurchase. We usually drop these products after test marketing them for a few months. This pattern suggests the product is low cost but also poor quality. Phone card customers tend to be price sensitive but they are also quality sensitive. We find that most customers are looking for what we call value which we define as good quality at a fair price. We also find that many phone card customers are loyal so, if they find a product they like, they tend to make repeat purchases rather than risk buying something new.

Successful companies will treat affiliates like business partners by offering promotions to help their affiliates build their customer base. This is a win-win situation for both the phone card merchant and the affiliate.

We think there are two phone card affiliate programs that stand-out from the rest. These are Tel3Advantage and the pushline. Both of these programs treat affiliates as business partners. They do this by offering frequent promotions and by rewarding affiliates for building a large customer base by paying relatively high commissions on re-occurring sales. They are forward looking companies who understand that their success depends on the success of their affiliates. That is what affiliate marketing is all about.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Is VoIP Really the Answer?

A couple of years ago many people believed that VoIP was the answer to low cost phone service for average consumers. It was thought to be the ultimate solution combining low cost home phone service with cheap domestic and international long distance. For some it has worked as intended but for others it has not been the ultimate solution. VoIP is still plagued with issues such as reliability, call quality and VoIP blocking.

Are international rates really cheap with VoIP? We reviewed international rates offered by several VoIP service providers and found their rates to be competitive to some locations and extremely expensive to others when compared to high quality prepaid calling products such as phone cards. Take Vonage for example, their international rates to Europe and a few other destinations are competitive while rates to Russia (7 to 12 cents/minute), India (17 cents/minute), Brazil (8-9 cents/minute), Mexico (12 cents/minute), Australia (5 cents/minute) and other destinations are easy to beat. It seems that many people who use VoIP to make international calls care more about convenience than saving money.

Call quality has been another issue with VoIP. Some people have found that the call quality with their VoIP phone system is excellent while others found it so bad that they removed the service and went back to a traditional land line. We use a VoIP phone and have talked with many users about their experience with VoIP. We have found that VoIP call quality seems to vary with between ISP providers, locations called and other factors such as INTERNET traffic. On some days our call quality is crystal clear while on other days the quality is acceptable but not great. We still use VoIP but it is not our primary phone and we rarely use it for international calls.

VoIP phone service is also less reliable than traditional land lines and is not convenient for travelers. A VoIP phone will not work if the INTERNET connection is down and this happens often in some locations. Many companies have touted VoIP as a phone that travels but it is not very practical for most travelers. First, a high speed INTERNET connection is needed to make and receive calls and, secondly, a user would need to travel with a modem and a phone in order to use the service. International Phone Cards are a much more convenient option used by most travelers.

VoIP blocking is also becoming more common. This has happened in the USA where an ISP blocks calls made with a VoIP Phone from a third party or, in some cases, they just degrade call quality. However, the real problem is overseas where countries that still have monopoly, state controlled telephone companies are tired of losing revenue. Take Saudi Arabia for example, Saudi Telecom uses software from USA supplier Narus to block all VoIP calls. It has also been reported that Narus has supplied VoIP blocking technology to Shanghai Telecom Co. in China and others. VoIP blocking has become more common as VoIP Phone Service has become more popular. This trend will likely continue.

For some consumers VoIP is the ultimate phone solution but for most it is one of several solutions for reducing the cost of phone service. We think VoIP is a good option as a second phone if the user already has a high speed INTERNET connection and another, more reliable form of service.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Reliance India Call - Calling India

Reliance India Call has been a very popular product for making low cost international calls to India for the past 2 or 3 years. We have heard many good things about their product from users and thought we would take a look to see what Reliance has to offer. To be fair, it appears they have a very good product that is competitively priced. They offer either a prepaid product with no monthly fee or a post paid product that charges a fee of $1.95 per month. We know the call quality is good and the rate to India is 7.4 to 7.9 cents per-minute (USA to India) with one minute rounding, a toll free access number and all fees except taxes. This is a good rate to India with toll free access. The rates to other countries also appear to be good. They are more typical but one needs to consider that they include all fees (except taxes) and toll free access. When all of this is considered the rates are good and, in most cases, hard to beat for high quality service.

We know of one product that is a little more competitive on calls to India. This is the Golden Lotus phone card. It is a high quality phone card that offers PIN free dialing, on-line call history and other features. Using the Golden Lotus Card the rate to India from the USA ranges from 4.2 to 4.8 cents per-minute with 3 minute rounding. However, this needs to be adjusted in order to compare it directly with the Reliance prepaid calling plan. Golden Lotus also charges an extra 25% in fees and taxes and 1 cent per-minute for toll free access. Therefore, including all fees and toll free access the Golden Lotus rate from the USA to India is 6.25 to 7 cents per-minute. About 15% cheaper than Reliance but probably not worth changing for users who are happy with Reliance service. Golden Lotus does have several local access numbers in the USA and for consumers who can use local access the Golden Lotus rate is about 30% cheaper. This is a different story and may be worth a look for those who want to save money on calls to India.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Phone Card Fees: Access Numbers

Most consumers know that they use a phone card by dialing an access number which by-passes the local phone company so they can place their call over a low cost network. What many people do not know is there are both local and toll free access numbers. Access numbers vary between phone cards. Some phone cards will have a wide network of local and toll free access numbers and others offer relatively few local access numbers. Most phone card service providers will charge extra for using a toll free access number. The charge for using a toll free access number also varies between phone card service providers so consumers should note this when shopping for a phone card. In some cases, using a toll free access number is free or it only adds a fraction of a cent per-minute to the cost of a call but in other cases it can add 1, 2 or more cents per-minute to the cost of each call so it can be a significant additional cost. It is used by many merchants as a form of revenue or a hidden cost.

The added fee for using a toll free access number is not charged if the caller uses a local access number. Therefore, consumers who plan to make calls from landlines should shop for phone cards with local access numbers in the areas they plan to call from or use cards that charge a very small fee for using the toll free access number. Some callers should avoid using toll free access numbers unless there is no added charge for using them. For example, people using a phone card to make international calls from cell phones should only use local access numbers since they do not pay extra for making long distance calls and can use a local access number in another city or state if none are available in their local area.

The main thing is for consumers to be aware that all phone cards are not created equal and access number cost and availability is an important feature to consider when shopping for a phone card or other prepaid calling product.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The New Bizon Phone Card

Most people are not aware or often overlook the new Bizon phone card from NTC. It is a high quality phone card that can be used to make low cost domestic and international phone calls from the USA and 13 other countries including Canada and most of Western Europe. The call quality is nearly as high as the AT&T phone card based on recent consumer ratings and, like the AT&T card, the calls are rounded in one minute intervals. It does not have as many access numbers as AT&T but per-minute rates are significantly lower. The per-minute rates may seem high compared to other phone cards but there are no hidden charges except a 15% tax and the quality is high. A caller can get quality similar to AT&T at about one-half the cost with the Bizon card. Consumers who want a phone card for making high quality domestic or international long distance calls in the USA or Western Europe should consider the Bizon card.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Phone Card Fees: Connection Fees

Most people understand that they use phone cards by dialing an access number which by-passes their high cost carrier in order to make low cost domestic or international long distance calls. Phone card users also know that they will usually pay a higher rate than the per-minute rate advertised because of so called hidden fees and taxes. What a lot of people don't realize is that these hidden fees vary significantly between phone card suppliers, can take on different forms and, in some cases, they can be hard to spot when making a purchase and be just plain "tricky". We don't like these marketing practices and feel that hidden fees should be fully disclosed by phone card marketer's in an understandable manner so a consumer will truely understand what it will cost to make a call. Therefore, we try to uncover and explain these "tricks" when we find them so consumers can spot them when making a purchase. A case in point is a "connection fee".

As the name implies, a connection fee is a fee charged when a call is connected. Most phone card companies do not charge a connection fee these days but we found one major marketer (PennyTalk) that still charges a connection fee. When using these cards a caller will be charged a per-minute rate plus a connection fee for each call. PennyTalk advertises that international calls cost as little as 2 cents per minute but they also charge a $0.49 connection fee for each call and a 99 cent monthly service charge for each account. The connection fee may not sound very high but consider the following. If a 25 minute call is made from the USA to Germany the cost will be 50 cents (2 cents per minute) plus a 49 cent connection fee so the total cost will be 99 cents or almost 4 cents per minute. This is not cheap for a call from the USA to Germany these days. The same call made with a high quality phone card will cost between 2 and 2.5 cents per-minute (including all fees and taxes) and Tel3Advantage (prepaid long distance) only charges 2.5 to 3 cents per minute. So, in this case, the advertised 2 cent per-minute rate is one-half the actual charge and is deceptive. To be fair, PennyTalk includes a toll free access number at no additional charge but the other providers have a wide network of local access numbers that are also free.

Another problem with a connection fee is that it is charged for each call connected. It is fairly common for international calls to be disconnected during a long conversation and the connection fee will be charged everytime the number is redialed and connected. It will also be charged if the wrong number is dialed and connected or if the party being called is not available and the phone is answered. In other words, a seemingly small connection fee can add significant cost to the calls actually completed with a prepaid calling product. For this reason, we suggest consumers should not purchase a prepaid calling product that charges a connection fee.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Calling Kazakhstan

We know that several prepaid international calling products have not been working well for making calls to Kazakhstan. For example, users of Tel3Advantage have not been able to connect with landlines or cell phones for several months. One product we know of that has been working well is Continental Phone Card. It has been reliable for either land lines or cell phones and it provides very clear connections and good rates. We suggest using Continental for calls to Kazakhstan.

1010 Dial Around Plans

10-10 Dial Around has been around forever. In the past it was a convenient method of by-passing the high cost monopoly phone company and make cheap long distance calls over a low cost network. It is still around but there are much cheaper methods of making domestic or international long distance calls today that are just as convenient. Prepaid long distance is a far cheaper option that offers the same convenience and more features than 10-10 dial around.

10-10 dial around is used by dialing an access number that starts with the numbers 10-10. The long distance call is than placed over a low cost network and the cost of the call is automatically billed to the phone used to make the call. We reviewed these plans and found that the per minute rates to make calls were very high (up to 20 cents per minute for domestic long distance) and the plans are loaded with hidden fees and taxes. Most 10-10 dial around plans charge a connection fee and/or have a minimum call length that is essentially the same as a connection fee. The only advantage of these plans is that the charge for a call is automatically billed to your phone. However, in most cases this is more a trick than an advantage. A caller will not see the charge for a call until they get their next phone bill and they may have placed several calls before they realize they have been ripped-off. In our view, 10-10 dial around should be avoided.

Many consumers use 10-10 dial around because they think it is the most convenient method of making low cost long distance phone calls from their home phone. They do not realize that prepaid long distance offers the same convenience, more features and much lower rates. A good prepaid long distance service can be used from multiple phones by dialing an access number and placing calls over a low cost network without dialing an account number or PIN code, just like 10-10 dial around . However, a good prepaid long distance plan will also include other features like on-line call history and speed dial at no additional cost. Rates can be as low as 1 or 2 cents per minute for domestic or international calls. Many service providers feature quality plans that have very low or no added fees or taxes. Another advantage of prepaid long distance is that you know the charge for each call and you cannot be charged more than you prepaid so you can easily control your long distance expenditures. Many prepaid products can be purchased for as little as $5 so a consumer can try a service without risking very much money. In contrast, one short call using 10-10 dial around can easily cost $5. We wonder how 10-10 dial around stays in business with all of the high quality prepaid calling products on the market today. Visit Phone Card Shop for a wide selection of prepaid products for making either domestic or international phone calls.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Phone Card Fees: Rounding Interval

Most people already know that phone cards have hidden fees and they will pay more than the advertised rate when they make calls with phone cards. Experienced phone card shoppers look for cards with low per minute rates, good call quality and minimal added fees. Phone card companies use a wide assortment of added fees in order to increase revenue. These range from connection fees to maintenance fees and taxes or other surcharges for making calls. They use these added fees so they can lure consumers with low per minute advertised rates. Many high quality phone card providers have reduced or eliminated hidden fees over the past few years as consumers have become wiser and often shun phone cards with excessive fees. However, hidden fees associated with a phone cards rounding interval is still widely used because it is difficult to calculate and poorly understood by many consumers.

The rounding interval defines how the length of a call is rounded in order to determine the cost of each call made with a phone card. Rounding intervals are normally 1, 3 or 6 minutes but they can be as high as 12 minutes or more. The length of a call is rounded to the next interval in order to determine the minutes used in calculating the cost of the call. For example, a 1.5 minute call will be rounded to 2 minutes if the rounding interval is 1 minute, it will be rounded to 3 minutes if the rounding interval is 3 minutes and it will be rounded to 12 minutes if the rounding interval is 12 minutes. For phone cards with high rounding intervals, it is easy to see how it can significantly increase the cost of a call so the user almost always pays more than the advertised per minute rate for each call. The rounding interval provides a built in hidden fee that is not well understood by most consumers but the trick goes even further.

What happens if there is no answer or the phone being called is busy? Most phone cards will start timing a call as soon as it is dialed so consumers should expect to pay at least one rounding interval for a dialed call even if the phone being called is busy or not answered. These charges can add up to a significant added cost, especially if the rounding interval is 6 or 12 minutes.

This hidden fee can be minimized by choosing a phone card with a short rounding interval. In general, phone cards with rounding intervals higher than 3 minutes should be avoided unless it is a small denomination card that is going to be used to make one phone call. Tel3Advantage is another way to avoid this and other hidden fees charged by most phone cards. They use a one minute rounding interval and do not charge for unanswered calls.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Calling Card Rates to India

Rates on prepaid calling products to India have dropped significantly over the past couple of years. A year ago it was difficult to find a product to call India for less than 10 cents per minute unless it was poor quality. Now there are several high quality products offering rates as low as 4.5 cents per minute. For example, NW-IP recently introduced the Golden Lotus calling card that charges as little as 4.2 cents per minute and customers are rating the card very high in terms of reliability and call quality. Even Tel3Advantage is only charging 8.5 cents per minute to users of its the high quality Flex Plan while one year ago it was charging 12 to 15 cents per minute. So what has changed? We have been investigating and we cannot find the answer except, perhaps, increased competition. Rates on calls to several markets have been dropping recently but it seems that India has seen one of the most dramatic decreases. This is good news for people with friends and family in India and want to make frequent calls. Now there are several high quality prepaid calling products on the market for making cheap calls to India.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

AT&T Phone Cards - Setting the Standard

The AT&T Phone Card is generally considered the standard by which other phone cards are measured. It typically ranks at the top in consumer surveys in areas like call quality and reliability. It is a popular choice for international travelers who want high quality and reliability. The AT&T Phone Card also has access numbers in most countries, features one minute rounding and does not charge any added fees. However, this quality and reliability comes at a price. The AT&T phone card charges by far the highest rates from any location when compared to other high quality phone cards. It also does not offer any of the features like PIN-less dialing, auto-recharge or call history that come standard with many other premium phone cards. It is interesting to compare the AT&T phone card with another premium phone card like Continental. Calls from the AT&T phone card cost 6 times more from most locations and the call quality is not much different. The Continental card also offers PIN-less dialing, call history and auto-recharge at no extra cost. The AT&T phone card can be used from more locations but not many since the Continental Card can be used from over 60 countries. When purchasing a phone card it pays to shop around since there are much lower cost phone cards than the AT&T card that feature similar call quality and include a lot more features. For consumers who don't care about price the AT&T phone card is a safe choice but, for others, shopping can provide a big financial reward.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tel3Advantage - New SmartPlug Software

Tel3advantage recently introduced new SmartPlug technology that allows users to make low cost international calls from their cell phones without dialing an access number or PIN code. Users simply dial an international phone number and their cell phone will automatically route the call over the Tel3Advantage network. In this way the caller will save significant money on international calls but still have high quality and the convenience of direct dial long distance. To use SmartPlug a user simply downloads a small piece of free software onto their smart phone from the Tel3Advantage website. Any Tel3Advantage customer has free access to this technology and there is no added fee for using it to make calls. Another example of how Tel3Advantage leads the market in providing inovative new products.

Tel3Advantage - Still the King of Prepaid International Long Distance

Tel3Advantage has been around for more than 3 years and is still the leader in prepaid calling for those who want both value and quality when making international calls from the United States. The Tel3Advantage Flex Plan boasts a loyal customer base of over 500,000. Most use the calling plan on a regular basis to make international calls. The typical customer is an individual who makes frequent international calls from multiple phones. The Tel3Advantage plan is especially popular with individuals who want to make cheap international calls from cell phones. Most customers have tried other products but stick with Tel3Advantage because it is simply the highest quality low cost calling option available for making international calls. It is a single product that has good rates to almost any country in the world. Tel3Advantage also has a large network of local access numbers in the United States and Canada as well as a toll free access number.