Sunday, January 18, 2009

5 Phone Card Purchasing Tips

Purchasing a phone card without being tricked can be difficult since phone card sellers often advertise low rates to attract shoppers than charge cleverly disguised "hidden fees" which can more than double the cost of making a call. In many cases, the phone card with the lowest advertised rate also has low quality and is not the cheapest to use since it can be loaded with a variety of hidden charges. It is generally best to make a purchase from a reputable phone card website that discloses all of the details for each card listed. These details should include all charges for making a call (including taxes, fees and surcharges), a customer service phone number, customer ratings on quality and service and a money back guarantee.

In addition, we offer the following 5 important tips to phone card shoppers.

1. Purchase a Minimum Denomination. Unless you are familiar with a particular phone card it is usually best to purchase a minimum denomination and make some trial calls with the card to the locations you wish to call before purchasing a large denomination. We suggest purchasing a phone card with a face value of $10 or less before making a large purchase.

2. Check and Compare Rates between Phone Cards. Most phone card websites include a rate finder which shows the cost per minute for making calls from one location to another. The rates listed in these rate finders are generally just the base rate. They do not show all of the added fees and taxes that can vary significantly between phone cards. Therefore, it is important to read the fine print before purchasing a phone card and be sure to include all fees and taxes when comparing rates between phone cards. There are a few companies that charge a connection fee for each call. These can significantly increase the cost of each call so we feel that calling cards that charge a connection fee should be avoided. Some other common fees are maintenance fees, pay phone fees, toll free access number fees, taxes, service fees and surcharges. Other less obvious hidden fees include rounding interval (the increment used in rounding off the duration of a call for billing purposes) and a long call fee. A card with a larger rounding interval is generally more expensive since the length of a call is rounded up to the next rounding interval for billing purposes.

3. Customer Reviews. Websites like Smart Global Call International Phone Cards include customer reviews for the phone cards they sell. We have found that these reviews are useful since they provide a good indication of calling card quality based on the experience of other users.

4. Access Numbers. Check for the availability of access numbers in the locations where you plan to use the card before making a purchase. Toll free access numbers are convenient but some phone cards charge a relatively high fee (more than one cent per-minute) for using them. In some cases toll free access is free or the charge is relatively small (less than one cent per-minute). There is typically no additional charge for using a local access number but some phone cards do not have local access numbers or they only have a few.

5. Phone Card Coverage. Phone cards typically have limited coverage so check the rates for making calls to the locations you wish to call before making a purchase. Also check rates to the type of phone (land line or cell phone) you plan to call. Some phone cards offer great rates to land lines but very high rates to cell phones in the same country.

There are honest phone cards that offer high quality and good rates for making cheap international calls to almost any location in the world. However, there are others that advertise super cheap rates but load the product with so many hidden fees that the cost for making calls is actually much higher than normal. The purpose of this article is to help shoppers avoid some common pitfalls and make informed choices.

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