Tuesday, May 18, 2010

5 Common Phone Card Rip-Offs

Many phone cards impose hidden fees that cause minutes to disappear so, in many cases, users will get less minutes than they expect when the card is used. In most cases these fees are disclosed in the fine print but many consumers do not pay attention to the fine print when making a purchase. We have listed five common hidden fees below.

1. Connection fees – These are imposed each time a call is connected whether the call is long or short and even if the caller dials the wrong number. Many phone cards do not charge a connection fee so we think consumers should avoid phone cards that charge these fees because they can represent a significant added cost.

2. Maintenance Fees – These fees are imposed at certain time intervals after the first use of the phone card. The time interval varies but it is usually weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. The best way to avoid this fee is to purchase a small denomination phone card and use it quickly.

3. Rounding Interval – This is a tricky hidden fee that most consumers do not recognize. The rounding interval is used to measure the length of the call for billing purposes. These range from less than 1 minute to 6 or more minutes. In general, a card with a higher rounding interval has more hidden cost. This can best be seen by the following simple example.

Assume a person makes a 6.5 minute international call from the USA to Germany. The following would be the charge depending on the rounding interval. In each case the length of the call is rounded to the next interval.

A phone card with a 1-minute rounding interval would charge 7 minutes.
A phone card with a 3-minute rounding interval would charge 9 minutes.
A phone card with a 6-minute rounding interval would charge 12 minutes.

4. Toll Free Access Fee – This is a fee charged by phone cards for using a toll free access number rather than a local access number when placing a call. In some cases there is no added fee or it is an insignificant amount but it other cases it can significantly increase the cost of a call. It is a per-minute charge that can range from 0 to 3 or more cents per-minute. Callers should be aware that there may be an added cost before they blindly use a toll free access number.

5. Long Call fee – Some phone cards add a charge for calls that last over a certain length of time. The time varies but it is commonly 20 or 30 minutes.

Consumers should realize that hidden fees imposed by phone cards are not reflected in the advertised rates so it is best to estimate the added cost when comparing different phone cards. However, most of these fees can be avoided or minimized if a consumer shops around and reads the fine print before making a purchase. There are some companies, like Tel3Advantage, that offer online prepaid calling products with no added fees. Therefore, products like these tend to be popular with prepaid who make frequent international calls. Those interested in further information should visit Smart Global Call for more tips and information on prepaid calling products.

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