Collect calls, credit card calls, third-party calls
- history. The easiest, simplest, and cheapest way to
make international calls while on the road is by using a phone
- No more pumping unfamiliar coins into a machine
- Eliminate or reduce exorbitant hotel surcharges
- No more collect, operator-assisted, and third-party hassles and surcharges
- Less expensive
- You know what you're paying - often just picking up a receiver can patch
you to a price-gouging reseller.
You can use a calling card at any time. Many people have found that the competition
and price-cutting in calling card rates is so fierce that it pays to use
them exclusively for any long
distance phone calls, including from their home! Others opt to pay a
little more so not to be bothered with the long strings of access codes all
the time. On the road however, there are times when a calling card is your
very best option.
During Hotel Stays
In Costa Rica, for example, a local call from a pay phone or using a phone
card could cost you up to 20 times more from your resort hotel. A recent
visitor to Orlando made three brief calls to her home in New Jersey from
her hotel room without using a calling card. Cost: $65!
Most hotels apply exorbitant surcharges to both
local and toll calls. In the case of local calls, they usually charge
a flat fee for each call; for toll calls, they often charge a percentage
of the cost of the call.
When Traveling Internationally
A pass through the guidebooks answers this question unanimously. The vagaries
of long distance billing here at home are complicated enough; add to this
government vs. free market issues, language barriers, unfamiliar currency,
extreme variance in communications infrastructure, and plain old ease of
use, and the calling card or international
calling plan is almost a must-have when traveling internationally.
When Traveling Domestically
Even in the United States, using your credit card at a pay phone can be risky
business. Many long distance resellers pay for the right to service public
phones, then charge exorbitant surcharges that you might easily know nothing
about at the time you place your call.
Which Type Card?
Prepaid cards are usually for a set amount or number of minutes: $20 worth
of calls, or 100 minutes. In these cases, you either swipe the card or punch
in an access code and the card is valid until your money or time runs out.
In some locations, you'll find multiple card types - one that can be swiped,
and others with dialing codes.
Standard, or non-prepaid cards are billed to a credit
card or your calling card account, and require a PIN number. There
can be slightly greater risk when using these cards: if someone swipes
your PIN number, they can use your card at will without limit until
you discover the number has been stolen.
Standard cards are usually available from your telephone
company, or come with your long distance service.
The upside of using these cards is time saved; no need to enter a string of
dozens of numbers every time you make a call. The downside is that they often
can't be used on all phones but only on those phones serviced by a specific
phone company. If you are going to be in one place for a while, or using
a specific phone, these work well and save you time.
In almost all cases, I buy only dial-code cards; they are more versatile, and
I don't have to go scrounging around for a telephone that accepts my swipe
Which Card to Buy?
Especially stateside, this issue is complicated by the sheer abundance of calling
card companies. Our advice: buy from a reputable, well-known company or outlet,
or from a vendor you trust. Additionally, you can choose from prepaid or
standard (non-prepaid) calling cards.
It's worth some investigation: take a look at www.webstel.com
or www.call-and-talk.net for a neat comparison application. Be advised
that these folks are in the business of selling phone cards, so let
the buyer beware.
Overseas, you may find your choices are limited.
If you understand the rate system, and it looks reasonable, you're
likely okay. In many places, it's worth doing a little comparison
In Russia, for example, you'll want to use phones
and buy cards that are run by the city phone network, some private
companies charge much more than the government does for using their
phones and phone systems.
For cards that can be used internationally, visit
www.webstel.com and www.call-and-talk.net
Pre-Paid Wireless Cards
wireless phone cards have certain popularity.
There are cell phone plans that give you the ability
to make international calls from countries all over
the world. If you are in the market for a cell phone,
visit www.call-and-talk.net/prepaid-wireless/ to
compare rates in your area and find out about other
charges, such as activation fees and the cost of
the phone. Be aware that most US phones will not
work overseas because the signals are carried on
On the Internet
There are literally thousands of calling card offers on the Web. One that looks
interesting and offers abundant freedom of choice, is http://www.call-and-talk.net/
The Big Guys
Typically, the large telephone corporations charge similar rates; their prepaid
cards usually come in substantially cheaper than their standard calling card
rates. However, many calling card offers beat the big guys by quite a bit
on price. Shop around!
Most reputable card companies will tell you how much you have used at the beginning
and end of each call, and many phones will count down the remaining time
on your card on a digital clock on the phone itself.
Free Calling Cards
Credit card companies, phone companies, football teams, airlines, hotels, Web
sites, you name it; all have offered free calling cards to customers at some
point. Keep your eyes open for these deals.
Where to Buy Phone Cards
Many phone cards can be found in airport dispensing machines, which often take
only cash, so you may need some local currency first.
Also, convenience stores, newsstands,
and small local shops in or near train stations, airports,
or a bank of phones often carry phone cards. In Spain,
for example, you'll find them in tobacco shops; in Australia,
at food stands and in machines; in Russia, at newsstands
(kiosks) and in post offices.
Countless cards are also available on
the Web; again, be sure to buy from reputable vendors
with clear price information, including minimums, service
charges, and other hidden restrictions.
Also, we've seen cases where disreputable
dealers will sell used cards, then claim you don't know
how to use them and refuse a refund. This is an unusual
circumstance, but again, buyer beware.
Many phone cards allow you to dial several numbers
in a single "session;" listen
to the options or read card directions to determine if this is available.
This can save you money in some cases. For example,
if a hotel charges a single,
one-time surcharge for you to call the calling card company's 800 number,
and you can make several calls in that single calling
card session, you save big.
Certain calling cards are also "rechargeable;" that
is, you can buy more minutes when you run out without
having to change access codes, PIN numbers, etc. This
can be especially helpful when using the card for Internet
access, as you will not need to type a new access code
into your modem dialing strings.
"Collect Them All!"
One interesting offshoot of the boom in phone cards is their new status as
collectibles. Many calling cards are decorated with regional, national, event-specific,
or other interesting imagery. This is not our bailiwick, but some folks have
a deep interest in this element of the biz, and we thought it worth mentioning.