A guide to calling cards

For many calling cards is the answer to talk globally (and cheaply). Basically, you use the calling card and a local access number to dial the international number. Instead of getting a bill for your international call from your phone company, your cost of call is deducted from your calling card. Let’s first briefly go over the advantages of calling cards:

  • cheaper alternative to calling when compared to the international rates charged by the telephone companies
  • The caller has more control and awareness of the international calling costs. The call of the cost is deducted from the card. In our experience, there were no surprises on the telephone bill.
  • You can find variety of cards to call one specific geographic area for better rates. So there are number of good cards to call to by specific country and state such as Punjab or Delhi in India form the US or based on whether you are calling a cell or a landline phone.

This sounds good but be cautious because calling cards don’t come without disadvantages. This is why those considering using calling card should be aware of the drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages a caller should consider before using any calling card:

  • Many calling cards don’t offer pin-less dialing. This requires the card user to enter the pin (calling card security code) each time the call is made
  • There may not be a local access number. This can mean a good card cannot be used outside of a particular area or market.
  • There may be surprise connection fees or other charges
  • Customer service for some cards is not always perfect.
  • Not all cards on the market can be considered equally reliable
  • A call dropped can result in additional connection charges
  • Additional charges for using a pay phone.
  • Not all cards offer recharging option. This means once a card balance reaches $0 it becomes unusable.
  • Cards have expiration. Some cards in our experience expired in a few days after first use.

Hopefully this information tells you all the pros and cons of using calling cards. But is there any information to help quick guide on the purchase or use of calling cards? Here are some tips to using calling cards:

  • When you are not sure which card is good for you to call a specific number, buy only one card with the lowest amount (such as the $2 dollar card versus a $5 or $10 or higher).
  • Decide on card that you are purchasing based on the rates charged to the desired destination. A calling card company usually has a flyer listing rates per minute to different places. Ask for it when you are shopping at a local store. You can also find rates information online.
  • Read the note on the card carefully to understand the terms. Make sure you pick a card that is free of connection charges. Otherwise, you may find a card charging 45 cents just to make the connection to the destination phone.
  • Look for the expiration note. You don’t want a card that expires the same day after first use if you intend to use the card for a longer period.
  • Make sure the PIN on the card is not erased or visible; this can indicate the card has been used before.
  • Make sure the card you purchase is good for calling from your area
  • Know about the different charges for calls made to landlines and cell phones. The difference can be huge. In general, you will pay more for calling a cell phone than a landline.
  • Know of the minimum recharge amount, if the card is rechargeable.
  • Research if the card offers pin-less dialing, and other personalized features. These options make the card more convenient to use.
  • Know the card you are purchasing provides service in English or other language native to you.
  • Make sure the access number you use is free. Be aware your phone company can charge for some local access numbers.
Front side of a calling card
Front side of a calling card – to make calls from the United States to India
  Back side of a calling card
Back side of a calling card – shows terms of the card, access numbers, calling card pin, and so on.

So once you get a calling card, how do you make the call? The card should have instructions for you to follow on making a call. In general, here is how you make a call with a calling card:

  1. Reveal the card number PIN (a security code usually 10 or more numbers long)
  2. Dial the local access number. This is not the customer service number on the calling card. There could be a list of access numbers so you know where to look.
  3. Wait for a voice message for further instructions
  4. when prompted to enter your PIN, enter your calling card PIN from step 1
  5. Dial the international telephone number along with country code, and city or mobile code.
Access numbers and calling card PIN
Access numbers and calling card PIN

When you call your calling card’s local access number, you will hear the balance of your card. Alternatively, you can go to the card’s website to see the remaining balance, call details, and access other web services.

Posted on 1/24/2008
by Raj Singh