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Pitfalls To Avoid When Choosing A Calling Card

How to get the best deal on a calling card

Most prepaid phone cards charge several hidden fees that reduce the number of minutes you can actually use with the calling card. This article explains the various fees typically charged by the phone card companies when using their prepaid phone cards.

1. Connection fee (also known as Access fee) - This is the most common fee and one that most calling card customers probably know about already. This fee is charged every time you place a call, and it usually varies from 5 cents to $1.

The worst thing that can happen with this connection fee is, when the card buyer makes the call and either the answering machine gives a reply or the call is routed to a voice mailbox,  the connection fee is charged even though the customer has not really uttered even a single word.

Of course the best option to avoid this charge is simply to choose a calling card that has no connection fee! There are many companies that sell such cards so finding them isn't really a problem.

Before buying any calling card, find out the average rate per minute after factoring in all the costs involved. This will give you a very clear idea of which card is the best value.

2. Service fee - This fee is charged on a pro-rata basis with reference to the call charges, and it is typically in the range of 5 - 15%.

3. Billing increment (also known as Minutes Rounding) - If the company says it uses 1 minute rounding, a call of 50 seconds will be charged the same as 1 minute and 3 1/2 minutes will be charged the same as 4 minutes. Since the higher the rounding period the more monetary loss you'll incur, look for a calling card with the lowest rounding period possible.

4. Maintenance fee - This is a very notorious hidden fee which gets charged against the phone card either on a bi-weekly or monthly basis.

Before buying any phone card, you should read the fine print to find out if there is a maintenance fee. If so, the card should be purchased only if you think you'll use up the card before the specified period.

5. Payphones - There are surcharges on calling cards for all calls made from payphones, and you'll pay this fee irrespective of whether the call goes through or not. 

6. Access number - The billing also depends on whether one calls a local access dial in number or a toll free number. You will usually be able to make a lot fewer calls with the card if you call a toll free number to establish the connection. You should always use a local dial-in number whenever possible.

7. Extended talking fee - Some phone card companies charge an extended talking fee if a call goes beyond a specified duration (usually around 20 minutes). It is best to limit your calls to a time period less than the specified duration.

8. Expiration date - Most prepaid calling cards have an expiration date, of which there are two types: the date from which you actually begin using the card and a general expiration date. After the expiration date you will no longer be able to use the card even if you have unused minutes remaining!


Shop around for the best deal on calling cards taking into account all of the fees, both hidden and unhidden.

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