International phone cards are widely accepted as providing customers with very low rates to virtually anywhere on the planet, they are also very simple to use and on top of that use the same old traditional phone lines that we use when using our mobiles or landlines to call our friends and family but the phone card industry has an incredibly poor reputation, run a Google search with the term “phone card” and after all of the phone card sites, you start to see articles and consumer awareness guides popping up detailing how rogue the industry actually is.
The goal of this article isn’t to provide counterarguments but rather to give you some very specific information on how to avoid the bad guys and find the best phone card companies.
Choosing An International Calling Card
Are you making long or short calls?
Before jumping in and buying a phone card you should look at how you are going to be using the card itself because there are phone cards that may be better suited to whether you are making short or long calls.
For example, there are phone cards that come with connection fees (phone cards that deduct a small fee from your phone card once you have connected to the person you wish to speak with), that actually offer a lower per minute rate than the other phone cards.
If your calls are going to be longer in duration like 40+ minutes then this type of phone card may be worth the investment but there are other factors to consider as well.
Making shorter calls? Then you want to pay attention to billing increments.
Billing increments are another critical metric to be aware of since this is how a lot of the bad players in the phone card industry make a lot of their money.
The billing increment is how often you are charged for example most calling cards will charge you $X amount every 3 minutes which means you are not paying per minute but per block time.
If your calls are longer in duration this isn’t as much of a problem and any rounded-up minutes will be hard to detect but if you are making a lot of shorter calls this will certainly add up very quickly.
Unlike long calls where you might use up the phone card balance in a handful of calls, short calls mean that your time on those calls are going to get rounded up for example, if your phone card advertises a 2 cent per minute rate but comes with a 5-minute billing increment (meaning you get charged 10 cents every 5 minutes) and your call only lasts for a minute then you are still charged that 10 cents.
“Typically billing increments is the metric you want to keep an eye out for and then the per minute rate, once you have those two numbers then you can do the math and determine which phone card will offer the best calling rates based on your specific use case” – Angus B. Phonecardchoice.com.au.
Another way phone card providers are able to offer such low calling rates is by taking money from you in other areas.
The phone card industry is incredibly competitive and most players are operating at a loss or close to it on each phone card sale so using special fees are a way to claw back those losses.
Admin fees are also known as service charge fees and small fees that are deducted from your phone card regardless of whether you are actually using that phone card or not, yes, you can purchase a card use it once and the company will continue to drain the balance.
Pay special attention to the small print, ask the retailer, or better yet call up the customer service team and ask them if their phone cards carry special admin charges.
Admin fees are really just junk fees designed to help the company.
Avoid Unit Based Calling Cards
This is not something I have seen myself but have read about online and that is some phone card service providers using a different currency system instead of the local currency.
This strategy is designed to make it harder for customers to know exactly how much money they actually have on their phone card, if you purchased a phone card for $5 and you are given 243,567 banana dollars then it’s going to be tough to know exactly how much your calls are costing you.
Country-Specific Phone Cards
This one is easy and is something most people will instinctively look to do and that is find calling cards that are targeted towards specific countries.
Typically, I’d recommend finding these cards since they often offer the best pricing and may offer better line quality to those specific regions.
Call the customer support team
Generally, I’d recommend using only phone card retailers who specialize in selling phone cards, only because general retailers like newsagents or supermarkets are not going to be able to answer 90% of the questions you have simply because they are in charge of hundreds of other products and calling cards can be quite technical.
Also, chances are you are not going to be able to find any good pamphlets laying around either, you are going to be making your buying decision based on the phone card itself which is pure marketing bloat.
As I said the best option is to find a specialist retailer so you can ask them important questions around which cards are the best for X location, expiration dates, how to resolve technical issues, refund policies, whether they have admin fees, which phone cards are best for longer or shorter calls, etc.
International phone cards are great tools to use once you find a reputable supplier because they offer solid value in terms of cheap overseas calling but always do your due diligence to ensure you are squeezing the most value from your card as possible.