PREPAID PHONE CALLING CARD CONSUMER INFORMATION
The following information is derived in part from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
the US government federal agency that regulates the phone industry and also handles complaints dealing with consumer and telecommunications issues
A pre-paid phone or calling card is a one purchased and used to make long distance or international phone calls. These cards are often sold by the number of minutes a cards is good for, however extra minutes can be charged for fees, surcharges and other add-on charges.
A little known fact is that many cards can be used for local calls from a local payphone or public phone, however FCC payphone surcharges may apply. In this case you would call the 800 card number and then your local number including the area code. This can be more convenient than paying directly with coins or having local calls charged to a hotel bill. Always check with a hotel about any charges for 800 calls.
Why Buy These Cards
They are convenient, portable and since you've already paid for it, you don't need to worry about billing. They are available for sale just about anywhere and are good for people who travel or who don't have or want a long distance service. However, the quality and terms vary widely. Always read the extremely fine print (it might even require a magnifying glass) before buying.
Global Long Distance Calls
The rates can be much cheaper using a prepaid card. But costs vary widely depending on the country called and the duration of the call. Always check the rates before calling. If the rates are not posted on the card itself, call customer service. Always read the fine print on the card about minimum calling times, connection fees and surcharges.
Using A Prepaid Phone or Calling Card
Typically you will call a toll free number and then enter the personal identification number on the card. Then you will be asked to dial the phone number. Often you will be told at that point how many minutes remain on the card. Because dialing all these numbers can be inconvenient, some cards are rechargeable, meaning that you can add minutes to the same card without changing the PIN or anything else relating to that card. If this is not an option, when your card expires you will have to buy a new card.
Typical complaints about prepaid long distance calling cards
The low price per minute advertised on many cards is often misleading.
It is very important to read the fine print. Minutes are not really minutes with prepaid cards, they are units of cost. For example, you might be charged extra minutes as a connection fee.
Cards often expire or have maintenance charges even when you are not using them.
Rates are often much higher than what the card appears to charge. This can involve a number of fees such as maintenance fees, connection fees, minimum minutes, and more. It is important to read the fine print.
Example: Some cards advertise extremely low per minute rates but only if you talk for an extended period of time.
Example: The low rate may apply to minutes rounded off to the closest three minutes or more. This means you are often paying for extra minutes you did not use.
Other typical complaints have been:
Often the 800 number you dial does not work or the PIN does not go through
You may have trouble reaching customer service.
Some card companies have gone out of business.
Some companies will make you pay for minutes even when your call is not completed
The quality of the connection can be very poor.
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