Sunday, May 01, 2005

Virtual Calling Cards Make Sense For Business

You probably carry one or more telephone calling cards in your wallet. They can save you a bundle if you make long distance calls from hotel rooms, pay phones, or client locations. One of the best cards you can have is called the "virtual" calling card. You may not have heard of it until now, but there are a lot of advantages to going virtual.

So, what is a virtual calling card and why would you want one instead of a regular phone card? It's called virtual because there is no physical card delivered. That seems different than buying a prepaid card off the rack at a drugstore or using the plastic card from your long distance company. Actually, you use a virtual card much like any other calling card. To make phone calls you dial a toll free access number. The system will ask you to enter your access code which includes your PIN number. Then you enter the number you want to call.

The big advantage to virtual calling cards is that they have truly low per minute rates. For instance, the popular CogniCall calling card offers 6.9 cents per minute for calls in the 48 US states. That's probably a lot lower that what you'd be billed if you use the card that comes from your long distance carrier. It doesn't seem as low as those colorful prepaid cards that advertise 1.9 or 2.9 cents a minute. But use one of those for awhile as see how many minutes you really get. They often charge "connect" fees for each call you make. Plus once you start using the card, the minutes start expiring if you don't use them all at once. After a few months your unused minutes have vaporized and you wind up paying a buck a minute for the one phone call you made.

Another thing to be aware of is the billing increment. Many calling cards charge in 1 minute or more increments. The time you call is rounded up to the next minute. CogniCall bills in 6 second increments with a 1 minute minimum. This smaller billing increment saves you money on each call and becomes really significant if you make a lot of calls.

The CogniCall card is called postpaid instead of prepaid. That's another way of saying billable. Your calls are charged to your credit card in the months that you make calls. If you don't make any calls, you don't pay anything. Minutes don't expire because you don't have a total number of minutes. You pay as you go.

Do you travel internationally? Most cards only work in one country. If you want to make calls overseas, you need a calling card that offers international origination. CogniCall lets you originate calls in over 50 countries by dialing toll free access numbers where you happen to be. That lets you avoid the monstrous phone bills you get stuck with if you make international calls from hotel rooms. If you stay with someone or visit a business client, you can make calls without running up their phone bill.

As of this writing, you can call the US from Germany for 8.7 cents a minute, from the U.K. for 11.6 cents a minute, from India for 32.3 cents a minute, from Mexico for 33.4 cents a minute, and from China for 59.5 cents a minute. Calls originating in the US cost generally less.

Another advantage of a virtual calling card is that you can get it quickly. You order CogniCall online anytime and you'll get an email confirmation. Then you call their office during business hours to confirm your account and they send you your access code and dialing instructions by email. You'll also have access to a website to monitor your account and get the access numbers you need for places you are going to visit. You can often get your virtual calling card the same business day if you forget to order until the last minute before a trip. Best to allow yourself a day or two, though.

There is no charge to order a CogniCall virtual calling card. You pay nothing until you use it and then you only pay for the calls you make. If you travel on business or vacation, it makes sense to have one of these handy just in case you ever need it. If you make a lot of calls away from home, you might save a small fortune. Find rates and get an international calling card now.

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