Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cheaper Alternatives to Prepaid Phone Cards

You see them displayed in racks in the drug store, grocery or retail store. Out of the corner of your eye something flashes "2 cents" and you have to turn and look. What can you possibly get today for a couple of pennies? Why, it's a prepaid calling card and the rate screams 2 cents per minute. You're tempted to pick one up just to have on hand for your next business trip or that call you need to make to Mexico. But, wait. Before you impulse buy what seems like a bargain phone card, find out why it might be the most expensive call you ever make.

Prepaid telephone cards are really popular, especially for anyone who wants to call overseas and can't bear to pay the extra charges from their long distance provider or cell phone carrier. The problem with the ones you find in stores is that their really big selling point is their convenience. Convenience to buy, that is. It's easy to grab an attractive looking plastic or cardboard card out of the rack. The big advertised rate sure looks good. There's lots of really small print on the back, but how important can that be?

You'll find it's really important once you start using the calling card. The advertised per minute rate is usually only the beginning of what you are going to be charged. In addition to depleting the balance of your card by the minutes you actually talk, you will also likely be dinged a connection fee, a minimum charge per call even if you only leave a quick voice mail, and a steady draining of your card's value after that. You see, once you start using a card it is common practice to charge a service fee per month thereafter. If you make a short call today and then put the card back in your wallet and don't use it again till next year, you may find that all your minutes are gone. They've been eaten up in maintenance fees. Suddenly that supposed 10 cent call to Mexico actually cost you $10.

Well, if prepaid calling cards you find in stores aren't such a great deal, what is? Try buying your calling cards online instead. You still have to be careful to understand the rates and fees, but a good online service such as SpeedyPin will make it easy to compare offers. With no teeny-tiny print to deal with, you can make a much better informed decision. Plus you can order and recharge your cards online at your leisure. There is often no physical card. The numbers are delivered to you via email as soon as you place your order.

Why not use a post-paid card instead? A post-paid calling card is something like a credit card for phone calls. You dial the access number, enter your pin, and make your call. There's no worry about running out of minutes mid-call. The charges are put on your credit card. Post-paid cards may charge you a billing fee of a dollar or so in months when you make calls. Otherwise there are no charges if there are no calls and no costly maintenance fees. Rates to U.S. and international destinations are very good and highly competitive with the real cost of using prepaid calling cards. Have a look at the AccuGlobe for international and domestic calling.

Another approach is to avoid calling cards completely in favor of a prepaid long distance and international calling service you can use from any phone, including your cell phone. What distinguishes Tel3Advantage is really low rates starting at 2 or 3 cents a minute to overseas destinations along with a Web-based control panel and special software for your cell phone. These features let you assign desired phone numbers to your account so that you don't have to remember access codes and pin numbers. This service is as easy to use as simply picking up your phone and dialing a long distance number. The difference is the big cost savings.

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