Friday, February 13, 2009

New Online Tool Finds Better International Long Distance Rates

Do you make international or overseas telephone calls? Expensive, aren't they? Well, help is here in the form of a new long distance rate finder tailored to the international caller.

The problem with phone rates is that you're never sure if you're paying a reasonable rate or missing out just because you don't about better rates that have only recently become available. You can do your own online searches, work your way through the vendor's websites, and pick the one with the lowest rate. But that can take hours. You'll probably give up after looking at just a few offers because it's too much like work. What if you could comparison shop a wide variety of competitive carriers and see in seconds what the best deals are?

Screen Shot of the International Long Distance Rate Finder tool. Click to use.That's what the International Long Distance Rate Finder does for you. Go ahead and click on this link or the screen shot image and the rate finder will open in another window so you can follow along.

The first thing you see is that the interface is very simple, even sparse. There are only two steps to get started. You need to select the country you are calling from and the country you are calling to. That's really all the database needs to run your search on a reasonable data set. You'll notice that nothing is asking you for your name, address, phone number, email or anything else personal. There's no need for that information to generate a rate list, so your privacy is easily protected.

Let's try one. We'll call from the United States to China. The United States is already selected, so you can just leave that box alone. Using the pull-down menu select China as the country in "STEP 2". If there is a specific number you want to call, you can enter that for a more precise targeting of rates. But just the country will do.

Notice that a "STEP 3" box now appears with more choices highlighted in an orange color. You can just click the radio button that says "China". Or you can more precisely target an area in China. The reason for this is that there are often lower rates to specific areas of a country. If they are available and you can, say, select Beijing, then you may get a better rate than just the general rate to China. If you are calling a mobile phone, select "China (cellular)". Rates to mobile users are different, usually higher, so you might as well know what your call is really going to cost.

Let's just stick with China in general for right now. Now click on the black "Search For Rates" button. In a couple of seconds, literally, you'll get a chart of carriers and their rates to China. I count 20 separate service providers and their rates to China. They are ranked from lowest per minute cost to highest. In this case, the best rate is from Packet8. This is a VoIP provider who charges 1 cent per minute for calls from the USA to China. You'll also see what it costs for a 5 minute call (5 cents) and a 30 second call (30 cents). Since the billing increment is 6 seconds for this provider, it doesn't affect the cost of these calls. If you made a 5 second call, you'd still pay for 6 seconds. Big deal. Well, some carriers bill in larger increments of 60 seconds, so sometimes it matters.

Want to know more about Packet8? Click on the magnifying glass next to the name or on the linked name of the service provider. You'll be taken to their site where you can get a lot more detail about the services they offer. You also have the option to order service right from this page by clicking on the "Order Now" link on the right hand side of the page.

Notice that there are a wide variety of service providers offering low rates to China. You can select a VoIP service or dial-around, 1-Plus service, post paid calling card or conference call, depending on your particular need. If you want to limit the display to a particular type of service, unclick the check boxes of the services you don't want. You'll find those at the top of the chart.

Of course, you can change your search parameters at any time. There's a link called "Make changes to your search" at the bottom of the chart. Pick another pair of countries or different areas within your desired country and you'll get different results.

You may want to play around with this tool to get a better feel for what is available and how to use the service. You may also want to book mark the International Long Distance Rate Finder so you can come back whenever your needs change and run an up to date search for the lowest telephone rates to wherever you want to call.

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