- Verify the access number before making the purchase
- Always read the fine print
- Look for service providers with customer service centers nearby
There's nothing quite like a phone call from a long-lost friend from across the seven seas to brighten up even the gloomiest of days. International calling cards are ideal for making phone calls abroad at affordable rates. The ease of use and the great value offered by these cards make them extremely popular amongst the masses. Making an international call is no longer an expensive affair (well, not as expensive as it used to be), with calls to some countries costing lesser than the cost of a call made to your friend across the street. Calling rates do, however, differ according to the country you want to call. Overall though, these cards most definitely provide a much cheaper platform for connecting with people living abroad.
Most calling cards require you to make a phone call to an access number, where you are prompted for the PIN mentioned on the card. You can then dial in the number that you want to make the phone call to. Local charges apply when you make the phone call to the access number. Some major service providers offer toll-free access numbers, and you are charged only for the international calls.
Most of these cards are easily available in most convenience stores. But if you are looking for better deals, you might want to scan the Internet for offers. You need to be careful about reading through the fine print on most of these calling cards, as some of these might actually be trying to rip you off your money. You could land yourself a wonderful deal if you are to be careful and keep a few basic things in mind. Here are few tips that should help you find the best deals for international calling cards.
1. Country-specific rates
As mentioned earlier, call rates change according to the country you want to call to. When choosing your calling card, look for the one offering the cheapest calls to the country of your interest. Remember, a particular card may have the cheapest call rates for a specific country, but that need not mean that it would offer the lowest call rates to all countries. This is the most basic thing to look out for when making your choice.
Alternatively, you could also choose to go in for country-specific calling cards. These cards often offer the cheapest rates and can only be used to call that particular country. However, these involve a greater risk as they aren't offered by most service providers. If you do choose to go in for one of these cards make sure that you verify the authenticity of the service. An easy way to do this would be to call the helpline or customer support number that comes with the card. These cards are usually one-time use cards and cannot be recharged once the credit is exhausted.
2. Unit Rounding
This is probably one of the things that most of us tend to overlook when buying a calling card. Most calls are rounded up to a minute. What this means is that irrespective of your call lasting for 15 seconds or 59 seconds, you will still be charged the amount for one unit. The moment your call exceeds a minute, you are charged by the rate applicable for the next closest minute. Some carriers charge you for every three minutes, while there are others who charge you for every 6 seconds. This is a factor that you really need to consider while picking up the perfect call package for you. Ideally, look for a package that offers the lowest rounding unit.
3. Connection charges
This is another area where most companies try to mislead their customers. Most, if not all, companies charge you a fee for each time your call gets connected. This amount is over and above the call charges, and is levied when someone answers the phone at the other end, or the call gets routed to voicemail, or at times, even when the phone rings up to 10 times without a response. You might want to find about these charges before you decide on a card.
4. Call duration
Call duration is exactly what the name suggest, the duration for which the phone call lasts. Some companies set a maximum call duration limit, i.e. the maximum time for which a call can last. Although most carriers these days do not have a maximum call duration limit or have one that is real high (60 - 90 minutes), this is still something that you might want to inquire about. Once the call is disconnected, you will be charged the connection fee once again if you wish to make a phone call.
5. Maintenance charges
The service provider charges you a fee for maintaining the quality of the phone calls. These are mostly included in the amount that you pay to buy a card or each time you recharge the card. Some other providers charge you anywhere from a daily to a monthly basis for maintaining call quality. This is almost never mentioned on the cards that are offered in stores, and are often found in the many terms and conditions put up on the company's website.
All calling cards come with an expiry date. To extend this date, you might need to top up your card , or pay an additional amount just to extend the validity of the card. This again is something that you need to pay close attention to, as you stand to lose out on the balance amount on the card once it expires.
7. Recharge amounts
International calling cards need to be topped up as and when the credit is exhausted. This can be done online or by using a recharge card of the company. Recharges are usually offered in increments of USD 10, 50 or 100. What you need to consider is the fact that the actual credit amount is often lower than the actual recharge value, owing to the various taxes and surcharges on it. Choose a service provider who offers smaller recharge amounts and provides maximum credit for your money.
Research thoroughly before deciding on a calling package that best suits you. Also, you would be well advised to opt for a reliable company with a customer service center in your area. If you have a Wi-Fi connection or a good data plan, and own a smartphone, you could install a third-party software like Skype or Hangouts (Google Talk) to make phone calls using VoIP. This service lets you make free phone calls to another user of the service (provided the other user too is online and using the service at that time). These providers also offer you credit at low rates to make phone calls to mobiles or landlines. Do bear in mind though, your local data usage charges would apply. With these many options at your disposal, you now have one lesser reason not to keep in touch with your long lost friends and distant family.