Calling friends and family abroad can get very expensive, especially when using your cell phone or calling from a hotel room.
Phone cards are an excellent way to save money on international calls. With so many options out there, this guide will walk you through the basics so you can start saving on your overseas calls.
- Prepaid phone cards provide discounted international minutes bought upfront in set amounts. Useful for infrequent callers.
- Rechargeable cards allow you to add more minutes as needed and roll over unused minutes each month. Ideal for regular callers.
- Online phone cards involve buying a PIN to access discounted rates. Allow more flexibility in minute amounts.
- Purchase cards at local stores, online retailers, or directly through calling card websites for the best selection.
- Follow the steps to dial the access number, enter your PIN, and dial the international number to make calls.
- Avoid fees and use landlines whenever possible to maximize savings.
- Phone cards offer dramatically lower rates compared to cell networks and landlines.
- The convenience of calling from anywhere outweighs small drawbacks like the expiration of minutes.
- A small amount of research upfront can save you a lot on international calling over time.
Types of Phone Cards
There are a few main types of international phone cards to choose from:
Prepaid phone cards allow you to pay upfront for a set amount of calling minutes – usually to specific countries or regions.
The per-minute rates are discounted compared to standard long-distance charges. These cards are extremely convenient for infrequent international callers. You can use them from any phone – cell phones, landlines, payphones, or hotel room phones. The minutes typically don’t expire for 6 to 12 months after first use.
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Rechargeable international phone cards provide discounted minutes that can be topped up as needed.
You begin with an initial set of minutes, then add more by phone or online.
Be mindful not to buy more minutes than you need because you will need to add more call credits before your phone card expires, then you will find yourself accumulating too many call credits over time.
Pro tip: it’s better to buy fewer call credits because at least you can top it up again, which extends your expiration date. Having too many call credits on your phone card can add up quickly if you’re not using those credits frequently.
With online phone cards, you purchase a PIN online to access discounted international minutes. Add more minutes to the PIN as you need them. Dial a local access number, enter your PIN, then dial the international number. Online cards give you more flexibility since you aren’t stuck with a set amount of minutes.
Companies like SingaporePhoneCards.com offer online phone card services. You can print out the PIN or store it on your phone. Online cards allow you to call from anywhere using landlines or mobile phones.
Where to Buy Phone Cards
International phone cards are widely available at many retail locations and websites:
- Gas stations and convenience stores – Look for prepaid cards at the register or on display racks.
- Local grocery stores and call shops – Stores catering to immigrant populations often sell popular cards to their home countries. The rates and quality can vary greatly.
- Online retailers – Allow you to compare multiple brands and read reviews before purchasing. Cards are delivered quickly.
- Calling card websites – Companies like STi Prepaid and Nobelcom sell directly to customers online. Provides the widest selection of card options.
When purchasing at local stores, inspect cards carefully to check expiration dates and hidden fees. Buying directly from reputable websites can help avoid unwanted charges.
Making Calls with Phone Cards
Using an international phone card is easy. Just follow these simple steps each time you make a call:
- Dial the access number printed on the card. This connects you to the calling service.
- Enter your card’s PIN when prompted. This identifies the account.
- Dial the full international phone number after you hear a dial tone. Be sure to include the country code and city code.
- Monitor your call duration and account balance. Most providers give periodic voice prompts on minutes used.
When first using a new phone card, test it out on a short call to ensure it works properly before talking for long periods. With practice, calling with phone cards becomes quick and convenient.
Tips for Saving Money
To maximize savings on international calls, keep the following money-saving tips in mind:
- Buy phone cards with no connection fees or hang-up fees. These extra fees quickly eat away at your minutes.
- Carefully compare per-minute rates between providers. Lower rates translate to more minutes.
- Purchase larger amounts of minutes upfront to get the best bulk discounts. 500 minutes is a good starter amount.
- Avoid using pricey hotel room phones whenever possible. The markup is usually extreme.
- Use landline telephones rather than cell phones if you have the option. Cell network rates are higher.
- Research rates for your specific destination country. Pricing varies greatly by location.
- Recharge cards or PINs frequently to avoid wasting leftover odd minutes each month.
Pros and Cons of Phone Cards
Like any calling option, phone cards come with both advantages and drawbacks:
- Much cheaper rates than cell networks or landlines
- Prepaid amounts help control spending and avoid surprise bills
- Huge selection of quality providers and plans
- Most allow calls from any phone – cell, landline, payphone
- Convenient to use while traveling internationally
- Minutes may expire after set periods if unused
- Some cards have connection fees, hang-up fees, or maintenance fees
- Need periodic access to landlines – doesn’t work on all cell networks
- Quality can vary between different providers and rate plans
- Hard to avoid wasting leftover minutes each month
Overall, the dramatic savings outweigh the minor inconveniences. With a little research, you can find reputable phone card providers that work for your calling needs.
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For frequent travelers and those with loved ones abroad, phone cards provide an indispensable way to save money on international calls. With prices as low as 1 cent per minute, the savings quickly add up compared to standard long-distance rates.
Hopefully, this guide has outlined the main types of phone cards, where to buy them, tips for saving, and the key pros and cons. Just a small amount of planning and research upfront can save you a fortune over time. Spend those savings enjoying more time talking with friends, family, and business associates around the world!