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Dialing internationally

 

What is a prepaid phone card/calling card?
How a prepaid phone card/calling card works?
Reasons to use a prepaid phone card/calling card?
How to use a prepaid phone card/calling card?
How to choose a phone card/calling card?  
Making phone calls while traveling internationally
What the phone cards/calling cards companies do for me?
Making calls to special numbers

 

What is a prepaid phone card/prepaid calling card?

A prepaid phone card/calling card is a card you purchase to make long distance phone calls. These cards can be used from any touchtone telephone, as well as at pay phones. The cards eliminate the use of coins for pay phones, give to any person without a local telephone service account to make calls, and usually cost less than traditional collect, third party and telephone company calling card calls. Prepaid phone cards are being used by lots of people because of the card’s convenience (it can be used anywhere) and, because there is no bill, the card being paid in advance. Prepaid phone cards are very popular among people who travel, people who frequently call overseas, and also those who have not selected a long distance telephone company. It can be mentioned also that the prepaid phone cards are sold in convenient places, such post offices, stores, gas stations, ethnic supermarkets, grocery stores and on the internet.

Prepaid phone/calling cards prices may be from $2 to $100 or more, for local, long-distance, domestic or international; the amount of time you buy depending on the rate/minute you are charged.

 

How a prepaid phone card/calling card works

A prepaid phone card/calling card represents a way of paying in advance for telephone services by establishing an account with a card issuer. The card itself has no value, but what is valuable on it is the "personal identification number" or "PIN", and the card issuer's toll free telephone number printed on the card, or received by email for those cards bought online.
Most of all prepaid phone cards/calling cards come with a toll-free access telephone number and a personal identification number (PIN). The prepaid phone cards companies use your calling card PIN number to keep track through their computers of your card usage (minutes or units). To make a phone call, you have to dial the access number, and then enter your PIN, and a message will usually tell you how much prepaid money you have on your card. Many prepaid calling card systems also provide a second verbal message after the caller dials the number the caller wants to reach, and this second message tells the caller how long the caller can talk until the credit in the prepaid phone card account drops below the minimum required for a minute (there are also cards that round to a second) of service to the number dialed. Next, you enter the phone number of the party you're trying to reach, and a computer generated massage tells you how much time, or how many units you have left on your card for the international or domestic phone number you just called. If your prepaid phone card is not rechargeable, you cannot buy additional minutes or units for the phone card, and you'll need to buy another phone card when you have completely used all the minutes or units. When you buy a new card, you’ll get a new PIN. For rechargeable calling cards, you’ll be able to keep the same PIN, and buy more minutes or units.

 

Reasons to use a prepaid phone card/calling card

Why use a prepaid phone card/calling card, instead of using the regular phone service? What is so different and better about calling cards to make us decide to use them? Probably these are questions that come into everyone's mind before using a phone card/calling card. The answer it is not very difficult, and the explanation is that the regular phone companies are using a different technology, which is more expensive, so they have higher costs, reflected in your monthly bill. These higher bills do not mean that they cannot decrease their rates, but since the subscribers are paying, this is not a big concern for them. However, you have an option, and you can make the best choice for you.
The phone cards have been a growing business for the past several years, even though in its very early beginnings there were lots of problems, until it became a stable industry as of today. You can find today a lot of suppliers selling calling cards, with relatively similar rates, and the forecast for the coming years, is that the calling cards are expected to play a major role in the communications business worldwide. The most important reason why phone cards/calling cards offer such low rates to call worldwide is that the calling cards companies  use a different technology called VoIP (Voice over IP), combined with the regular lines to get a balance between call quality and low prices. Another thing is that since the calling cards are prepaid (you pay in advance to buy minutes/units), there are some other costs reduced, by eliminating any scenarios like collections or debt retrieval. Also, prepaid phone cards give more security than the traditional telephone company calling cards, the reason being that if a prepaid phone card is lost or stolen, the loss is limited to the value remaining on the card, while stolen traditional telephone company calling cards can be used to make thousands of dollars worth of illegal calls before a calling card is cancelled.
YOU have control over how much you pay, and you decide how much you want to pay for these services, in case you’re not happy with the quality. You spend a certain amount of money (you can find calling cards for $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100) for your calling card, use the talking minutes/units at your convenience, check your balance on the PIN at anytime, and if you decide to get more minutes, you can either recharge it (when possible), or buy a new card. It's THAT easy, and there are no bills, and no hassle. You can enjoy your calls without having huge bills from the giant phone companies (AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, etc.), but still having low rates and good connectivity.

 

How to use a prepaid phone card/calling card? 

Our mission is to offer you phone cards/calling cards with high quality and good prices, from trusted cards issuers.
If you bought a calling card, or you intend to buy one and you are not sure how to use it, you'll find here the answers you are looking for.
For the beginning, you need to learn some basics about the phone cards/calling cards, as follow:

PIN - Personal Identification Number - The unique number of your calling card and it is required to have it, in order to use your card. The PIN identifies your account within the calling card company's system, and it is recommended not to disclose it to anyone, to avoid someone else using your account.

Access number - Usually a local number, or a toll free number. You need this number to connect to the calling card system, and then, after you dial it, you get a voice prompt asking you to enter your PIN.

Destination number - The number you wish to call. This number can be dialed in different ways, depending on where you are calling to and from.

ANI - Automatic Number Identification - A service offered by some calling card companies. ANI (or “PIN-free dialing”) it is a feature offered by some phone services to make it easier for the customer to use the system. If this feature it is offered, you need to register your US phone number in their database and whenever you dial from a PIN-free telephone number, the system is no longer asking you to dial a PIN number. The service goes directly to a voice prompt asking for a destination number. This feature does not work for international numbers.

Maintenance fee - Amount deducted from the calling card's balance reducing your minutes. The maintenance fee will be deducted from your phone card (daily/weekly/monthly) if there is still enough balance, and will not be charged on your credit card. Some phone cards will start to charge a maintenance fee either when the first phone call is connected or after the first phone call is finished.

Connection fee - Amount deducted from the balance of the phone card/calling card, once a call is connected. Today, many cards issuers do not charge a connection fee, so check this out while buying a calling card.

Minutes rounding - This is the basic unit to record the length of your phone calls, and it is the multiple of minutes you'll be charged when making a phone call. Prepaid phone cards can be rounded to one second, one, two, three, or even four minutes For example, 3 minutes rounding means that you'll be charged in 3 minutes increments, like this: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and so on. A call for 10 minutes and 30 seconds will be charged 12 minutes.

Expiration date - The date when the PIN will can no longer be used. Most calling cards expire after a year from the last use, or do not have an expiration date.

 

How to choose a prepaid phone card/calling card?

Let’s talk about a few tips for choosing a phone/calling card. There are many offers on the market, and you’ll need to know how to differentiate and choose the one that best suits your needs. The name of the calling card doesn’t really matter, and whatever the name is, it does not make any difference. You have to look at the Details section to find out the details that really matter. Here you’ll find listed all the calling card's features and this is what makes the real difference between them.
Be sure that the calling card you get it the one that best cover your calling needs, and keep in mind that it doesn't have to have the lowest,  or the highest rate to be the best. If you usually make long phone calls, or if call very often, you may want to get a card with a maintenance fee or even with a connection fee, the reason being that these types of phone cards offer the lowest rates. The maintenance fee, it is not the most important thing when you make a lot of long calls and use up the balance quickly, because the maintenance fee will be only deducted one, maybe two times, but you get a huge amount of minutes to use.
If you make short phone calls, or you use the card once in a while, a calling card with 1 second rounding and no maintenance fee it is your best choice. You do not have to worry about your balance decreasing if you don't use the card; use it anytime you need it, and your money will still be there for one year, even more.
The phone cards can be used from any active phone line, even from payphones (from these types of phones a surcharge will be applied when you use the calling card, as imposed by the FCC), or cell phones. Calling cards use tones to identify the numbers you are dialing (e.g. the PIN or destination number) and these cannot be used from a rotary or pulse based phone. If you get an error message while you are dialing the PIN, it is very likely that the phone you are using is not tone-enabled.
Usually, there is an easy fix, and if you look on the side or phone’s base for a tone/pulse button and switch it in the right position, your PIN should work fine. If there is no such button, try dialing the * (star key) before dialing the PIN, and this will switch the phone to tone dialing for that call only.

 

Making phone calls while traveling internationally

Travel internationally may be a hassle to keep in touch with people back home. This can be also an expensive and time-consuming habit if you use a cell phone or a regular telephone line. A major problem using cell phones is the existence of various incompatible cell phone systems, because there are several major cell phone systems used worldwide and not all cell phones are compatible with all of them. The most important ones are:

GSM - Global System for Mobile telephones - This represents the most common cell phone system, with a large coverage, especially in Europe (where originally started), and also in Africa , Asia and Australia . In the USA and Canada, GSM coverage it is newer, and may be poorer outside of urban areas, while in South America only parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil are covered. South Korea and Japan are important countries with non-GSM coverage yet .

AMPS - Advanced Mobile Phone SystemThis maybe considered an obsolete system, that has been introduced in North America in the early 1980s. It can still be used in some parts of the world such as American Samoa , Angola , China , South Korea , Lebanon , Nauru , Northern Mariana Islands , Solomon Islands , Turkmenistan , Uzbekistan , and Western Samoa .

TACS - Total Access Communications Service - Represents the first European 900 Mhz analog system that has been launched by Vodafone in 1985. It can still be found in Austria , Azerbaijan , Bahrain , Cambodia , China , Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia , Ghana , Hungary , Ireland , Italy , Japan , Kenya , Kuwait , Malaysia , Mauritius , Nigeria , the Philippines , Singapore , Spain , Sri Lanka , Tanzania , United Arab Emirates , United Kingdom , and Yemen .

TDMA - Time Division Multiple Access - It is the first digital network used in the US and still is today widely used by large wireless networks as AT&T and Cingular. TDMA cell phones can also be used in Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China (including Hong Kong), Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guam, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Russia, St. Maarten, Suriname, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

CDMA - Code Division Multiple AccessThis is a growing standard in the Americas, gaining ground over TDMA.

All these different networks available all over the world and the number of their operators drove up to high interconnectivity prices, reflected in the rate per minute paid while making international calls from your mobile phone. On top of all these, if you want to use your cell phone you’ll need either to activate the “Roaming” option with the company that allows your phone (this way you get to keep your phone number when you travel abroad) or to buy another  SIM card in every country (in which case you'll have a new phone number each time, plus you might have the “surprise” of the SIM not being compatible with your phone).
However, there is a solution to all these problems: phone cards/calling cards. To avoid any problems, the best way it is to buy them before you leave, to be sure you have a way of calling back in case you can't find a calling card in the country you'll be visiting. The calling cards offer you low rates and are easy to use to make international calls, regardless of where you're calling from, without wasting time and money, giving you more time to enjoy your vacation or trip.

There are a few helpful tips that you may want to keep in mind when using a calling card abroad:

  • Do not use the phone card from hotels, before checking with the hotel first. Usually, hotels charge a fee when calling toll free numbers (the access number for calling cards is usually toll-free) or may even block the access to such numbers.
  • Because each country sets up its own telephony systems, you may need to use a calling card or make a coin deposit to be able to place a call from public phones, even if they are toll free numbers.
  • Check the restrictions for the access number provided by the calling card issuer, and make sure you follow the dialing instructions provided with the calling card.
  • Do not try to call the access number for your calling card from rotary or pulse-based phones.

What the phone cards/calling cards companies do for me?

The phone card/calling card providing company must give you reliable and high-quality connections with any prepaid phone card plan, and these companies are also required to keep informed with latest information regarding your current charges. You should read very careful all the details before buying and be aware of what your current balance is and how it changes from call to call, because there may also be some calling cards companies out there that may include hidden charges in their services.

Check and find out if you'll be charged a connection fee for each call. If there is a connection fee, you should only be charged this fee if the call connects. The amount of this fee may vary with each phone card, and issuer of the phone card, and may add up over time. If you use your card to call pretty often, you may see a significantly detract from the balance on your card, so maybe it would be better for you to purchase a card from a company that does not charge connections fees if you expect to make many shorter calls. If your make longer phone calls, it may be a better deal for you to use such a card that does charge a connection fee, because of the low rate per minute. You should know that a calling card without a connection fee usually charges a higher rate per minute.

A quite new recent development in the prepaid phone cards business is that most cards issuers offer you the possibility of being able to use your cell phone to make calling card calls. Not all phone card companies provide this convenience, that’s why you have to be sure to read the fine print and find out if your card allows you or not to make a call from your cell phone. Also, the rates may vary for cell phone, compared with the "land-line" phones, so keep that in mind as well when making a call from, or to a wireless phone.

 

Making calls to special numbers 

There are cases when making a phone call from outside of the United States to a toll free number, or another type of special number (for example Directory Assistance), and you should  be aware that you may be charged some amounts higher than you would expect. The reason for these charges are that when you are calling to a toll-free number FROMthe United States, the cost of that call it is passed to the company that supports that number, by your local provider. When you are dialing from OUTSIDEof the United States, the things are a little bit different, because your call is passed on through several carriers and companies, that usually charge a fee, and the rates tend to be a lot higher than from your home phone.
The rates for calling to the United States vary by country, and have often surcharges; some foreign hotels or phone numbers blocking the access for calling to a toll free number in the United States or charge consistent amounts to let you reach them. Foreign policies are very different in each country, and you might even find high surcharges for dialing toll-free numbers within the country.
If you wish to make a phone call to an international number, do some research, and be sure you know what kind of number it is. Even if it seems, or you think it is a regular landline, you may find that you will be charged a lot more for the call, the explanation being that because some institutions, such as universities, businesses, and hospitals, may establish their own phone lines and systems and the carriers read these private lines as mobile, and charge you accordingly.