I know a lot about buying phone cards. The reason I know so much is because I am the developer for the phone card price comparison tool on a website called Time Dial. If you don't buy many calling cards you might be surprised to know that calculating calling card prices is complicated and if you are experienced with them then you will know the calling card companies don't make it easy for you.
Phone cards have hidden fees. The degree to which they are actually hidden varies from site to site. As we develop the price comparison tool we are discovering more ways companies add fees and create different ways of determining price.
The most obvious charge is the rate per minute; this varies depending on whether you are calling a local number to access the service, using toll free access or a payphone. For one company we work with it is also more expensive if you are calling from a cell phone. Local access numbers have the cheapest rates but you will pay for calls to the access numbers which are not available in all areas where as toll free access is free from landlines and free from cell phones in some countries including the US.
Most phone cards do not have a payphone rate they charge a payphone fee. Often people reach our site by typing in Google something like "phone card no payphone fee". We have an option which allows users to find calling cards without a payphone fee so they have come to the right place. However if calling cards don't have a payphone fee they will usually charge a high payphone rate per minute or have a very high standard rate resulting in higher prices than those phone cards that charge a payphone fee. There are very rare exceptions to this rule for example the "Aussie card" from Cloncom has a good rate per minute which doesn't increase when used from a payphone and has no payphone fee. Cloncom are a good company to work with, have good customer service and good rates but it really best to go through our site to find the best possible deal.
Another important fee especially if you make a lot of calls is the connection fee this is a flat rate charged for every call that is made. The maintenance fee is charged the day after you make your first call then is continuously repeated after a given period... often monthly sometimes weekly or daily.
You can select an option on Time Dial for no maintenance fee but again the catch is usually higher rates per minute. No payphone fee and no maintenance fee options are in an advanced options section on the site; this section is really best left alone in most circumstances. All the phone cards on Time Dial charge maintenance fees (if they exist) to the cards balance so if there is no credit there is no charge. Some companies charge the maintenance fee to your bank account but only tell you about this in the small print so watch out for these if you only want to use the card for a limited time.
Taxes are another charge we discovered when developing the tool. These are not real taxes that go to the government as they are for none standard amounts usually ranging from 10% to 30%. They are charged on the rate per minute for the duration of the call; connection fees etc are not included in this calculation.
The final fee to talk about is rounding which varies usually from 1 second to 3 minutes. Good rounding terms comes at the price of higher rates.
All these charges discussed are dependent on each other a good value for one charge often means there is a bad value for another. The best phone card to choose depends on how many calls you make and how long you talk for. This is where our tool shines as you can simply answer 7 questions including estimated number of calls and estimated calling time for your chosen period and it will list the cheapest phone cards in order of total cost.
Each time we add a site to the comparison tool we have to ask many questions about the calling cards' charges. We are quite meticulous about it but still it demonstrates how they don't make it easy. For example one site lists local rates in the search results section labeled "rate per minute" but doesn't make it clear that you can find the toll free, mobile and payphone rates per minute 3 clicks away in a long list.
An important thing to mention is that you shouldn't use phone cards from cell phones in a foreign country. You will pay roaming charges. Phone cards can be used from any phone in your home country and payphones / other people's landlines whilst abroad. You make the biggest savings when calling from cell phones in your home country.
I hope I haven't bored you too much and that now you know what to look out for.
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