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How to choose the best calling card

Using calling cards can help to set limits and keep track on your spending when making international calls, as well as being usable from pretty much anywhere where there is access to a phone. Unfortunately though, many users have had their fingers burnt, with a variety of scams, hidden costs and extra charges forcing prices up and available minutes down.   Finding a reliable calling card provider can therefore be something of a challenge.  

International Calling Cards Overview

According to recent statistics, approximately 6.2 billion international calls are made per year - totalling a staggering 490 billion minutes! International calling cards are credited with nearly half of this amount, with an increased use of calling cards since 2008 to call countries such as Mexico, India, and Pakistan, presumably as emigrants spread and look to call home to stay in touch.

Using an international calling card is straightforward enough - you dial the card number, enter your PIN, then dial the exit code for the country you are calling from, the country code for the country you are placing the call to, and then the digits for the individual phone number you are attempting to reach. Okay, so not that straightforward! In fact, this is one of the issues we’ll come to later, where smartphone apps provide a more user-friendly experience.

Charges for international calling cards range from a few cents per minute to a few dollars, depending on the rates per minute for each country the card can be used to call. However, there are a few things you should check in the fine print before making your decision.

International Calling Card Hidden Fees and Charges

Some cards have different international rates depending on the time of day you are making the call. This means you’ll need to schedule your calls for non-peak hours for the best rate, which is not always convenient.

Many cards mandate ‘rounding’- meaning each call is rounded up to the nearest three or five minute increment. This could mean you end up paying for five minutes even if you only talk for 45 seconds. A reliable international calling card will only have minute rounding - and will also promise not to charge you for calls that don’t connect.  Unfortunately though, the market is rife with unreliable service providers and unless you browse the small print it can be tough to know beforehand.

Other hidden fees to beware of are start fees, call termination fees, service fees and daily or monthly fees that can reduce your balance without you even using the card.

Choosing a Reliable International Calling Card

The best international calling cards are ones that give you a good rate for the country you plan on calling, which don’t have hidden fees ort charges, and which will allow you to make calls at any time of day at your own convenience.

You can find reliable calling cards at some phone carrier stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, and even online. Your regular home or mobile phone carrier may also offer you a “calling card” option.  Just be sure to check the small print – a web search on calling card reviews can be really helpful to try and filter out the phony providers.

An Alternative to International Calling Cards

As with many smartphone and tablet users, if you decide that international calling cards are simply too much trouble, there are plenty of online and ‘App’ services at hand.  Viber, Skype, Tango and Rebtel all provide high quality and cheap rates for long distance calls and a more transparent and user-friendly service experience.  Simply put, they are more modern.

Rebtel even have a ‘local phone numbers’ functionality to their service where each of your international contacts is assigned a local number, meaning you can call them at the rate of a local phone call.  With features like this rife in the online ‘App’ market, it’s no wonder that the potentially volatile market for calling cards is on the wane, with endless users choosing to take control of their international calling habits.

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If you have a smartphone, you can also download our iPhone and Android apps to call cheap to your loved ones.