New User’s Guide – part 3

CONTENTS

 

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What should I know before buying a prepaid calling card?

  • What is the per-minute rate for calls within the U.S.?
  • What is the per-minute rate for calls to my international destination?
  • What is the average length of my calls in minutes?
  • How many calls do I make in a week? In a month?
  • Are the rates the same 24 hours a day?
  • Is there a higher rate for the first minute than subsequent minutes?
  • Will I be charged for calls that are not completed?
  • Are there any connection fees or surcharges?
  • Are there any monthly/weekly maintenance fees?
  • What are the billing increments or call rounding minutes?
  • Is there a connection fee for international calls? If so, how much?
  • Can I place multiple calls without redialing the PIN?
  • Will I be notified when one minute is remaining?
  • Can I reach a customer service operator 24 hours a day?
  • When does the card expire?

How can I find the right telephone card?

The way you expect to use your card can help determine which type of phone card will be best suited for you. Users who place many short calls will want to look for a card that has no connection fees, while those who make fewer, but longer, calls will want to look for lower per-minute rates and possibly take on a connection fee. Additionally, the fees and expiration dates on a card should be considered when thinking through how quickly you will use up your balance. A card that has a weekly service fee should be avoided if you plan to keep your card and use it slowly over an extended period of time. Likewise, if you plan to keep it and use it over time, you should make sure that the expiration date is long enough for you to be able to use your entire balance.

Can phone card companies trick me?

Unfortunately, there are a few companies out there who only care about taking your money. Please be careful about the following tricks.

1) Do NOT provide full disclosure of information.

The company does not provide a full disclosure of information. The company should have clearly indicated all the information associated with the phone card to the customer. They should also answer any customer questions truthfully before purchase.

2) Hidden fees.

Some phone cards that have very low rates often compensate by charging one of the following “hidden fees.”

1) Connection fees.

Connection fees are surcharges added to your card EACH TIME you make a phone call. Cards with extremely low rates usually have connection fees. For example, a card may charge 1¢ a minute to Canada but have a $1 connection fee. That’s 100 minutes lost each time you call Canada!

2) Maintenance/Service fees.

Maintenance/service fees are surcharges added weekly, biweekly, or monthly to your phone card. These charges are there to help cover the cost of maintaining the telephone network for the phone card. A few phone cards have these fees.

3) Taxes.

Some phone cards pass any tax costs on to the customer. There are several applicable state and federal taxes associated with phone cards. For example: Federal Excise Taxes, California Communication Service Tax, FCC Tax, Sales Taxes, Carrier Universal Service Tax, Carrier Property Tax, State Gross Receipts Surcharge, Universal Lifeline Surcharge, Local Communication Tax, California High cost Fund Surcharge B, and the surcharge for State 911.

4) Rate surcharges.

Rate surcharges are extra fees charged when making a phone call from or to: 1) Cell/Mobile phones 2) Payphones 3) Campus phones 4) Hotel phones 5) Minute rounding. Most phone cards bill in what is called “1 minute rounding.” This means that your phone call is charge to the next minute. For example, a 3.6 minute phone call is charged as a 4 minute phone call. However, some phone cards charge in 2 minute rounding, 3 minute rounding, or even 4 minute rounding! For example, in 3 minute rounding, a 1 minute call is charge as a 3 minute call! You have lost 2 minutes! Always double check the minute rounding for a card.

3) Bankruptcies/stealing money.

Always make sure that the company you are doing business with is honest, stable, and reputable. Some phone card retailers go bankrupt or disappear with customers’ money. In these cases, the customer’s phone card becomes worthless.

4) No delivery of pin number.

With the exception of the first time order verification process, you should always receive your pin number in a timely fashion. If you do not receive your pin number in a reasonable amount of time, then you should contact customer service to get your pin number. Any lengthy delays or non-deliver of a pin number is possible fraud.

5) Short expiration date.

Watch out for cards that have a very short expiration date. Some cards have very low rates but expire within just a few days.

6) Automatic recharges on credit card.

Some phone card companies cheat their customers by automatically charging customers for a new phone card when there old one runs out. Never buy a phone card from a company that does this. You should always make the purchases yourself.

Phone Card Definitions / Glossary

Billing Increments / Call Rounding

Indicates how the actual length of a phone call is translated into billed time. Companies typically bill a minimum of 1 minute per call, and round calls up to the nearest minute. Some cards have 3 minute rounding – this means that the call will be rounded to the nearest number divisible by 3. For example, a 10 minute call will be charged as 12 minutes.

Multiple Calling Option

A feature on some calling cards that allows the user to make successive calls without redialing the access number and account billing information. With multiple calling, a user simply hits the disconnect button or pound (#) key twice to make the next call.

Connection Fee

A fee charged on every call that is made.

Country Code and City Code

Two or three digit codes used for International calls outside of the North American Numbering Plan area codes. For example, a phone card dialing instructions may say the following: Dial 011 + country code + city code + local phone number. You would then enter 011 + 91 + 22 + 123- 4567 where 91 = India, 22 = Bombay)

Payphone

A public (or private) telephone that requires coins or encoded credit cards to initiate a call.

Payphone Fee

Additional charge per call if if call is made using a payphone, normally collected for the owner of the payphone. When a person uses a prepaid phone card, although the access number is generally toll free, a fee is still charged which reduces the balance of the phone card. This is mandated by the government to compensate payphone owners for the use of their phone.

Personal Identification Number (PIN)

Personal unique security codes that callers use to access their phone card balance.

Rechargeable Phone Card

A phone card which can be refilled with calling minutes by the addition of funds to the phone card account. This allows continued use without the purchase of a new card or a new PIN.