Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Truth on Calling Card Fees

I've been seeing a lot of complaints online about calling card fees recently (none of them addressed to us), and I thought I'd give a quick primer about all of the fees associated with calling cards. Some of them are mandatory and some of them are at the provider's discretion, but all of them should be disclosed to you before you purchase a card. At, we provide an honest list of all taxes and fees along on every card's profile page so that you can make an informed decision.

Remember that all of these fees vary from card to card, and not all cards will carry all of these fees.

Connection Fee
Charged every single time you connect, whether you talk for an hour or hang up after hearing 1/2 second of a voicemail message. Varies widely, from about 25¢ to $1. This is a big one to look for if you'll be using the card more than once! If you have a $10 card and make 3 calls on it, remember that your card's value decreases to $7-$9.75.

Maintenance Fee
A fee that's charged for keeping your card active in the computer system, to maintain phone lines and equipment, etc. This fee might be charged weekly, daily, or monthly, so keep your eye out. The maintenance fee is usually charged the first time that you make a call, and afterward at its specified interval. If you have a $10 card that you keep for a month after its first use, you could lose up to $2-@4 in maintenance fees.

You'll be paying some, whether they're built into your rate or you're told about them upfront. There's not a lot you can do about taxes, but they're good to keep in mind - a $10 card with 10% tax is actually worth only $9.

Payphone Surcharge
This is just another fact of calling cards - you have to pay extra to use them with payphones. Take that up with the FCC or your local Commerce Commission. In the meantime, know that you'll be paying between 25¢ and $1 every time you make a call from a payphone.

Don't forget to check your billing increment (how the call is rounded, whether the rounding unit is 1 second, 1 minute, 3 minutes, etc. - a 1 minute call could cost 3 minutes if you're not careful) and the card's expiration date as well. Access numbers are important, too - some cards have a different rate for toll-free numbers than for local ones.

Your best bet is to read carefully and educate yourself before you buy a calling card. There are some great deals out there, but there are some money sinkholes, too - make sure you know which one you're buying! If the company you're purchasing from doesn't mention each of the points above for the card you want, don't buy it - you don't want to find out once it's too late.

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