March 8, 2014
Discount Long Distance Phone Rates And Phone Fees Comparison
Avoid PRE-Paid Phone/Calling Card Scams|
(can also apply to pre-paid long distance providers)
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The pre-paid phone card industry has grown tremendously in the past several years. These cards can be purchased in airports, grocery stores, gas stations, and even our National Parks. For a set price, you get a fixed number of domestic long distance minutes or a credit to be used based on the rates and fees for the place you are calling. As numerous companies (big and small / familiar and not) have begun marketing pre-paid cards, some consumer problems are surfacing. While some pre-paid cards are perfectly legitimate, there are unfortunately many that generate complaints.
Things to watch for with pre-paid phone cards
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The most common consumer complaints are:
- hidden connection charges, taxes and surcharges on cards that claim to have "no fees"
- large billing increments so that calls get rounded to the "nearest 5 minutes" or so
- monthly service fees being deducted automatically from your balance each month
- being charged at a rate higher than advertised
- access numbers or PIN codes that do not work
- toll-free access numbers that are constantly busy, preventing use of the card
- customer service numbers that are constantly busy or simply do not work
- card issuers that go out of business, leaving card-holders with a useless card and no way to recover the money spent
- cards that debit minutes or units for the entire time you access their toll free number, even when you are listening to ringing, busy signals, or
do not connect to the called party
- poor quality connections
You can avoid many of these problems by
- Consider getting a "billed card" that you do not have to prepay.
A comprehensive comparison is available by clicking here
- Ask about satisfaction guarantees
- Check rates carefully - besides the advertised rate. Pay particular attention to extra connection surcharges, call completion rules, USF fees, time restrictions, and distance restrictions.
- Check other surcharges. Many pre-paid cards charge a first minute penalty, minimum call lengths, large payphone fees, monthly service fee, a recharging fee, or set expiration dates which you have to pay to extend to save unused time.
- Check the customer service number for the provider and verify that it works before purchasing the card
- Beware of deals that sound too good to be true - they probably are!
- Make sure the card has the full time promised by verifying that it comes in a sealed package and that the PIN is not visible.
- Ask who the underlying provider is to know which company will be carrying your calls.
- Be cautious of prepaid card providers that won't answer your basic questions in a professional manner.
- Ask trusted sources (friends, family, lawyers) if they have a card to recommend.
- Is there a tollfree (800/888/777) customer service number on the card?
- Are you charged for a call when there is no answer or when the line is busy?
- Is there a minimum charge for each call?
- Is there a monthly charge even if you don't use the card?
- Does the time purchased expire?
- Do I know the provider of the card? Are they a reliable company that will be around long enough for me to use all the time I pay for?
- Is the card really a good deal after taking all the hidden fees into account?
Check on billed calling cards as well to see if a better deal is available in a less risky way.
To see what the FCC has to say about pre-paid phone cards click here