Don’t Waste Your Money: Calling cards

Many people in the military rely on prepaid phone cards to stay connected with family and friends overseas.

They look like a cheap way to make international calls. But a Consumer
Reports investigation finds it’s buyer beware.

Consumer Reports analyzed more than 130 prepaid phone cards, most costing $2 to
$5. Consumer Reports found lots of problems. Three-quarters of the cards didn’t have
information telling you how much it cost to make a call. You usually never found out until
you were on the phone.

And Consumer Reports found the amount of calling time varies tremendously. For
example, one $2 card gave 200 minutes to call Mexico City. Another $2 card gave only
5 minutes.

The cards also can have lots of fees, including a fee for connecting or disconnecting
or calling on a cell phone or calling from a pay phone. There can even be a daily
maintenance fee.

The fees can really eat into the value of the cards. Several were completely drained
before Consumer Reports ever made an international call. In some cases, Consumer
Reports was able to get the fees reversed, but only after calling customer service.

Consumer Reports says that if you frequently make calls overseas, there are better
alternatives. You can use Skype on your computer or smart phone to call overseas
for modest rates, which are clearly spelled out on Skype’s website. And if you and the
person you are calling both use Internet service, the call can be free.

Another option for people who regularly call overseas is to use an international calling
plan through your cell-phone or landline provider. For a small monthly fee you can get
calls for pennies per minute. And unlike many prepaid phone cards, the charges are
clearly spelled out.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances,
cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.
Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.

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