Consumer Reports' investigation of prepaid phone cards finds that there are a lot of fees that eat away at a card's value. There are call-connection and call-completion fees. There can even be fees that are charged daily, monthly, or weekly whether you use your card or not. And all the cards Consumer Reports looked at charge a per-call fee if you use a pay phone, some as high as a dollar.
There are also huge differences when it comes to rates. For calls to Mexico, you can pay as little as 1 cent a minute or as much as 32 cents. Rates for calls to Guatemala range from 6 cents to 54 cents a minute!
Consumer Reports says that the best way to protect yourself is to look at the terms and conditions very carefully. But that can be difficult in a store, where cards are often behind the counter.
Consumer Reports says it's far better to shop online, where it's easier to get information and you'll find a greater selection. Try independent sites, such as ZapTel, and the major phone companies.
And look for a card that's rechargeable. But watch out because some of the rechargeable cards charge a fee as well.
Consumer Reports says Pingo is a good choice for prepaid calling. It offers good rates and a low pay-phone fee and doesn't charge an extra fee for recharging.
Before buying a prepaid card, Consumer Reports says, check with your landline or cell-phone company to see whether it offers an affordable international plan. Also consider Skype, an Internet-based phone service. The caller needs a computer, but the person you're calling does not, and the international rates can be very inexpensive.
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