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Calling Cards & Collect Calls

Have you ever used your calling card or taken a collect call only to be surprised by expensive charges on your phone bill? This may be because of a fee charged by Operator Service Providers, which are companies that specialize in operator assisted calls and charge rates much higher than the more familiar long distance companies even if you use another company’s calling card. However, even if you’re able to use your preferred long distance service, you may still pay steep charges for calling cards and collect calls.

 
Pre-paid calling cards may be a cheaper alternative to using a calling card that bills to your home or business telephone. These cards are usually sold in dollar amounts or by number of minutes and come with a toll-free access number and a personal identification number (PIN) printed on them. To make a phone call, you dial the access number, enter the PIN, and then dial the phone number you are trying to call when prompted.
 
To get a pre-paid calling card that’s a good deal, watch out for:
 
  • Monthly or weekly charges. Some cards deduct minutes on a weekly or monthly basis from the date of activation. If you purchase a one-cent per minute card that imposes a $1.50 per month charge, that means you lose 150 minutes as soon as you activate the card.
 
  • Per-use charges. Many cards impose a charge for every call placed. If you use a card to make one or two long calls, this may not be significant; however, if you make many short calls, your time will disappear quickly.
 
  • Expiration date. Many cards are valid for a limited period of time. It is important that you be aware of any time limits on cards you purchase. Do not purchase a card for more minutes than you expect to use during the period the card will be valid.
 
  • Higher rates and less minutes for in-state and international calls. Some cards charge 5 times as much per minute, or more, for in-state calls, and different rates for international calls. Look at the fine print about rates and “minutes” offered on the card.
 
Tips:
 
  • Check to see if you recognize the name of the company offering the card. Some card issuers go out of business, leaving people with useless cards. Ask your friends and family to recommend cards they have used and liked.
 
  • Purchase cards at stores you frequent in case you have a problem with the card. If you buy a card while traveling, note the name and address of the store where you bought it in case you have a complaint later.
 
  • Read information posted where you buy the card and on the packaging, including any fine print.
 
  • Note that most cards cost extra when used at a payphone. This is something you should be aware of but is not necessarily a sign that the card is questionable.
 
  • Before you place a calling card call or accept a collect call, ask what the charges will be.    
 
  • Check with your long distance company periodically about your calling card rates because these rates change often.
 
  • Use a long distance carrier you’re familiar with whenever possible. The rates may be high but it will almost always cost you less than what an Operator Service Provider would charge.
 
  • Keep your collect and calling card calls short. Consider using pre-paid calling cards when you travel, or use a cell phone if you have one (but remember to check roaming and long distance rates with your cell phone carrier).
 
  • Also be careful when surfing the Web. Beware of Internet sites and links that automatically dial overseas numbers when you click on them. If charges appear on your phone bill for calls you didn’t make on purpose, contact the company to dispute the charge.
 
We Can Help

If you have a complaint about expensive collect or calling card calls, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.