Hidden fees in phone cards

CHOICE uncovers the hidden traps with international prepaid phone cards and what their blaring posters don’t tell you.
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02.What to look for

Ask your phonecard vendor for a brochure outlining fees and charges You can also check and compare rates and fees on the card company’s website or visit the websites of the various online card distributors. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Local access numbers versus 1300 and 1800 numbers Make sure the phone cards have local access numbers so you do not have to make interstate calls, or worse, use the 1300 or 1800 numbers that incur a phone card surcharge of up to 20c per minute.
  • Incremental billing Some phone cards round off each call to the nearest five minutes, even if you only speak for two. It may also bill additional time on top of your call duration, diminishing credits you never actually used.
  • Connection/disconnection fees Although a card may claim to have no connection fee, it may load a “surcharge” after the call is connected or charge a disconnection fee.
  • Service/account fees that are charged on some cards begin from the day you activate the card — you may be charged even when you’re not using the card to
    make calls.
  • Fixed line versus mobile line calling rates The calling rates advertised may not reflect higher rates for calling an overseas mobile phone.
  • Peak and off-peak time Similarly, the advertisements may only show you the rate for making calls during off-peak times, such as between 2am and 6am.
  • Expiry dates Most cards have an expiry date between three and six months from first use.

Avoid extra charges

To avoid buying a shonky prepaid phone card, ask your vendor for the latest phone card brochures and carefully check that the calling rates, extra fees and terms and conditions are current. Shop around online or at a few vendors, as they may offer discounts for the cards. A prepaid phone card with a $50 value may be sold for $38.50 online by a phone card distributor, or $40 by one vendor and $50 by another.


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