Today we are fortunate enough to have so many options available in terms of talking to friends and family overseas with many of those options being free.
The internet has made it possible to communicate both with voice and video using just an internet connection which is perfect if you and the people you are talking to have a fully developed internet infrastructure in place.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with the majority of countries around the world, trying to complete a video call to a developing nation is challenging at best, since developing countries tend to experience weak internet connections as well as power outages all adding up to a frustrating experience.
Introducing phone cards
Even during this time of technological advancement, you would expect an ancient technology like the humble phone card fall to the way side.
Not only do phone cards still exist but they are still heavily used for a few reasons:
- The elderly generation who grew up with phones are not willing to make the switch to internet technology.
- As we mentioned earlier, even if a country has poor internet coverage, they still have well developed phone technology.
- Phone cards are incredibly cheap helping customer achieve savings upwards of 80%+ on their calls depending on where they are calling.
- They are simple to use. Simply dial the access code, enter your PIN then finally call the person you wish to speak to.
But, there are some things you need to know when using phone cards because in any industry where they’re offering the “cheapest” prices there are always hidden costs somewhere.
In fact, recently I found a study conducted by a consumer watch group in Australia that discovered some interesting findings regarding how some of the phone card industry operates and I thought I’d give my take on each one since I have purchased a lot of these things during my travels.
Let’s get started!
1. Only 28% of phone cards had any sort of in-store information about rates, terms and conditions
“Most customers just look at the per-minute rate, this is a mistake, phone card companies know this and use sleight of hand to trick them into buying phone cards that end up being the most expensive.” JT, nzphonecards.co.nz
As simple as phone cards are in terms of operation, actually purchasing them needs a lot more consideration.
This is because there are a few phone card companies that use less than ideal business practices which catch a lot of customers off guard.
While most customers will typically focus on which card is the cheapest this is how sneaky phone card companies trap them into buying the most expensive call rates.
Things to keep in mind when purchasing a phone card are:
- Per minute rate
- Call rounding – this is how often you are charged, few phone cards actually charge every minute on the minute, most phone cards will charge you every 3-4 minutes, some even up to 15 minutes.
- Connection or disconnection fees – this is a fee that is charged upon successful connection of a call.
- Service fees – these are junk fees that are charged to the customer whether you are using your phone card or not. These are charged daily, weekly or monthly.
On top of that you want to know what happens if you experience a technical issue which can happen. Will you get a refund or will the phone card provider be able to resolve that issue and also how long will it take?
As you can see it would be tough to fit all of this information onto a single phone card, and often times the retailer will not know the answers to most of these questions, which we’ll get into next…
2. 94% of salespeople couldn’t give the customer any information about calling rates for their phone cards
Over the years I’ve purchased countless phone cards and I can tell you that most retailers will not have the answers to even the most simple questions.
Typically what will happen is you will ask a question to the retailer and they will then start picking up and reading the information on the phone cards – something you can obviously do yourself.
Basically if the information you are after is not on the phone card then you are likely not going to be able to rely on the phone card retailer to help you.
My advice is to purchase from a specialist phone card store or from an online phone card provider where you can see the rates, read the FAQ and terms and conditions and also call up the customer service team.
3. 9% of the phone cards purchased had poor call quality
Over the years I’ve had more than my fair share of tech headaches and is why understanding exactly how fast it is going to take to resolve such issues is vitally important.
These days I experience very few issues because I know what to look for and have my phone card retailers saved for when I travel next.
The best piece of advice I can give to people who are looking to purchase a phone card is to make sure that the phonecard company has a responsive customer service team on hand.
This is by far the most essential must have for me, if they do not have a customer service team and move on, it is that important.
Why? If they have a customer support team you can ask them questions that will save you a lot of potential headaches in the future.
Questions you need to ask them are:
- I’m calling to [COUNTRY] which phone card would you recommend?
- What are the hidden fees? Are their service charges? Does this phonecard have connection fees?
- Does this card charge by the minute or does it charge by block time (i.e. charges you every 3 minutes)
- How long does it take for you to resolve technical issues? (connection issues, call drops, cross-lines, poor audio, etc.)