One of the most underrated yet cost effective ways to make cheap calls is by using the old fashioned calling card.

With all of the latest calling apps available why would someone bother making phone calls using a phone card?

The great thing about calling cards is that they don’t require an internet connection.

Calling cards use the good old copper lines that you use when making landline calls which makes them more accessible and reliable than their internet-based cousins.

Calling cards are typically used by travellers or people who have just moved overseas and still want to contact their family back home many of which can only be contacted through a landline making the calling card the only real option.

There are downsides that come with buying a calling card, namely, providers who have strange hidden fees to pad out their profits.

In this article you’ll learn what a calling card is, how to use one, and how to buy one without being ripped off.


How does a calling card work?

Calling cards use the copper telephone lines and can be used with any device including payphones, mobile phones, Skype etc. making them incredibly versatile tool.

Calling cards work by routing your call through what is called a Local Access Number (LAN) this essentially “fools” the big telecommunication company into thinking that you’re making a local call when in fact you’re making an international one.

For example, if you’re on a mobile plan that has unlimited minutes to local numbers then you’re only paying a few cents per minute for the calling card rates not internationally calling rates!


How to use a calling card in 3 steps:

Step 1: Dial the LAN

LAN’s are spread throughout the country you’re in so you would call the one that is closest to your location.

Step 2: Enter calling card PIN number

This is a unique number that lets you know the balance available on the phone card and is required to be keyed in on every call. That said some calling card providers will have a PIN-free dialling option which removes this step.

Step 3: Dial the overseas number

Finally, you’ll need to enter in the overseas number.

Be sure to enter the complete phone number if you’re dialling overseas which would include the exit code (different for each country) + country code + area code etc.

That’s it.


3 Pro Tips Before Buying A Calling Card


#1: Uncover hidden fees

Monthly maintenance fees: this is a small fee deducted from your account every month and positioned as ‘admin fees’.

Call termination and/or connection fees: Here you are charged to connect a call or terminating a call. This is quite a common fee and typically carries a lower cost per minute so may be perfect if your calls are longer in duration.

Carrier & surcharge fees: junk fees avoid companies that have these.

Toll number surcharge: sometimes there won’t be a LAN in your city or town in which case a toll number will be offered this is normal but you’ll want to check to understand what the additional charge per minute will be here.

Payphone Surcharge: if you don’t want to use you mobile phone and don’t have access to a landline than a payphone will be your only other option. This option will often carry slight additional charges.


Tip #2: Test their customer service

I have my own go-to companies that I use when travelling and my method was to simply call up their customer service to see:

  1. How responsive they were
  2. Ask them questions about their service

Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • Are that their calling cards rechargeable?
  • What’s the expiration date?
  • If my card expires do I lose all of my money?
  • Are there any hidden fees on their calling cards?
  • Is there a LAN for my city or town?
  • What is the best phone card for making calls to the countries you wish to call?
  • What is the cost of calling to mobiles vs landlines?
  • Can I use this phone card on my mobile phone or landline?
  • How long will it take before I can use my calling card?


Tip #3: How many carrier line providers do they use?

Carrier lines are what connect you to the person you want to call.

If the carrier line is low quality then your call is going to be low quality.

If the calling card provider has multiple carrier lines they will be able to switch out the carrier lines quickly so you can resume your call usually within half an hour.

Make sure they have at least 8 lines available.