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How to buy a calling card abroad: A simple guide for students

Things you should consider before buying an international calling cards.

Phone cards are notorious for having variable and inconsistent expiration dates. Look out for cards with hidden clauses that limit your talk time. Get a card that gives you a fair amount of talk time.

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You wouldn’t think it, but purchasing an international calling card can be a complicated task.  It’s not as simple as, say, buying additional minutes for a prepaid phone plan or credits for your favorite video game console. The reason for the complication?  Since there are so many phone cards on the market, each one seems comes with its own set of terms and conditions.  On top of that, phone cards are a hotbed for confusing and deceptive practices, and in some cases, outright fraud. As an international student, you’ve already got enough on your mind to have to worry about something like a calling card, especially when all you want to do is make a quick (or long, you might have much to talk about!) call home.  So, where should you begin?  

Do Your Research

The internet is your friend.  Since many cards (and virtual cards) are available online both directly though providers and third party sellers, it’s fairly easy to find user reviews for those services and sellers.  The best places to find user reviews are generally the retail sites where the cards are available, such as Amazon and eBay.  You can read through the reviews and get a basic picture of the card.  You can assess the quality of the services and decide whether or not it’s the card for you.
Additionally, there are many other resources at your disposal, such as forums and message boards where you can find similar user reactions and reviews.  If you have a particular card in mind, a quick internet search of the name of the card will probably get you more than enough results to sift through and find the information you need to proceed.

Read the Fine Print

Once you’ve picked out a card or cards, physical or virtual, locate the fine print.  This can be a challenge, especially for less popular services.  Reading the fine print, which can include the terms and conditions of the card, as well as various charges associated with the card, is absolutely critical before making the commitment.  Reading the fine print may lead you to the discovery of hidden fees (though, this isn’t always the case).  

Be Aware of the Fees

Fees have a habit of hiding all over the place.  Good calling card providers make it a point to make all the fees upfront and accessible so you, plus they limit them.  Fees to be aware of include taxes, maintenance fees, connection fees, and disconnection fees.  Avoid cards with too many fees and inconsistent charges.  If you get confused by the fee schedule, if you can find one, move on.  On that same note, if the provider doesn’t make its fees readily available, they aren’t worth your business.

Know the Expiration

Phone cards are notorious for having variable and inconsistent expiration dates.  Look for cards that give you plenty of time to use the card after activation or just know when you need to use your card by so you don’t end up wasting money.

Buy Online

When you’re ready to buy, once again, turn to the internet.  When buying online, many retailers offer buyer protections.  This way, if you purchase a card you feel did not deliver the service promised, you can file a complaint and you may get your money back.  If you buy the card with a credit card, you’ll have that extra layer of protection in the event you need to make a charge back.   

Buy Cards in Small Denominations

Instead of buying one card with a larger denomination, such as $25, buy multiple smaller $5 or $10 cards.  This makes it costs easier to manage, especially when you don’t know how long your calls will be.  
Author Bio: Andrei Milosevic is an international student, traveler, and writer.  Over the past few years, he has been studying international business and providing advice and insight into international calls. In his free time he kayaks and Skypes with his best friend back home in Serbia.
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