Long Distance Calling Cards: I am Incredibly Ignorant

I was only vaguely aware that long distance calling cards even existed.

Tonight, though, at my wife’s suggestion, I looked up calling cards through google, and this was the first link that came up:


Ummm… holy crap? I pay 5 cents a minute through my present company, and I thought I was getting a good deal.

Is there a catch here?

Well, first question should be, is the site linked to totally legitimate? I imagine it is, but does anyone know otherwise?

Second question is: Am I right to think if I just canceled my long distance service and bought a bunch of “Mobile Caller” cards (the second on the list) I’d see a serious, substantial (like, over 50%) reduction in my long distance bill?

This sounds too good to be true. Why doesn’t everyone do this? What’s the catch?



I clicked on the “Mobile Caller” link and see that for the 1.5 cent card, there’s a 69 cent “weekly fee.” Not sure how a “weekly fee” would work in the context of the use of a calling card, but anyway.

so this adds up to, basically, a $3.00 monthly fee, minutes charged at 1.5 cents per, rouded up to the nearest third minute. We probably make a long distance call three or four times a week, so say I get charged four round-ups per week, or aroud 18 per month. Worst case, that’s a charge for 36 extra minutes a month, or in other words 54 cents per month. So make that a $4.00 monthly fee, roughly.

So, $4.00 monthly fee, minutes charged at 1.5 cent per.

My present plan is a $5.00 monthly fee, calls charged at 5 cents a minute.

My usual bill of around 35 dollars would become around a 13 dollar expenditure per month.

Sounds like a no brainer.

So again, I ask, is this too good to be true? Am I missing something?


A heads up


One thing about calling cards is they are kind of a pain in the ass. You have to dial several numbers, listen to prompts, etc, and if you screw up you have to start over. You might want to look into VOIP services, though. I think there are several out there that offer unlimted long distance for about $20/ month. We use one to call the 'States (6c min, rounded to the nearest minute, plus $4.00 month flat charge. Love it.

Full Specs on the card you referenced . The 17% “taxes” is the catch. It’s a bundled service fee by any other name. Other cards “taxes” range from 0 to 5% .

Mobile USA offers the maximum minutes for people calling domestically. With a low 3 minute billing increment, and no connection fees, this plan is great for users who make long calls to destinations within the US.

Rounding : 3 - minute
Connection Fee : None
Maintenance Fee : 69¢ weekly
Payphone Surcharge : 79 ¢
Taxes : 17% added to each call
Expiration : None (Lifetime Minutes)
Rechargeable : Yes

Works from Canada : Yes
Works from Hawaii : Yes
Works from Alaska : No
International Access : View Access Numbers
U.S Domestic Rate : 1.5¢

If you don’t make many long distance calls, calling cards are nice. I was being charged $5.00 or $6.00 a month even if I didn’t make a long distance call. Dialing the extra numbers is a bit bothersome.

If you check your bill, you might also find that you are being charged for “inside wire maintence” or something like that. My company charge $5.00 per month. If something goes wrong with your phone, and they need to rewire inside your house they do it for free. If not, it is a $50.00 per hour charge. I don’t know a single person who has ever had to have inside phone lines replaced. Do you? That’s $60.00 a year for pretty much nothing.

Then there was the $1.00 charge to maintain some calling card they said they had sent me.

Astro gives great advice on what to look for. You could save enough each month to go out for lunch, and feel smug about being froogle!

[pedant] Frugal. [/pedant]

I use a UCN Diamond Orange card. The rate’s about a penny a minute.

Huh… where’d you see that tax?


Never mind, I found it!

Pretttty sneaky.

Still–Thirteen dollars plus 17 percent is less than $15.60. Still way cheaper than my current long distance costs.


Where do you get the 0%-5% figure? Going down the list, I’m finding the “taxes” to be from 10 to 15 percent in general.


I had some more expensive (per min) cards from another website up, and that seemed to be the range for those cards. You are correct that the range for the cards on your linked site is 10-15% so 17% is not out of bounds or the group of cards you are considering. HAving said this I’m not sure that the website blurb is giving all the hidden fees. You may want to read any final agreements carefully for any gotchas.

Of course. :slight_smile:

Thanks for all your help!

(Where did you find the more expensive per min/cheaper “tax” cards? I want to do the math to see which is the better deal.


I use prepaid calling cards purchased from places like Costco. I’ve got some ATT and MCI ones here. The cheapest ones are less than 1.5 cents per minute, with no maintenance fee and a 65 cent payphone surcharge (which used to be less than 25 cents). They are also rechargeable via credit card.

My wife received a $100 VISA gift card from her best friend last Christmas. It took her a while to spend down that card and she kept recepits of everything. Yet, when she went online to the card site to check her balance remaining, it was always off.

She eventually found the fine print - not only did her best friend buy the gift card for her and pay an additional service charge (something that makes sense or how could the gift card company stay in business) but they also charge the user of the card 25 cents every time the card was used, regardless of the transacation amount! So the $100 gift card was really worth $99.75 if she had used the card up with one transaction, $99.50 if it took her two transactions, etc. Since my wife used the card for small things she liked but would never really buy for herself, she ended up paying something like two or three dollars in transaction fees. Sure, it’s nothing to get your knickers in a knot, but the fact remains when she received the card, there was nothing on the reverse of the card indicating a transaction user fee, nor did the web site say it either, unless one decided to really spend time to find the hidden link to the hidden web page.

My wife contacted the company to complain (not so much about the user fee – which was deplorable at best – but the deliberate design of the web site so as to hide the very fact a user fee was being charged) but the response was the typical tough shit, take it or leave it response.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She emailed several hundred of her friends and posted her disgust to a couple of web sites she frequents. The gift card company won’t go broke as a result, but it lost quite a few potential customers.


The calling cards found online can be pretty scammy, but the cards you find on sale at the checkout at most stores are fairly upfront. At least they were when I was a teen in the 90’s and used them a lot.

Be careful about cancelling LD service with your carrier, though. When I was signing up for my phone service last year with Alltel, I considered not getting LD service (I have the choice of any carrier) the rep told me that if I didn’t have long distance service, I’d still be able to call long distance on my phone - there’s no magic switch to turn it off. And charges would be very very high. I figured I couldn’t trust myself to remember to use my cell phone for all LD calls, or get a card, so I opted for their LD plan.

So if you’re planning on getting rid of your LD service you might want to check with your carrier as to what charges you’d incur if you do call long distance on your line w/o using your card.

I’ve used these folks for a couple years now and I LOVE 'em. 2.5 cents/minute, no hidden fees (at least from the office). I buy 10 bucks worth every six months and have never had to recharge it early. Best of all, you can put your pin on speed dial, then just dial your number as you normally would.


Hey, that sounds inviting. Doing the math, this comes out even cheaper than that “Mobile Caller” card referenced above.

Can you promise me, though, that the amount you pay is exactly equal to the number of minutes you used multiplied by 2.5? (Rounded up to the nearest minute.) You’re sure there’s no “tax” or anything?

Also, do you know where on the site I can find a list of local access numbers? After ten minutes of looking, I’ve missed it somehow.


Geez, I ain’t promising anything! Pretty much anything I could swear to is what I’ve mentioned. I can tell you though that everyone that I’ve ever turned on to the place has been tickled pink with them.

I don’t know where you’d find a list of local access numbers, but if they have one here in nowhere, Idaho, I imagine they are pretty universal. Give their customer service a call and find out.

I’m assuming you’re talking for US domestic use?

Cause for overseas, they rock. I was saving 10 cents a min or so, and even with connection fees and all that I could call 6 hours to Australia for 10 dollars or so, and it was $200+ on the cheapest regular long distance service I could find.

FWIW, I did use callingcards.com which the OP quotes, and I had no difficulties with them whatsoever, and would wholeheartedly recommend them.


I don’t have long distance at home so I use a calling card, the phone number and code number of which is programmed into my presets. I pay about 5 cents a minute, with a $3 charge for refilling the card over the phone.

The crappy part is pay phones. It works fine there but the surcharge for using one is 30 units!! It started out at nine and rapidly increased to the current 30.