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Tips to avoid problems with prepaid calling cards

There have been persistent problems with prepaid calling cards, so the Federal Communications Commission and Consumer Reports offer the following tips to those who purchase them:

  • Make sure you understand the instructions on how to use the card.
  • Make sure you understand the rates for your particular phone card.
  • Read the fine print to understand any conditions or limitations on the card.
  • Check if the advertised minutes of the card apply only to a single call or can be used to make multiple calls.
  • Check the expiration date to avoid losing unused minutes. Buy cards when you plan to use them — and don’t buy too many at once.
  • Look for a toll-free customer service number provided with or on the card.
  • Ask your friends and family to recommend cards they have used and liked.
  • Consider Internet-based services such as Skype and other alternative services to phone cards, especially if you make a lot of international calls.
  • Consider cards that advertise good rates to the one country or region you usually call, though those cards sometimes charge higher rates to other parts of the world.

Officials recommend these actions if you suspect that something is wrong with your prepaid phone card:

  • First, contact the card issuer (a number is usually listed on the back of the card).
  • If that doesn’t work, call the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); or file a complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322) voice or 888-TELL-FCC (888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 866-418-0232; filing it online at FCC online form; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

What’s up next?

In Credit Scores and Reports

FCC: Prepaid calling cards remain ‘a trap’

PINs that don't work, murky fees, short fuse expiration dates and higher-than-advertised rates are among the prepaid calling cards' continuing flaws, says the federal agency

Published: May 11, 2012

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