An In-Depth Guide to Finding the Most Affordable and Reliable International Calling Card
Staying connected with friends and family abroad can be challenging and costly without the right resources. International calling cards offer a convenient and inexpensive way to make calls overseas, but with so many options on the market, how do you know which one is the best? In this guide, we will explore what exactly international calling cards are, how they can be used for discounted calls abroad, examine the key factors to consider when selecting a calling card, and ultimately provide recommendations for the best calling card for international calls in 2023. The key question we will answer is: What is the Best Calling Card for International Calls?
With calling cards ranging from well-known brands like AT&T to lesser-known providers like Callmama, it can be difficult to decipher which calling card truly offers the best value, call quality, and reliability for your specific international calling needs. By evaluating aspects such as per-minute rates, hidden fees, network coverage, and ease of use, you can determine which calling card will offer you the most affordable and consistent international calling experience. Whether you need to frequently phone family abroad or are only travelling overseas short-term, having a reliable and cost-effective calling card in your arsenal can make all the difference in staying connected.
This guide will break down the ins and outs of international calling cards to help you make an informed decision when selecting the best option for calling abroad this year and beyond.
Overview of International Calling Cards
What are calling cards, and how do they work for international calls?
An international calling card is a small card, similar to a credit card, that provides access to discounted long-distance calling services. With a calling card, users can make international calls from any phone by first dialling a local or toll-free access number, entering their card details and PIN, and then dialling the international number. The calls are billed against the balance or minutes allocated on the calling card account rather than the phone line being used.
Calling cards offer a convenient and inexpensive way to call internationally compared to options like collect calls or direct dialled calls, which can be very expensive. They work by providing access to wholesale rates that providers can offer due to the large volume of international minutes purchased across their networks. Most calling cards will advertise rates starting at as low as 1 cent per minute, though final per-minute costs will vary based on destination.
Many international calling cards are prepaid, meaning users purchase a set amount of calling credit or minutes upfront. Calls are then deducted from that balance based on factors like the destination country, time of day, and length of call. Some calling cards also have a monthly maintenance fee. Alternatively, postpaid calling cards are linked to a monthly bill, allowing you to be billed after use each month. Most postpaid cards have a monthly minimum charge.
Major international calling card providers like Pingo, Lingo, and Reliacard operate global networks that allow their cards to be used internationally. When you use their access numbers and PIN abroad, your call can be connected and billed to your account. Calling cards can be used on both landlines and mobile phones. Some also have apps that allow calls over the internet.
Overall, international calling cards offer an accessible and easy way to reduce the cost of staying in touch with friends and family worldwide. The cards provide constant global connectivity through local access numbers across 200+ countries and discounted per-minute rates.
Major Calling Card Brands and Providers
There is a wide variety of international calling card brands and providers available, ranging from globally recognized names to smaller niche operators. Some of the major calling card brands and providers include:
AT&T: AT&T offers calling cards in the US and internationally under various brands like Lark, Lucky, and Matrix. AT&T cards can be used worldwide to make calls back to the US or within foreign countries.
IDT: IDT is one of the largest calling card providers, with brands including Boss Revolution, PennyTalk, and Net2Phone. They offer competitive international rates starting at 1 cent per minute.
STi Prepaid: STi cards like Continental Call and UniTel are popular choices in the US for low-cost calling to Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Rates are as low as 2.5 cents per minute.
ViaTalk: ViaTalk is known for high-quality calling and customer service. They provide free calls between users and rates starting at 1 cent per minute internationally.
Lingo: Lingo calling cards are sold globally at retail outlets and boast crystal clear connections, with rates starting at 1.9 cents per minute.
NobelCom: NobelCom offers prepaid and postpaid options without connection fees or contracts. Calls from the US to Mexico and India for 1 cent per minute.
Pinless: Pinless calling cards provide good value on calls to Asia and Europe without needing a PIN code to make calls.
Pingo: Pingo is an international calling app and calling card rolled into one. Low international rates and no hidden fees.
Tel3: Tel3 Advantage cards offer competitive rates and enhanced call quality on calls worldwide. Contract-free and easy to get started.
This list just highlights some of the top and most recognized international calling card brands. Many smaller providers also offer great rates, so it pays to shop around.
Costs and Rates Associated with Using Calling Cards Abroad
The costs and rates of using an international calling card abroad can vary significantly based on the calling card provider, specific calling plan, destination country, time of day, and length of call. However, here are some general cost factors to consider:
- Connection fee: Many calling cards charge a connection fee each time you place a call, usually between $0.49 and $3. This covers the cost of connecting the call and is added on top of the per-minute rate.
- Per-minute rate: This is the rate you are charged for each minute you are connected on the call. International rates can range from as low as 1 cent per minute up to 10 cents per minute or more. Calling cards advertise per-minute rates starting at 1 cent, but final costs are destination-dependent.
- Time of day: Calling during non-peak hours is almost always cheaper. Weekends and nights typically have lower rates than weekday peak hours for international calls.
- Maintenance fee: Prepaid calling cards often deduct a monthly maintenance fee to keep the account open and active, around $1–3 per month. This covers account costs for the provider.
- Taxes and surcharges: Countries often add on taxes and fees for international calls originating in their country. This can range from 10% to 25% or more of your call cost.
- Currency conversion: Using a calling card abroad may require converting the balance into local currency, sometimes with conversion fees. Rates fluctuate daily.
- Hang-up fee: If your call gets dropped, some carriers charge a hang-up fee of $1–$3 to reconnect the call.
To get the best rates using an international calling card from abroad, follow tips like:
- Compare calling cards to find the lowest per-minute rate for your destination
- Call at off-peak hours to save significantly
- Purchase larger amounts of talk time upfront to get discounted bulk rates
- Avoid calling cards with hefty connection fees or hang-up fees
- See if “green card” eco-friendly calling cards are tax-free in your country
Carefully checking the fine print fees and rates for a calling card before using it abroad will ensure you don’t get stung by hidden charges. With the right card, calling rates of just 2–5 cents per minute are achievable in most countries worldwide.
Key Factors for What is the Best Calling Card for International Calls?
Selecting the best international calling card for your needs requires careful evaluation of several key factors that affect pricing, call quality, convenience, and overall value. Here are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind:
Hidden Fees and Fine Print
One of the biggest complaints with calling cards involves unexpected fees that dramatically increase the advertised low per-minute rates. Here are some common hidden fees to look out for:
- Connection fees: Ranging from $0.49 to $3 per call, these fees can quickly add up. Some cards waive the fee after using a certain number of minutes.
- Hang-up fees: If you get cut off, some carriers charge $2–$3 to reconnect the call.
- Peak hour surcharges: Calling during peak times can cost up to 4x more with obscure peak hour surcharges.
- Taxes and surcharges: New taxes and surcharges seem to appear frequently, increasing the final cost.
- Maintenance fees: Prepaid cards often deduct $1–$3 monthly as a maintenance fee if the card isn’t used.
- Rounding up: Minutes are rounded up, so a 2-minute call may be billed as a 3-minute call.
- Expiration: Unused minutes or credits may expire after 3-6 months of inactivity.
- Activation and billing fees: one-time fees to activate and bill a new account.
Always read the terms and conditions carefully to know what is and isn’t included in the advertised call rates. Transparent calling cards without lots of surprise fees deliver the best value.
Per-minute rates to Destination Countries
Pay close attention to the specific per-minute rates offered on calls to your desired international destinations. Rates can fluctuate widely, from less than 1 cent per minute up to 20 cents per minute for more exotic destinations. Calling cards focused on your target regions will offer the most competitive rates. Comparing rate charts will give you a reasonable estimate of the true per-minute cost.
Also, look for rate consistency and be wary of cards advertising single-low rates that balloon for other destinations. The best value comes from honest, flat rates in all countries. Time of day can also impact rates, so factor in when you are likely to call. Overall, look for rates under 5 cents per minute for your key destinations.
Call Quality and Reliability
No one wants echo, static, or dropped calls when phoning internationally. Prioritize call quality by assessing:
- Connection success rate: How often do calls connect on the first try without issues?
- Audio clarity: Is voice transmission clear, or is there background noise and distortion?
- Dropped calls: Does the provider have high dropped call rates, and how are redials handled?
- Network coverage: Does the calling card offer reliable coverage globally, including more rural locations?
High-quality calling cards invest in their network infrastructure, voice optimization, and call completion rates. Customer reviews can provide insights into real-world call quality from top providers. Don’t settle for subpar connections.
Ease of Use and Accessibility
Convenience is critical when selecting an international calling card. Consider how accessible and easy to use the card will be:
- Access numbers: Are local or toll-free numbers available globally so you don’t pay for a long-distance call to connect?
- Rechargability: Can you easily recharge your balance online or using a mobile app as needed?
- Speed dial: Can frequently call international numbers be saved for quick access?
- PINs: Is remembering a PIN required, or can you call anonymously?
- Apps: Does the calling card have an intuitive mobile app for enhanced ease of use?
- Online account: Can call history, usage, payments, and settings be managed online?
Opting for an international calling card that offers enhanced simplicity, flexibility, and service options will create a seamless calling experience.
Customer Service and Support
No matter how convenient or inexpensive a calling card is, poor customer service can ruin the experience. Evaluate:
- Availability: Are customer support agents always available via phone, email, live chat, social media, etc.?
- Responsiveness: Does the provider offer timely responses and issue resolution?
- Knowledge: Are service agents knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful?
- Language: Can support be provided in your preferred language?
- Account support: Can the provider assist with account management, payments, or technical issues?
- Refund policy: a reasonable refund policy for errors, outages, or account issues.
The top calling card companies provide 24/7 multilingual customer service and are known for delivering caring support. Don’t settle for hard-to-reach or unhelpful providers.
By weighing each of these key factors—fees, rates, call quality, ease of use, and customer service—you can zero in on the perfect international calling card for your unique needs and budget. With the right card, calling abroad will be convenient, reliable, and surprisingly affordable on every call.
Top Recommended International Calling Cards
Based on the buying criteria explored, here are our top recommendations for reliable, high-value international calling cards:
Callmama: Competitive Rates and Good Call Quality
Callmama is a top-rated international calling service known for ultra-low rates and excellent call quality. This calling card stands out for:
Low Rates: Callmama offers highly competitive per-minute rates starting at just 1 cent per minute. Flat rates as low as 2.9 cents per minute apply to many popular destinations like Mexico, China, India, and Western Europe.
No Hidden Fees: All fees and rates are disclosed upfront, without surprise surcharges. There is no connection fee on their “Happy Talk” plan.
Great Call Quality: Callmama utilizes premium network connections, resulting in remarkably clear call quality with minimal dropped calls.
App & Online Account: Free app and online account management make recharging, dialling, and checking usage convenient.
Good Support: Customer service agents are reachable 24/7 via phone, email, live chat, and social media.
With Callmama’s combination of transparent low rates, reliable connectivity, and convenience, it’s easy to see why this calling card earns top marks across review sites. It’s a great value option for international calling.
Crystal Clear Calls: Clear Connections and Low Fees
As the name suggests, Crystal Clear Calls delivers exceptional call clarity that makes it seem like family and friends are in the next room. Highlights include:
Amazing Call Clarity: Crystal Clear invests heavily in call quality, using modern infrastructure like VoIP technology and dedicated lines for crisp, static-free calls.
Low Rates: Competitive per-minute rates as low as 1 cent per minute to many destinations make this an affordable option.
Minutes Never Expire: Unlike most prepaid calling cards, unused minutes stay valid indefinitely, so nothing goes to waste.
Free Calls Between Users: You can call other Crystal Clear users worldwide for free, a unique money-saving feature.
Multilingual Support: Round-the-clock customer service in six languages ensures your calls go smoothly.
Crystal Clear Calls may have higher fees than some discount providers, but their superior call quality and value-added features make them a top choice for those wanting reliability and crystal-clear connections.
Smartphone Calling Apps: Convenience and Potentially Free Options
For sheer convenience, downloading an international calling app enables cheap calls from your smartphone or computer. Top options include:
Skype is a globally popular app for international calling from mobile or desktop. Cheap rates plus free Skype-to-Skype calls.
WhatsApp: Message and make free WhatsApp calls internationally on WiFi or data. Great for quick everyday calls.
Viber Out: Make low-cost calls to any number worldwide right from the Viber app. Rates to landlines and mobiles start at 1.7 cents per minute.
Google Voice is a free app that provides a virtual phone number to make inexpensive international calls from wifi or data.
PINNGO combines an international calling card with an easy-to-use mobile app. Low rates plus free calls to other users.
Smartphone calling apps provide free or cheap international call options. While voice quality can be variable, the unbeatable convenience makes them worth considering, especially for shorter everyday calls.
With outstanding call clarity, competitive rates, convenience, and value-added perks, any of these top-recommended international calling cards deliver quality and affordability. Do your calling abroad on the card that best fits your needs.
After comparing the key factors that contribute to an exceptional international calling card, one option stands out as having the best overall value: Callmama.
With rock-bottom rates starting at just 1 cent per minute, Callmama offers some of the most competitive calling rates in the industry. Unlike some discounted providers, they don’t hit users with lots of surprise fees, clearly outlining any charges, like connection fees, upfront.
Importantly, Callmama pairs these low rates with great call quality and reliability. They invest heavily in their telecommunications infrastructure and technology to achieve clear, consistent call connectivity worldwide. Dropped and disrupted calls are minimal thanks to their redundant global network.
Ease of use is also a highlight. Callmama offers local access numbers worldwide, so you don’t rack up toll charges. Their mobile app and online account management portal make recharging, dialling, and tracking usage a breeze.
Round-the-clock customer support is available to promptly troubleshoot any issues via phone, email, live chat, and social media. Users consistently praise their friendly and effective multilingual customer service team.
For budget-conscious consumers who still value excellent call quality and convenience, Callmama is a winning choice. Their transparency, low pricing, great service, and lack of surprise fees make Callmama hard to beat for overall value.
Of course, assess your specific calling needs and travel plans to select the perfect card for you. But for an all-around reliable, low-cost, and high-quality international calling experience, Callmama stands out as a top choice worth considering.