WGN-TV Show Notes — December 19, 2002

In the past five years, prepaid phone cards have gone from a niche business to one generating $3 billion in sales and the cost of making a call with one of these cards has plummeted.

If you’ve taken a close look at your recent long-distance phone bill, you may have noticed the rate has gone up. But if you use a prepaid phone card, you’ll spend as little as 3 cents a minute for long-distance calls and not much more than that when you call overseas. But finding a clean card, with decent rates and no fees are rare.

Prepaid phone cards are calling cards you pay for in advance. You can either spend a flat amount of money, say $15 or $25, or you can purchase a certain amount of long-distance minutes.

The best and cheapest prepaid cards are available from Sam’s Club, Costco and a handful of internet sites including www.dialpad.com, www.bigzoo.com and www.idt.net.

These cards allow you to make long-distance and international calls for as little as two and a half cents a minute or just 75 cents for a half hour call.

The best prepaid phone card deals have no connection or other hidden fees, offer an automatic recharge option, feature US rates of less than 4 cents per minute, low international rates and round up your calls to the next minute.

But be aware of phone card gotchas, including the FCC-mandated 24 cents a minute surcharge if you use your card from a public phone. Also, some hotels block prepaid card access numbers and some companies will subtract expensive connection fees from the amount on your card. If you lose your card, you lose your minutes, so keep it safe and don’t use your card to call directory assistance, it’ll cost you more than a buck a minute.

For Canada as low as 3.9 cents per minute. 4.4 cents per minute if you’re calling or traveling overseas, a prepaid phone card is the way to go. We found rates as low as 3.9 cents a minute to Canada and 4.4 cents a minute to call to France. And just 6.9 cents to Mexico City. It all sounds great, just make sure you dialing for cents and not dollars.

One of the nice things about giving a pre-paid phone card as a holiday gift is that it helps people stay within their budgets. And at this time of year, staying on budget will help you avoid that awful New Year’s credit card hangover.

Other resources



To file a complaint about a prepaid phone card go to: www.fcc.gov

The FCC’s Top 10 Telecom Tips

Dec. 19, 2002.