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International Phone Cards


With the advent of VOIPs and mobile phones, calling cards are becoming less and less important for international communication. In fact, many of the VOIP providers offer virtual “access numbers,” which are the functional equivalent to calling cards. However, traditional calling cards are still available and can come in handy for some situations.

In the case of an emergency, calling cards can be a good backup option if data networks are down or if you’re only able to find landlines. They can be used from any type of phone, and calling card rates may be lower than VOIP or SIM rates for some countries. If you’re on a mobile plan that doesn’t offer data, or a plan in which minutes are cheaper than data, using a calling card using your minutes will save you money over VOIP.

How does it work?

Traditional calling cards look like credit cards, which makes them convenient to carry in a wallet. They come with a certain amount of credit preloaded. The card contains an access number, or sometimes multiple numbers for multiple countries. This number can be called locally at no charge. Once you are connected to the operator, you follow the instructions, which may include keying in a PIN number (also found on the card), and then finally dialing the international number you want to call.

Where to buy?

Calling cards can be found in a number of places such as:

  • Kiosks and convenience stores, especially overseas
  • Online retailers
  • Big box retailers such as Walmart in the US
  • Through your current long-distance provider
  • The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) provides a calling card specifically for international students.

What to keep in mind

Although calling cards are still a convenient and cheap way to communicate across borders, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing and using one.

  • Some calling cards contain loads of hidden fees. Read the fine print carefully to avoid this.
  • Many cards use “3-minute rounding” which means that if you talk for 4 minutes, you will be charged for 6.
  • Some calling cards have an expiration date.
  • Some calling cards charge different rates for calls made at different times of day.
  • Make sure that the access number is one that you can actually use for free or at local rates.

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