Calling Card Per Minute Rates

The per minute rate of a calling card, phonecard, or prepaid plan is the amount charged for each minute of billed time.

Billed time is the amount of actual talk time rounded up to the next billing increment. For more on what that means, check here.

But back to per minute rates: As you shop for a card, you will find that advertised per minute rates vary widely from vendor to vendor and from card to card - like by a huge amount.

It is easy to get confused - maybe that's the goal! And probably nobody really understands how it all works - except maybe the vendors themselves.

In the following sections, we discuss the main factors that influence per minute rates:

Originating Country

One major factor that determines your per minute rate is the originating country you are calling from.

In other words, rates to a particular destination country are different if you are calling from the United States or from the United Kingdom.

The table below shows this for calls to Australia from 3 different originating countries. Note that rates are cheapest from the US, even though the US is furthest away.

Per Minute Rates to Australia from
Different Originating Countries
Originating Country
Card USA UK Russia
Card A 2.0¢ 3.0¢ 12.0¢
Card B 20.0¢ 40.0¢ 80.0¢

Card A is the Jupiter card from ECC
Card B is an AT&T international calling card
Calling card and pricing data from

Many cards allow calling from only from one originating country. Such cards have only one price schedule showing per minute rates from that country to all destination countries.

However, some cards allow calls from several originating countries. If you have a card, then each originating country will have it's own per minute rate schedule. The price schedules will show the per minute rates from each originating country to all possible destination countries.

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Destination Country

Another major factor that affects rates is the destination country.

For a given card, per minute rates can vary dramatically from one destination country to another. Prices can commonly go from as low as 1.9¢ to 120.0¢ or higher for the same card.

The table below shows actual rates for two different cards to several different countries. Card A is obviously cheaper than Card B, but note how widely the prices differ across the different countries for each card.

The main point is: look closely at the rates that apply to the specific country (or countries) you plan to be calling.

Per Minute Rates from USA to
Various Destination Countries
Country Card A Card B
Australia 2.0¢ 20.0¢
Austria 2.3¢ 35.0¢
Azerbaijan 9.5¢ 75.0¢
Bahamas 4.0¢ 35.0¢
Bahrain 4.6¢ 70.0¢
Bangladesh 6.5¢ 60.0¢
Barbados 8.9¢ 65.0¢

Card A is the Jupiter card from ECC
Card B is an AT&T international calling card
Calling card and pricing data from

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Destination City

Some calling cards provide different per minute rates for different cities within the same country - and/or they may offer a lower rate for certain cities than the general rate for the country.

The table below shows rates for several cities in Saudi Arabia.

Per Minute Rates to Saudi Arabia
City Per Minute
Saudi Arabia 13.5¢
Dhahran 8.5¢
Jeddah 5.4¢
Riyadh 3.6¢

Calling card and pricing data from
Card is the Cheap Call card from ACC

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Billing Increment

Billing increments can have a huge impact on per minute rates.

Generally speaking, the shorter the billing increment, the higher the per minute rate.

Impact of Billing Increment on
Per Minute Rates
Billing Increment
Call route 1-sec 6-sec 1-min 3-min
USA to UK n/a 3.8¢ 2.6¢ 1.5¢
Aus to India 19.5¢ n/a 18.0¢ 17.1¢

Calling card and pricing examples from and

Note that cards with low per minute rates tend to higher connection, maintenance, or other fees.

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Mobile vs. Landline Phones

Depending on the destination country, per minutes rates to call mobile phones can be higher than for landline phones - sometimes much higher.

However, this is not always true and in some countries it makes no difference whether you are calling a landline or a mobile phone.

There is normally no price impact if you are calling from a mobile phone - such charges will billed as a normal call by your mobile carrier.

A couple of examples where prices are higher to call mobiles:

Rates to Call Mobile Phones
Are Often Higher
Call route Landline Mobile
USA to UK 0.7¢ 11.4¢
Aus to Mexico 10.0¢ 15.0¢

Calling card and pricing examples using cards with 3-minute billing increments from and

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Toll-Free vs. Local Access Numbers

Many calling card companies charge a higher per minute rate when you use their toll-free access numbers. Local access numbers are always free.

If there is a toll-free upcharge, it is typically 1.0¢ per minute.

Toll-Free Access Numbers
Often Cost More
Type of access Card A Card B
Local access 0.7¢ 11.4¢
Toll-free access 1.7¢ 12.4¢

Calling card and pricing examples using cards from and

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Other Fees & Surcharges

Many calling card companies keep per minute rates low by tacking on lots of extra fees and surcharges. As a result, your actual per minute calling costs can be much higher than the advertised rate.

Click here for a detailed discussion and examples of advertised vs. actual per minute calling rates.

And look at the example below to see how lower rates can be coupled with higher fees. Both of these cards from are fairly priced and good cards, but hopefully you can see the point we are trying to make by noting that the maintenance and communications fees are both higher for Card A than Card B.

Extra Fees & Surchages Can Add Up
Type of fee Card A Card B
Per minute rate 5.0¢ 8.0¢
Billing increment 3-min 3-min
Connection fee
Maintenance fee 99¢ / wk 65¢ / wk
Communication fee 20% 15%
Payphone surcharge 65¢ 65¢

Calling card and pricing examples using cards from Card A is 'SuperMex' card. Card B is 'MegaTalk' card.

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