How to Pick a Calling Card Company

Before you get into the nitty gritty of picking a card based on rates and other factors, your first priority is finding a reputable vendor to buy from.

If you don't buy a card from a solid company, there's a good chance you are going to have a bad experience.

Finding good calling card vendors is not too hard if you know what to look for. Once you've found one or two good vendors, then you can focus on choosing the right card.

Below are some of the factors you may want to consider in choosing a calling card vendor.

If you have difficulty finding somebody that looks good, please consider our recommended calling card vendors. These are firms we've carefully vetted.

1. Type of Calling Card Provider

There are two main types of calling card providers operating in the market today.

  • Integrated providers
  • Calling card resellers

Calling card resellers are the most common type of vendor. There are surely dozens of resellers operating in the market - some are very large and well established, but most are quite small. Many of the smaller ones are actually reselling cards for larger resellers, often using ecommerce website tools provided by the larger reseller.

Integrated providers are less common than resellers. These are companies that operate their own telecom networks, so they are able to deliver the voice calls on their cards themselves.

Either type of company can offer good value and deliver a card that satisfies your needs. However, it is important to realize that resellers don't actually deliver the actual voice calls - they just market the cards. The voice telephone service is provided by another company - typically a wholesale telecom carrier.

2. Operates in the Right Countries

If you are likely to be originating calls in more than one country, check to be sure the company has access numbers in the countries you will be in.

If you are likely to be originating calls in more than one country, check to be sure the company has access numbers in the countries you will be in.

Keep an eye out for companies that specialize in the regions you are calling. In some cases, such companies offer better pricing.

3. Offers Competitive Rates

Next check to see that your potential vendor(s) has good per minute rates and reasonable fees. At this stage, don't micro-examine this - we do that in next step where you pick a specific card.

For now, just keep the lower priced vendors and discard the higher priced ones. Check here for more on rates and fees.

4. Has Full Disclosure of Rates and Fees

Look carefully at the vendor's rate and fee disclosures. You want somebody with full and open disclosure. The disclosure example here is a good standard to expect, though not too many vendors are quite as organized as these folks.

We strongly recommend that you eliminate vendors that do not clearly state their fees. Far too many vendors are sneaky, if not outright deceptive, about their fees and you don't want to be doing business with them. If you do, you could end up paying much more per minute than you ever expected.

5. Provides Advanced Features

Next look for vendors who offer advanced features like PIN-less dialing, speed dialing, auto-recharge, and online account management. These items are especially important if you plan to use phone cards on an extended or on-going basis. More on calling card features here.

Most of the better vendors will offer these capabilities for all or most of their cards. If a firm offers fewer advanced features, that's a potential flag.

6. Offers Online Account Management

As noted above, we recommend buying cards online in part so you can take advantage of the vendor's online account management tools. With an online account, you can easily see your current card status (e.g., remaining credit and/or minutes), track your call history, recharge your card, enter your PIN-less and speed dial numbers, etc. Again, this becomes more important the more you plan to use your card.

7. Has Live Customer Support

We recommend using vendors with 24/7 live customer support, ideally including direct dial phone lines as well as online chat. Inability to reach customer support when problems arise is one of the major complaints people have about calling card vendors.

And since some vendors advertise unmanned phone numbers, it can't hurt to actually dial the number to see if there's anyone there. If you reach somebody, ask them a few questions to see if they know what they are talking about. The questions can be anything: "do you charge any extra fees?" "what if the card does work well?", etc. Just see what they have to say.

Lack of readily accessible customer support is a strong negative.

8. Good Reputation

Checking a calling card vendor's reputation and complaint history is not easy because there isn't any authoritative source that we know of. Still, it is easy enough to Google 'company-name complaint' or 'company-name settlement' to see if anything troubling comes up.

For instance, such searches for the company Alternatel would highlight separate complaints filed with the Florida Attorney General and with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), including this article from on a recent Florida calling card settlement.

If you are having difficulty finding a reputable vendor, we suggest you consider our recommended calling card vendors.

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