The Calling Card: Make Cheap Calls While Travelling Abroad

international calling cards

I’ve been travelling internationally for over 11 years and one of the most important tools of the trade is the good old fashioned calling card, such as those at

Don’t get me wrong, I still have access to my video calling apps but they’re limited to the availability and reliability of an internet connection for both myself and the person I’m calling.

Calling cards on the other hand use the phone lines and virtually everyone has a phone line, not only that I can use a payphone or my mobile phone and get really low calling rates by hooking it up to my calling card.

So what is a calling card, how do they work and how do you buy one without being ripped off?

How Do Calling Cards Work, Exactly?

Calling cards use what is called a LAN (Local Access Number – more details) that tells the big telecommunication provider that you’re making a local call when in fact that call is being routed to an international number.

This LAN basically means you’re able to make cheap international calls without the big companies being able to charge you for it – don’t worry it’s all perfectly legal.

How to Use a Calling Card in 3 Steps

Once you’ve purchased your calling card the process of making a call is fairly straight forward.

Step 1: Dial the LAN (Local Access Number)

The LAN will look like a local number.

Step 2: Enter the PIN

The PIN is a special number that is assigned to the account balance on your calling card and lets the phone card system know which card is being used and how many minutes the user has available.

Some calling card services will have a PIN-free option which means you won’t need to enter in your PIN every time you use it – very handy if you plan on using your card a lot.

Step 3: Dial the Overseas Number

Finally, dial the number of the person you wish to speak with keeping in mind you’ll need to enter in the complete phone number (country code +are code etc.) including exit code.

All of this information will be included on the back of the phone card or in the email that is sent to you right after purchase.

3 Tips For Buying A Calling Card

#1: Ask About Hidden Fees

A lot of phone card providers will drive additional revenue from applying special charges which very rarely benefit you as the customer so it helps to make sure that you’re across the various types of schemes available.

Monthly maintenance fees: this is a small fee deducted from your account every month and positioned as ‘admin fees’ avoid this card.

Call end fee: you are charged at the conclusion of your call. This is a fairly standard fixture and is only acceptable if the cost-per-minute rates are lower than the zero-termination fee cards.

Call connection fees: You are charged when the call is connected. Same as above, typically this card will have lower cost-per-call fees.

Carrier & surcharge fees: these are junk fees and worth avoiding.

Toll number surcharge: Depending on where you are there may not be a LAN available so phone card companies will have a special toll number that you can use. This will carry a surcharge but it’s typically only a few additional cents per minute.

Payphone Surcharge: this is a part of travelling unfortunately, if I’m not at an Airbnb with access to a private landline then I’ll opt for a payphone it’s only a few cents more per minute so it’s ok.

Tip #2: Do They Have a Customer Service Team?

I will always try to use an online calling card provider because it gives me a chance to send them an email or call them up – this always gives me peace of mind before purchasing.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • Are their calling cards rechargeable?
  • When do these cards expire?
  • What happens if my calling card expires do I keep my credit?
  • What are the hidden fees?
  • Is there a LAN for my city or town? If not, how do I make calls and what are the charges?
  • What is the best phone card for making calls to the countries you wish to call?
  • What is the cost of calling to mobiles vs landlines?
  • Is there an additional charge if I use my mobile vs a private landline?
  • How long will it take before I can use my calling card?

Tip #3: How Many Carrier Line Providers Do They Use?

One of the most frustrating situations to be in is buying a card, finding out that it doesn’t work and then not being able to get it working until the phone card company goes back and forth with their carrier line provider which can take days, weeks or longer.

Ideally, you’ll want to buy from a company that has multiple carrier line providers so that if you do run into problems they can quickly sub it out for a new one so you can use your card right away.

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James Williams
James is our Lead Content Publisher here at Feeds Portal. He has worked with many top websites over the years, including BuzzFeed.

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