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International Phone Cards / Calling Cards

Pauline Kenny

Recently I did a search to find the least expensive way to make my long distance calls within the US, from the US to Canada, from the US to Europe, and when traveling in Europe to call home. I found two good providers where you can purchase cards online: ZapTel and Tel3Advantage. Both are described in detail below.

International Phone Cards

Traveling?  Use a phone card outside of the U.S.

ZapTel: Good rates for calling from Europe to the US, from the US to Europe and within the US. Minutes do not expire if card is used once every six months.
Read more.

Tel3Advantage: Great rates for calling within the US and from the US to other countries (Europe, Italy, France, UK, Canada). You cannot use this card from Europe. Read more.

ZapTel

ZapTel offers a number of different phone cards. The box on the right lets you find the best card for your calling situation. Select the country you are calling from and the country calling to and you will see a variety of cards you can purchase through ZapTel.

Purchasing the Calling Card

You are not purchasing a calling card, but are opening an account and this is done online. You start with a $25 account. When you order for the first time, ZapTel phones you (within a few minutes of placing the order) to verify your address. The phone number you give them must match that on your credit card account. Once this is done, they email you your PIN number and calling information.

You can go into your account online to find local access numbers, country access numbers and to print out a calling card for your wallet. If you are traveling to Europe, be sure to get the access numbers for the countries you will be visiting.

Use PinZAP to pre-program several phone numbers in your account, so that when you place calls to the access number from that phone number, you do not have to enter your PIN (this makes calling easier).

Minutes Remaining

When you make a call, you are told the minutes remaining.

You can also access this information online. You can see a list of the calls you've placed with your card along with the number of minutes you've used.  The balance is also always available in your account dashboard.

Add More Minutes Online

When you use up the money in your calling account (or are close to using it up), go online to add more money to your account. This is not done automatically.

ZapTel True North Phone Card

ZapTel True North

This is the long distance phone card that I have been looking for: one card that I can use calling internationally from the US or calling home when I travel in Europe (and worldwide). The minutes do not expire and I can recharge the card easily online. The rates are slightly higher than other cards, but this card can be used in more situations. For example, Tel3Advantage is less expensive for calling within the US (1.9/min vs. 3.8/min) or calling to Italy (3/min vs. 3.7/min) BUT I can use the ZapTel True North card when calling from Europe to the US and I cannot do that with the Tel3 Advantage. So, for me, because I do not make that many phone calls, it is worth it. Otherwise I end up with calling cards that expire and I lose those minutes and money.

This also means that I no longer have to buy international calling cards when I get to Europe. I can use my ZapTel True North card there.

ZapTel is a phone card store, offering many different phone cards. The True North card is a bit more expensive per minute, but it never expires (if used once every six months) and has no call surcharges. Be sure to read all the details when selecting a phone card; consider the cost per minute, surcharges, call time rounding, and expiration.

Calling Rates from the US

Calls are made from a local access number or a toll free number (calls cost 1 more per minute if you dial the toll free access number).

  • Calls to Italy: 3.7/min (to cell phone 28.9/min)
  • Calls to France: 3.9/min (to cell phone 19.9/min)
  • Calls to the UK: 3.9/min (to cell phone 19.5/min)
  • Calls within the US: 3.9/min (Hawaii, Alaska 5.9/min)

No monthly fees, six second rounding of call times, rechargeable online.

Calling Rates from Europe to the US and within Europe

Calls are made from a local access number or a toll free number (calls cost 1 more per minute if you dial the toll free access number). Be sure to print out the country access numbers you will need for your trip before you leave.

  • Calls from France: 7.3/min
  • Calls from the UK: 10.8/min (from London 7.3/min)
  • Calls from Italy: 13.8/min (from Milan, Rome 7.3/min)
  • Calls within France: 13.9/min (to cell phone 29.9/min)
  • Calls within the UK: 9.9/min (to cell phone 25.5/min)

No monthly fees, six second rounding of call times, rechargeable online.

Caution: If using an International Phone Card from a Cell Phone, you may have to pay for the minutes used on your cell phone as well as on the International Phone Card. Read more.

Tel3Advantage International Calling Plan

This is a good international calling plan to use when calling from the US, but you cannot use it when calling from Europe. The rates for calling from the US are slightly lower than ZapTel, but because you cannot use the same card when calling from Europe, the card is not as flexible.

Calling Rates

Calls are made from a local access number or a toll free number (calls cost 1 more per minute if you dial the toll free access number).

  • Calls to Italy: 3/min (to cell phone 26/min)
  • Calls to France: 3/min (to cell phone 17/min)
  • Calls to the UK: 2.5/min (to cell phone 19.3/min)
  • Calls within the US: 1.9/min (Hawaii 3/min, Alaska 4.6/min)

Notes: There are add-on rates if calling from: Canada (0.04/min), Hawaii (0.022/min), Alaska (0.075/min). You can see all the calling rates on their website.

No monthly fees, one minute rounding of call times, check your call record online.

Purchasing the Calling Card

You are not purchasing a calling card, but are opening an account and this is done online. I started with a $25 account. They give you the local access number for your area, the toll free access number, your ID, and a password (you set the password).

You can pre-program several phone numbers in your account, so that when you place calls to the access number from that phone number, you do not have to enter your ID and password (this makes calling easier).

Review Your Account Online

Go online to review your account. When you sign up, you received the information you need to login to your account. You can see how many minutes you have left and the calls that were made. You are told the minutes remaining each time you make a call.

You Never Run Out of Minutes

When you use up the money in your calling account, your charge card is charged to add more minutes (at the rate you first purchased). For example, if you sign up for the $25 plan, when you run out of minutes, another $25 is charged and your minutes are replenished.

Using Calling Cards from Your Home Phone

If you use one of these cards for all your calls from and within the US you can have the long distance service removed from your home phone and make all your long distance calls using the phone cards. Remember to have long distance calls blocked from your phone line, so no one can make a call without using your phone card. Or pick an inexpensive long distance plan from your phone company, but use the phone card for all your international calls and as a calling card when traveling (this is what I did).

Other European Calling Information

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