Talk is Cheap
By Ron Lonsdale
August 10, 2005
Prepaid phone cards have driven the cost of international calls as low as one or two cents a minute, but cheap talk can still burn a whole in your pocket.
With prepaid phone cards, or calling cards you can make calls up to the value of the card, by dialling a local call access number, or a 1300 or 1800 number, and entering a PIN.
The huge savings over international direct dial rates are the big attraction of phone cards, says Ron Lonsdale, founder of the website www.ephonecards.com.au
“Our phone cards are delivered online 24 hours a day. When you visit our site you can select the country you want to phone using our “phone card finder” service. The website presents all the cards available for that destination ranked by the best value card first.”
“We base our comparisons on peak call rates ensuring you get a card that you can use throughout the day not just between 1-3am. We have made it very easy to find the best card quickly.”
"Typically, you can save over 85 to 95 per cent compared to your home phone on international calls," he says.
For instance, Telstra HomeLine Complete customers pay 38c a minute to call the UK direct, which works out at $11.40 a half hour (or $6.60 if they opt for the capped-rate 30-minute blocks). But if you go for the Ring, Click, Go Bananas, or eStar phone cards, all of which are on the Ephonecards website, you'll pay 3c a minute or less, or 90c a half hour, to call the UK.
Even Telstra's own phone cards offer discounts on its standard rates. For example, customers using its "Say G'Day" card pay 3.9c a minute to phone the UK, making even Telstra’s card just a little more expensive than other phone cards on the website.
Experts estimate that at least 70 per cent of all international calls are now made using these phone cards.
They can be bought at newsagencies, convenience stores and now online at Ephonecards, yet with all the different products on the market, each with different call charges, surcharges, connection fees and conditions, it's important to shop around and compare.
Usually when you walk into a shop to buy these cards it is an extremely confusing process with nobody to help you get the best deal for your specific circumstances. There are hundreds of brochures and posters in newsagents and no one to tell you the cheapest rate for your call or the main factors to consider when making a call to your destination country.
The first thing to remember is that some cards only allow you to dial the local access number from capital cities or other card-friendly locations.
Outside those defined areas, you need to dial a 1300 or 1800 number instead and this incurs an additional cost of between 4c and 20c a minute.
Ron points out that companies make their money by offering cards that are cheaper to some destinations and more expensive to others, so first figure out which countries you phone most.
He says people who call India regularly often have friends or family in the UK as well, so card companies will attract customers with a low rate, say, for the UK, but recoup some of that by charging a higher rate for calls to India.
For example, to call the UK, Ring card holders pay a connection fee of 49c and then 0.5c-a-minute. The connection fee to call the India is the same, but the per minute call rate is nearly twenty five times more expensive, at 12.9c a minute.
Ron advises card users to also check the connection fee, or flagfall.
If you want to talk for hours, a flagfall can be a good choice because it usually comes in conjunction with a cheaper per-minute rate. If, however, you like to keep your conversations short, say less than 15 minutes, then go for the slightly more expensive call rate with a no connection fee.
For example, if you want to call the UK, the Day & Night card would cost just 1.5c a minute. You'd need to talk for more than 1 hour before it made financial sense to switch to a provider with a flagfall and a cheaper per-minute rate, such as OzCall, which charges a connection fee of 59c with a 0.5-cent-a-minute rate.
You'll also want to watch the flagfall if your calls are often answered by a machine or mother-in-law. The connection cost is imposed as soon as the call is answered.
The simplest thing to do is go to the www.ephonecards.com.au website and use the “phone card finder” service that makes the whole process easy, simple and quick.