Wausau (WAOW)-- If you have family or friends abroad, using a prepaid phone card to makes calls may look like a good option. You see the cards sold everywhere. But Consumer Reports says buyer beware. Despite millions of dollars in government fines, deceptive practices are still prevalent.
Victorina Calixto uses prepaid phone cards to talk to her family in Mexico. She complains she often does not get the minutes listed on the card.
Consumer Reports' investigation of prepaid phone cards finds there are a lot of fees that eat away at a card's value. There are call-connection fees, call-completion fees, and there are even fees that can be charged daily, monthly, or weekly whether you use your card or not.
And all the cards Consumer Reports looked at charge a per-call fee if you use a pay phone, some as high as a dollar.
There are also huge differences when it comes to rates. For calls to Mexico, you can pay as little as one cent a minute or as high as 32 cents. Rates for calls to Guatemala range from six cents to 54 cents a minute!
The best way to protect yourself is to look at the terms and conditions very carefully. But that can be difficult in a store where cards are often behind the counter.
Consumer Reports says far better is shopping online, where it's easier to get information, and you'll find a greater selection. Try independent sites like Zaptel or the major phone companies. And look for one that's rechargeable. But watch out, some of the rechargeable cards do charge a fee to recharge them.
Consumer Reports says Pingo.com is a good choice for prepaid calling. It offers good rates, a low pay-phone fee, and doesn't charge for recharging - all in all, a good deal for someone like Victorina, who wants to stay in touch without breaking the bank.