Photo: Pre Paid Phone Cards
When it comes to prepaid telephone cards, every minute counts.
That’s why the federal government is always taking steps to ensure that the companies that sell them provide the minutes promised and clearly disclose any hidden fees that might decrease the number of minutes available for calls.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently took legal action against Millennium Telecard Inc., a New Jersey-based company that sold prepaid telephone cards with such names as “Africa Magic,” “Viva Ecuador,” and “Hola Amigo.”
The FTC analyzed the cards and found that, on average, they delivered less than half of the minutes promised. At the request of the FTC, a court order was issued that temporarily halted the company’s deceptive advertising claims.
If you frequently purchase or use prepaid telephone cards, be aware of common fees that may decrease the value of a card. If you believe you’ve been mislead by a card provider you can also file a claim against that company.
Fees That Decrease the Value of the Card
Prepaid telephone cards are a practical way to make calls if you don’t have a long-distance calling plan with your mobile or home telephone provider. They also work well if you prefer to pay for these services in advance. Prices for the cards can vary from $2 to $20, and the number of minutes available depends on the rate for the place you’re calling.
The best way to use of these cards is by knowing exactly what you’re buying. That’s why you should always read the fine print and be aware of some of the most common types of fees, including:
• Charges for ending a telephone call
• Maintenance charges that kick in after activating the card
• Charges for making calls from a public telephone
• Charges for making calls to a mobile telephone
Not all cards have these fees. If you don’t want to pay these types of charges, the best thing to do is look for a card that does not have them.
Tips on How to Choose a Telephone Card
There are many different types of prepaid phone cards. Although some of them are well-established, others might be new to the market. The following tips will help you pick wisely:
• Ask family members or friends about their experiences using prepaid telephone cards to find out which ones are the most reliable
• If you are going to buy a new card, start with one with little value, say $2. Then try it out and see if it delivered on the minutes promised and whether it charged excessive fees
• Make sure the card has a free customer service line that works
• Look for cards with no expiration date
How to File a Complaint
Retailers are not liable for the services offered by the cards. Stores are responsible, however, for not promoting cards they know don’t deliver as advertised.
If you have been a victim of calling card fraud, you can always file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The easiest and fastest way to do it is by filling out an electronic form online. However, you can also file a complaint by calling (877) 382-4357.
USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov are the U.S. Government’s official web portals in English and Spanish, and part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).