Calling Card Services
November 27, 2004 2:13 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a non scam calling card? I've tried online. I've tried buying them in 7-11s. In both cases I got told the rates were one thing and got charged 10-20 times more. What gives? [More Inside]

I would like to keep in contact with a good friend in Togo, Africa. I know calling cards are supposed to be a good way to call without being charged way too much (especially as I've only got a cell phone) but I've been totally ripped off twice now. The cards claim they are from 15-25 cents a minute but 5 dollar cards somehow only last 2 minutes. Googling is totally useless as it seems the calling card people have totally overwhelmed any search even remotely related to calling cards. Does anyone have a decent non rip-off calling card site they can recommend? Being able to get pins online would be a big plus.
posted by aspo to Shopping (13 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh and yes I'm in the States.
posted by aspo at 2:30 AM on November 27, 2004

I use Primus, formerly known as Isterra, 800.393.3000 They don't list their rate to Togo, but if you call that customer service line, I'm sure they can give it to you. They offer a calling card. In addition, you can set up international and/or domestic long distance from your home phone, you get the best rates to Togo (or anywhere else) if you use them as your LD carrier. There is no monthly charge if you do online billing. allows you to call from you cell phone to Togo for $0.35/min. You also use your phone minutes, as you're calling a NYC access number. I use GorillaMobile when I'm not home. They give you the first $5 free.
posted by cahlers at 2:44 AM on November 27, 2004

Yeah, try not to buy one online. I've been using an AT&T one for over a year now for us within the states. It costs about $.03/minute and lets you put more money on the card whenever you want. I don't know what the international rates are, but the service has been top notch.
posted by zelphi at 2:44 AM on November 27, 2004

I second AT&T. Have never been disappointed. More details in a previous comment I made here. In fact, read that whole thread -- you may find it helpful.
posted by fricative at 4:43 AM on November 27, 2004

The cards have fine print.. most are specifically written and state the rates are for the contiguous US states. Likely they aren't ripping you off, but you didn't notice the limitations the card had.

I purchased one once that was only good between 7 and 11 pm. heh.. That learned me.
posted by reflecked at 5:17 AM on November 27, 2004

I need the best rate to Canada, eh. I have an MCI card which is great for domestic calls at under 3 cents a minute, but to Canada it is closer to 8 or 9. I realize that's not too bad, but my girlfriend can call me for 1 cent a minute (and that's in Canadian pennies!!!!!). (Maybe it costs more energy to talk northward than southward....). I've looked at other calling cards with lower rates, and I've found that some of the fine print deal killers. Like many of them will have a low rate, but will charge a "maintenace fee" per month. I also noticed that some require you to dial a local number, and will charge more per minute, or an access fee if you use their toll free number. I will research the suggestions on these two threads.
posted by Eekacat at 5:28 AM on November 27, 2004

I use Sprint card that I bought at Sam's Club a few years ago. I use it to call internationally and I use it while traveling internationally. I've never had a problem. I'm not sure the exact rates, though I know that my card has lower rates because it was sold at a Sam's Club. The tel# is 800-567-2421.
posted by Juicylicious at 8:05 AM on November 27, 2004

Eekacat, Primus has no maintenance fee if you use online billing: 800 393 3000. Ask them about their rates to Canada, I'm sure they're very competitive. I've been quite happy with them. uses the extra fee with a tollfree number, no fee if you call their NYC-based access number.
posted by cahlers at 10:34 AM on November 27, 2004

Intercontinental rates are always way, way more than what they say on the front. FWIW, some of my friends who spend lots of time on the phone calling people in Africa tend to use the Sam's Club/Costco cards or the ones you pick up at ethnic grocery stores. Customer support sucks, though, and you'll probably be calling them anyway (due to the state of infrastructure in some areas.. dunno about Togo specifically).

Alternatively, you might wanna call your cell provider and ask if they have some sort of deal or rate plan. Worth a shot. I recall T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless/Cingular being about twice as expensive than the cards were, though, but maybe you can get something if you talk to 'em.
posted by mrg at 10:54 AM on November 27, 2004

You're probably getting "ripped off" by connect fees. I've had a $10 card last only 3 faxes (yeah, I'm a tight bastard) to the USA due to connect fees. I have a card right now that gives me 1000 minutes inside Canada (from Canada) that charged me 30 minutes for a call that lasted 1 due to connect fees.

Try to get a card that advertises no connect fee if you don't plan to talk for hours on end...
posted by shepd at 12:28 PM on November 27, 2004

Primus is fantastic. I switched to their long-distance service from home 2 years ago - I pay maybe $2-$6 a month depending on how often I call friends in Canada and Mexico, Korea, etc. And there's no monthly fee as noted above if you use online billing. They are great!
posted by luriete at 12:57 PM on November 27, 2004

aspo, I'm not in any way connected with Primus. That being said, I highly recommend you calling them, ascertaining their rates, then comparing these rates to others. The Primus rates are lowest if you allow Primus to be your primary long distance company, which shouldn't be a problem since their rates are extremely competitive. I pay very little to call Germany, usually less than $5/mo, and that's if I talk alot. Togo might be more expensive, but at least give them a call. What do you have to lose? Once you have them set up on your home phone, there are no access numbers to call, you just dial whatever country you have on your plan directly.

Why am I trying so hard to persuade you and others? Only because I see everyone struggling with cards, minutes, etc., etc., when it can be so easy. Also, if you're every away from home, you can still use their service, although there *is* a $0.25 connection fee from a pay phone (no fee from someone elses phone using a toll-free access number). Primus also has toll-free numbers for access while you're in almost any country worldwide, meaning you can use the service while you travel, everything gets conveniently billed to your credit card or bank account. It's really a one-stop thing, and cheap.
posted by cahlers at 1:09 PM on November 27, 2004

Response by poster: If anyone's curious I managed to find a recommendation for a simple, pay in advance, sold at the corner store, calling card called Tango.

One 5 dollar card is 40 minutes of calling time. That's 12 1/2 cents a minute. Yes it is only good for 60 days after the first call, but I used the whole thing in one call. (It is kinda hard to get ahold of people in Togo, better one long call than many short ones.) Compare that with 35 cents for gorilla, or 70 for primus, or 1.16 for AT&T and you can see why those calling cards are sold in every corner store in the country. I bet the sound quality is crap, and the delay seemed a bit long but hey, it was already being routed over Togolese cell networks and I can't believe that those have any sound quality worth mentioning.
posted by aspo at 7:16 PM on November 27, 2004

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