There are various pre-paid and post-paid phone card products for use with mobile and fixed line phone services. These cards offer a pre-paid method of making phone calls without monthly bills or statements. Before selecting a phone card, you should be aware of the differences between these products.
What are the different types of phone cards?
Phone cards fall into three main categories:
Pre-paid calling cards have an initial fixed value and can often be recharged. Options and services vary between suppliers. There may be restrictions on calling certain types of numbers, such as 1800 or 1900 numbers.
Post-paid billing cards are attached to a standard telephone account. Only issued by major telecommunications companies and you need to apply for one.
Pre-paid payphone cards designed for use with payphones—either Telstra or TriTel.
What types of calls will be made?
Services available using phone cards include:
national and international calls
calls to mobiles in/outside Australia
calls to satellite phones
internet access calls
call back to Australia from overseas
calls within and between certain countries billed at Australian rates.
Do phone cards have expiry dates?
Expiry dates are generally printed on the back of the card. It may be a specific date, but is sometimes a number of months after first use. Cards can differ significantly in how many months use they allow before expiry.
Any value left on a card is generally forfeited on expiry, so make sure any remaining credit is used or transferred to another card before the expiry date. Transfers can only be made between cards from the same company.
Telstra payphone cards have an expiry date. TriTel Smart Phone Cards do not have an expiry date.
What are phone card access numbers?
With the exception of the Telstra and TriTel payphone cards, pre-paid and post-paid phone cards have access numbers you must call to access your account.
In the case of pre-paid cards, there is often more than one access number you can use and they all have different associated costs. A local access number (a local eight-digit geographic telephone number like your home phone number), is usually the cheapest option.
Cards with a local access number are not always available in areas outside major cities. If you are changing locations, check whether a local access number applies.
Other types of access numbers used by card suppliers are 1800 and 1300 numbers. Calls to these numbers may attract a surcharge on top of the per-minute rate charged for the call.
What phone card charges are there?
Many pre-paid phone cards have access fees and surcharges in addition to call charges. There is usually a cost for calling the provider's network, with the most common additional charges being a one-off connection fee for the call (sometimes referred to as a verification fee or flag fall) and, in some cases, a per-minute surcharge, which may be applicable depending on the number used to access the network or the type of call made.
Phone cards generally charge for calls on a per-minute basis. The per-minute calling rate can differ substantially between cards, particularly for different international locations, so check the charges to destinations you are most likely to call.
Some local calls may be charged at timed rates depending on the card. Different rates (usually higher) or a surcharge may apply to calling mobile phones in international locations than for calls to fixed line phones at the same destination.
Some phone cards have a one-off connection fee for each call made. This is on top of the access fee and the per-minute call rate. Cards with the one-off connection fee will generally have a lower per-minute call rate, so consider your likely usage and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.
Hotels often impose a surcharge on calls, so take this into account if you are using your phone card to call from your hotel room.
If you use a phone card to call from your mobile you will still incur your normal mobile phone call charge for the duration of the call on top of the phone card call charges.
Can call rates change without notice?
Yes. These rates are usually subject to review at any time and can change quickly.
What if something goes wrong with the card?
All phone cards should have a telephone number for contact about problems with the service. Check for this number when purchasing a card.
If you do not get a satisfactory response from the phone card service provider, contact: