First time phone card buyer primer - by ZapTel
Phone Call Tips
For first time phone card buyers


Are you a good prospective prepaid phone card user?
Benefits of phone cards
How to buy a phone card from ZapTel
How to use a Phone Card
Charges for Phone Cards
Things to consider when buying a phone card
Determining Which Card is the Best for You
ZapTel has already "hand picked" the phone cards it sells
Phone Card Definitions / Glossary
Are you a good prospective prepaid phone card user?

Anyone wanting to make low cost domestic or international calls may save money with phone cards. Typically this might include:

International callers
Business people
Payphone users
Those seeking to reduce their home or business long distance phone bill.
Credit challenged individuals.

Benefits of phone cards:


  • Phone cards can save you up to 80% on your phone bill. ZapTel customers with family or friends overseas report to us that they save hundreds of dollars each month by using our phone cards with their home phone rather than dialing direct - and domestic users can find their bills cut in half.
  • Use phone cards at hotels to avoid long distance surcharges. A phone call from a hotel without a phone card can cost you 20 times more than with the phone card.
  • Students often do not have any access to long distance service in dormitories. When they do, it is often expensive. Phone cards often cost much less than "calling cards," which bill you for your long distance calls at the end of the month.
  • Cellular phone users realize huge savings when they use phone cards rather than their cellular company's long distance provider.


  • You can call to virtually any country in the world from any touch-tone phone in the U.S. We also have cards that will allow you to call from nearly one hundred foreign countries back to the U.S. - at rates typically much less than direct-dialed calls from the originating country.
  • You can use phone cards with virtually all cellular networks and all payphones.
  • Phone cards provide convenience if you must use a phone but are caught without a means of payment.
  • Parents find phone cards a great way to ensure safety for their children, allowing them to call home, from anywhere at any time.
  • Businesses find that phone cards are a convenient and inexpensive way to handle their long-distance needs of traveling employees.


  • Keep long distance call costs within your budget. Students, residents and business owners won't be surprised with a large phone bill at the end of the month.
  • With phone cards, you can determine in advance how much you are willing to spend on phone calls. You always know how much money/time you have left, or when you have reached your budget limit.


  • Phone cards do not present you with a phone bill so individual call details are not recorded. However, if you do want to see call detail records, they are available with several of our rechargeable phone cards. This is especially convenient for business owners.
  • You don't have to go through a credit analysis to obtain a phone card, unlike billed calling plans.

How to buy a phone card from ZapTel

Just follow the 3 Easy Steps outlined on our home page:

  1. Search for the card that's right for you. (Use our search engine to find the best rates.)
  2. Select and Purchase your card. (You can pay with a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, PayPal or with a bank debit card that has a Visa or MasterCard logo).
  3. ZapTel instantly delivers your virtual phone card to your screen. You may print the card. In addition, we email the PIN and dialing instructions to you within minutes of your purchase. First time purchasers receive a telephone call from a ZapTel customer service rep to verify the order and safeguard your credit card.

How to use a Phone Card

To use a prepaid phone card, you first must dial an access number to connect to the carrier that issued the card. These access numbers are usually a toll free number, but some cards allow you to connect by dialing a local telephone number.

Once connected to the system, you then have to take two steps. First, you enter your PIN code that is provided at the time you purchase your phone card. This tells the carrier which phone card should be billed. Secondly, you dial the telephone number you want to reach. When dialing international numbers from the U.S., you will dial 011 and then the country code and number. When dialing within the U.S., you will dial 1 plus the area code and number.

Charges for Phone Cards

Phone card charges include any of five types of charges. At a minimum, each call will be billed a standard per-minute rate. Many cards also add a fixed access surcharge for each call that is placed. These are called "connection fees". A service fee may also be charged by some services on a predetermined time frame, ie: weekly, monthly, etc. You could also pay a percentage of taxes on each minute of time, ie: 10% tax per minute, thus a 10 cent per minute rate is actually costing you 11 cents per minute. Lastly, a fairly uncommon charge is a "long call" charge that is assessed after a period time, 20 minutes of talk time, for example.

Additionally, in the U.S., payphones now deduct a fee from your phone card to use the phone even if tough you are calling a toll-free number (the phone card access number). This new charge is due to deregulation stemming from the Telecom Act of 1996 and started taking effect in late 1997. This fee ranges from 49 cents to $1.15 depending on the carrier issuing the phone card, and goes to pay the operator of the pay phone.

Things to consider when buying a phone card

  • What is the per-minute rate for calls within the U.S.?
  • What is the per-minute rate for calls to my international destination?
  • What is the average length of my calls in minutes?
  • How many calls do I make in a week? In a month?
  • Are the rates the same 24 hours a day?
  • Is there a higher rate for the first minute than subsequent minutes?
  • Will I be charged for calls that are not completed?
  • Are there any connection fees or surcharges?
  • Are there any monthly/weekly maintenance fees?
  • What are the billing increments or call rounding minutes?
  • Is there a connection fee for international calls? If so, how much?
  • Can I place multiple calls without redialing the PIN?
  • Will I be notified when one minute is remaining?
  • Can I reach a customer service operator 24 hours a day?
  • When does the card expire?

Determining Which Card is the Best for You

The way you expect to use your card can help determine which type of phone card will be best suited for you. Users who place many short calls will want to look for a card that has no connection fees, while those who make fewer, but longer, calls will want to look for lower per-minute rates and possibly take on a connection fee. Additionally, the fees and expiration dates on a card should be considered when thinking through how quickly you will use up your balance. A card that has a weekly service fee should be avoided if you plan to keep your card and use it slowly over an extended period of time. Likewise, if you plan to keep it and use it over time, you should make sure that the expiration date is long enough for you to be able to use your entire balance.

ZapTel has already "hand picked" the phone cards it sells

Now that you have an overview of all the questions to ask, you can see that the "per minute rate" is only one of several important factors to consider.

The staff at ZapTel has experience with phone cards, carriers and also the feedback from customers which is reflected in the ratings you see on the ZapTel site.

We review products on the market select the subset of products that meet our fee disclosure requirements and call reliability standards.

As a result, when you choose your phone card on the ZapTel web site, you can be assured that these have already passed our initial screen. We carry both "extra fee" cards and "no-fee" cards-our customers ask for both kinds depending upon their calling needs. Any one of them may be right for your calling situation. If you just can't decide, feel free to call a friendly customer service rep at 1-877-LD CARDS.

Phone Card Definitions / Glossary

Billing Increments / Call Rounding
Indicates how the actual length of a phone call is translated into billed time. Companies typically bill a minimum of 1 minute per call, and round calls up to the nearest minute. Some cards have 3 minute rounding - this means that the call will be rounded to the nearest number divisible by 3. For example, a 10 minute call will be charged as 12 minutes.

Multiple Calling Option
A feature on some calling cards that allows the user to make successive calls without redialing the access number and account billing information. With multiple calling, a user simply hits the disconnect button or pound (#) key twice to make the next call.

Connection Fee
A fee charged on every call that is made.

Country Code and City Code
Two or three digit codes used for International calls outside of the North American Numbering Plan area codes. For example, a phone card dialing instructions may say the following: Dial 011 + country code + city code + local phone number. You would then enter 011 + 91 + 22 + 123- 4567 where 91 = India, 22 = Bombay)

A public (or private) telephone that requires coins or encoded credit cards to initiate a call.

Payphone Fee
Additional charge per call if call is made using a payphone, normally collected for the owner of the payphone. When a person uses a prepaid phone card, although the access number is generally toll free, a fee is still charged which reduces the balance of the phone card. This is mandated by the government to compensate payphone owners for the use of their phone.

Personal Identification Number (PIN)
Personal unique security codes that callers use to access their phone card balance.

Rechargeable Phone Card
A phone card which can be refilled with calling minutes by the addition of funds to the phone card account. This allows continued use without the purchase of a new card or a new PIN.

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