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March 16, 2008

Phone Cards: Calling Tips for Calling Card Buyers and Users

Here are two great phone calling card tips that you would do well to pay attention to next time you go to buy a calling card.

Tip #1 Retail phone cards vs. virtual calling cards online
I live in Washington where there is a general sales tax of almost 9%. Many people that live on the border of Washington and Oregon know that by doing their shopping in Oregon (a state without a sales tax), they can save almost $9 on a $100 calling card. The point of this story is that you should not only compare the cheapest rates on the card, but also the cheapest place to buy the card. If you want to avoid sales tax. Buy your phone cards online from a virtual calling card provider like Pingo.com that offers great international rates. This will allow you to beat out those retail cards on the sales tax alone, not to mention the lower calling rates you often get from going through an online retailer vs. a "real-world" retailer (who makes a lot of their money in the markups they apply to the per-minute rounding rates on the card).

Tip #2 Walgreens and Wal-Mart International phone cards


About two years ago my mom purchased a Walgreen's calling card. But it could have been from any monster retail giant. Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, King Soopers, and even Home Depot all now have calling cards that they market. The Walgreens card was branded "International," and was sold at a slight markup from the normal card used for making "long distance" calls within the U.S. Her intention was that I would be able to call her from London, where I was traveling for a job interview. She slipped the card with a note to "call home" into my suitcase on the morning of my flight, so I didn't find it until I arrived at Heathrow. When I finally pulled out the card to try to call her, there was no number to call besides the US 1-800-number.

The Walgreens definition of "international," means that you could call from the US to Canada and Mexico. What's funny (NOT funny ha-ha, but funny what-a-rip-off) is that this is a feature which you can get by buying one of their normal calling cards. My mom had been misled, assuming that "international" meant I could call from anywhere. The tip here is that if you are buying a card at a retail outlet, read the back of your card carefully before purchase, and make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for. Then you won't end up paying extra simply for a logo with some pretty flags on it. Or better yet, stop trying to read all the small print on a Walgreens International phone card, or any other "International" phone card from a retail store.

By using Skype, or by buying a calling card online, (we currently recommend Pingo.com), you can get a clear understanding of what you're paying for and get clean and affordable international rates to most countries in the world.

Side note: At Pingo.com, you can receive $5 in free calls, and get 15% discount. All you have to do is use the Pingo coupon code "s4i"

March 14, 2008

Issues with Making International Phone Calls Abroad

Here's an email we received from an obviously frustrated individual.

Hey CallingAdvice.com. Maybe you can help me. Making International calls has always been an issue for me. I was born and raised in Europe so I make a lot of international calls back and forth to my family and friends. Over the past few years, making these calls has created a fair amount frustration and anger. While the cost of making these calls has come down, it has become harder and harder to make these calls. There are now so many options when choosing a company for the calls, and more often than not everyone is very competitive.

It has always been hard for me to make these calls. Over the years, here in the U.S. it has become more of a frustrating process for me to make international calls. In order to dial an international number, most companies require you to dial their 800 number first, then you must dial an extension or the number on your calling card (which can sometimes consist of as many as 20 numbers), and then finally you dial the desired number. Once you have done all this, sometimes your call may go through or it may fail. For me, more often than not, the call fails and doesn't work. Not to mention the fact that for me, international calls have become expensive.

Then, when it comes to my home line (you have probably experienced this too), there are many companies that call me on a daily basis, asking me if I am happy with my phone provider and if they can try to beat the price.

When I call the rates are usually between 10-15 Cents per minute. This may seem low to some people however these charges add you quickly and it become expensive before you know it! My monthly bill is usually between $150-$250 (depending on how much I talk) and this bill is just for international calls. In addition, I have a cell phone bill and a home phone bill. I am not rich by any means and I have a lot of trouble affording this type of service.

Calling Advice Recommendation:

Since you didn't tell us what country you are calling, it's hard for us to know what the best advice is that we can offer you.

However, generally speaking: If you have a high speed Internet connection, sign up for Skype. Get a SkypeOut account, buy a headset for your computer, and save yourself a LOT of money. If you do not have a high speed Internet connection, try a different calling card company.

At this time, we are recommending that you try out Pingo.com for calling cards.

Side note: At Pingo.com, you can receive $5 in free calls, and get 15% discount. All you have to do is use the Pingo coupon code "s4i"

March 12, 2008

Using A Rented Cell Phone In A Foreign Country

The first time that I went to a foreign country, away from my family, was when I was 13. I went on a class trip to Israel, and we needed to share a cell phone between 4 people.

Unfortunately, the window of time that we could communicate with our families was limited because we had activity-filled days, so there was a narrow band of time in which we could communicate home. As a result of the limited time, and because we were so busy, eventually all of us started to contact home less and less. However the cell phone that was rented in Israel (where we were) was a very good idea. It greatly improved my ability to contact my family, and was also significantly cheaper than calling on a pay phone and more accessible.

I would recommend to anyone going to a foreign country that they rent a cell phone if they want to contact anyone back home. Of course, the better option if you have a computer and an Internet connection is to get a service like Skype, and if you don't have a computer and Internet connection, then the best and most flexible option is to just get a virtual calling card from a company like Pingo.com.

At Pingo.com, you can receive $5 in free calls, and get 15% discount. All you have to do is use the Pingo coupon code "s4i"

March 10, 2008

Advantages of Using VoIP

We use VoIP to make international calls. (VoIP is composed of services like Vonage, Packet8, PCtoPhone, Skype, and others.) Whoever invented VoIp was a genius, and has created a life-saver for anyone traveling abroad. I am not originally from the United States. Even though I live here now, I am Asian, and most of my family and friends are all in the Philippines. I have relatives and friends in other countries too, especially around Europe.

I use my VoIP Phone service to call them. Amongst all the choices for International calling, I would recommend VoIP services because not only is calling through VoIP much less expensive, but the quality is good too! I say this while letting you know that I've used calling card and cell phone services for international calling as well, but I have really never been all that satisfied with the quality. Generally speaking, calling cards are almost always more expensive.

Before I signed up with my current VoIP service, I used this calling card for calling the United States when I was still in the Philippines. It wasn't that expensive, but I would have to dial 4 times to finally connect and talk to someone. Then, they always had this automated message that you would have to listen through, and wait while the whole message played, then follow some instructions, then listen some more, then follow more instructions, and then you would finally be able to connect. It was a hassle!

So what are the downsides to using VoIP? Well, since it is Voice Over Internet Protocol, it doesn't always work perfectly, depending on Internet traffic and what kind of connection I'm getting. However, I don't really worry about it because for the low monthly payment I am paying, I think I am getting the service I am paying for and more, and any other option for International calling has not been good just as frequently as my VoIP service.

I would rather pay cheaply and have problems sometimes than pay a fortune for a mobile phone or other calling card service that sucks! The one caveat to this is that VoIP services don't work well where you can't get an Internet connection. So, if you are going to be traveling to a place where you can't get an Internet connection, I would recommend getting a calling card, and some of the best ones I have found so far are through Pingo.com.

Pingo.com, you can receive $5 in free calls, and get 15% discount. All you have to do is use the Pingo coupon code "s4i"

March 09, 2008

Tips for Making International Calls While Traveling Abroad

If you are making international calls while traveling abroad, and you are making those calls regularly, then one of the best things you can do is to get a cell phone plan that will let you make international calls from the country where you are traveling to.

The best way to do this is to check with your cell phone provider to find out what it takes to add the country you are traveling to, and add that country in to the calling plan itself. As long as you stay under the minutes limit, this is one of the most cost-efficient ways I have found of making phone calls from another country while traveling.

You can also get a mobile/cell phone that is based on SIM cards, and then swap out your home-country SIM card for one that is based in the country abroad, but we'll talk about SIM cards in a different article.

Other options are to get a VOIP system, which is easier if people in the foreign country are trying to call you. A VOIP system basically allows you to take a little box with you which plugs into a phone, and they are convenient, but depending on the infrastructure of the country you are in, they are not the most reliable, and you have to have a high speed Internet connection where you are staying/living.

Calling cards can be expensive, but they are often they most reliable. You just follow the directions on the card, and you are connected. You have to watch that you stay within the limits on a pre-paid card, or it will disconnect you in the middle of the call (which is oh-so fun if you're calling because of an emergency at home, an emergency where you are currently, or simply because you're feeling homesick). Sometimes, if you make a lot of calls, you can arrange to get a discount on international calling cards if you buy them in bulk. There is also frequently the option of charging the phone call to your credit card, which again can be expensive, but at least you won't have to worry about getting disconnected.

Other options, such as satellite phones, are prohibitively expensive. They really don't offer any advantages over a traditional cell phone or a VOIP system, unless you are in a place where there are no Internet connections, cell phone towers, or telephone landlines.

Of the above options, I would recommend the following, in this order.

If you have a high-speed Internet connection (and a computer) where you're staying/living abroad, sign up for Skype.

If you want to be able to call from your GSM enabled phone, add the country where you are going to your calling plan.

If you want freedom and flexibility to stop wherever you are and make a phone call from whatever phone is available to you at the moment, get a virtual calling card from a company like Pingo.com.

March 07, 2008

Choices Available to International Callers

There are many choices available to those who want to make international calls. While some of these options cost more than others, these options will all allow you to call friends, family, and business contacts overseas. GSM (or Global System for Mobile Communications) is one method for making calls internationally. Because of the GSM network, many cell phone owners are able to roam globally without switching phones or providers. Sometimes, roaming charges may apply and it is vital to choose a phone with the GSM logo on it showing that it is compatible with the system.

The advent of the internet phone, and many internet based phone services, has enabled people all over the globe to call each other for a low fee. Sometimes, the service is free.

This is especially true in cases

like Skype where the caller and the person called each have the service on their computer, and they are actually able to communicate via voice all over the world. Many of these services claim that you can call any phone in the world, but with Skype, I've yet to find a phone number I can't call.

For not much more money, you can set up a VoIP phone that will enable you to call internationally using a regular handset in your home or business location. (Although there are now phone models which will allow you to use Skype as well for international calling.) Often times, these companies offer packages with minutes to various countries, so it is important to choose the one that will provide service to the countries that you will be calling. Satellite cell phones allow users to either purchase or rent a phone that will function in their destination countries. This is a good choice when you are taking a vacation or when you frequent another country for business and still wish to call home.

Finally, calling cards are pre-paid and allow users to call anywhere in the world by simply connecting them and deducting amounts from the balance of the card equal to how long they talk. When the value of the card is zero, the user will not be able to make any more calls. This is a common choice for businesses and associates that travel often because even though high speed Internet is widely available across the globe now, sometimes it's still just more convenient to have a phone card easily accessible.

Overall, there are numerous options for people wanting to make international calls. Knowing what you want and how often you want to use it will make choosing which method to use much simpler.

If you're ready for a clean quality international plan, without any equipment to purchase, and one that works on your GSM international phones, then try Pingo.com, a virtual calling card service. You can receive $5 in free calls, and get 15% discount. All you have to do is use the Pingo coupon code "s4i". They play no games and offer great customer support abroad.

March 02, 2008

Pingo Caling Cards and Coupon Code

Save money at Pingo Calling Cards through code s4i.

Pingo Calling Cards Discount Coupon Code:

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Pingo has features which should make your life easier when it comes to calling cards.

PIN-less Dialing with PINpass (Fewer numbers to dial)
Use Pingo in 35 countries
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Get $5 in free calls at Pingo, and get 15% discount. All you have to do is use the Pingo coupon code "s4i".