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Phone Cards, Telephone Cards, Calling Cards

A Calling card, telephone card, or phone card for short, is a small card, usually resembling a credit card, used to pay for telephone services. The exact system for payment, and the way in which the card is used to place a phone call, depend on the overall telecommunication system. But in general a phone card is purchased with a specific balance, from which the cost of calls made is deducted. Phone cards are disposable; when the balance is exhausted, you buy a new card, rather than having the old one re-filled.

The French payphones were the first large size deployment of smart cards: instead of change, users would insert a simple pre-paid smart card from which units would be deducted during the connection.

In many areas, most public payphones are card-operated, with the card inserted into a slot to be read like a credit card (technically more like a debit card, since the charges are deducted from an existing balance). Other phone cards come with a code printed on the card, which the user enters in order to place a call when payment is required. This may be done either from a public telephone, or on a personal phone to access long-distance and other services.

Telecom companies have also taken advantage of phone cards to place advertising on the card, or to feature celebrity portraits, artwork, or attractive photography to increase the appeal of the cards to consumers. This practice, combined with the disposability of the cards (encouraging individuals to purchase multiple cards), has led some people to start collecting phone cards as a hobby.

Costs of prepaid telephone cards vary based on whether or not a conection fee is assessed. Some rates are as low a 1 cent per minute, but there is ofter a 69 cent connection fee and 3-minute billing. Some stores sell calling cards reloadable in as little as 50 cent, 10 minute levels (5 cents a minute). While other stores vary in price, ranging from 4.95 to 7 cents depending on the size of the card; during certain specials rates fall to as little as 3 cents a minute.