You might not get exactly what you're paying for when it comes to using prepaid calling cards to reach out to family and friends, according to a new study by the Washington-based Hispanic Institute.
It tested 45 international prepaid calling cards for efficacy and value, and found that the average card delivered only 60 percent of the minutes promised. A third of the 45 cards delivered the full call-time promised; seven, or 15.6 percent, didn't work at all; and eight had call completion rates of 50 percent or less. Three cards provided less than 20 percent of the minutes promised
Dropped calls, poor sound quality and post-dial delays of up to 50 seconds were common among most of the cards. Just 15 cards allowed the caller to use the entire time balance. The institute said consumers were misled by excessive fine print, confusing terms and conditions, or simple omission of important information about card usage.
Those who are hit hardest by prepaid calling card fraud are mostly immigrants who use them as a cost-effective option to keep in touch with family and friends abroad, the institute said. Prepaid phone cards have grown into a $4 billion industry, responsible for 11 billion calls in 2004.
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