Life in the USA
Public Services I
Phone Cards and Credit Card Calling
Telephone cards (“phone cards” or “calling cards”) are available for long distance calling, especially if you are away from home and using a payphone, which may require more coins than you can keep available. (Some payphones require cards and accept no coins at all.) You apply for a phone card through your local telephone company, a long distance company, through your credit card company, or you can purchase prepaid phonecards giving you a certain number of long distance minutes for one flat fee.
With one of these cards you'll be able to make a long distance call from a payphone or telephone booth, or from any telephone even if it is not connected to a long distance provider. You'll have to dial a long string of numbers to activate this service, and sometimes it can cost twice as much as calling from a regular telephone. Also note that fees for each use may make your pre-paid minutes decline more rapidly than you calculate.
If you are at someone else's home, and you need to make a long distance call, it is courteous to suggest using a telephone card if you have one. In many cases today, the person will have unlimited long distance coverage, in which case the telephone card will not be necessary.
When using a regular credit or debit card to make a call from a payphone, bear in mind that charges may very well be difficult to determine, and surprisingly high. The charge will often include a per-call fee as well as per-minute fees.
One good alternative to either type of card calling is a mobile telephone that comes with pre-paid minutes. In many cases, you can purchase these phones without the bother of arranging for a cellular telephone account.
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