Beware of pitfalls with pre-paid phone cards

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If you are thinking about buying a pre-paid phone card, be sure you know what you are getting. The Federal Trade Commission, along with the Better Business Bureau urge consumers to beware of some potential issues when selecting the cards.

It is a simple purchase with a simple way to protect yourself. Read the fine and print and if you don't understand the terms, ask questions.

Tina Holt, with Consumer Affairs identifies who might use a pre-paid phone card. She says, "For those that don't have actual phone service, a landline or cell phone, they would purchase a phone card, some people are going on a trip and they may purchase a phone card."

She says if you plan to buy one, ask lots of questions ,she says, "Is there going to be a disconnect fee or hangup fee every time you use the card, is there going to be a fee even if you use it for a toll free number or just a fee for each call you make."

Consumer Affairs and other agencies like the BBB track complaints about pre-paid phone cards. The most common: Access number or pins not working, Issuers going out of business, customer services numbers busy or not working, rates higher than advertised, hidden connection charges, and cards that use minutes even when you don't connect to a caller.

Here are some things that may prevent disappointment when buying your next pre-paid phone card. Looking for information about extra charges. Check for an expiration date and be sure you understand the instructions

Consumer experts say as a rule of thumb, don't buy without fully understanding what you are getting.

Holt says, "With any product that you purchase you would need to understand the terms and conditions of the use. So of course with phone cards, where they may not have enough room to list all the fees or all the terms and conditions, it is important to contact customer service so you have an understanding the fees associated with the card."

If possible, consumer experts say try to select pre-paid phone cards with a toll free customer service number in case you have questions.

If your pre-paid phone card is still not working after you've gone through the necessary steps -- you can file a complaint with the BBB, your local Consumer protection department or the Federal Trade Commission.

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