International Calling Guide - Tel3, VoIP, Prepaid Phone Cards and More

international calling

International Calling Guide


Most consumers do not know or fully understand the available options for making domestic or international long distance calls.  Most know that conventional long distance is expensive for  international calling, especially when one considers the extra fees and taxes added  for each call, and many people know about phone cards but consider them to be a poor quality solution.  However, there are other, high quality, low cost options available for making domestic calls and to call international. The purpose of this guide is to highlight the features of the available products so the consumer can choose the product that best fits their needs.  Other than conventional long distance, the products included in this discussion are Dial Around Long Distance, Phone Cards, VOIP Phone Service, PC to Phone Service and International Callback.  Smartglobcall.com has prepared this guide so the consumer can be better informed about international calling options.

international calling

Free Calls - YouTring offers unlimited international calling service enabling you to make free calls over the internet including PC to PC and PC to phone calls worldwide with free software download.

VoIP - iCallglobe, one of the leading VoIP service provider offers best call termination services, Internet VoIP phone service, reseller programs, VoIP PBX and Business VoIP Solutions.

Conventional Long Distance

This is a poor option for making international calls unless the consumer makes very few international calls or they don't care about saving money.  These plans are offered by the traditional long distance providers like Sprint, AT&T, MCI, etc.  The following table highlights the cost difference between making  international calls with a conventional long distance carrier and other, lower cost options.  The per minute cost of an international call from the USA to Brazil is used for this example. The rates for calls to other countries will vary but the pattern will remain the same.

An Example of the Cost Difference Between Calling Options for Making a Call from the USA to Brazil*



Dial Around 

Phone Cards 

 PC to Phone


 Cost (cents/min)


3 - 5.5 

1.5 - 5.8 

2.5 - 6 


*The cost for options other than AT&T are from actual service providers listed on Smartglobalcall.com. **Rate from AT&T International Anywhere Plan II and is only the base rate with no added fees or taxes.

This example is for illustrative purposes only.  The per minute rates are actual listed rates from real service providers but prices will vary slightly depending on the service provider or calling plan selected.  What will not change is the dramatic cost difference between the traditional long distance service providers and the other available international calling options.  It should be noted that a similar difference will be found if domestic rates are compared.

The conventional phone companies also really rip off consumers by bundling unlimited long distance with local service.  They do this in the USA in order to disguise their high rates for local (in state) and interstate long distance.  Consumers pay $50 to $70 per month or more for local phone service with unlimited long distance.  Instead they could pay $20 to $30 per month for basic local service and use a quality Dial around plan that charges 1.9 cents/min for calls to the USA or Canada.  Another option is to use a quality VOIP Plan that includes local and unlimited long distance to the USA and Canada for $19.95 per month including all fees and taxes.  


Dial Around Long Distance

A high quality dial around plan is a good option for someone who consistently makes long distance and international calls and wants to use a avoid the high rates charged by the conventional phone companies.  Long distance or international calls are placed by dialing a local or toll free access number thereby by-passing or "dialing around" the conventional phone company.  Good Call International Dial Around Plans only charge for the minutes used and have no monthly fees, taxes or other hidden charges.  Some may think that dialing an access number is an unnecessary hassle but these can be speed dialed from most phones and most high quality dial around plans do not require the caller to enter an account number or PIN when making a call.  Calls can be completed by pressing one extra button or even less buttons than normal if the long distance or international number is also speed dialed.  It is cheaper and easier to call international with a plan like Tel3Advantage than most be think.  You can use it to make low cost calls from your cell phone or even a hotel phone.  As illustrated above, the cost savings can be substantial with no perceptible decrease in call quality.


Prepaid Phone Cards

Most consumers are familiar with phone cards.  Like a dial around plan, they are used by dialing a local or toll free access number from almost any phone. Many consider phone cards to be cheap but poor quality.  In many cases this is true but there are high quality prepaid phone cards available from reputable suppliers.  Many require the caller to dial an account number and/or PIN when making a call but some are now PIN-less.  If bought on line the access numbers and PIN are typically e-mailed to the purchaser so the phone card can be used immediately.  These are a good option for people who are traveling or for occasional use.  Consumers can purchase International Phone Cards for making low cost international calls from destinations in the USA or 130 other countries.  Care should be taken when making a phone card purchase.  Phone card marketers often advertise low per minute rates but the actual rate will typically be much higher due to the addition of extra fees and taxes.  They are very creative in inventing new "hidden" fees.  These are often referred to as connection fees, taxes, service fees, maintenance fees or usage fees.  Another way to disguise higher rates is by rounding the duration of the call in higher intervals.  Most phone cards use 1, 3 or 6 minute rounding interval.  This means that the length of the call will be rounded up by one of these intervals (the rounding interval is normally stated in the phone card details).  For example, if a caller makes a 6.5 minute call, the caller will be charged the following minutes depending on the rounding interval of the phone card being used.

  • If a phone card with a 1 minute rounding interval is used the caller will be charged for 7 minutes.
  • If a phone card with a 3 minute rounding interval is used the caller will be charged for 9 minutes.
  • If a phone card with a 6 minute rounding interval is used the caller will be charged for 12 minutes.

In general, phone cards with a lower rounding interval have less hidden cost.  The lowest phone card rounding interval is normally 1 minute.  There are sometimes other hidden charges like minimum call duration.  Some phone cards may charge the minimum rounding interval even if the call is not completed. 

It is often difficult or impossible to compare all of these things when making a phone card purchase.  The two things to remember are: 1. Try to compare phone cards on the same basis while shopping (i.e. cards with the same rounding interval and fee structure)  and 2. Be sure and read the details of a phone card before a purchase is made or the actually calling cost may be a lot higher than expected.

Despite these shortcomings, phone cards have their place and most people need one from time-to-time.  They are very good for occasional use and even relatively expensive high quality phone cards are far cheaper than conventional long distance.  One final tip, it is typically better to purchase a phone card right before it is used and to use it to make one call or a few calls over a short period of time.  If used this way, many of the fees mentioned above are reduced.


VOIP Phone Service

There are several high quality VOIP Phone Service that offer consumers or small businesses significant savings over conventional phone service.  VOIP Phone Service is used to make calls through a broadband INTERNET connection.  The VOIP service provider will normally provide an adapter so the user can plug their phone into their broadband INTERNET connection and make calls to any phone at any location in the world.  Good VOIP Phone Plans come with extra features that would be expensive if purchased separately for conventional phone service.  They also offer very cheap packages like local phone service and unlimited long distance for $19.95 per month with no extra fees or taxes.  International calls are typically not included in the basic package but the per minute rates usually very low.  Many consumers think that VOIP Phone Service has poor call quality.  This may have been true in the past but call quality is pretty good now and continues to get better.  Other people confuse VOIP with PC to Phone Service.  The technology is actually quite different.  With VOIP a consumer can make and receive calls over what appears to be a standard phone.  PC to Phone is normally only used to make calls and a head set is used to make calls with a PC. 

There are a couple of unique uses for VOIP:

  • It is a good, inexpensive option for a family, especially those with teenagers, who would like an extra phone line.  Many families with teenage students already have broadband INTERNET.  This is a way to get the most out of the INTERNET connection.
  • People who travel can carry their INTERNET adapter with them and make free calls to anywhere in North America from broadband connections worldwide.  Other people can reach them anywhere from the USA by making a local or domestic long distance phone call to their USA telephone number.  This is a great option for USA expatriates living or working overseas or anyone who makes or receives frequent calls from North America. 

Visit the VoIP Shop for more information and a selection of VoIP Options.

International VoIP - A great VoIP Option if you make a lot of International Calls or want a Phone Number in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe or Asia.

PC to Phone Service

As the name implies, PC to Phone service allows the caller to make low cost calls or even free calls from their PC.  These plans can be set up through various on line service providers (we have provided a link to one the largest below).  A consumer simply opens an account and downloads a program onto their PC that allows them to make calls using a headset from their PC.  PC to Phone service is good for some people in unique situations but is likely not the best option for most people.  The service has some significant limitations.  For example, it can normally only be used to make calls but not receive them.  This may be good for someone who only wants to make low cost calls to, for example, their family or friends living overseas but most people also want to receive calls with their phone service.  For this reason VOIP is likely a better alternative for most users since it is like conventional phone service where calls can be made to and received from any phone worldwide.   Also, free calls over PC to Phone are typically limited to PC to PC calls which significantly limits the flexibility of the service.  In any case, we have provided the link below to a major PC to Phone service provider in case anyone is interested in more details.


International Callback Phone Service

These plans are a great option for people who reside outside the USA and want to get low USA rates and high quality connections when making international calls.  The following is a description of how these plans work:

  • An account is set up with an International Callback Service Provider. 
  • A callback phone number is registered in the account.  This can typically be instantly changed on line at any time.
  • The caller makes a call from the registered phone to a special "callback" number in the USA.  The caller lets the phone ring once then hangs up.
  • The computer recognizes the caller and calls them back at their registered phone number that can be in any country.
  • The caller answers the phone and is connected to the callback system and can make low cost international calls to any phone in the world.  The call quality is good since the calls are routed through a USA service provider.  

Callback plans are normally prepaid but most high quality callback service providers will open an account with a small deposit.  They will also close an account a refund any unused funds at any time.  Deposits can be made by credit card or other means like international bank transfer or Western Union.