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International Phone Fees

Dear Savvy Traveler,

I'd like to warn travelers about the exorbitant fees charged by some phone companies' international calling cards. I learned the hard way.

Before I left for my six-week trip to Europe, I called my long distance company to get a calling card. I figured it would be the most convenient way to make calls on the road, and that the rates would be competitive. Boy, was I wrong. The phone company didn't tell me that each call I made would come with a $4.50 connection fee. They also gave me incorrect information about the rate per minute -- and this is from a prominent American company.

Midway through my trip, my dad sent me an urgent e-mail. He had checked my phone bill and was shocked by the total. The rate per minute was astronomical! When I called a friend and got his answering machine, for example, that one-minute call cost $7.00. I called the phone company and asked if this was their best rate. I was told that no, $1.35 a minute was their best rate. So why didn't I receive that rate? The explanation: "Well, the best rate the agent you spoke with was offering was $2.45 a minute." Of course I was furious, and I'm disputing the bill.

For the rest of my trip I purchased local calling cards from newsstands and money-changing offices. I paid between 10 and 35 cents a minute for calls to the U.S. using these cards, with no connection fee. It was a convenient, affordable solution. So, be sure to ask about all fees and rates of your phone company's plans before making calls abroad. You'll probably be better off buying pre-paid phone cards.






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