Free Calling Apps vs. Paid International Calling Cards


Which is better when it comes to making international calls? Calling apps or international calling cards?

The large majority of people today are using calling apps because they offer free calling and messaging as well as video options which are fantastic for speaking to family overseas.

But as with anything free can also come with downsides especially if you are trying to communicate with people who may be in more remote corners of the globe or with older people who have not yet embraced this modern technology i.e. accessibility.

Accessibility is one of the primary issues with this technology since in order to use it you and the recipient need to have a strong and reliable internet connection, and while calling app companies to understand this limitation and are trying to reduce the amount of data required to make calls it has a long way to go.

One of the other options which are still popular today is the international calling card.

Considered an ‘ancient technology’ by literally everyone this dinosaur tech actually still has a place in the market because of the limitations of calling apps and is likely to continue for quite some time.

Cheap than major telcos


The main benefits of using an international calling card are that the rates are typically around 50% to 90% cheaper to make an international phone call than what your telco provider is offering.

Some may argue that their telco provider offers them free minutes to other countries but these are typically the top tier countries anyway so you could just as easily use a calling app.

In a lot of cases, a person will be on a plan that doesn’t offer free minutes to their destination and the rates are generally quite high which is why international calling cards become a great option.


On top of that and equally important is the accessibility that international calling cards give you.

“While not every person on the planet will have access to strong and reliable internet, (some people may in fact not have any internet access at all!) virtually everyone has access to a phone line.” JT,

This means that you can use your mobile to call virtually anyone on the planet regardless of whether they have internet or not.

This is one of the main reasons I prefer international calling cards over calling apps because some places that I travel to just don’t have reliable internet connections but at the very least have access to a phone line.



The other reason I tend to use international calling cards over calling apps is that it keeps my life that much more simple.

Each country tends to have its own popular calling app and then you have people who prefer this app and not that app, so to avoid having to install a dozen different apps on my phone I know that I can call them all simply by using my calling card – it’s great.

The downside – multi-step

Unfortunately, when it comes to international calling cards it takes at least 3 steps before you can actually talk to someone for example to make a call you need to:

  1. Call the local access number
  2. Key in your PIN (personal identification number)
  3. Dial the international number

For some people, this process is a little off-putting but there are some ways you can shorten this entire process down to even one step!

Most calling card companies will offer a feature called ‘pinless dialing’ or ‘pin free dialing’ which simply means that you only need to enter the local access number and the international number, this is a handy feature to have.

Alternatively, if you are using a mobile phone you can actually program this entire process by just separating each step with a comma ‘,’.

All you do is create a new contact inside your mobile phone and give it a name that includes ‘international calling card’ for example Geoff (International Calling Card) and where you enter in the phone number for Geoff you would enter this Local access number, PIN, International number.

That’s it.

Next time you decide you want to talk to Geoff you tap on his name then tap the ‘call’ button, your mobile phone will call the access number, then pause (this is the comma), then enter in the PIN, then pause, then finally dial the international phone number all automatically.

Buying the “right” international calling card


When purchasing the right calling card there are some things you need to be aware of because it is not as simple as buying a calling card with the lowest per minute rate.

First, only purchase an international calling card using a specialist retailer who only sells calling cards, this means you will be able to get competent advice on which calling card is best for your specific situation, unfortunately, newsagents and supermarkets are not the best places to purchase your calling cards since they know about as much as you do on which card to buy.

Second, make sure you ask the retailer about any fees associated with the phone card. Ask about connection fees, daily service charges, etc.

Third, ask the retailer about:

  • Whether these calling cards are rechargeable or disposable (do you want to use this card on an ongoing basis or do you only need it for one call?),
  • What the expiration date is?
  • What happens to your credit if your card expires?
  • Are you able to reactivate your card if it expires?
  • If you reactivate it can you get your credit back?

Fourth, what is the refund policy?

In most cases calling companies will not allow you to get a refund if your card has been used, in other words, you use 5% of your minutes and then 6 months later you demand a refund, this is not likely to happen unless there was an issue with the card but this is something you need to get on top of straight away do not sit on it for 6 months because it’s unlikely you will get a refund.