Choosing a Long Distance Provider

Jun 22 21:00 2004 David McDonough Print This Article

Choosing a long distance ... provider can be a tricky ... Not only are there hundreds of long distance ... but each company offers numerous long distance calling plans. With so many

Choosing a long distance telephone provider can be a tricky business. Not only are there hundreds of long distance companies,Guest Posting but each company offers numerous long distance calling plans. With so many options, it can seem overwhelming when trying to find the long distance plan to best fit your needs.

Know your needs
It is often a good idea for most people to shop around for a plan that meets their long-distance calling needs. The same long-distance calling plan is not right for all consumers. While some may benefit from a larger long-distance company, others may see rewards in a smaller company. To choose the best long-distance calling plan, consumers must know their personal long-distance needs. To understand your long distance needs, it is important to be familiar with your monthly telephone bills. You should know:

The number of calls you make each month.

How long each call lasts.

What time of day you make most of your long-distance calls.

The destination to which calls are being placed (local, domestic, long-distance or intercontinental).

Once you understand your telephone bill, compare the different services offered by long-distance telephone companies.

Evaluate your calling patterns.
Contact different companies and request written information about calling packages they offer, or use a rating service.

Match your calling pattern to the long-distance company that best fits your needs.

Try dial-around access code (10-10 numbers)
If you are not ready to switch to a new long-distance provider, try a dial-around access code. Access codes can be punched into the telephone before dialing a telephone number. The access code allows you to have that call carried by the provider whose access code is dialed. By doing this you can see the various rates different companies charge, then you can decide which price is right for you.

The following are the access codes for the larger carriers: Sprint: 10-10333, MCI: 10-10222, AT&T: 10-10288, LCI: 10-10432, LDDS WorldCom: 10-10488 and Allnet: 10-10444. Not only can you use access codes to make long distance out-of-state calls, but you can also use access codes to make long distance in-state calls. Long distance in-state calls are most often carried by your local provider and are normally charged at a higher rate than companies you can access by using a code.

If you are considering using dial-around services, TheLowestRates.Com, LLC recommends the following:
Know the dial-around terms. Remember, not all dial-around services use the same terminology. What some companies call “prime time” (normally the most expensive time to call) may be considered “off-peak” (a less expensive time to call) by another.

Don’t use dial-around for local calls. Some local calls require you to dial the area code. If you have doubt about whether a call will be a toll call, contact the operator. Using a dial-around code on a local call may cost you more. You will be billed at the toll rate, even though you could have dialed for free if you have flat-rate local service.

Be aware when using dial-around directory assistance. This service, such as 10-10-2000, can connect you to a telephone number much like traditional directory assistance. However, there are some issues to consider. For example, you can be charged even if the call is not completed or if the telephone number given is incorrect. Be careful using dial-around numbers on nights and weekends. When you consider the surcharges and minimums, the per-minute rate offered by dial-around services may not be much cheaper than your regular long-distance company if you are on a calling plan.

Determine your calling patterns. When do you make long-distance telephone calls? Where do you call? How long do you talk? Answering these questions can help give you a sense of whether dial-around calling will best suit your household’s needs.

Discount packages and plans
Of the U.S. households that currently have Sprint, MCI or AT&T as their long-distance carrier, approximately half of those households are not enrolled in any type of discount program. From lack of enrollment in discount plans, it has been asserted consumers spend a total of $2 billion a year more than they should for telephone service. Therefore, it may be wise to enroll in a discount program to justify your long-distance choice. Be aware that programs constantly change and it is best to contact the company directly and ask what programs are currently available. Once you contact the company, determine whether or not you are eligible, how long the discount is available and ask the company to send you information about the offer.

Calling Cards
Calling cards are a convenient way to place a call when not at home. However, a calling card provided by long distance carriers such as AT&T and MCI, may come with a surcharge for each use. Some calling cards have a rate of 20 to 40 cents per minute. You may avoid a surcharge and gain a lower rate by obtaining a card from a smaller provider or reseller of telephone service.

Prepaid calling cards
Another way to avoid a surcharge is to buy a prepaid calling card. Be aware, prepaid calling cards are not problem free. Many consumers cards are not problem free. Many consumers have recently discovered some prepaid calling cards have the following problems:

Higher per-minute rates than other telephone cards.

Some companies have gone out of business leaving their customers with unused minutes and without being reimbursed.

Access numbers or personal identification numbers do not work.

Toll-free access numbers are always busy preventing use of the card.

Hidden connection charges have been added to cards.

Poor connections prevent use.
When considering purchasing a prepaid calling card, ask the following questions:
What is the actual cost per minute of the card?

Is there a sign up or activation fee?

Where can I call from?

Who do I contact if there is a problem with the card?

How reputable is the company?

How many minutes is the calling card worth?

Is there an expiration date?

A personal 1-800 number
Setting up a personal 1-800 number may be a good idea for parents with a child in college. While a calling card can be used to call anyone, the 1-800 number can only be used to call home. Ask your carrier about receiving a 1-800 number. Often they will set up the number at a reasonable rate with no monthly or installation fees.

Avoid rounding charges
Some companies charge for a five-minute long distance call when you really only spoke for four minutes and two seconds. This is because the company bills in 60-second increments. Therefore, you will often pay for more time than you actually use. AT&T, MCI Worldcom and Sprint bill in 60-second increments. Other carriers may provide different options.

Pay attention to pay phones
It is important to be cautious when using a pay phone. Long-distance companies connected to pay phones may charge higher rates and additional fees. Using a calling card to access a different long-distance company’s service may be the best alternative. However, you should be aware that some companies may go to great lengths to make it difficult for you to bypass their service and use a different carrier. For example, letterless keypads have been placed on some pay phones, therefore making it difficult to dial through to another carrier (i.e. 1-800-CALL-ATT etc.).

Research and compare
Long distance rates and discount plans change on a continual basis. Consumers should frequently call long-distance companies and ask about domestic rates, billing increments and applicable discount plans. What may have been the best plan for you six months ago, may no longer apply.

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David McDonough
David McDonough

Webmaster and owner of TheLowestRates.Com, LLC - Your residential long distance telephone, internet service and travel source.

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