What do I need to know about prepaid long-distance phone cards?

Prepaid long-distance phone cards can be an inexpensive way to stay in touch with friends and family. Find a card that meets your needs.

In Canada, phone cards are sold at corner stores, markets and small shops. They come in denominations of $5, $10 and $20. Sometimes they are marketed very specifically to newcomers.

The amount of talking time you get can depend on the value of the phone card, where you are calling and if you are calling a landline or a cell phone. You may want to try different phone cards to see which ones provide you with the best value.

Before you buy a card, read the fine print and look for the following information:

  • Connection fees
  • Service fees, weekly fees or any other surcharges
  • Minimum charges (for example, minimum number of minutes charged per call)
  • Expiry date
  • Time of day restrictions
  • Location restrictions (for example, not all cards permit international calls)
  • Customer service number (in case you have difficulty using the card)

The prepaid long-distance phone card business is unregulated in Canada. If you have problems with your card, try the customer service number. Some card companies are difficult to reach. If you want to complain about the phone card company, follow the instructions in How do I make a consumer complaint?

How do I use a phone card?

Dial the toll-free number listed on the card. Then enter the PIN number (usually you have to scratch part of the card to reveal this number). A voice prompt will tell you how much time you have for the call.

You may get a warning when your time is almost used up. When you are out of time, you will be disconnected. Generally, you cannot reload the card with more money. You have to buy a new card when the one you have is empty.

For More Information

  • Consumer Beware List - This is a list of businesses that consumers have complained about to the Ministry. You can search for businesses by name or service type. It provides details on the nature of the complaint and if any charges were laid.
  • Canadian Consumer Handbook - Information about many consumer products and how to complain effectively.
  • Common Consumer Questions - Information about returns, refunds, deposits, warranties and more. From Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
Last updated: March 24, 2016 4000510