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If your business requires overseas communications with suppliers or customers; or if you have a loved one living or traveling abroad; you know that the cost for overseas calls can come as a shock to your budget and cause you heartburn if you think what the future may have in store. Calling rates vary from country to country, so the impact on your telephone bill could be dramatic, but there are a few things that you can do to help lessen the costs in the future.

- Calling Overseas Mobile Devices:

Be very careful when placing telephone calls to mobile devices overseas. There are many overseas carriers that use a "calling party pays" system when calling mobile devices (cell phone, pager, etc.) originating from within the United States. It is entirely possible that the tariff rate for an overseas wireless phone might be considerably higher compared to a call placed to a land-line in the same country. This surcharge is referred to as an "International / Special Services Termination Rate". It should be listed on your carrier's International calling plan rate schedule. U.S. carriers do not have a choice in this matter and it does you no good to complain to your local provider regarding what you may perceive as excessive charges that appear on your telephone bill.

- Direct Dialing or Dialaround:

Depending upon the country you are calling, you may get an overall attractive calling rate by dialing direct; accessing the network by dialing 011 + country code + city code plus the local number. However, you may want to consider using a dialaround service if your local plan charges a high tariff for a country you intend to call regularly. These services are also referred to as a 10-10 number. You do not need to switch long distance carriers to use a dialaround number and it can be used in many foreign countries as well to call home. These services usually have very competitive International rates and can save you considerable sums. Be advised, however, that you will not be able to use a dialaround service if you must dial 8 or 9 to access your dial tone, such as from an office or hotel.

- Operator Assistance To Place Calls:

Never, ever, use an operator to place an International call unless it is an absolute emergency. Obviously for every rule there are exceptions, collect calls, person-to-person and third party billing are examples, but whenever possible dial direct or use a dialaround service. When I first moved to Indonesia several years ago I called my son on his birthday using the local operator and we talked for about an hour. This was before I got into this business. My phone bill was in excess of $100. A dialaround service, which was not available at the time, would have cost me about $15.00 or less.

When using the operator to place your call here are some helpful hints.

The best way to place your call is to dial "0" followed by the number you wish to call, such as 0-123-456-7890. This will help make the connection faster. This method could be less expensive depending upon the carrier.

The standard way is to dial "0" or "00" for International calls and tell the operator the number you wish to call and any special instructions such as collect or person-to-person.

- Prepaid Calling Cards:

Using a prepaid card is yet another way to save money on International calls. Prepaid calling cards are portable and provide some protection against unseemly practices by the telecoms. You need to consider if there are any extra charges for the time and place of your call such as connection fees, maintenance or monthly fee, the billing increment of your call, and expiration date of the card. If you intend to use calling cards on a regular basis then consider a rechargeable card that will not expire.

- Calling FROM a U.S. Based Cell Phone:

There are countless horror stories on the Internet about how much some consumers have been "charged" (ripped off) by cellular providers for International calls. Fortunately, you can save substantial sums of money on these types of calls by planning ahead. You need to look for "stand alone" International calling plans that allow you to dialaround your cellular carrier, essentially bypassing their network for the International part of the call. The stand alone plan provides a substantial discount off the cellular provider's rates for International calls. The best part is that you do not need to change your cellular carrier to use the system. Simply register your cell phone number with the system provider and dial their U.S. access number provided to you before making your International call.

- Placing Your Call:

As mentioned above, if you are dialing direct you would dial: 011 + country code + city code + number. On the other hand, if you are using a dialaround provider, you would dial: 10-1x-xxx + 011 + country code + city code + number. In addition, keep in mind that there are about 20-countries outside of the U.S. where you would just dial 1+ without dialing the 011.

The "10-1x-xxx" represents the specific dialing code for the provider that you have selected. Contact your selected dialaround provider for the exact dialing requirements to access their system.

- Voice over IP (VoIP):

Voice over IP (VoIP) stand for Voice over Internet Protocol and can be a very inexpensive way to handle International calls. You need to have a broadband Internet connection available, such as a DSL or cable connection, and a touch tone phone. Using VoIP can also provide unlimited long distance service as well. Plans can be obtained for about $50.00 or less per month.
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