Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prepaid Telephone Cards Booming among Users and Collectors

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prepaid Telephone Cards Booming among Users and Collectors

Article excerpt

They come in almost as many varieties as stamps or trading cards, embossed with exquisite pictures of animals or skylines, with mind-boggling, three-dimensional images, with holograms, sports stars, movie stars, cars or a company logo for promotion.

Each one comes with a value: long-distance telephone time, paid for in advance. Prepaid telephone cards have become the means of making a phone call away from home in Europe and Asia, but the cards are just now making their way into American consciousness and wallets.

They also are finding their way into collectors' albums. No fewer than four publications have sprung up in the last year, focusing on collecting prepaid telephone cards.

"The collector market is growing so fast, no one can really seem to get a grasp on it," said Randy Moser, editor of Money Card Collector, which had its first issue this month.

He estimates that more than 500 companies in the United States are issuing prepaid cards and that there will be several million different U.S. cards to collect by the end of the year.

The prepaid calling card market today is fairly small, by most estimates between $50 million and $100 million this year. But industry projections expect prepaid calling to total $1 billion in the United States by 2000.

All four major long-distance companies (AT&T, MCI, Sprint and LDDS) have introduced prepaid calling cards in the past 18 months.

The cards typically come in denominations of $5, $10, $25, $50 and $100, or with a specific number of minutes or "units" a caller can use. Each has a toll-free 800 number to call, plus an identification number, or PIN, to punch in. The PIN triggers an automated voice that lets the caller know how much time or money is left on the card.

Generally, a minute of prepaid calling costs 50 cents, with some cards charging as little as 25 cents per minute and some as much as $1 or more. …

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