Picked up the phone to call Amsterdam just now and — well, sure, I can afford AT&T, but I figured they might keep me on hold a while, so maybe I should use 800-211-9696. That’s the number I use whenever I’m traveling or at a pay phone.

(The company is ATCALL. It charges 16 cents a minute for such calls. To learn more: 800-411-9696. There may be others even cheaper, but this one is pretty darn cheap. And in hotels, it saves a fortune — a single 75-cent charge from the hotel to make the 800-call, which then allows you to return all your calls, one after another, without ever having to hang up and pay the hotel another dime. You just hit the pound key a few times after each call before making the next one.)

For regular calls, I’ve just stuck with AT&T, albeit one of their cheaper plans. I know if I worked at it at all, I could save a little dough. But like a lot of us, I’m lazy, I have a fond place in my heart for AT&T (I do!), and last time I checked the difference — giving full effect to the value of the frequent-flier miles I get for each call — it didn’t seem entirely stupid just to stay put with AT&T.

And it still doesn’t — domestically. One of the joys of having scrimped and saved for decades is that I don’t have to worry about a nickel here and a dime there — except on your behalf. (On your behalf: shop around! You can almost surely get a better rate than you’re getting with AT&T!)

Still, I was curious. ATCALL charges 34 cents a minute for my calling-card call to Amsterdam. I called AT&T and inquired what I’d be paying from my home phone for the same call. (It was during the day.) Answer: $1.38 a minute.

Well, you’d have to be dead not to care about the difference between 34 cents and $1.38, especially facing what could be a 20-minute call.

So let me take this opportunity to tell you what you already know: It’s always wise to do a little comparison shopping on your phone rates every now and then. (And, for that matter, your auto insurance rates and life insurance rates.)


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