“I checked EVERYTHING out,” writes 24-year-old Doug Bross, who’s made a business out of finding people the best deals on phone service, and who scoffed at the cheapie service I reported on a few months ago. “Dime-line, by VarTec, charges a 3 minute MINIMUM. (I.e., get an answering machine, pay 30 cents.) WealthCom is 6-second billing increments, 6-second minimum, and a 3.50 monthly account fee (no matter how many residential or business lines per account, it’s $3.50). Take a look, and feel free to call me, because there is high income potential based on referrals.”

Hey, Doug pays for the calls — 800-956-9241 — so I called to find out if he’s still in business (he is) and whether he still likes WealthCom. He does, but says they’re swamped with new business, because it’s a multi-level marketing thing, so if you’re looking for customer service, this may not be the long-distance carrier for you.

Doug represents no fewer than eight discount long-distance companies, and tries to match you with the one that best suits your calling habits.

I call long distance a lot within the U.S., and my main overseas calls are to Russia, I told him. He said WealthCom might not be the best — their Russia rates are pretty high.

“Is CTS Telecom one of the eight you represent?” I asked, trying to show off. (I had that morning gotten a thing in the mail from CTS, with stickers to paste on my phone, hoping I would preface my calls with 10834, thus to by-pass AT&T and be billed by CTS at a lower rate.)

It wasn’t, and when I told him their rates — 9 cents a minute 24 hours a day, one-minute increments, a flat $4.95/month “access fee,” and 69 cents a minute to Russia — he seemed a bit unnerved. To a guy in the discount telecom wars, it was as if I had just launched a surprise attack. Which I really hadn’t meant to do, because he sounded like a nice young guy. I gave him CTS’s number — 800-569-8700 — and I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the time you read this, Doug is representing nine low-cost carriers.

I’m not saying you should switch to CTS — that $4.95/month access charge can turn your 9-cent-a-minute rate into a 19-cent-a-minute rate if you use only 50 minutes of long distance time in a given month, and it’s a hassle to dial those extra numbers, and AT&T gives me a lot of frequent flier miles and all the rest. But especially if you make a lot of international calls, it would seem to be worth trying. According to the CTS chart, you’ll knock 50% to 75% off the cost of those calls compared with AT&T, MCI and Sprint basic rates — e.g., $3.90 for a ten minute call to Japan versus $11.65; $2.90 for ten minutes to Ireland versus $9.70; $6.90 to Russia versus $20.63; $1.90 to London versus $8.38. Save big to Canada, too.

To start using CTS, just preface your interstate and international calls with 10834. To call the White House, you’d dial 10834-1-202-456-1414. To dial the Kremlin you’d dial 10834-011-7095-KRE-MLIN (or whatever — when I tried that number I reached a woman who was none too pleased). When your next regular phone bill comes, expect to see a $4.95 CTS access charge plus toll calls for any month you use the service.

Or give Doug a call and let him make a recommendation.

Tomorrow: Airline Savings


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