Pay phones are not common anymore, because of the proliferation of cell phones, but even people who own cell phones may need to use a pay phone in an area where wireless service does not work. Pay phones are easy to use, and there are several ways to make a long-distance call from one, but most of the options run from expensive to more expensive. If you think you might need to use a pay phone because you'll be traveling to or through rural areas, it's a good idea to plan ahead so you won't have to rely on the more costly options.
Use a prepaid phone card--the least expensive way to make a long-distance phone call from a pay phone. These cards are available at many convenience stores, discount stores and pharmacies, as well as through online sites. The cards provide a specific number of minutes, and some allow more minutes to be added. At the pay phone, you'll dial a toll-free number to reach the service, then enter a personal identification number or follow other instructions on the card.
Use a phone card from your long-distance company, which then charges your pay-phone calls to your long-distance bill. This is not cheap, as they charge much more per minute than if you could dial direct, but is less expensive than some other choices. As with the prepaid card, you'll dial a toll-free number to reach the service before making the call, then key in the phone-card number.
Insert a credit card to pay for the call. Pay phones that allow credit cards charge rates determined by the owner of the pay phone. The rates will probably be much higher than usual. Rates should be posted on the phone, or you can press 0 to ask an operator for the rates.
Deposit change into the phone rather than using a credit card. Depending on the length of the call, you may need quite a bit of change.
Make a collect call to the person you want to reach by pressing 0 plus the telephone number. This is the most expensive option of all. There is a per-minute rate, surchargesm and other fees tacked on as well.
When using a prepaid card or a long-distance company phone card, listen for the provider's recorded identification before proceeding with the call, to make sure you actually will be using your preferred service and not some other service provided by the pay phone's owner.
Pay-phone operators must allow access to toll-free and emergency numbers without requiring any payment.
Things You'll Need
Prepaid phone card
Long-distance company phone card