Calling long distance on your cell phone is much easier and cheaper than using a landline and a credit card. But as you may have experienced, cell phones can run out of battery life at inconvenient times or end up at the bottom of a puddle before you know what happened. Just because you're stuck without a cell phone or a calling card doesn't mean you're cut off from your friends and family who live far away. Credit card calls are easy to make, but they're not always cheap.

Landline Calls

Dial "0" to reach the operator on a landline phone. You may reach a live person or an automated assistant. If you reach a live operator, tell him you want to place a credit card call, provide your credit card details and the number you wish to call, then wait to be connected. If you reach an automated system, follow the recorded prompts to indicate that you wish to make a credit card call and enter your payment information. You'll need your credit card number, expiration date and the security code on the back of the card.

Pay Phone Calls

Dial the number you wish to call on a pay phone and wait for the live or automated operator to identify the company that will be placing the call. Follow the verbal directions the operator provides to determine the call's cost. If you still wish to place the call, follow the operator's directions to indicate that you would like the charges billed to a credit card. Enter your credit card number, expiration date and security code using the touch pad, then wait for the call to be connected.

Colleges and Other Institutions

If you're calling from your dorm room or an office building, you may have to dial "9" or another number to get an outside line. If you dial "0," you'll get the building operator, not the phone company operator who can help you place your call. If you start dialing the number without dialing "9," the internal phone system will search for an internal extension with which to connect you. You'll likely get a recording stating that the operator could not find the extension for which you were searching. If this happens, hang up and try dialing "9" and then "0" or the number, or else dial up the building's operator for assistance.

Long Distance Rates

If you make a credit card call using an operator, the phone company that provides service to the landline or pay phone you're using will charge your card. The rates these companies charge may be significantly higher than the rates charged by other long distance service providers, especially in the case of pay phones. The Federal Communications Commission requires pay phones to display printed information about the company that will be connecting your call on the phone itself. The operator is also required to identify the phone company and provide the option to hear call rates before connecting your call. Whether you're using a pay phone or landline, you may be able to avoid high rates by dialing the 1-800 number of your preferred phone company and placing your call through its operators.