We will be in several cities in Italy in May and have seen several phone calling cards with rates of about 10 cents a minute. Our Cingular phone would be about $1.30. Do these cards work well from hotel phones? I also read a tip to use the card to get messages from my cell phone voice mail.
It's not that the cards won't work from hotels...it's just that many hotels charge an arm and a leg for calls using their system. Since, in most cases, you'll probably be calling a local access number, the additional charge from the hotel should only be that for a local call. Try to avoid the calling card company's "toll free access" if you can, since they add an additional charge per minute for access. And yes...have people leave a message on your cell (or your home phone answering service) then use your card to call into that to retrieve messages. One place you may want to add to your comparison list before you buy is http://www.enjoyprepaid.com/calling-cards/calling-Italy-from-United-States-1-143.html at 2.4 cents a minute. I don't know what the minimum card price is, but it can be used in other countries, and even at home in the U-S.
I DID use the ATT card I had bought at Sams. I called ATT cusgtomer service before a trip to SPain, and got the toll free number to call there.
I think the exchange rate was something like 6 to 1, so each call cost me 18 cents a minute. Did the same (getting local access number in advance) for Sweden and Australia.
I used my Cingular in Germany last summer and it was great (probably better overall reception when i needed it than at home!) They have the 5$/month international plan that brings the cost to 99 cents a min... (you can centel when you get home)/ but i didnt think Id make that many calls, so I stuck with the 1.30. Its expensive but really convenient. I had an extra 40-50$ on my bill when i returned home, but then I called home a couple of times for 15 min. If i hadnt dont that it would noit have been very expensive. It was great to make quick hotel rsvp's - so unless youre planning on longer calls home I might not bother with calling cards for shorter trips.
If it is a US based phone card, such as the ATT from Sams, it will not work in Europe because you don't have a local number to call through. However, they sell really cheap phone cards in Europe. We were in Rome last summer and my son had local card that he used to call girl friend in the US. It was like 30 min or more for 5 Euro.