Telecom companies have placed advertising on phone cards, or featured celebrity portraits, artwork, or attractive photography. As the supply of any one design is limited, this has led some people to collect disposable phone cards.
The hobby is sometimes called "fusilately" in the UK and a collector is known as a "fusilatelist": in the USA it is called "telegery". Phone cards have been collected worldwide since the mid 1970s and peaked in the mid 1990s, when over 2 million people collected phone cards.
There are many web sites dedicated to this hobby, some of which offer catalogs and show the stories behind the cards. Colnect is a site providing the world's most extensive online phone cards catalog.
As some telecom companies no longer produce phone cards the hobby went into decline for some years. Since then the publication of a series of world catalogues specializing in world phone cards, the hobby has had a new lease of life with people collecting as a hobby and for investment.
Since the early 2000s calling card service providers have introduced calling accounts not associated with a physical card. Calling accounts can be purchased over the Internet using credit cards and are instantly delivered to the customer via e-mail. This e-mail contains the PIN and instructions for using the service. The service may be prepaid, or may take payment from a credit card or by direct debit. Some prepaid card companies allow accounts to be recharged online manually or automatically via a method called auto-top-up.
The virtual phone card has become a multi-billion US dollar industry as of 2009 with a number of large corporations and smaller Dot Com pioneers. While long-distance inland calls have been offered by calling cards, by the mid-2000s conventional carriers reduced their rates to be competitive; however in many countries calling-card type indirect services can be much cheaper than normal calls.
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