What Is an Airtime Card?

By Jessica Kolifrath

Airtime cards are a good option for controlling your budget.
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Cellphones allow you to make convenient calls while away from home, as long as you are in range of a cellphone tower. With cell service being available in increasingly more rural and remote areas now, many people are cancelling their land lines and using cellphones for all calling. Airtime cards help consumers choose how they pay for cell services.

The Facts

An airtime card is a small plastic or cardstock card that is sold in many department and convenience stores. When the card is purchased and the back is scratched off, a short code is revealed. Entering that code into a cellphone that's set up to use the particular airtime card allows you to make calls, surf the Internet or send text messages, according to Net10. Each card has a set price and offers a specific amount of mobile usage.


Cellphone users who run up high bills with a monthly cellular plan often prefer to use these prepaid cards. When the amount of airtime purchased with the card runs out, the phone won't connect to the service anymore. Most services now allow users to spread a small amount of minutes over a three or six month period, says the Georgia Department of Human Services. This saves money over monthly plans for cellphone users who make very few calls.


Many cellular services that use airtime cards charge more per minute than those with monthly plans. Some services charge a very small daily fee for each day that the phone is used, even if only for a few minutes, according to 20Something Finance. These daily fees quickly use up the balance of a prepaid card. Buying an airtime card with a higher price tag tends to save you money per minute of call time.


A monthly cellular plan is the most common alternative to using prepaid airtime cards, but it's not the only one. Cellphone users who like a prepaid system but who find going to the store to purchase another card a waste of time may enjoy a service that involves connecting a debit or credit card. These prepaid services allow you to connect a payment source through the company's website, then buy minute packages directly from your phone.