NCIC Airport Payphones Are A Ripoff

Reader Victor wrote to alert us to NCIC payphones which are charging outrageous rates and fees in various airports across the country. At first, Victor used some spare change in an NCIC payphone and received a reasonable long distance rate of about $1 for 4 minutes. But Victor ran out of change and used his credit card to make 3 more quick calls. When Victor received his bill he discovered that he’d been charged $11 per call. He directed us over to and as far as we can tell, he got off easy. We read numerous reports of customers being charged exorbitant rates for local and long distance calls. The amounts that their customers are being charged vary so wildly that we’re not even sure what NCIC’s rates are supposed to be. Victor’s letter, inside…

I found myself in the airport waiting for a friend, and my cellphone ran out of battery. My friend couldn’t catch the plane, so I had to make some calls from the payphones next to the baggage claim.

I dial the number in, and I am asked to enter $1 or swipe a card. I happened to have 4 quarters, and for $1 I got 4 minutes of long distance call. I had to do 3 more calls, so, instead of getting more change, I decided to swipe instead my credit card, that I thought it was more convenient.

So far it looks like something quite a normal scenario, one I am sure many other people have found themselves in.

Well, after swiping the card, I get instructions for entering my exp date, and that’s all. I can call. No other message. ‘Quite convenient’, I thought, and I assumed that I would get the same 4min/$1 dollar rate, with maybe a charge fee of some cents for using the phone. I made three calls, of around 1 min and half each.

I just checked my credit card invoice: $11 each call.

This is simply put a scam. There is no visible notice of a $8 connection charge + $1.5/min – at least visible enough for me. Nobody charges $8 for using a credit card. I have used this credit card overseas and they charge me less than $1 for it, at most. And it’s not a one time connection fee; each call incurs on it. Their business model is one time users, getting the most they can out of them.

I called them up. They say that they have to cover expenses, and that was all. Only after telling them that I was going to file a complaint, they said that they will give me 50% back. I’ve seen other people who complaint getting just $11 back.

This is a ripoff and even they know that, so they reimburse you some money just to make you think that they are sorry… They got $15 out of me for nothing! They claim to have 20,000 payphones in the US. I can’t imagine the number of people that fall on this scam each day.

Seattle, Washington

Like Victor, some of their other customers were credited a partial amount of their bill. The fact that so many customers were able to haggle over the questionable fees on their bill is evidence to us that this company is less than legit. In case you have been ripped off by NCIC and you’re in the mood to haggle, their customer service number is 800-382-2887. We also learned of a customer who successfully disputed their NCIC bill with Chase, so don’t forget about the chargeback.