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MetroPCS starts prepaid phone cards

With its new By the Minute calling cards, MetroPCS offers prepaid voice calling, text messages, and data use.

MetroPCS is now selling prepaid calling cards exclusively at Walmart. The By the Minute cards are available in two options: a $20 card comes with 500 voice minutes, or 4 cents per minute, and a $30 will entitle you to 1,000 minutes, or three cents per minute. For both cards, you can use the calling minutes at anytime.

Besides making calls, customers can use the By the Minute cards for messaging and data. The first card offers 50MB of Web access and the second comes with 100MB. Both include unlimited messaging, but picture messages will cost more.

Though it all sound pretty affordable, there are a few catches. You can use the cards for calling friends in the 48 contiguous states and Puerto Rico, but you'll have to get separate cards form a MetroPCS store for calling Hawaii and Alaska. Why you have to go extra steps to call your friends on Waikiki Beach, but not in San Juan, is beyond us.

Transmitted data will cost four cents per 100KB when using the $20 card and three cents per 100KB with the $30 card. And if you travel into the carrier's Extended Home Roaming Area, you'll pay eight cents per minute on the cheaper card and six cents per minute on the more expensive card.

You can use the By the Minute cards with all MetroPCS phones except the carrier's Samsung Code and RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 smartphones and the 4G-equipped Samsung Craft.