How to call premium rate phone numbers for next to nothing

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By in Bills & Utilities. Updated February 2017.

Don’t get stung by premium rate service numbers – here’s how to dial down your calling costs! screamingdownthephoneThe only thing special about so-called ‘special ‘numbers (or ‘service numbers’) is the hidden charges they can whack you with.

As these numbers are usually not included in contract minutes, they can quickly ramp up your costs on the sly. They’re not classed as standard landline numbers (unlike 01, 02 or 03 calls), meaning they could leave you shelling out up to 60p a minute for dialling.

Despite strict rules being imposed about when companies are allowed to use 0845 or 0870 numbers, you’ll still find them floating around in places they shouldn’t be.

Since 2013, it’s now against the law for companies to use expensive 08 numbers for customer service lines – there should always be a standard/ freephone number you can use instead.

These troublesome digits can be beaten, and here’s how!

Numbers to be careful of

tiny mobile phoneThe most commonly used 08 numbers that have a high charge are: 0843, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871, 0872 and 0873.

Virgin Trains and National Express are two big names that still use pricey 0871 numbers for new ticket sales.

Swerve the cost by booking online or using one of our fixes. Know of any others? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them here!

What about 0800 numbers?

0800 and 0808 numbers are now free to call from mobiles and landlines. They won’t appear on your bill, and shouldn’t come out of your inclusive allowance either.

If you can’t find a free number, look for an alternative starting with 01, 02 or 03: it’ll cost you less (or nothing, if you’ve got a call allowance).

How much do 08 calls cost?

unimpressedHow much you’re charged for calling expensive 08 numbers (this excludes 0800 and 0808 numbers, as mentioned above) depends on the network you’re with and who you’re calling.

The cost is made up of an access charge (what your provider charges to connect you) and a service charge. The company you’re calling sets the service charge, and you can expect to pay:

  • up to 7p per minute for numbers starting 084
  • up to 13p per minute for those starting 087

The company you’re calling should tell you the service charge when you phone (e.g. “Calls cost 20p per minute, plus your network access charge”), but you can also get an idea from the ukcalling website.

Separating the cost like this is meant to make it easier to work out how much your call’s going to cost. You’ll need to know both charges (the company you’re calling’s rate plus your regular network charge) and add them together to find an estimate.

Calling from a landline

international callsIf you’ve got a calling plan, check if it includes 08 service numbers – you may already be able to call them for nothing.

If you don’t have a calling plan, or you’ve busted your allowance, BT charges 11p a minute on top of the service charge, and Virgin charges between 7-13p + a 17.5p connection cost.

PlusNet also offer free calls to 0845/ 0870 numbers (up to 60 minutes) on evenings and weekends.

Calling from a mobile

distracted by phoneAccess charges are far more expensive on mobiles. EE adds on 50p a minute, while over at Three it’s 45p per minute. Asda mobile is much more pocket-friendly, at just 8p per minute!

Call that 0870 number from your mobile on one of the heftier tariffs, and you could pay twice as much as calling from your home phone – up to £5.80.

If you can’t avoid nasty numbers altogether, it may be cheaper to call from a landline or buy an add-on call allowance to cover the cost – but you may be able to ditch the cost entirely by following our tips below.

How to call 08 numbers for free

If you need customer service or a helpline, the company should already have a standard or free number you can call – check their website first.

However, if you’re stuck having to call an expensive line, you can dodge costs by checking out these websites!


    saynoto0870logoThis site couldn’t be more simple – just enter either the 08 number or the business name into the search bar to reveal a lower cost alternative number.

    There are a number of apps that do the same job when you’re out and about. Both the iTunes and Android versions of this app are now free. also has an option on the home page for you to add any free or cheap numbers you’ve found to help other callers out.

    Disclaimer: saynoto8070 is an open source website so some of the numbers may be dud ones or, even worse, posted by scammers. Just make sure you check the comments before calling and stay safe!

    Visit »

  2. WeQ4U

    weq4uIf you’re looking to put in as little effort as possible for your calls, it’s also well worth downloading WeQ4U for your mobile.

    This handy little app not only gives you a cheaper number to call, but saves you waiting around on hold by giving you a call back once you’re connected to a real person.

    You can grab the app for free both on the iTunes store and for Android, but if you don’t have a smartphone you can also use it from a landline.

    The best thing is that, while you’ll only pay for a standard rate call, you won’t be charged while you’re queuing (which you would if you dialled direct). That’s one way to stretch your call allowance even further!

    WeQ4U works for most 08 numbers except 0845s – but you can source an alternative number through Saynoto0870 and dial through this to still take advantage of the queueing service.

    Visit WeQ4U »

Whatever you do when making calls, make sure you don’t end up paying over the odds! If you’ve got any handy tips or services we’ve missed out then make sure to let us know in the comments!

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19 Responses to “How to call premium rate phone numbers for next to nothing”

  1. Caroline

    18. Jul, 2016

    I needed to contact the breast screening department in a Plymouth hospital, and that uses a 0845 number – so wrong!

  2. Ian

    09. Dec, 2015

    StS said: “Note: Also look out for 0203 numbers as they can sometimes be used by scam companies to appear as if they are from London when in fact they could charge up to £1.50/minute for a call.”

    StS said: “(but not 0203 as mentioned above)”.

    I don’t know where you got this idea from, but it is a myth.

    Inclusive allowances on landlines and on mobiles always include calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers. They usually exclude calls to 01534 Jersey, 01489 Guernsey and 01624 Isle of Man. Some mobile networks also exclude specific 01 and 02 numbers that are used by “dial-through” services offering cheap international calls.

    Non-inclusive chargeable calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers cost up to 12p per minute (plus a connection fee between 12p and 18p per call) from landlines or up to 45p per minute from mobile phones. No-one charges anywhere near £1.50 per minute for calls to 01, 02 or 03 numbers.

    Since 1999 London has had a single area code. This code is 020. Within this area code, local numbers have eight digits. Until 2005, local numbers started only with the digits ‘7’ or ‘8’, with the other digits held in reserve for future expansion. In 2005, local numbers began to be issued starting with the digit ‘3’. These are all normal London landline numbers.

    Currently in use:
    (020) 3XXX XXXX
    (020) 7XXX XXXX
    (020) 8XXX XXXX

    Reserved for future expansion:
    (020) 2XXX XXXX
    (020) 4XXX XXXX
    (020) 5XXX XXXX
    (020) 6XXX XXXX
    (020) 9XXX XXXX

    • Jake Butler

      09. Dec, 2015

      There is loads of info about the 0203 scam lines if you do a quick Google.

      • Ian

        11. Dec, 2015

        Other than being allocated more recently, there is no fundamental difference between a London geographic number starting (020) 3 and one starting (020) 7 or (020) 8. These are charged at the same rate as any other number starting 01, 02 or 03, though there may be a few individual numbers (e.g. those used by ‘dial-through’ providers) that some landline or mobile providers omit from inclusive allowances.

        There are no scams involving the cost of the call to numbers starting 01, 02 or 03. The call cost is set entirely by the caller’s landline or mobile provider. At present, calls made from landlines never exceed 12p per minute and calls made from mobiles never exceed 45p per minute. Revenue sharing is not permitted on these number ranges, so there is no way for the called party to financially benefit from incoming calls.

        Geographic numbers starting 01 and 02 signify a geographic location. Telephone services delivered via POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) are truly in that local area. Around a decade ago, Ofcom started to allow VoIP and other providers to apply for numbers in these ranges. Additionally, call forwarding has been available for many years. These providers offer ‘vitual’ geographic numbers that can be forwarded anywhere in the world. Nowadays, the area code for any number starting 01 or 02 may not necessarily reflect where the call will be answered. However, irrespective of the actual location of the person that the caller ends up speaking to, the call cost will be the standard ‘geographic rate’ for calling an 01 or 02 number. The called party picks up any additional cost incurred in forwarding the call to wherever they are located.

        The only scams involving 01 and 02 numbers are those where a business claims to be ‘local’ to you and has a phone number that matches your area code, but in reality is located far away from where they say they are. This is most often seen with locksmiths, plumbers, heating engineers and TV repair companies. They advertise all round the country using numbers with area codes that match each local area. When you speak to them, they claim they are based locally. The reality is, they have one depot located somewhere in the midlands and everything is run from there. This is false advertising and various such companies are regularly featured on BBC Watchdog and BBC Rogue Traders.

        The ‘virtual number’ technology involved and the change in Ofcom’s rules both came about at around the same time that London was running out of (020) 7 and (020) 8 numbers. This is why the majority of VoIP providers have (020) 3 numbers. Those providers usually have an allocation in every one of the 620+ UK area codes, not just in London. You’re more likely to notice when London numbers are involved as it’s the largest population target. The majority of London (020) 3 numbers are used by normal telephone providers to provide a standard landline service to a home or business located within London.

  3. Ian

    09. Dec, 2015

    Usage of 084 and 087 numbers is in rapid decline. Regulation by BIS effectively bans their use by retailers, traders and passenger transport companies for post-sales helplines. Regulation by the FCA extends the ban to cover financial services including banks and insurance companies. Guidance from the Cabinet Office recommends that government departments, their agencies and other public services no longer use these numbers. NHS Directions published by DH in 2005 banned the use of 087 and 09 numbers within the NHS. The ban was extended in 2009 to cover 084 numbers. The vast majority of organisations have complied with the applicable regulations, guidance or directions, and have swapped to 01, 02, 03 or 080 numbers, but there are still some shocking examples of non-compliance.

    In general, there are three types of organisation still using 084 and 087 numbers:
    – legitimate chargeable premium rate services offering a service (such as a chatline) that is paid for as the call is being made,
    – organisations breaking the various DH/BIS/CO/FCA rules and regulations, and,
    – sales and enquiry lines (mostly travel agents and ticket offices for cinemas, theatres and sporting events) and various charity helplines – all of whom have failed to understand the financial impact on callers of imposing an Access Charge and a Service Charge by retaining usage of premium 084 and 087 numbers for a non-premium service.

    All 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers are premium rate. The premium is the additional Service Charge paid to the benefit of the called party and their telecoms provider. All users of 084 and 087 numbers have had since 2007 to organise a migration to the matching 034 or 037 number or to a new 01, 02, 03 or 080 number to avoid imposing this additional charge on callers.

  4. R Hodges

    29. Nov, 2015

    called Currys on 03 number to complain about non arrival. Was charged 10p per minute (on hold most of time) Also call not included in my BT package.

    • Ian

      09. Dec, 2015

      If you have an inclusive allowance of calls to 01 and 02 numbers it will also include calls to 03 numbers. This Ofcom rule has been in place since 2007. Presumably, you have a ‘weekend’ call plan or an ‘evening and weekend’ call plan and made the call on a weekday during the day. This indicates you’re on the wrong call plan.

      You should select the appropriate callplan that covers the calls that you make. If you are making calls during weekdays then you need an AnyTime call plan.

      If you are on a call plan where weekday daytime calls are chargeable, you’ll be paying a high rate such that if you make more than about 40 minutes of chargeable calls per month you will already have spent more than the cost of the AnyTime callplan.

  5. Ian

    21. Nov, 2015

    New FCA regulation took effect on 26 October 2015 requiring financial services, including banks and insurance companies, to use 01, 02, 03 or 080 numbers for contact by existing customers.

    It should now be a rare occurrence to have to call an 084 or 087 number for anything.

  6. jenny

    14. Sep, 2015

    National Express still use an 0871 number. There is an alternative 0371 for customer services but no alternative number for booking information. They have a monopoly on certain routes and there appears to be no fighting them. Something should be done.

    • Ian

      11. Dec, 2015

      The last bastion of entrenched usage of 084 and 087 numbers appears to be sales lines, mostly travel firms and travel agents as well as ticket offices for cinemas, theatres and sporting events. Other mis-users of 084 and 087 numbers include various charity helplines and the National Lottery.

      All have failed to understand the financial impact of using a telephone number that imposes an Access Charge and a Service Charge on callers. Contrast this with companies that offer 03 or 080 numbers for their sales lines and it is easy to see why usage of 084 and 087 numbers is known as a ‘sales prevention technique’.

  7. Lynda

    02. Jul, 2015

    03 numbers are quoted as being free on call plans but as most call plans have free minutes only at weekends and these numbers are inevitably 9 to 5 weekdays they are not free. I can call 01 or 02 numbers from my landline using an override number but they will not connect 03 numbers so they can’t be classed as the same as other geographical numbers and you shouldn’t be recommending them as such. Try it yourself and see

    • Ian

      09. Jul, 2015

      You should select the appropriate callplan that covers the calls that you make.

      If you are making calls during weekdays then you need an AnyTime call plan.

      If you have only a Weekend plan and you then make more than 40 minutes of weekday daytime calls per month you will already have spent more than the cost of the AnyTime callplan.

      Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive allowances in the same way. This Ofcom condition has been in place since 2007.

  8. bernie

    18. May, 2015

    Virgin also give free calls to 0800 on at least one tariff.
    My son has it.

    • Ian

      09. Jul, 2015

      As of 1 July 2015, calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers are free landlines and from mobiles.

      Calls to 0500 numbers are free from landlines but remain chargeable from most mobiles.

  9. Ian

    07. Aug, 2014

    Lessons have not been learnt.

    Erudio Student Loans uses 0845 numbers.

  10. Ian

    07. Aug, 2014

    UCAS has long been another scourge of student telephone bills.

    However, they have recently replaced their premium 0871 numbers with the matching 0371 numbers.

  11. Ian

    08. Jun, 2014

    Calls to 080 numbers will become free from all mobile phones on 26 June 2015.

    Calls to 0500 numbers will NOT become free from mobile phones. All existing 0500 numbers will be moved to new 080 numbers by mid-2017.

  12. Ian

    08. Jun, 2014

    Excellent article, full of really good advice!

    On 13 June 2014, a new law comes into force requiring retailers, traders and passenger transport companies to use 01, 02 and 03 numbers for their customer service lines. This spells the end for pricey 084, 087 and 09 phone lines being used for this purpose.

    The new law also says the caller is entitled to a refund of call costs from those which fail to change their number.

    Many businesses are changing. Most are adopting the 034 or 037 number that matches their existing 084 or 087 number. Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive call allowances on landlines and on mobiles.

    The new law does NOT cover the financial sector. However several banks are now in the process of moving their 0845 lines over to replacement 0345 numbers.

    It’s always worth trying the prospective 03 number even in cases where it doesn’t appear to have been published.

  13. Ian

    08. Jun, 2014

    There’s a “good news” recent development to add.

    The usage of expensive 0845 numbers by the Student Loans Company was highlighted in a National Audit Office report published in July 2013 and was mentioned during the subsequent Public Accounts Committee enquiry in September 2013.

    SLC failed to change their numbers and were finally hauled before the Public Accounts Committee in December 2013 to explain why (among many other things). See the video here: (start at 1h 36m and watch for seven minutes). SLC promised to have new numbers in place by April 2014.

    SLC finally changed their numbers at the end of March 2014.

    Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive call allowances on landlines and on mobiles.


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