How to call premium rate phone numbers for next to nothing
Don't get stung by premium rate service numbers – here's how to dial down your calling costs! The 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
The 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?
How 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 Ofcom's call costs guide.
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
If 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
Access 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!
This 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.
Saynoto0870.com 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!
If 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.
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!