If you’ve received a shocking home phone bill recently, Money Expert Andrea Ventress advises how to slash your costs

1. Don’t use your home phone. If you have a great package on your mobile phone and very rarely reach your included minutes, then just pay the line rental on your home phone for people to call you on, but use your mobile for all calls out.

2. Pay for your line rental upfront. Most home phone providers have a ‘pay upfront’ package that will save you money on your line rental. BT’s Line Rental Saver lets you pay 12 months upfront in one advance debit or credit card payment of £129, which is a saving of over £56 compared with paying monthly. Virgin Media have a similar deal – this time where you pay 12 months’ line rental upfront for £120, a saving of £59.88 over the year.

3. Pay by direct debit. Most providers will charge extra if you pay by cash, cheque or any method other than direct debit. BT, for example, charges £24 a year for non-direct debit payments.

4. Sign up to the right call package. Use your last home phone bill to analyse when you most use your home phone and contact your provider to check which money-saving call package is right for you. For example, if you’re with BT and work during the day, then perhaps the Unlimited Evening & Weekend call package for £2 a month is right for you. However, if you’re at home during the day and regularly use the phone, then maybe 
the Anytime call package of £7 per month for all calls to landlines included is right for you. Try comparison sites like gocompare.com to find the cheapest and correct call package for you.

5. Use a call override provider. BT, Primus and Post Office home phone customers can sign up for free to the 18185 service. Without the facility, you could pay up to 9p per minute for a call with a 15p connection charge. But signed-up members can dial 18185 before any UK landline call, and they’ll only be charged 5p for the whole call’s duration – a possible saving of over £5.50 on an hour’s conversation. You can even save on the cost of mobiles using this service. Most providers charge a one-off call connection fee plus around 12p per minute for daytime calls to mobiles, but with 18185, your call cost is reduced to a 5p connection then 6p per minute.

6. Cut the cost of premium numbers. Some of the most expensive phone calls you’ll make are to so-called ‘customer services’ numbers which use hugely expensive 0870, 0844 or 0845 codes. Cut the cost of these by visiting saynoto0870.com and turning the numbers into ones with 01 or 02 codes that are either included in your home phone call package or reduce the cost to a maximum of 9p a minute from your BT home phone.

7. Check your peak time. If you’ve signed up to a landline package that gives you free evening calls, make sure you check your provider’s definition of ‘evening’. While the likes of O2 and the Post Office HomePhone service state it’s between 6pm and 6am, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky all say 7pm to 7am.

8. Check social tariffs. If you’re having trouble paying your bills or are on certain benefits, check with your provider to see if they offer a social tariff that will help. For example, the BT Basic tariff is potentially available to those on certain benefits and costs £14.85/per quarter. It includes £4.50 worth of calls to other landlines, plus free calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers at the weekend.

9. Know the limitations of unlimited. Unfortunately, most unlimited call packages are actually limited. The ‘free’ calls are usually only up to the first hour, after which they’re billed. So if you know you’re up for a long chat, make sure you set an alarm and when the hour’s almost up, hang up and then redial.

10. Drop the extras. Some call providers will charge you extra for services such as Caller ID, call waiting and voicemail. Check your bill carefully to see if these items are added on and if you don’t desperately need them, ditch them!

Andrea Ventress, Money Expert


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