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How to avoid making expensive calls

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When you have to call a company to pay your bills, book a ticket or sort out a problem, your heart can sink when you see an expensive 0845 number. Lots of companies use 0800 numbers for their customer services, but you don’t have to be caught out by high call charges.

Numbers starting 08 usually mean you’re going to be paying through the nose for every minute that goes by, and you’ll probably be on hold, listening to awful music for ages before you even get through to anyone. However, there’s a big difference in what it could cost you to call numbers starting with 08, so use these tips to avoid surprise bills, even on mobile. 

Is there a charge for 0800 numbers?

Calls to numbers beginning 0800 and 0808 are free from all landlines and mobiles. Yep, free!

However, numbers such as 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 are more costly to ring, whether you’re calling from a landline or mobile. Numbers starting with 09 are typically the most expensive.

You can say no to expensive 08 numbers in two ways:

Use the alternative number that many companies advertise for customers calling them from abroad. This number will usually begin +44 1 or +44 2 and is charged like a normal landline. If this doesn’t work the first time around, try dialling 141 first to hide your own location and see if you can get through. 

Use the 03 number that many organisations offer instead of costly 08 numbers. Calls to 03 numbers cost no more than calls to geographic numbers starting 01 or 02, and they'll be included in your mobile or landline phone minutes package just like calls to landlines.

Search for these alternative numbers on websites like SayNoTo0870.com

How much is a 0800 number?

Freephone numbers starting with 0800 or 0808 are free to call from mobile phones as well as landlines. The cost of calling other 0800 numbers such as 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 will vary depending on the access charge per minute that your phone company charges, and the service charge per minute that the company you’re calling charges.

You can find a list of service charges for a range of numbers on GOV.UK (Opens in a new window)

Are 0800 numbers free on landlines?

The same rules apply on mobiles and landlines for calling numbers beginning with 08. Numbers beginning 0800 or 0808 are free to call, but any other number starting with 08 will be more expensive.

Can I call 0800 numbers from my mobile?

You can call freephone numbers starting 0800 or 0808 from your mobile for free. Other numbers will be expensive, so check the terms and conditions on your contract to see which numbers are covered by free minutes, or how much they cost per minute. 

Also have a look at the per minute service charge that the company you’re calling charges. Ofcom has a list of charges (Opens in a new window) but it's best to check these directly with your provider too. 

Are 0800 numbers free on pay as you go?

Yes. For 0800 or 0808 numbers it doesn’t matter whether you’re a pay as you go or contract mobile customer, the calls are free.

For other numbers such as 0845, 0870 and so on, you’ll need to read the fine print on your terms and conditions to find out the price per call. Part of the cost is set by your mobile company, and part of it is set by the company you’re ringing, so cost will vary.

Are 0800 numbers free on Three?

Currently on Three, pay as you go calls to numbers starting 0800 and 0808 are free and calls to numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118 are split into two elements: an access charge which Three set at 55p per minute - that’s every minute, not just the first one - and a service charge which is set by the company you’re calling, so that will vary. 

For example, if you call a number starting 084, 087, 09 or 118 and your call lasts for one minute and 30 seconds, you’ll pay £1.10 for two minutes worth of access charges plus the cost of the service charge.

Are calls to 0800 numbers free on Sky?

Currently for Sky mobile users on a contract, calls to numbers starting 0800, 0808 or 116 are free. 

For customers on pay as you go or contracts, calls to numbers starting 055 or 056 are either 7.62p or 16p per minute (find out more for the distinction) Calls to numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118 have a 15p per minute access charge, plus the service charge set by the company you’re calling. 

Are 0800 numbers free on EE?

Calls to 0800, 0808 and 116 numbers are free from an EE mobile or landline. 

Like other companies the cost of calls to other numbers beginning 08 on EE will include an access charge and a service charge. The charges will vary depending on what type of pay as you go or monthly contract you have. Per minute access charge, including VAT, starts at 11p per minute.

Service charges start from zero but can go pretty high pretty quickly, so it’s always advisable to check your Ts and Cs and look at the website of the company you want to ring to see what their service charge per minute is.

Are 0800 numbers free on BT?

The free calls you get with a BT landline don't include calls to numbers beginning 0844 or 0871. Other numbers not included in your free calls are calls to mobiles, premium rate numbers, international numbers or calls to the Channel Islands, indirect access numbers, operators and directory enquiries.

Some calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers might be free from your BT landline, depending on which calling plan you're on, so check the terms and conditions. Your plan will not include dial-up internet calls to internet service providers, calls to dial-through or calling card access numbers. See here for the latest BT call costs

Can you text 0800 numbers?

You can't send text messages to numbers starting 03, 08 or 09 unless the organisation that you are trying to contact specifically says that they can receive text messages sent this way. 

If you’re trying to text a company with an 0800 number, check their ‘contact us’ page that will tell you if they accept texts. If not, there may be other ways to contact them for free. 

Are 0800 numbers free from abroad?

You can call 0800 numbers from abroad when you format them +44 800, but it won’t be free as you’ll be charged international rates. 

If you are outside of the UK, contact your mobile or landline operator to see how much their call rates are, and check the website of the company you’re contacting in case they offer a cheaper alternative number. 

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