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Unfold Close   MONEY SAVING ON UTILITY BILLS

If you're with BT, Virgin Media or TalkTalk, chances are you're paying too much. It's possible to slash line rental down to an equivalent £13.50/month and daytime calls to 5p each, plus get half-price calls to mobiles - saving £100s a year.

No one phone provider is cheapest, so this straightforward guide shows you how to make sure EVERY call you make is at the lowest possible rate.

Cut home phone costs

This guide includes standalone line rental best buys, as well as bundled best buys for line rental and broadband, via comparison sites such as Broadbandchoices*,MoneySupermarket* and uSwitch*, as well as MSE Blagged deals.

Quick tips to slash costs without switching

For the really big savings, you'll need to switch providers. But there are plenty of ways to trim bills without moving.

  • Pay by direct debit. Most providers will charge extra if you pay by cash, cheque or any method other than direct debit. Virgin Media, for example, charges £5/month for non-direct debit payments.
  • Check social tariffs. If you're struggling financially or have a disability that makes using a landline difficult or necessary, speak to your provider. It may have a social tariff that will minimise the cost of using your landline.

For example, the BT Basic* tariff is available to those on certain benefits (though who gets it is at BT's discretion) and costs £15.30/per quarter. It includes £4.50 worth of calls to other landlines. Outside the allowance, calls cost 11.3p/min plus a connection fee of 3.3p/per call.

  • Free web-to-web calls. You can talk to anyone, anywhere worldwide for free via the net. Programs such as Skype let you use headsets and webcams to speak to your friends (see the Free Web Calls guide). Don't assume this means web-to-phone is cheaper though, as sometimes there are costs involved.

The rest of this guide assumes you're calling from a normal phone, not via the web.

  • Know your peak. Always check when peak and off-peak is. In 2010, BT and TalkTalk moved their peak times from 6am-6pm to 7am-7pm, meaning their users lost an hour of cheap early evening calls.

PROVIDER

PEAK TIMES (DAYTIME)

BT

7am - 7pm

TalkTalk

7am - 7pm

EE

7am - 7pm

Sky

7am - 7pm

SSE

7am - 7pm

Virgin Media

7am - 7pm

Post Office

6am - 6pm

  • Ditch caller ID. Historically, if you used another service for calls (while still paying BT for line rental) you were able to make chargeable calls by dialling the prefix 1280 which routed calls through BT, keeping the caller ID service free. It's no longer possible to do this with all providers, so ditch caller ID to keep costs down.
  • Put down/redial. Unfortunately, almost all "unlimited" call packages are, in fact, limited. While they may say free calls in the evenings, actually that's usually only up to the first hour or so. After that, they're billed. The easy way round this is to put the phone down before the deadline's up, then redial.

PROVIDER

FREE CALL DEADLINE

BT

60 mins

TalkTalk

60 mins

EE

60 mins

Sky

60 mins

SSE

70 mins

Virgin Media

60 mins

Post Office

60 mins

  • Mobile "call-back" pact. Free minutes on mobiles include calling landlines, but inclusive calls with landline packages DON'T usually include calling mobiles. So if you have free minutes, agree a call-back with friends if one of them calls a mobile from a landline.
  • Use an override provider. It's possible to cut call costs without switching provider. Use a no-frills override provider, where you dial a prefix number to connect to its service, then pay its cost. This can cut costs from 5p/min to 35p/call, and slash mobile rates. Full detailsbelow.

Say no to 0870. Most major providers include 0870 numbers as part of their inclusive call plans, though not all (with 0845 numbers it's more mixed). See the full table here.

There are ways to cut costs if your provider doesn't include them, or you're calling outside of your call plan. See the Say No To 0870guide for full info.

  • Check your package. Don't automatically pay for an "unlimited anytime" call plan if you're not going to use it. BT's standard package, BT Unlimited Weekend, includes free calls at the weekend, for example. Pay a little bit more and you'll get evening and weekend calls.

The next level up is "anytime" calls, which means daytime calls to landlines are included too - with BT it's £7.95/month. As a rough rule of thumb, it's only worth taking it if you make over an hour of peak-time calls each month. Of course, you can undercut this deal by switching.

Home phones: Choosing a package

There are some good home phone deals on the market at the moment, including cheap line rentalupfront line rental and line rental with broadband.

If you're planning to switch, always contact your existing provider first, as it may offer to beat/match any deal you've found.

What's a "BT line"? The term "BT line" doesn't necessarily mean your home phone service is provided by BT. All providers - apart from Virgin Media, which has its own fibre optic network - use BT's copper wire network (overhead phone lines from telegraph poles to your home).

So even if you pay line rental to the Post Office or others, behind the scenes the actual line is provided by BT Openreach. When it comes to getting a "BT line" installed, there are a number of options available - take a look at the dropdown below for more information.

Landline installation options and top deals

Not every package is available at the cheapest price everywhere - it can vary with location.

Best buys: Cheapest line rental paid monthly

If you haven't switched your landline provider, and you're out of contract, you could save over £4/month on line rental when switching from BT to the cheapest deal on the market. But remember to factor in call costs if there aren't any calls included with the line rental.

Post Office: £16/month*

INCLUSIVE WEEKEND CALLS TO UK LANDLINES & 0845/0870 NUMBERS

  • Price: £16/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? Yes (home phone only, not broadband customers)

The basic Post Office* Home Phone package is £16/mth on a 12-month contract, and gives inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines.

The Post Office's home phone service did well in our Jan 2016 customer service poll, with 49% of customers rating it "great".

Direct Save Telecom offer a cheaper monthly line rental at £14.95/mth but only if you sign up to an 18-month contract. It also comes with inclusive weekend calls.

Best buys : Cheapest line rental paid by year

If your provider offers the option - and many including BT, TalkTalk, and Plusnet do - paying upfront is usually the cheapest way to get line rental. For example, you can save £22/yr on BT compared to paying monthly. However, it doesn't mean an upfront deal is necessarily the cheapest overall package for you.

Warning - beware paying upfront. There's a risk of losing your cash if the provider goes bust. This risk is bigger with smaller companies.

Direct Save Telecom: £162/yr (equiv £13.50/mth)*

FREE WEEKEND CALLS TO UK LANDLINES & 0845/0870 NUMBERS

  • Price: Equiv £13.50/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? No

If you're happy to pay for a year upfront, Direct Save Telecom* offers the cheapest deal on the market. A year's upfront line rental costs £162, equivalent to £13.50/mth. Weekend calls to landlines (max 60 minutes - if you need longer, hang up then redial) and 0845/0870 calls are included.

Direct Save Telecom isn't as big as other providers so we don't have much feedback on its customer service. However, it has been established since 1999 and has provided line rental since 2004.

Post Office: £168 (equiv £14/mth)*

LINE RENTAL, FREE WEEKEND CALLS TO UK LANDLINES & 0845/0870 NUMBERS

  • Price: Equiv £14/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? Yes (home phone only not broadband customers)

If you pay £168 for a year's line rental upfront with the Post Office*, you'll get it for the equivalent of £14/mth, including weekend calls to UK landlines. This works out cheaper than it's standard option paying monthly, which is £16/mth - £192 over a year.

The Post Office's home phone service did well in our Jan 2016 customer service poll, with 49% of customers rating it "great".

BT Line Rental Saver: £205.08 (equiv £17.09/mth)*

GOOD FOR BT CUSTOMERS WHO DON’T WANT TO SWITCH

  • Price: Equiv £17.09/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? Yes

This pay-in-advance option from BT* is only available with online paperless billing. You must set up a direct debit to cover call charges.

This isn't the cheapest pay-in-advance option, but for the many BT customers who don't want to switch away, it offers huge savings on BT's standard line rental.

More providers' upfront line rental costs compared

PROVIDER

UPFRONT COST

COST IF PAYING MONTHLY

INCLUSIVE CALLS?

ANNUAL SAVING VS PAYING MONTHLY

EE Yearly Line Rental Saver

£189, equiv £15.75/mth

£17.50/mth

Yes - weekend

£21

Virgin Media Line Rental Saver

£184, equiv £15.33/mth

£17.99/mth

Yes - weekend

£31.88

Plusnet Line Rental Saver

£185.88, equiv £15.49/mth

£16.99/mth

None

£18

TalkTalk Value Line Rental

£191.16, equiv £15.93/mth

£17.70/mth

None

£21.24

Best buys : Cheapest with broadband

Many phone providers offer competitive bundled deals - for comparison, remember BT's basic line rental alone costs £18.99/mth. See Cheap Broadband for more deals.

Broadband & line rent £198 for 1yr, get £90 vch*

IF LINE RENT PAID UPFRONT. PAID MONTHLY, IT'S £219

  • Available to: 97% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb 
  • Download limit: Unlimited 
  • Traffic shaping? No 
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation£25

Since it was hit by a high-profile hack in October, TalkTalk's been doing its best to gain new customers with some attractive deals, though whether people will trust it after the brand damage is yet to be seen. In our last customer service poll 47% scored it 'poor' - it's worth thinking about before you make your choice.

Until Thu 28 July, newbies to TalkTalk's Simply Broadband* can get unlimited 'free' up-to-17Mb broadband when they take TalkTalk's line rental on a 12-month contract. This is how it works:

  1. Sign up now. Go via this TalkTalk link*.
  2. Choose to pay for line rent upfront. If you can afford to it's cheapest to pay £191.16 for a year upfront (equiv £15.93/mth), otherwise it's £17.70/mth. Once you have a login to your online account you can select Value Line Rental to pay upfront.
  3. Unlimited broadband's 'free' for the entire 12mth contract. After this it'll rise to £7.50/mth – so diarise to switch at this time. You get a 'free' compulsory router, though you must pay £6.75 for p&p.
  4. £90 Love2Shop voucher. Once the broadband's live, the voucher will be posted to you automatically within 28 days. Love2Shop can be used at Argos, Boots, Debenhams, Superdrug etc - see the full Love2Shop list for all retailers. You won't get the voucher if you need a new line installed or you're not switching from Sky, Plusnet or BT. Read more on how to ENSURE you get the voucher.

Add up one year's upfront line rent and router p&p and it's £197.91 for 12 months, equivalent to £16.49/mth. If you're paying line rental monthly it's £219.15 for the year or £18.26/mth. Plus you'll get the £90 Love2Shop voucher.

If you'd spend that at one of the shops anyway, factor it in and it's effectively £107.91 over 12mths, equiv to £8.99/mth (paid monthly it's £129.15, equiv to £10.76/mth).

- What about calls? No calls are included but you can get anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles for £5/mth for 12 months. You'll be charged £7.50 per month unless you cancel before the end of your contract. Calls over 60 mins are charged so hang up and call back. See call costs for full info.

- Need a new line? If you don't have a line or only have a cable one (or in a few cases other lines), installation is £25. However you won't be eligible for the Love2Shop voucher.

B'band & line rent £303 for 1yr, get £150 back*

IF LINE RENT PAID UPFRONT. PAID MONTHLY IT'S £326 FOR A YR

  • Available to: 99% of UK
  • SpeedUp to 17Mb 
  • Download limit: Unlimited 
  • Traffic shaping? No 
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? Weekend
  • New line installation£30

Until Thu 28 July, BT newbies (those who don't currently have broadband with it) can get its Unlimited Broadband + Weekend Calls* package on a 12-month contract. It's the second offer down.

Here's how you get it:

  1. Sign up now. Go via this Cable.co.uk link*.
  2. Choose to pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's cheapest if you pay the £205.08 year's line rent upfront (equiv £17.09/mth), if not it's £18.99 monthly, you choose which option during the application.
  3. Unlimited broadband's £7.50 for 12 months. You get a 'free' BT Hub router, though you pay £7.95 p&p. If you stay after the contract ends the broadband jumps to £20/mth.
  4. £100 Mastercard BUT you must claim it. Frustratingly you need to register for the Mastercard via this online form once the broadband's activated, it's then posted within 45 days.
  5. £50 cashback BUT you must claim it. You'll need to register via this online form for the cashback once the broadband's activated. The cheque is then posted within 45 days. Make a diary note with a copy of these links – BT WON'T remind you. Seefull details of how to claim.

The total cost including broadband, line rental upfront and router is £303.03 for the year, equivalent to £25.25/mth or £325.83 if you pay line rent monthly – equivalent to £27.15/mth.

If you factor in the £100 Mastercard and £50 cashback, the total cost is £153.03 for the year, equivalent to £12.75/mth or £175.83 if you pay line rent monthly – equiv £14.65/mth.

What about calls? Weekend calls to UK landlines are included. If you want extra calls, add-ons start from £3.50/month. Full info on call charges below.

- No line/switching from cable? Installation's £30.

- Want BT Sport? Lite's included – the full shebang is £6/mth or free with BT TV.

» Read more

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