Call an 0800, 0808, or 0500 number from a landline and it's free. Call from a mobile, though, and you could pay up to 20p/min. What's more, calls to these numbers are very rarely included in inclusive minutes packages.
The solution? Use a service which connects you to the "free" number via a standard landline number. Then the call is included in your mobile plan's inclusive minutes or charged the same as a local call.
Free 0800 calls from mobiles
News update: Regulator Ofcom will make calls from mobiles to 0800 numbers free from 2015. It will also launch new rules the same year to make the cost of calling businesses and services clearer. See the 0800 calls to be free from mobiles MSE News story for info.
The table below shows the main networks' standard call costs to 0800, 0808, and 0500 numbers, for both contract and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) customers:
Cost of calling freephone numbers from a mobile/per min
Up to 20p
Up to 15.3p
(1) If you joined after 13 Mar 2014 on a 24-month contract, or after 15 Jul 2014 on Sim-only; for those on older contracts it's 15.3p/min. Prices correct at 30 July 2014.
Numbers that start 0808 80 (not just 0808) are always free to call from your mobile. These numbers are issued by The Helpline Association for non-profit helplines.
The six big mobile providers (T-Mobile, Orange, O2, Vodafone, EE and Three) have agreed to make calls to these numbers free, though you may need credit on pay-as-you-go phones.
This includes helplines such as Breast Cancer Care, Rape and Sexual Abuse Line and the NSPCC. You can check numbers using the search facility on the THA website.
When calling an 0808 80 number, try to not use the
apps or services listed below, as you may use up
inclusive minutes or be charged.
Some other THA numbers beginning 080 are also free, depending on the network. Below are the links to each providers' site with details of which helpline numbers it doesn't charge for:
There are special numbers and downloadable smartphone apps you can use to make cheap (or even free) calls to freephone 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers from your mobile. They all work by providing an alternative local number (starting 01 or 02), which is free with inclusive minutes.
Pay-as-you-go customers - be careful
If you don't get inclusive minutes when you top up, you'll be charged standard rates for local calls. In some cases, the cost of a local call can be more than the charge for an 0800 call, so check first.
What about 0870/0845 numbers?
The services below only work for freephone, rather than paid-for numbers. However, it's usually possible to find geographical alternative numbers for 0870/0845s too. See the full Say No To 0870 guide for more info.
Special numbers to make free 0800 calls
The services below are available online, for consumers with a standard, non-smartphone:
What is it? 0800Buster provides alternative access numbers for making cheap calls to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers. When you dial one of its landline numbers, you'll be connected directly to the number you want to call, bypassing the costly 'freephone' number.
How do I use it? Go to the 0800Buster website. Under "instructions", on the left-hand side, you'll find a landline number. Save the number on your mobile, so you can access it every time you need to dial a freephone number.
0800Buster says you can use the same number again and again. Call it, and when prompted, tap in the 0800, 0808, or 0500 number you want to connect to, followed by #.
Doing it this way means you'll only be charged for a UK landline call, which will be free if you have inclusive minutes with your tariff.
WARNING! Make sure you follow the instructions carefully. Some MoneySavers have reported that calls have been charged for, as they have pressed the green call button after typing in the freephone number. This causes the first call to be put on hold and the call to the 0800/0808/0500 number to be charged as a separate call.
What is it? Skycom, a telecoms provider specialising in freephone numbers for businesses, has developed the 0800 Wizard service. Like 0800Buster, you can use it to make landline calls to freephone numbers.
How do I use it? Visit the Skycom website and type in the number you want to call. You'll then be given an alternative 01 or 02 number to dial from your mobile. This will be
charged at a standard landline rate (so it'll be free if you have inclusive minutes).
The number may change, so visit the website each time you want to call a freephone number from your mobile to make sure you're being connected to the right company.
Smartphone apps - download for free calls
If you've got a smartphone - eg, an iPhone or Samsung S4 - you can download an app to help make free calls. This is by far the easiest method:
What is it? Skycom has also developed the 0800 Wizard app. Download the app for free, and use it to make landline calls to freephone numbers.
How do I use it? Once you've downloaded the app, open it and simply dial the 0800, 0808 or 0500 number you want to call into the 0800 Wizard dialler (pictured). Skycom will then assign an 01 or an 02 number to dial in its place, routing your call via a landline. It's very simple - there are no other buttons to press.
Calls will be free if you have inclusive minutes with your package, or charged at the same rate as a call made to an 01 or 02 landline number if you don't.
We've tested these services, but if you find glitches, please report them in the forum discussion.
How do these services make money?
They get a tiny amount of money each time you call one of its numbers, and a further small sum when it connects you to the freephone number. Hopefully, this means they won't become chargeable in the future.
Are there any other services that do the same thing?
Yes, other services, including QXcall and The Telephone Number Company, also offer free mobile calls to 0800/0808/0500 calls. We don't have feedback on these though, so add feedback on these or suggest others in the forum discussion.
Can my mobile network block the number?
Theoretically, it can. Most networks reserve the right to block any number they don't like the look of. Yet with so many access numbers available, and the potential of more on the way, it's unlikely they'll want to get into an endless game of cat and mouse.
We've had no complaints about numbers being blocked in the three years since we first published this guide. But if you find any problems, please post in the forum discussion, with details of the number you used.
Is it safe to call my bank on it?
The director of 0800Buster has told us: "We don't intercept, analyse or record any call content, and limit our role to asking what number the user wants to dial and then proxying the call between them". That's as far as we've checked it out, though, so you need to decide whether to make these type of calls yourself.
Skycom's managing director also told us customers' calls are kept private when using the 0800 Wizard. "Skycom does not record, listen in or monitor any phone call made through the service," he added.
The existence of services such as 0800Buster and 0800 Wizard opens up a tidy loophole allowing you to get completely free directory enquiries from your mobile.
There's a freephone directory enquiries service, paid for by advertising, that you'll be able to use via the service:
The Number - 0800 118 3733
The Number offers an automated directory enquiries service. This means you have to listen to an advert before you ask it for numbers. Also, rather irritatingly, it'll ask you for the address of the company you're looking for by default, and only ask for the area afterwards.
But it lets you grab more than one number per call, so it's quickest if you need a few.
You can use the 0800Buster service or 0800 Wizard app to call The Number for free or for the same price as a mobile call to a landline. For more, read the Free Directory Enquiries guide.