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Cheap Home Phones

Line rental from equiv £11/mth

Cut home phone costsIf 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 £11/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.

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 5p/call, and slash mobile rates. Full details below.

  • 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 0870 guide 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 £7.50/month (£7.95/mth from 20 Sept). 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.

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Home phones: Choosing a package

There are some good home phone deals on the market at the moment, including cheap line rental, upfront 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 buysCheapest 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

Post Office: £15/month*

Inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines & 0845/0870 numbers

  • Price: £15/month, first 3mths 'free'
  • 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 £15/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 2015 customer service poll, with 62% of customers rating it "great".

Direct Save Telecom offer a cheaper monthly line rental at £13.95/mth but only if you sign up to an 18-month contract. It also comes with inclusive weekend calls.

Post Office home phone
- customer services poll results

54% Great

36% okay

9% poor

Date: Jun 2015 Voters: 148

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Best buysCheapest 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 £32/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

Direct Save Telecom: £132/yr (equiv £11/mth)*

Free weekend calls to UK landlines & 0845/0870 numbers

  • Price: Equiv £11/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 £132, equivalent to £11/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

Post Office: £144 (equiv £12/mth)*

Line rental, free weekend calls to UK landlines & 0845/0870 numbers

  • Price: Equiv £12/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 £144 for a year's line rental upfront with the Post Office*, you'll get it for the equivalent of £12/mth, including weekend calls to UK landlines. This works out cheaper than it's standard option paying monthly, which is £15/mth - £180 over a year.

The Post Office's home phone service did well in our Jan 2015 customer service poll, with 62% of customers rating it "great".

Post Office home phone
- customer services poll results

54% Great

36% okay

9% poor

Date: Jun 2015 Voters: 148

BT

BT Line Rental Saver: £183.48 (equiv £15.29/mth)*

Good for BT customers who don’t want to switch

  • Price: Equiv £15.29/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? Yes

Warning! BT is increasing it's prices on Sun 20 Sept, after which its Line Rental Saver will rise to £194.28/yr. If you're planning on opting for this, do it before this date to ensure you pay the lower price.

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.

BT home phone
- customer services poll results

34% Great

46% okay

20% poor

Date: Jun 2015 Voters: 1,659

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
£165, equiv £13.75/mth
£16.40/mth
Yes - weekend
£57
Virgin Media Line Rental Saver
£164, equiv £13.67/mth
£16.99/mth
Yes - weekend
£39.88
Plusnet Line Rental Saver
£155.88, equiv £12.99/mth
£15.95/mth
None
£35.52
TalkTalk Value Line Rental
£180.36/yr, equiv £15.03/mth (£191.16/yr from 1 Oct)
£16.70/mth (£17.70/mth from 1 Oct) None £19.20 (£21.24 from 1 Oct)

Best buysCheapest with broadband

Many phone providers offer competitive bundled deals - for comparison, remember BT's basic line rental alone costs £17.99/mth. See Cheap Broadband for more deals.

Sky

B'band plus line rent £204 over a year, get £100 M&S vch*

£16.98/mth equiv for Sky newbies only

  • Available to: 93% 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: £20

Newbies to Sky* (those who haven't had any Sky service in the past 12 months) who take Sky's £16.40/mth line rental can get its broadband for 'free' on a 12-month contract.

Plus you can get a £100 M&S voucher – you’ll need to claim this, it’s not automatic.

  • Line rental. You'll pay £16.40/mth for this, so a total of £196.80 for the year.

  • Unlimited broadband. You get a year’s 'free' unlimited 'up to' 17Mb broadband. It rises to £10/mth after the 12mth contract ends.

  • No calls included. Calls costs are on par with BT (9.5p/min to landlines, 12.7p/min to mobiles, 15.9p connection-fee). Sky also employs an unbilled calls credit limit (see below for info).

  • Claim a £100 M&S voucher. You'll have to claim the voucher once your broadband is activated. Go to www.sky.com/claim and log in using your Sky account details (you'll get these when you sign up). You have 90 days to claim, and the voucher will be emailed to you within 28 days of claiming.

  • Compulsory 'Free' router. You have to pay £6.95 for p&p.

  • Need a new line? If you don't have a line, or you're switching from cable, you'll need to pay for a new line. However, if you have a BT line but pay another provider to use it, or you pay BT directly for your phone line, you may still have to pay the fee (see below).

  • Direct debit is the only way to pay. You won't be able to get this deal otherwise.

Analysis – this is a good deal, if you'll use the voucher.

If you take the standard broadband, the line rental, and the router p&p, the total over the 12-month contract is £203.75, equiv to £16.98/mth. Plus, you're entitled to a £100 M&S voucher.

If you were going to spend £100 at M&S anyway, factor it in and it's £103.75 over a year, equivalent to £8.65/mth.

Full Sky tips, call charges & customer service ratings

ee

B'band & line rent pay £183 for a year, get £50 vch*

If line rent paid upfront. Paid monthly it's £215

  • Available to: 95% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? Yes, at peak times
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? Weekend
  • New line installation: £30

Until Sat 31 Oct, new customers to EE broadband* can get its unlimited broadband on a 12-month contract, plus we've blagged a £50 Amazon voucher if you sign up via our link and use the code MSE50.

Here's a breakdown of the deal:

  • Unlimited broadband (avail to 95% of UK). You pay £1/mth, so £12 for the year. Note that after the first year the price is likely to rise, so check then if you can get cheaper elsewhere.

  • Compulsory line rental. You can pay £165 for the year upfront (you must opt for this at sign-up) equiv to £13.75/mth. If not, you can pay £16.40/mth.

  • Call costs: Weekend calls to landlines are included. Others are slightly less than with BT (see below).

  • Need a new line? If you don't have a line (or for those with a cable one or, in a few cases, Sky customers), it's £30 – you'll be told before you commit.

  • Compulsory 'free' wi-fi router. Technically the router is 'free', but you have to get one and pay a one-off £6 to cover p&p.

  • £50 Amazon voucher. Use the code MSE50 when you sign up via the link above and EE will automatically send you a £50 Amazon voucher within three months of your broadband being connected. How to ensure you get the voucher

  • Still in contract? Get up to £100 credit to cover switching costs. If you're in contract elsewhere and have to pay to switch, EE gives up to £100 credit to cover costs (excl call charges). You have to pay your old provider upfront, then claim through EE within 90 days of your new broadband going live. You'll need to upload your last bill from your old provider to the EE site - it'll then credit your account once it's verified your request.

Analysis - cheap deal, especially if you'll use the voucher

The following analysis excludes call costs, as they depend on you as an individual, and the £30 new line installation fee for those on cable or who need a new line.

If you pay line rental upfront, the total broadband, line rental and router delivery cost for the first year is £183, equivalent to £15.25/mth. If you pay line rental monthly, the total broadband, line rental cost and router delivery cost for the first year is £214.80, equivalent to £17.90/mth. Plus you get the £50 Amazon voucher.

If you were going to spend that anyway, factor it in and it's £133 all-in over 12 months, equivalent to £11.08/mth. If you pay line rental monthly, it's £164.80 all-in, equivalent to £13.73/mth.

Full EE tips, call charges & customer service ratings

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Get super-cheap costs for every call...

When a home phone includes free calls, these are often only to landlines beginning 01, 02 and 03. Other calls you make, such as calls to 0870 numbers and 07 mobile numbers, can be costly.

The way to save is with a no-frills override provider that you can access without changing phone company (if this is new to you, read a quick override provider briefing). Some phone companies block override providers or can charge more, so check yours first with a test call.

Halve the cost of calling mobiles

Most providers exclude calls to mobiles from their inclusive calls, as they're far more expensive and make up the biggest proportion of the bill, meaning big bucks for phone companies. Yet it's easy to halve the price.

Most also charge a one-off call connection fee plus around 15p/min for daytime mobile calls, but set up an account and direct debit with the overall cheapest override provider, 18185 (it's occasionally beatable for specific calls).

Then, dial that number before you call a mobile and your call cost is reduced to a 5p connection then 6p/min (7p/min at weekends).

While BT and the Post Office let you use the 18185 prefix, some providers, including Virgin Media and TalkTalk, can block it. If so, its website lists an 0808 number (freephone) alternative you can use.

Calling landlines during the day

If your package doesn't include daytime calls to landlines, then it can be expensive. BT charges 9.58p/min plus a one-off 15.97p call connection fee, and TalkTalk charges 11.5p/min plus a one-off 15p connection fee. It's easy to slash this cost though:

  • 18185 charges 5p per CALL

    Specialist override provider 18185 wins again, at just 5p to call a landline, no matter how long you chat (so an hour here is 5p, compared to over £3 with normal providers). See the mobiles section above for a more detailed explanation of how it works.

    Daytime call costs compared
    Provider Cost per min Cost of one hour's call
    BT
    9.58p/min
    £5.91 ¹
    TalkTalk
    11.5p/min
    £7.06 ²
    Cheapest override provider
    0p/min
    5p
    Prices correct at 29 May 2015. ¹ Includes one-off 15.97p call connection fee. ² Includes one-off 16p call connection fee.
  • Upgrade your package

    If neither of those suit, and you make enough calls to justify it, you could upgrade your package and pay a few pounds more a month to get the calls included for free.

Cut the cost of calling abroad

If your package doesn't include calls abroad or excludes a country you're dialling, be careful; it may be hideously expensive. Instead, there are a number of cost-cutting options.

  • Go via 18185

    Specialist override provider 18185 can also be used it to make international calls as well as local, and at much cheaper rates than your landline provider is likely to charge. Again, it has a freephone access number listed on its site if your operator won't let you use the prefix.

  • Use a web calls service

    Providers such a Rebtel and Localphone allow you to make cheap international calls via wi-fi/data on their apps, or by callling through a local-rate access number. They typically charge lower rates than 18185, though bear in mind you'll have to pay your operator's standard number rate on top (unless your plan has inclusive calls).

    Full info on these providers can be found in the Free Web Calls guide.

  • Vonage Talk +World option for unlimited calls

    If you sign up to Vonage you can get unlimited calls to landlines in 68 countries, including Spain, France, Italy, Australia and more for £11/mth. You also get unlimited calls to mobiles in 34 countries, including Canada and the US. There's a £5 delivery charge though.

Can you grab cashback on top?

It's often possible to get extra cashback when you sign up for a home phone package. Yet it isn't done direct. To get it, sign up via specialist cashback websites. These use affiliate links to generate revenue, and if they get paid when you sign up, they give some or all of it to you.

Always check first that it's an identical product, and clear any cookies if you've already clicked through. Remember, as the cashback isn't coming from the product provider, but playing the system to an extent, it's never 100% guaranteed and there can be problems.

Therefore it's generally best to first pick the right product and see the cashback as an added extra. For more information, pros and cons, and to find which cashback providers pay most for any product, see the Top Cashback Sites guide.

What's more, sometimes there are special higher rates negotiated for the short term. These tend to have a higher payout reliability; when they happen we'll try to list them here and include them in the weekly email.

Problems with getting an MSE Blagged voucher?

If you signed up to an MSE Blagged Deal – a best-in-market deal we’ve negotiated exclusively – which involves you being sent a voucher, we’ll always do our best to ensure you get the voucher.

But as we warn above, there can occasionally be problems with the deal tracking. In particular, if you were running adblocking software or cookie blockers when you signed up for the deal, or exited your browser while in the process of signing up, this can stop it tracking correctly.

Key tips

  • Many vouchers are supposed to arrive within three months of installation (see each deal for specific details). If it hasn’t been that long yet, please be patient.

  • If you’re waiting for an email voucher, please do check your spam folder regularly in case it’s been diverted there.

Below we’ve listed the main past blagged deals, so you can check what you’re due.

Warning: This is an archive so these deals may no longer be available.

EE: Broadband and line rent deals

Plusnet: Broadband and line rent deals

TalkTalk: Broadband and line rent deals

Sky: Broadband and line rent deals

How to complain about your home phone provider

If you have a problem with your home phone provider and need to complain, contact it and keep a record of the date, what you said and the person you speak to. Common problems include installation dates not being met, limited service or ongoing connection issues.

Free tool if you’re having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It’s totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will automatically escalate it to the free Ombudsman Services (or CISAS if you're complaining about Virgin Media).

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that’s usually quicker.

Quick question:

What if my line goes down for a few days