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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*, Simplify Digital* 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 override providers. 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. BT and Plusnet include 0870 numbers as part of their inclusive call plans, but others don't.

    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. 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 £34/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

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
£16.70/mth None £19.20

Best buysCheapest with broadband

Many phone providers offer competitive bundled deals - for comparison, remember BT's basic line rental alone costs £16.99/mth. See Cheap Broadband for more deals.

Plusnet

B'band and line rental pay £136 for a year, incl £50 cashback*

If line rent paid upfront. Paid monthly it's £183 for 1 yr

  • Available to: 90% of the UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? Yes
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No (yes if line rent paid monthly)
  • New line installation: £49.99

Plusnet is part of the BT group and has strong customer service feedback (68% rate it great). Until Tue 4 Aug Plusnet* newbies can get the following on a 12-month contract:

  • Compulsory line rental. This is currently £15.95/mth, but is rising to £16.99/mth on Wed 2 Sept. The cheapest way is to pay £155.88 for a year upfront (rising to £185.88 on 2 Sept, so you're better off doing this sooner rather than later). Select this option during sign-up, or alternatively pay £15.95/mth until 2 Sept, and then £16.99/mth thereafter

  • Unlimited broadband (available to 90% of the UK). It's £2.50/mth for 12 months. Depending on where you live this rises to either £9.99/mth or £17.49/mth when the contract ends. For around 90% of the UK it will be £9.99, you'll be told what you'll pay after the 12-month contract ends before signing up.

  • Call costs: No calls are included (unless you pay monthly, then weekend calls to landlines are). Other prices to UK phones match BT's. See full charges. Rack up £75 in charges and you can't make more until you've paid off enough to bring it back under £70. If this happens, you'll also be charged a £5.76 fee on your next bill once the restriction is removed.

  • £50 cashback. Provided you use the link above, it'll email you a form within 10 working days of your broadband going live. After filling this in, a cheque will be posted to you within 30 working days. PS. If you use ad or cookie-blocking software, please turn it off or it may not track the cashback.

  • Need a new line? If you don't have one (or for those with cable or, in a few cases, Sky custs) it's £49.99 - you'll know before committing.

  • Optional 'free' wi-fi router. Yet you pay a one-off £5.99 to cover p&p.

Analysis - a great deal, with top-rated customer service

This is a strong deal with a provider boasting excellent customer service feedback. The router is optional so we've excluded it from our analysis.

If you pay line rental upfront and factor in the total broadband and line rental cost over the 12 months, it comes to £185.88, equivalent to £15.49/mth. (pay line rent monthly and it's £232.84, equivalent to £19.40/mth including one month at the current rate and the rest at the increased rate post 2 Sept).

Plus you get the £50 cashback. Factor that in, and it's effectively £135.88 for the year, equiv to just £11.32/mth (pay line rent monthly and it's £182.84, equivalent to £15.24/mth).

Full Plusnet tips, call charges & customer service ratings

Sky

B'band plus line rental £216 over 18mths*

Line rent & b'band for £12/mth

  • Available to: 95% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? Yes, at peak times
  • Contract length: 18 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? Weekends
  • New line installation: £37

Cheap deals are often convoluted and complex - for example, pay a year upfront, voucher reclaims etc. This one is simple, pay £12/mth and you get line rental and broadband from SSE.

Yes it’s known as an energy firm, but it's been stretching its 'home services' reach into telecoms for years and now its Everyday Broadband + Talk Weekend* package (until Wed 16 Sept) is by far its most competitive. Here are the key details...

  • Line rental. You pay £12/mth on a 12mth contract.

  • 'Free' unlimited broadband (avail to 95% of the UK). For TWO YEARS it's 'free' if you pay line rent but you can cancel after 18mths. Cancel between 12 and 18 mths (ie, when the line rental contract is up) and it's £4/mth until the 18mth point.

  • Calls. Unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines (max 70mins per call), including up to 1,000 weekend minutes per month to 0845 and 0870 numbers. Other call costs to UK phones are a touch lower than BT. If you rack up more than £200 in unbilled call charges it'll stop you making calls until this is reduced. Full call cost info below.

  • Need line installation? This works via a standard phone line. If you don't have one or only have a cable one (or in a few cases other lines), installation's £37. It'll tell you before you commit.

  • 'Free' internet security sofware. Includes antivirus, firewall & parental contract. After 18 months it's £2/mth if you don't cancel.

  • How's its service? It's always been a very small player, so we've little data - not necessarily a bad thing as if people were screaming about it we're likely to have heard - so a bit of a leap of faith is needed. Yet this is a very sizeable firm with serious resources.

    The underlying line used is 'BT Openreach'; the same as most providers so that shouldn't be an issue (well, no more than others anyway). You have a 14-day cooling off period if it goes wrong and if service is poor it says it'll "do everything to try to solve the situation".

Analysis – unlike so many other deals, this is simple and cheap

Since all you have to pay is the line rental of £12/mth, the total cost over 18 months is £216. If you continue to pay for the full two years, it's an additional £72, so £288 in total for two years.

Full SSE tips & call charges

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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. The price is less competitive at weekends, so compare it to your normal provider.

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 alternative access numbers you can use, though the prices for these can vary.

Alternatively, use the daily updated UK CallChecker to find the cheapest no-account-needed providers which cost as little as 6p/min. For a detailed explanation, and alternatives in case your provider blocks 18185, read the full Cut The Cost Of Calling Mobiles guide.

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.
  • Other override providers cost as little as 0.5p/min

    If your phone company blocks account-needed override providers like 18185, it's still possible to slash the cost by using simply-dial providers. Just call an 0844 number which will allow you to call at a special cheap rate from as little as 0.5p/min.

    To find the cheapest override provider, use the daily updated UK MSE CallChecker.

  • 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.

  • Override providers cost as little as 0.4p/min

    Again, specialist override providers cost a fraction of main providers' prices and you won't need to change your phone line. For a full guide to this, see the Cheap International Calls guide, which includes info on daily updated cheapest providers for every country.

    As an example, you can call the US or Spain for 40p for AN HOUR. BT's standard is over £12 to the US, while Virgin Media costs £36 for Spain.

  • 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.

    For full options, read the Cheap International Calls and Free Web Calls guides.

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.

BT: Broadband and line rent deals

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