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Cheap Home Phones

Line rental from equiv £13.50/mth

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Martin and Weleid | Edited by Steve N

Updated Weekly

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 £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.

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 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 £8.50/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. The majority of 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 £5/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: £16.99/month*

Inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines & 0845/0870 numbers

  • Price: £16.99/mth
  • 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 £16.99/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 Oct 2016 customer service poll, with 53% of customers rating it "great".

Direct Save Telecom offer a cheaper monthly line rental at £16.95/mth on a 28-day rolling contract. It doesn't come with inclusive weekend calls however.

Post Office home phone
- customer services poll results

53% Great

31% okay

16% poor

Date: Oct 2016 Voters: 140

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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 £23/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: £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 one of 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

Post Office: £180 (equiv £15/mth)*

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

  • Price: Equiv £15/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 £179.88 for a year's line rental upfront with the Post Office*, you'll get it for the equivalent of £14.99/mth, including weekend calls to UK landlines. This works out cheaper than it's standard option paying monthly, which is £16.99/mth - £203.88 over a year.

The Post Office's home phone service did well in our Oct 2016 customer service poll, with 53% of customers rating it "great".

Post Office home phone
- customer services poll results

53% Great

31% okay

16% poor

Date: Oct 2016 Voters: 140

BT

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.

BT home phone
- customer services poll results

26% Great

46% okay

28% poor

Date: Oct 2016 Voters: 2,082

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
£199, equiv £15.75/mth
£18.50/mth
Yes - weekend
£23
Virgin Media Line Rental Saver
£196, equiv £16.33/mth
£19/mth
Yes - weekend
£32
Plusnet Line Rental Saver
£185.88, equiv £15.49/mth
£17.99/mth
None
£30
TalkTalk Value Line Rental
N/A
N/A N/A N/A

Best buysCheapest with broadband

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

Plusnet

B'band and line rent £294 over 18mths*

Paid monthly it's £18/mth

  • Available to: 90% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb
  • Download limit: Unlimited
  • Traffic shaping? Yes
  • Contract length: 18 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: £49.99

Until Tue 6 Dec, new Plusnet customers, or those who've not been with it in the last month, can get a 18-mth contract with BT-owned Plusnet*, which includes line rental and unlimited downloads with up-to-17Mb speed broadband.

It was a strong performer in our latest customer service poll – 55% rated it 'great', only 15% 'poor'. The deal's available to 90% of the UK based on postcode (you're told when applying). Here's how it works...

  1. Sign up. Go via Plusnet*.
  2. Choose to pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's cheapest if you pay the £185.88 year's line rent upfront (equiv £15.49/mth). You choose which option in the phone section of the online application. It's then £17.99 for the remaining six months, so £293.82 in total. Unlimited broadband's then 1p/mth over the 18-month contract or £7.51/mth if you don't live in a 'low cost area'. If you stay after the contract broadband and line rent will cost £27.98/mth or £35.48/mth depending on where you live.
  3. Choose to pay broadband and line rent monthly, £18/mth for the 18-month contract. £27.98/mth after. Those not living in 'low-cost areas' will pay £25.50/mth for 18 months then £35.48/mth after, so diarise to switch at this point.
  4. Pay by direct debit. Or there's a £1.50-per-payment extra charge.

If you pay a year's line rent upfront, the cost including broadband over the 18 month contract is £294 (equiv £16.33/mth). Pay line rent monthly and it's £18 a month, so £324 for the 12 months.

- What about calls? No calls are included – calls to other UK phones are mostly a bit more than BT. See Plusnet charges.

- No line/switching from cable (or in a few cases, Sky cust)? Installation's £49.99. You'll know before committing.

- Need a router? An optional 'free' one is available, though Plusnet charges £6.99 p&p. It's worth checking whether your router is compatible and whether you need to unblock it first. Read Plusnet's FAQ on this.

Full Plusnet call charges, tips & customer service ratings

BT

Broadband & line rent £287 for 1yr, get £75 card

£24.99/mth paid monthly, £9.99 upfront

  • Available to: 99% of UK
  • Speed: Up 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 Mon 12 Dec, BT broadband newbies (anyone who doesn't have it now) can get a discounted 1yr contract for line rent & up-to-17Mb speed unlimited broadband via this uSwitch deal link. It's the second offer on the page.

Here's how you get it:

  1. 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), you choose which option during the application. Unlimited broadband is then £6/mth over the 12 month contract, £277.08 in total. If you stay after the contract ends the broadband and line rent jumps to £38.99/mth.
  2. Paid monthly unlimited broadband and line rent's £24.99 for 12 months. £38.99/mth after.
  3. You pay £9.99 upfront. This covers the 'free' BT Hub router delivery. You also get 100GB of free online storage.
  4. To get the £75 Mastercard you need to claim AFTER installation. The key to the deal is you get a £75 prepaid Mastercard (which you can spend anywhere that takes Mastercard). BT won't remind you so diarise to use this prepaid Mastercard claim form. It can take up to 45 days to arrive from claiming. 

The total cost including broadband, line rental and router (before calls) is £309.87 for the year, equivalent to £25.82/mth. If you factor in the £75 Mastercard its £234.87 for the year, equivalent to £19.57/mth.

If you opt to pay for line rental upfront and include the cost of broadband and the router delivery it's £287.07 over 12 months, equivalent to £23.92/mth or £17.67/mth if you'd spend the £75 Mastercard.

- 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? If you opt in watching online and on the app is free for 3mths, it's then from £5/mth. It's free if you choose to get BT TV too.

Full BT tips, call charges and 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. They also tend to charge a one-off call connection fee plus around 16p/min for daytime mobile calls. Yet it's easy to more or less halve the price.

  • If you've inclusive calls, use a web calls service

    If you're calling during your inclusive calls period, it's possible to get cut-price calls using a web calling service. These let you call via Wi-fi/data on a smartphone, but if you're on a landline you can also call via a local-rate access number, and only be charged a per-minute rate by the third-party provider.

    You're required to top-up with credit so it's not 'true' pay-as-you-go like 18185, but if you make a lot of calls to mobiles it's worth it for the cheaper rates. For example, provider Localphone charges 1.8p/min to call a mobile with no connection fee.

    For more information on web calling services, including other providers, see the Free Web Calls guide.

  • Call via an override provider

    Set up an account and direct debit with our top pick 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 10p/min.

    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 dial through.

Calling landlines during the day

If your package doesn't include daytime calls to landlines, then it can be expensive. BT charges 11p/min plus a one-off 19p call connection fee, and TalkTalk charges 11.5p/min plus a one-off 17p connection fee. It's easy to slash this cost though:

  • 18185 charges 5p per call plus 1p/min

    Specialist override provider 18185 wins again, at just 5p connection fee and 1.2p/min to call a landline (so an hour here is 77p, compared to over £6 with normal providers). See 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
    11p/min
    £6.79 ¹
    TalkTalk
    11.5p/min
    £7.07 ²
    Cheapest override provider
    1.2p/min
    77p
    Prices correct at 10 Nov 2016. ¹ Includes one-off 19p call connection fee. ² Includes one-off 17p call connection fee.
  • Upgrade your package

    If this doesn't 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.

    If you've inclusive landline calls, consider using a web calling service (see below), which can often beat 18185's rates.

  • 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 £15/mth. You also get unlimited calls to mobiles in 34 countries, including Canada and the US.

    It works via a box you plug into your landline, for which there's a £5 delivery charge. If you plan to call just from your smartphone, you can do so via its app – place an order by phone and you can opt-out of the box, thereby also avoiding the delivery charge.

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