How I slashed my phone bill without switching

This year has seen numerous price increases from the big names in telecoms. BT, Talk Talk and Virgin Media have all hiked their prices at least once this year. But there's a great way to save money on call costs without switching your landline.

I’m always shocked by the size of my Virgin Media phone bill. I signed up with Virgin as its cable broadband service is more reliable than BT’s ADSL service. But making out-of-plan phone calls using Virgin Media costs more than with any other provider:  And I didn’t sign up for a call plan.

But I’ve found a great way round Virgin’s monstrous call charges, using an override number called 18185. Override or prefix numbers route the call away from your home provider – in my case Virgin Media - and over a cheaper network.

(A spot of shopping around found that 18185 was generally the best option for Virgin customers for all calls. BT customers will find they have several other options.)

How does it work?

You need to set up an account with 18185 by visiting and arrange to pay by direct debit. When you do this it will give you a prefix or access number to use before each call. If you’re using a Virgin or Talk Talk line this is an 11-digit number starting with 0808.

If you’re on BT the process is even easier as, once you have an account, you just need to dial 18185 before each call, hence the name of the service.

These numbers connect you to the alternative network. Then you dial the number you want to call. Simple.

The cost saving

If you make a lot of calls you might be better off with a calls package from your supplier but if you don’t then you’ll be paying for each individual calls. And this is where 18185 can save you cash.

At the moment both BT and Talk Talk charge 7.6p/min plus a 12.5p connection charge for a daytime call to a UK landline. Virgin Media charges 8.68p/min with a 13.24p connection charge.

So an hour long call would cost you £4.69 with BT or Talk Talk and £5.34 with Virgin Media. That’s quite a lot.

Using 18185 the same call would cost you 5p via a BT line as it charges just a 5p set-up cost and 0p per minute. If you get your phone rental through Talk Talk or Virgin Media then you’d pay a 5p connection charge plus 1p per minute, bringing the total cost of a 60-minute call to 65p, a fraction of the cost you’d pay if you stuck with your provider.

Non-geographic calls

Non-geographic calls generally start with 08, so numbers such as 0845 and 0870. BT includes 0845 numbers in its calling plans but customers calling outside of a calling plan will be charged 2.042p a minute.

Virgin Media doesn’t include non-geographic calls in its call packages and charges a small fortune to call to these numbers – calling an 0845 number will cost you an 11.24p connection charge plus 10.22p a minute.

Calling these numbers is often unavoidable as a number of banks, insurance companies, and Government bodies use these numbers for customer service.

A great cost-cutting alternative is to visit and find the equivalent normal phone number to call instead of an 0870, 0845 or 0871 number. Doing this means you can either have the call included in your phone package or pay a cheaper rate than calling the advertised number.

Who is 18185?

18185 is one of several numbers owned by a Swiss company called Finarea. Not much is known about Finarea but the company offers other prefix numbers including 18866 and 1899 which also offer cut-price calls. Once you have an account with them and are billed it will show up as “Connect Telecom” on your bank statement.

The company has been around quite a while – several years at least – although being able to use override numbers via Virgin Media and Talk Talk is relatively new. In the past you could only use a prefix number if you paid line rental to BT.

Which prefix numbers do you use?

Let us know which prefix numbers you use to escape expensive charges using the comments below.

More: Slash your landline phone bill| Beat BT’s latest price rises


Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.