Expensive Phone Numbers

Updated on 16 December 2008 | 1 Comment

How much will that phone call be? We reveal the high cost of non-standard numbers, and show how to chop your call costs.

More so than at any other time of the year, Christmas is a time for contacting friends and family. Hundreds of millions of Xmas cards and gifts wing their way across the UK, and old acquaintances are renewed by telephone.

Of course, identifying UK geographical numbers is fairly easy, as these fixed-line numbers all start with 01 or 02. For example, the local area code for London is 020 and Newcastle's is 0191. How much it will cost to call these numbers depends on your call provider and the time of day.

Given that there are dozens of telephone suppliers and thousands of tariffs to choose from, it would be impossible for me to analyse them all. Thus, the following lists show the maximum per-minute cost of calling various numbers using BT's standard landline tariffs:

01 and 02 numbers

If you don't pay a monthly fee for BT's Together Option 2 or Option 3 call-inclusive packages, then you'll be on the 'free' Together Option 1 tariff. Here's how much calls on this tariff cost (all prices are quoted by the minute and include VAT):

Call Type


Evenings, night-time and

Calls to 01 & 02 numbers

3.25p (plus a 6p call set-up fee)

4.5p for first hour, then 3.25p/min

Personally, I believe that these tariffs are far too high, which is why I don't use BT to make calls to geographical numbers. Instead, I use an alternative call provider (which I reveal at the end of this article).

03 numbers

Numbers beginning with 03 are known as `UK wide' numbers and were introduced this year. They offer an alternative to chargeable 08 numbers such as 0845 and 0870 numbers (see below). These 03 numbers allow organisations to provide a national phone number while customers pay only the standard call rates shown above. In other words, calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calls to geographic 01 and 02 numbers.

Unlike chargeable 08 numbers, calls to 03 numbers can be included in the call-inclusive or discount packages promoted by fixed-line and mobile operators. What's more, as there is no revenue-sharing with 03 numbers, the provider doesn't profit from your call (as happens with chargeable 08 numbers). Numbers beginning 030 are only for public-sector bodies, not-for-profit organisations and registered charities. 033, 034 and 037 numbers can be used by any organisation.

118 numbers

These six-digit numbers are directory-enquiry services. In 2003, BT's 192 service was replaced by a whole host of rival 118 services. All market competition has done is to drive up prices -- nowadays, sourcing a single telephone number can cost £1+. For the record, I've never called a 118 number in my life. Instead, I use free searches such as Google and BT's online Phone Book. Then again, if you plan on calling one of these 118 services, be sure to arrange a secured loan or second mortgage before making your call!

070 numbers

These `personal' or `find me anywhere' numbers are normally used by individuals to divert calls to a UK or international mobile or international landline destination. By the way, don't confuse 070 numbers with mobile numbers beginning with 07. The basic cost of calling an 070 number can be as high as 50p a minute. Also, I have heard of mobile-phone users being charged £2 for a fifteen-second call to an 070 number! As you'd expect, I never call 070 numbers, and I'd urge you to do the same.

0800 and 0808 numbers

These are all freephone calls, so it won't cost you a penny to call them from a BT home phone or callbox (but mobile operators usually charge for these calls). These are my favourite tariffs!

0844 numbers

These are `fixed rate' numbers. They cost 5p a minute at all times from a BT landline, which explains why I don't call them.

0845 numbers

Calls to 0845 numbers are charged at so-called `local' or `lo-call' rates, as follows:


Evenings and






Generally speaking, calls to 0845 numbers can't be included in call-inclusive packages, which makes them a pain in the posterior. The rapid spread of 0845 numbers -- particularly among government agencies -- really grinds my gears!

0870 numbers

At last, we reach the hated 0870 numbers, which are charged at the following `national' rates:


Evenings and






I refuse to give my time and money to any organisation which forces me to call an 0870 number. Instead, I look up geographical alternatives on the excellent Say No To 0870 website. Down with 0870!

0871 numbers

Like 0844 numbers, 0871 numbers are `fixed rate' numbers. They cost a fixed 10p a minute at all times. Please don't encourage companies by calling 0871 lines -- use Say No To 0870 instead.

090, 091 and 098 numbers

Of all telephone numbers, these `premium rate' calls are the worst villains. These 090 numbers are used to provide expensive information or entertainment, often of an `adult' nature. Given that many of these services are billed at up to £1.50 a minute, you'd have to be criminally insane or a billionaire to use them often. For the record, here are the different 09x tariffs:

         0900 & 0901: up to 60p/minute and maximum call cost of £5, or a fixed cost of up to £1 per call;

         0904, 0905 & 0906: up to £1.50 per minute, or a fixed cost per call at any rate;

         09059: `chat' services costing up to 60p/minute;

         0907: Pay-for-product services costing more than £1 per call;

         0908, 0909 and 098: adult services at up to £1.50/minute; and

         091: `non-content' premium-rate services -- often used to provide additional telecoms services, such as remote email access or international call connection.

Enjoy cheap calls all the time...

I'm sure you'll agree that the above call charges are, quite simply, too high. However, by avoiding expensive and premium-rate numbers and sticking to geographical numbers, you can trim your telephone bill. In addition, by using an alternative call provider such as 1899 or 18185, you can cut the cost of UK geographical calls to a flat 5p per call, regardless of its length or the time of day. I reckon that, since switching to 1899 in 2005, my call costs have fallen to around £3 a month. Can you beat that?

Finally, for more information on paying less for calls from home, read Cut The Cost Of Calling. Now you can call that long-lost relative overseas at a fraction of the usual cost!

More: Save money on your gas and electricity | Six Steps To Cheaper Broadband | Cut Your Mobile Phone Bill


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