How to cut your phone bills

Telephone companies are all trying to squeeze a little extra money out of their customers this year. But you don't have to put up with the price rises. With just a little shopping around, you can cut the cost of both your landline calls and your internet access. Here, Ruth Jackson shows you how.

How many phone calls do you make between 6am and 7am? I'm guessing not many.

Which means that you probably aren't going to agree with BT's marketing campaign. They say you should be pleased that you can now make calls between those two early hours for free. It used to be that BT's off-peak charging period ran from 6pm to 6am. That has changed: from April it will run from 7pm to 7am. So you lose an hour in the early evening (a very popular time for making calls) and gain one in the early morning (most definitely not a popular time for making calls).

The upshot? If you are on one of BT's free evening and weekend calls plan and you make 20 minutes of calls every day between 6pm and 7pm, you could see your quarterly bill rise by over £80, says Ali Hussain in The Sunday Times.

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But that's not where the irritations end. BT is also increasing the cost of making other calls. Its standard call rate will rise from 9.3p a call to 9.9p in April and the cost of daytime calls will go up from 5.4p to 5.9p a minute.

BT aren't the only ones trying to squeeze a little more out of their customers this year. Virgin Media's line rental is going up from £11 to £11.99 a month. And costs to mobile networks have been slowly increasing across the board, says Michael Philips of in The Independent on Sunday.

Luckily you don't have to play along: you can cut your phone bills and avoid BT's sneaky price rises with a little bit of shopping around.

Cheap phone deals

If you are just looking to reduce the cost of your home phone, then visit or to find the best offers available to you.

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The cheapest landline deal available is with Primus Saver. They have combined with HomePhoneChoices to offer you a package including line rental and free evening and weekend calls for £9.15 a month. That's a saving of £2.49 a month on the cheapest BT deal (which is £11.54) and note that you only get that if you pay by direct debit and use online billing.

Watch for contract penalties

But before you dump your current provider, check the details of your contract. Some companies charge hefty penalties to leave early. For example, to end a TalkTalk contract you will have to pay for every month left on your contract, up to a maximum charge of £70. And BT has many of its customers on 'renewable contracts' that can be difficult to get out of without penalty, warns a Which? investigation. So read the small print before you cancel.

If you are stuck in a contract, there are still ways you can cut your bills. Check with your provider but you will usually get a discount for paying by direct debit and another cut in your bill if you opt for paperless billing.

The best broadband deal

The cheapest broadband and phone deal out there is with Plusnet who offer free evening and weekend calls, international calls, and 8Mb broadband for £17.24 a month.

Bundle up for big savings

To get the best savings on your bills, bundle up your services. "Consumers will tend to find that most broadband and home phone suppliers will have separate prices for standalone services and more attractive offerings for bundled packages," says Chris Williams of Simplify Digital in The Independent on Sunday.

For example, if you have Sky's basic TV bundle and BT home broadband, you will be paying £18 a month for TV, and a further £26.03 a month for your internet and phone. But, if you got everything from Sky, you could pay just £29 a month in total.

Virgin offer a similar deal with much faster broadband - up to 10Mb compared to Sky's 2Mb - for £34 a month. But sadly you have to live in Virgin's very limited fibre-optic area - check whether you are one of the lucky ones here.

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Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings accounts and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping, among many other titles both online and offline.