If you have a BT landline, the cost of a natter is set to soar. Having already hiked prices this year, BT is doing it again in October. And where BT leads, others follow. Yet, if you are prepared to ring in the changes now, you can beat it before it happens.
● How it all adds up
BT played a genius move in April, by shifting what counts as peak daytime hours from the old 6am to 6pm to the new 7am to 7pm.
That means, while it can argue it hasn't increased peak hours, it has effectively made calls cheaper during a quiet morning hour and chopped an hour off busy cheap evening call times - plus it hiked the cost of calling during peak hours at the same time. This isn't just about BT. Other big providers such as TalkTalk and Sky soon followed suit with their own changes, meaning prices will soar in homes across the land. This is partly because some
promise to be cheaper, so when BT hikes prices they can do the same.
● Price hikes due in October
It's not just line rental that's going up. Call connection cost will rise 1p, so every single chargeable call that's connected through will cost a penny more. Plus its daytime call costs rise yet again, to 6.4 pence a minute.
● Want to stick with BT?
To offset the price hikes, it has launched a new Line Rental Saver deal where you pay £114 for a year's line rental upfront, including 'free' weekend calls to landlines. This is the equivalent to £9.49 a month and a saving of £30 over its cheapest monthly line rental deal.
If you are already locked into a BT contract, don't worry. It will allow you to break that contract if you are signing up for this one, but to be sure you get it, you must sign up before the new pricing structure starts.
● Ditch BT and save more
Sign up for the Primus Home Phone Saver tariff specifically via the homephonechoices.co.uk website, and for £8.99 a month you get line rental including free weekend and evening calls to landlines.
That is more calls included and for a longer period and at a cheaper price than BT's new deal. With BT, free means the first 60 minutes are free; with Primus it is 90 minutes.
If you are worried about the idea of someone physically disconnecting and reconnecting your line, don't be. It works on a carrier pre-select system on your existing BT line; it's only your calls and billing that are routed through Primus. Pretty much every phone company bar Virgin, which has its own lines, works this way.
If you also want broadband, don't automatically jump for a 'bundled' package where it's all wrapped into one. The very cheapest way is simply to get one of the line rental deals above and then cheap broadband which starts at £6 a month. See www.moneysavingexpert.com/broadband for full best-buys.
Whether you are on BT or Primus, to make much bigger savings on top you can then use no-frills 'override' providers. To access these, all you do is dial a number from your home phone and bingo, you've 'over-ridden' its call costs and are now on the super-cheap providers' rates instead.
The overall winner is a company called 18185.co.uk. To use it, first sign up on its website, then dial its free prefix access number - unsurprisingly, 18185 - before you make any call. It bills you by direct debit for them.
Now get ready for this … while BT daytime costs 6.4 pence per minute (from October) plus a connection fee, here you pay 5 pence per call no matter how long you speak. So, while BT will be nearly £4 for an hour's daytime call, 18185 is 5 pence.
In addition, the cost of calling mobiles midweek can be roughly half the cost of using BT. If you are trying to work out how this interacts with your line rental deal, it is quite simple: use your line rental deal when calls are free and 18185 for everything else, except weekend calls to 0870 numbers if you are on BT.
Yet, while this works on BT and Primus, some line rental providers bar the prefix dial type override providers. For details of alternatives, see www.moneysavingexpert.com/homephones
● Cheapest international calls
The very cheapest way to call internationally is via your computer to somebody else who is also connected to the internet. With Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calls such as Skype, you can do it absolutely free.
Yet don't believe the Skype hype if you are calling someone abroad on their normal phone. Override providers tend to undercut even Skype for making actual calls. You will usually pay half a penny a minute to commonly called countries, though the cheapest depends on the country you're calling and the day.
To find the cheapest, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/intcallchecker Though, again, beware that non-BT customers may be charged differently to what the companies list.