When it comes to comparing home phone deals, the biggest single cost to look at is line rental. This has increased sharply in recent years, but some of the smaller and less well known providers charge what the bigger, better known companies were charging a couple of years back.
People who don't use their home phone for anything more than incoming calls, or only very rarely make outgoing calls, should compare home phone deals on line rental alone to get an idea of how much cheaper the basic service can be.
As well as looking at the quoted prices, however, look at payment options. Some providers add a fee for receiving payment by a method other than direct debit – for example, paying by cash or cheque can add a couple of pounds onto the monthly bill.
The best home phone deals – and some of the cheapest – include weekend calls, and sometimes even evening and weekend calls, with line rental. Not all calls are covered – the standard "free" call will be to a UK landline and last for up to 60 minutes, although some providers allow their customers to talk for up to 90 minutes before having to hang up and redial. Other deals will include calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers, or calls to UK mobiles as well.
Check what times these inclusive periods cover. "Weekend" clearly means Saturday and Sunday, but while some home phone providers start their "evening" at 6pm, most wait until 7pm, and it can end at any time from 6am to 8am the following morning. Depending on the provider, then, that means the weekend could start as early as 6pm on Friday night and carry on until 8am on Monday.
Is it worth adding a calling plan?
Some of the biggest providers are removing bundled calls from their basic home phone deals, going back to the old "pay as you talk" model. Even so, for all but light users it may still be cheaper to add a calling plan than choosing to go without.
In the table above, we give one price per month, which covers the cost of line rental plus any inclusive calls. That should make it easier to compare the cost of taking a provider's anytime calls deal with taking their evening and weekend package, for example. We also list the cost per minute of calls to UK landlines made outside inclusive periods; anyone who needs to make calls at these times can use these prices to work out how those calls could add to their bill.
Say, for example, daytime calls to UK landlines are charged at 10p per minute, and we make an hour's worth of such calls every week. That'll cost at least £24 a month – which is far more than the price of any add-on calling plan we've seen – including those with unlimited calls to international numbers.
People who have suffered from nuisance calls will know the value of features like caller display, or the ability to block or reject anonymous calls, or those from certain numbers. How much adding these, and other features like voicemail, call diversion or ringback, to our home phone deal will cost depends on the provider.
The only services that all providers offer free of charge are 1471 (last incoming call), and the ability to withhold our own number on a call by call basis, usually by dialling 141 before the actual phone number. Some landline providers offer free basic voicemail – checked from the home phone – and / or caller display, but it's not unusual for providers to charge for them. If these or other features are important, compare prices between providers before making a final decision on which home phone deal is best.
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