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The numbers that can add a fair whack to your phone bill.

Becky and I have a joint account for our bills. We get 2% cashback every month for the majority of them, making us a handy extra stash of cash.

Checking the account this week I spotted rather than £10, my mobile bill was £17 plus. That’s not the odd picture message. Something major has been added to double the bill.

When I checked, it turned out when I’d called Delta Airlines to sort out a problem with some flights the number had started 0871. This meant it was outside my inclusive minutes allowance from Three.

The extra £7 is annoying, but for me what was worse is I know not to call those numbers if I can avoid it. It’s just been so long since I’ve had to that I totally forgot.

What’s the deal with 0845 and 0870

Most non-mobile numbers start 01, 02 or 03, while mobile numbers start 07. These are generally included in your mobile phone allowance. 0800 and 0808, or freephone, numbers are also now included. All well and good.

But the rest… well it’s pretty confusing. On the whole, every other type of phone number isn’t going to be included in your mobile allowance, while it’s possible some might be part of your home phone package.

If these calls are on top of your allowance you’ll pay an “access charge”, often per minute which is set by your network. Then on top is another service charge per minute which is set by the people you are calling. And together it can make your calls pricey. As Becky found out.

So you should avoid them if possible. And that’s not just 0870 and 0845. It’s the same with similar variations such as 0871 and 0843. Oh, and premium 09 numbers too. And don’t forget the exorbitant 118 directory enquiries numbers.

Numbers which are unlikely to be included in your mobile phone minutes

If the number you want to call starts with any of the following it’s likely to cost you money on top of your monthly contract cost.

  • 0842
  • 0843
  • 0844
  • 0845
  • 0870
  • 0871
  • 0872
  • 0873
  • 09
  • 118

How to avoid paying for 0870, 0845 and other non-inclusive numbers

You obviously want to avoid these extra charges. Here are a few ways to find an alternative.

Search for another number

You can, of course, go to the company website or Google for an alternative, but there’s a better first option. For years I’ve been using the website Say No To 0870. It’s pretty basic but is a big help. Essentially you search for the company you want to contact, or enter the number you have, and hopefully there will be an alternative.

In my experience, it’s hit and miss. The numbers are all provided by users so they can be out of date, or just plain wrong. But more often than not you’ll get some new digits to dial that won’t cost you extra.

Call the overseas number

This is a trick I’ve always used when calling a bank. On the back of your card there’s often a number to call from overseas, which starts +44 followed by a number starting 1, 2 or 3. Basically, ditch the +44 and replace it with a 0.

Use your landline

If you really have to call one of these numbers, then find out the cost from your landline. Some providers include these in your call package (if you have one), or are cheaper than using your mobile.

To be fair it’s years since I’ve had to do this – we haven’t even plugged in a phone at our new house. But it’s a decent backup option.

Try webchat

If you can’t find an alternative number, it’s worth seeing if the company has an online webchat service. These can be frustratingly slow, but they won’t cost you anything.


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