How To Avoid Premium Numbers


We’ve all had that horrible moment when our phone bill comes back much higher than expected. Everybody has the same reaction — utter disbelief, like we’ve just been told sweets are good for you.

More often than not these extra charges are from premium numbers, which can cost an absolute fortune to call, even for a few minutes.

So what are these premium numbers? How much do they cost and how can you avoid them?

118 numbers

118 numbers are used by directory enquiry services like 118 118 or BT’s 118 500. They’re always six digit numbers that start with 118. Costs vary, but will usually involve a one-off service charge of around £5 then as much as £5 per minute on top. Ludicrous!

Now almost everyone has internet access on their phones, we’re not really sure who uses these numbers anymore. If you desperately need a number and haven’t got data service on your phone, try searching for a WiFi hotspot instead.

087 and 084 numbers

These numbers are often used for chat lines or for voting on reality TV shows. But watch out because they’re now often used by customer service helplines, and even some government services.

These numbers are usually 11 digits long and start with either 087 0, 1 2, or 3, or 084 4 or 5. They typically cost an extra 7-15p a minute on top of your usual network rate. This might not sound like much, but think how long you spend in hold queues and you’ll see it soon adds up!

A  site called “Say No To 0870” sprung up in 2009 which lets you search companies or numbers to find a regional alternative that does not pay a premium. You can check it out!

070 numbers

These ones are sneaky because at first they can easily be mistaken for mobile numbers. Don’t be fooled. They’re often used as a ‘follow me’ service, where calls are diverted from one number to another, allowing a company to keep their own number private, but remain contactable.

The problem is you’ll be charged for their pleasure, with rates typically between 4p and 65p per minute from landline and between 30p and £1.50 per minute from mobile. These numbers have also been used in scams where customers are drop called and, thinking it’s a mobile number, call back. The line dies immediately, charging the caller a fixed rate.

There’s no real way to avoid these numbers. Just be weary of calling back numbers you don’t recognise if they’ve not left a voicemail.

How to save

  • Use the UK’s premium numbers regulator to check the price of a number. They have an online tool that lets you search a database of numbers.
  • If you must call a premium rate number, do so from a landline if possible, as it’s usually cheaper.
  • Use Say No To 0870 to find alternative numbers to call. You can even make requests for numbers in their forum.
  • Some phone providers offer packages that include calls to premium rate numbers in the price. You should still be careful if you do go down this route, as the service will often only apply to certain numbers at certain times of the day.

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any of the sites mentioned in this post. The information in this post is accurate as of 02/09/2015. We have no control over their content and are not liable for any information provided on the sites listed above.