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5 reasons free evening and weekend calls could cost you money

By Christian Whittingslow
Tuesday, March 31st 2015

Free evening and weekend calls are one of the most common features of a landline phone package, allowing you to chat with friends or family without worrying about your next bill. But is there a catch?

If you don’t follow your home phone provider’s guidelines about designated ‘free’ periods, there’s a chance that you’ll still be charged. Here are five things to avoid, to help keep your free calls free.

1. Making a call too early or too late

The term ‘free evening and weekend calls’ seems straightforward, but the truth is that each landline provider defines those call times slightly differently. Check the specifics of your tariff to make sure you know exactly when you can make free calls, and on which days.

For free weekend calls, most providers have a designated window between the hours of midnight on Friday to midnight on Sunday. There are a handful of exceptions, including the Post Office, with whom inclusive weekend calls run from Friday evening to Monday morning.

Times for free evening calls are generally more uniform among providers. For example, BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Direct Save all offer inclusive evening calls between 7pm and 7am, Monday to Friday. Beware that if you make a call before this time you’ll be charged at the standard rate.

2. Chatting for over an hour

Catching up with friends or family over the phone can cause you to lose track of time. All UK landline providers place a cap on how long you can talk for free during inclusive periods. If you exceed that cap, you’ll be charged at the standard rate for the remainder of your call.

The majority of providers have a maximum call duration of 60 minutes before the standard rate applies. (An exception is Fuel, which has a 90-minute cap.) You can easily avoid being charged for an extended call by hanging up before 60 minutes elapse, and then redialling to continue your conversation.

3. Calling a mobile number

Inclusive calls aren’t always that inclusive. Free evening and weekend calls often only apply to calls made to other landlines. Therefore, if you’re planning to ring a mobile, you will most likely have to pay the same standard charge per minute regardless of the time of day.

Some providers will include calls to mobiles on evenings or weekends. It’s most common in providers that also offer mobile phone plans, such as Virgin Media. However, it’s likely only to apply to numbers that are part of the branded network (such as Virgin Media home phone calls to Virgin mobiles). Inclusive calls to mobiles are usually subject to the same time limits as calls to landlines.

4. Making an international call

International calls are generally the most expensive part of a landline provider’s tariff charges and consequently aren’t included in free evening and weekend calls. If you make frequent calls abroad, you may want to consider upgrading your home phone package with an international add-on.

Inclusive or discount calls abroad are available with landline upgrades such as those offered by BT. For example, BT customers can get International Freedom, which includes 600 international call minutes for use on calls to landlines in 36 countries, including Australia, Poland and the USA.

5. Dialling 0845 or 0870 numbers

Some landline providers, including Sky, BT and TalkTalk, now include numbers beginning 0845 and 0870 in their free evening and weekend calls. These are known as non-geographic numbers, or NGNs. Other providers, such as Virgin Media, only include these numbers as part of their premium packages.

However, 0845/0870 numbers are governed by the same maximum call duration as standard landline calls, so if you stay on the phone for more than 60 minutes you will be charged.

With most providers, you’ll have 60 minutes of free talk time before being charged at the standard network rate. When you’re talking to a friend you can quite easily hang up and redial, but if you’re on hold or talking through a complicated issue, it’s harder to break off a call. If you are calling a sales or support service outside of the UK, one method of avoiding charges is to ask to be called back as soon as you’re connected to an advisor.

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