Students look to cut call costs as they graduate to mobiles

As thousands of freshers settle into university life, the fact that they are now responsible for managing their finances is likely to be dawning on them.

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As thousands of freshers settle into university life, the fact that they are now responsible for managing their finances is likely to be dawning on them.

Among the expenses they will have to consider are mobile phone costs. Students spend, on average, £720 a year on mobile calls and text messages, according to research from The Link, the communications retailer. This compares with £450 on food and £250 on books. Recent figures from Studentmobiles. com, a subsidiary of Carphone Warehouse, reveal that 90 per cent of students have mobiles, making an average of 17 calls a week and 22 text messages.

While many people may regard a mobile as an unnecessary expense for a student, it can prove cheaper than relying on pay phones in halls of residence. Steven Bell, managing director of Studentmobiles, points out that pay phones charge 20p a minute, plus users have the hassle of waiting for one to become free, while some mobile calls cost only 1p or 2p a minute. It is not surprising, therefore, that so many students opt to use a mobile. A lot of them already have one on arrival at university, although most of these will be pay-as-you-go, which isn't likely to provide the best value for money.

"In general, students will be using their mobiles to phone home, usually at off-peak national rates," says Joe Garner, marketing director for The Link. "Many also make a large number of calls to friends, and send text messages on a daily basis. Given this medium to heavy reliance on mobiles, contract phones are likely to offer better value for money than pre-pay phones."

Tariffs do vary and in some cases you can end up paying more for the first few minutes of your calls than if you use a pay phone. According to Studentmobiles, the most popular choices for students are Orange's Everyday 50, which gives 50 minutes' free off-peak calls a day, and One2One's Talk and Text, which gives 500 minutes' free off-peak calls a month. While these are both very competitive, it is important to be aware that they are only best value when used off-peak.

Comparing the merits of different tariffs can be confusing so it's well worth getting independent advice from shops such as The Link, Carphone Warehouse or Phones4u, or contacting Studentmobiles to find the right deal.

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