It's good to talk - about lower bills

It has never been easier to cut the cost of your phone bill. Competition for residential customers is so fierce there is a confusing array of ways to save money, and services are seemingly launched every month.

BT has cut prices by pounds 1.3bn in three years and is committed to slashing at least another pounds 300m over the next 12 months, but it is still losing 50,000 people each month to cable companies offering telephone services. As these firms invest billions developing their communications infrastructure, other international telecoms companies such as AT&T and WorldCom of America are also entering the market, using BT phone lines.

AT&T's Calling Service, launched this month for national and international calls, is just the first of a number of services for home users to be launched this summer.

Users pay one of two flat rates on a national call, 7p a minute between 8am and 6pm or 3p a minute at other times. That compares to 9.8p and 5.8p from BT. With the basic service, which costs pounds 3.99 a quarter, when you sign up you also choose an area in the world to which you would like to make discount long distance calls - America, Asia, Australia/New Zealand or the European Union. Savings on calls to your chosen zone can be as high as 40 per cent on the regular BT price. The service is accessed by dialling 143 before the number you want to call. There are no savings on regional or local calls, which means anywhere within 35 miles from your home.

Given that subscribers pay BT's quarterly charges on top of AT&T's pounds 3.99, you need to be making savings on call charges of at least pounds 3.99 a quarter.

An AT&T subscriber who took up the option of discount calls to America would pay pounds 1.93 for a 10-minute call to New York, compared with BT's pounds 3.22. The same call would cost pounds 2.62 with SmartCall run by Mercury Communications, a well established operator. If you are calling Paris, however, Mercury has the cheapest rate. Clearly you need to choose a service according to the deal it offers for the parts of the world you are ringing. AT&T offers a service with a higher quarterly fee for those who want cheap rates for more than one zone.

As well as call rates and subscription fees (Mercury has a pounds 5.75 quarterly fee), comparisons are complicated by, for example, Mercury giving a 5 per cent discount on all calls made to five nominated numbers and between 15 minutes and two hours of free calls, depending on how big your bill is. A customer spending between pounds 25 and pounds 34.99 would be credited with 30 free weekend minutes in Britain. For national calls, Mercury users pay 17.6p for five minutes, which is also cheaper than AT&T or BT.

These providers of subscription services have focused on national and international calls, though AT&T says it can save you money if your regular BT phone bill is at least pounds 100 a quarter. But you can still save on your calls even if you do not make enough to want to sign up to a subscription service. Holders of a Visa credit card issued by Saga, the financial services and travel company, can save up to 23 per cent on national calls and 41 per cent on international calls. The card and service carry no fees but are only available to people over 50. Saga, which specialises in the over 50s market, has a deal to provide the service with WorldCom, an Amer- ican telecom company. People using the service dial a three-digit number before making calls, which are then billed to their Saga Visa card. The call costs are paid in the same way as any other purchases made with the card, which carries an interest rate of 18.9 per cent for people who do not pay off their bill at the end of each month.

The Saga service can also save you up to 20 per cent on regional calls - between about four and 35 miles from your home.

All of these schemes use regular BT phone lines. But it might be worthwhile considering a move to a cable company and abandoning BT. Bell Cablemedia, for example, cut its prices this month and claims that its customers save 25 per cent on all residential call charges compared with BT, including local calls.

Most cable companies will wire your home free if you decide to subscribe to their television services, but otherwise most charge around pounds 30. This may be attractive if, for example, you are considering having an extra phone line in your home, maybe for a fax or modem. BT charges pounds 116.33 for installation of a line. Bell Cablemedia also charges less for monthly line rental - pounds 6.90 against pounds 8.56 from BT.

To find out if cable services are available in your area call the Cable Companies Association on 0171-222 2900; Saga on 0800 300 225; AT&T on 0800 143 143; Mercury on 0500 500 194. Other services include: Broadsystem 0345 160200; First Telecom 0800 376 6666; ACC 0800 100222.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game