Avoiding Premium Rate phone Numbers

Last Updated on 11 January 2021 by Dan

Hello everyone! So this week I had one of those worst winter afflictions – I had hot water in the flat but attempting to turn on my radiators on a particularly cold day and….nothing. I pulled up the number for my boiler services to company only to see the dreaded “this call is charged at premium rate” note.

I’ve always thought forcing customers using premium rate lines was really bad customer service. Ok, it can be a bit of a money spinner for the company that runs it, but it annoys the customer immensely when they have to use it and if you end up being forced to hang on the line, it really makes you angry as you count the minutes (and your bill).

So annoyed at this potential unexpected charge, it sent me down a research rabbit hole and I discovered a few excellent services to avoid the charges!

What is Premium Rate? How do I spot a premium rate number?

You should consider yourself warned if a phone number begins with “087” – this is a sign that the number concerned is premium rate. There are a couple of other exceptions like 118, which are usually exorbitantly expensive directory enquiries services.

A premium rate consists of two charges. One is your normal phone connection fee – but another is an additional service charge making up most of the cost which usually goes back to the company you’re calling. They simply do it to make money – it can add up if you’re making 10p a minute from a large group of customers.

Some companies will confusingly list an 0870 number but say something akin to “we do not make any revenue from this number”. If you see this be warned you’ll still be charged – what this often means is that the firm is getting some kind of benefit in kind, such as the telephony software being provided to them and the provider taking the premium rate revenue instead of them.

A review of the WeQ4U app

I think this was probably my best discovery as this one provides a dual service! You’ll need to download this from the relevant app store onto your phone.

In terms of saving you money, WEQ4U acts as a phone routing service where you input the premium rate number you want to call, then it provides you with an “03” number to call instead. You call that, and it connects to the premium rate service at the cheaper “03” rate.

03 numbers are generally included in most mobile contracts these days (although you should check) and even if it’s not, for most people a call to an 03 number which will still be cheaper than the premium rate!

The other advantage of WeQ4U is that even for non-premium rate numbers, you can arrange that if you get held in a queuing system they’ll automatically detect when the queue comes to an end and give you a call back at that point, rather than having to hang around awkwardly on the phone.

Call quality is clear and excellent – no different to a regular call.

The service is completely free as long as you’re using inclusive minutes for the 03 number, which obviously leads to the question of….

Is WeQ4U a scam?

No, absolutely not and nor do they sell your phone contact details which was my other main worry when using the service.

The company behind WEQ4U has a business focused side where they provide telephone software/queuing systems for professional businesses. This is essentially a side project out of that, and acts as advertising to promote that core business.

Happy child after avoiding a premium rate phone call!


This well established website has long been recommended by Martin Lewis. It’s essentially simply an online database – you can search for a company/number where you’re dialling 0870 and it will provide alternative numbers that will let you call the firm instead at a cheaper rate.

The website is not the most slick (this is a free service after all) but it does the job very effectively, and has many options.

There’s a few notes of caution for using this route. The site is essentially public access meaning that any number which is listed as an alternative contact hasn’t been checked.

This can have two negative effects – firstly a number of numbers on the sites may be duds. This means numbers that used to work, but have since been deactivated by the companies concerned. These are unfortunately quite prevalent, as you would expect.

A second more sinister reason is scammers, putting on a number so they can imitate the company and steal your details. This is rare, but it’s something worth keeping in mind and be extra-cautious where things don’t quite feel right about a call.

You can read our guide to avoiding telephone scams here.

Searching the company’s own websites for non premium rate numbers

Once you’ve called the company, you can also simply ask to be transferred internally. Searching around on the website you’re likely to find some numbers which are not premium rate (they’re usually sales lines, because funnily enough companies feel it might put off potential customers!).

You can simply give these a call instead and ask to be transferred to the right department. This doesn’t always work – the person may just give you the premium number to call rather than transfer you internally.

Any other ideas to avoid premium rate?

Have you found a great way of avoiding premium rate phone charges, or had any big moneysaving successes in this area? Let us know about them in the comments below!

And that’s it!

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