/ Money

Loyal customers pay to call banks – new ones get it free. Why?

Two people on telephone

Do you say no to 0870 and other pricey numbers? Sometimes it’s not always easy, especially when new customers are given free numbers to call a bank, while existing customers are told to call paid-for numbers.

And what about numbers for disabled people to call to get information in Braille or use a textphone if they are hearing or speech-impaired? Shouldn’t they be freephone numbers too?

We recently discovered a number of misleading leaflets in branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and HSBC. They appeared to advertise 0845 and 0870 numbers for new customers wanting information in Braille or to use a textphone, but 0800 numbers for other new customers.

All three banks told us that this was either a mistake in their leaflets or the result of confusing wording and that they did not discriminate between disabled and other customers. But we think they should take more care with their publications.

Existing customers made to pay

HSBC said that all new customers are given 0800 numbers to call while all existing customers are given 0845 numbers, which raises another question. Why are loyal customers penalised for calling their bank?

A quick look at the websites of these three banks confirms that they all give 0800 numbers for new customers to call to apply for a current account and other products while many of the numbers for existing customers start with 0845 or 0870.

These numbers can cost up to 10p a minute from landlines, although some providers include the cost of these in their call packages, and as much as 40p from mobiles. Look at our guide on how to avoid 0870 and 0845 numbers for ways around them.

Should new customers get special treatment?

Is it understandable that banks want to do everything they can to encourage new customers to call them but are less bothered about existing ones? Would giving everyone freephone numbers just push the cost of banks’ services up for everyone?

Or should existing customers be treated the same as new ones – or even better since they give the bank their custom?


I always try to avoid 0870 and 0845 numbers. I use VoIP phone calls on the internet and calls to fixed landlines anywhere in europe and the USA are virtually free. People who have phone tariffs which give free 0870, 0845 numbers pay more than I do overall for calls.

If I cant find a geographic number (01 or 02) with http://www.saynoto0870.com, I try google to see if I can find a number under ‘contacts’

In a very rare situation that I am forced to use a high cost number, I always complain. It has just occurred to me that I could ask to be called back.


Geoff says:
27 July 2011

0845 & 0870 numbers really annoy me! Whether from people who want my business [they don’t get it unless I have no realistic alternatives!] or from existing suppliers. The very least an existing supplier should do is to offer a normal national number to call, for those – like me – who have an inclusive landline call package. I do my best to get round them by using their so called “dialling from overseas” numbers, using “Say No to O870” and Googling to find Head Office numbers and asking to be transferred.
I also HATE websites that fail to give a telephone number to call even when you know full well that the company concerned does deal with consumers over the phone.
Far too many organisations have lost touch with the reality of what good “Customer Service” should provide, and are far more concerned with ruthless, short term cost cutting than with ensuring customer satisfaction and hence ongoing, low cost, repeat business. I’m sure that the net result is that many have to spend the money that they have “saved” on finding and acquiring replacement customers for those who – like me – vote with their feet wherever possible!

Peter says:
27 July 2011

Hats off to Geoff above. Vote with feet is good but I think the golden rule is to make sure you tell the offending supplier you won’t use these numbers on principle; and keep telling them. If enough of us did this, they’d get the message sooner.

Geoff says:
27 July 2011

Tell whom, Peter?
My bitter experience is that – once you have got through to someone who has the skills to help you – that person rarely has authority to respond to complaints, or access to any system for recording complaints, and are unable [not allowed?] to transfer you to a Supervisor, Manager or anyone else with such authority.
Worse still, almost none of the companies who operate this way have a an easily or obviously accessible system for registering or receiving Customer Complaints, so they do not accumulate the metrics that would allow them to identify the common causes of their customers’ dis-satisfaction; and if they don’t have that data, how can they begin to tackle their deficiencies?


The answer to this problem is very simple! Change your Bank if it uses an 0845 / 0870 number, after all it is your money that is allowing it to function – even if it is just a little!

Hazel Davidson says:
27 July 2011

I agree with all the above. On my phone tariff calls to geographic numbers are free, but I pay for calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers. It’s not just banks that have 0800 numbers for new customers and 0870 or 0845 for those that have been with them a while. Insurance companies use 0800 numbers on their adverts, but more expensive numbers if you want to make a claim. I keep a record of their 0800 number and use that instead – it usually works.
If I can’t find a free number for a company, then I make sure my business goes elsewhere in the future.
Also, I notice that firms that use 0870 and 0845 numbers tend to keep callers hanging on the line for ages. Companies that have 0800 numbers usually answer my call and deal with my query very quickly, often in just a few seconds. So I save time as well as money.

Brian Kidd says:
27 July 2011

I think that no customers should pay to call their bank ! I also use “Say no to 0845 /0870 numbers”
web site. Some banks reserve numbers for over seas customers. If the system picks up the fact that
the incoming call is “domestic” the system will block the call. The way round this is to dial 1414 before the call number. This will show as” number withheld” on the banks system and the call should go through! Good luck.

Paul Southcott says:
27 July 2011

With most phone companies now 0870 numbers are charged at standard rates it is 0871/0844/0845 you want to watch out for


You’re not right here, Paul, except perhaps at weekends. Fine is you want to pay more for an inclusive package but not worth it for low usage. Suggest you read the earlier comments which offer ways round this.