What you need to know about call charges

If you don’t stick to your call plan terms, you could easily rack up an expensive phone bill. Here’s what calls are usually included, what you’ll pay extra for, and how to avoid paying more than you need to.

How many minutes does your plan include?

The phone plan you choose will affect the number of minutes you have and the type of calls you can make.

Some plans include a set number of minutes e.g. 300 per month, while others are unlimited.

Unlimited plans offer more than enough minutes for the average user, but it’s worth knowing that some are capped so if you go over that level, you’ll have to pay more.

You also need to know which numbers are part of your calling allowance. This applies to unlimited plans too, which are restricted by the types of call included in the plan.

If you’re not sure what your plan includes, you could check your phone bill or log into your mobile network’s user account or app.

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What numbers are included?

These are the types of numbers that are usually included in your minutes:

  • Irish mobiles and fixed lines (landlines)
  • Non Geographic Numbers (NGN) e.g. 1850, 1890, 0818 and 076
  • Your voicemail number

When you make calls to these numbers you’ll use the minutes you’ve paid for as part of your phone plan. If you’ve used up all your included minutes then you’ll have to pay extra.

What numbers will you pay extra for?

Here are the numbers that could catch you out because they’re not usually included in your allocated minutes:

  • International numbers
  • UK numbers
  • Premium rate service (PRS) numbers that start with 15 e.g. 1515 or 1530
  • Directory services numbers starting with 118

Some call plans do include a separate, smaller allowance for international calls, or may include European countries in their unlimited allowance, so check the terms and conditions.

What happens if you use up your minutes?

If you use up your free minutes before the month ends, you’ll start being charged the network’s standard call rates.

With an unlimited plan, this is unlikely to ever happen. Some networks apply a fair usage policy which does cap the number of minutes included, but it’s at a really high level (usually 10,000 minutes a month) so it’s unlikely you’ll go over this.

10,000 minutes is equivalent to 166 hours or 5.5 hours of calls a day for 30 days.

Switching to a different call plan

If your calling needs have changed, there are some options available, depending on your current plan:

  • If you’re on a flexible 30 day SIM-only plan you can switch to a better deal at any time.
  • If you’re part way through a longer term bill pay phone deal that has a restricted number of minutes, you can usually buy an add-on until you’re out of contract, and then switch.

What are add-ons?

An add-on is a bundle of minutes, texts, data, or combination, that can be bought and activated straight away, keeping you topped up for 30 days, or on an ongoing basis.

Some networks only offer data add-ons, and some don’t offer any at all. This is usually where they only offer plans with unlimited calls, texts and data - making add-ons unnecessary.

Our guide covers all you need to know about switching and finding the best SIM-only deal when the time is right.

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Call charges and rates by network provider

Below is a list of the Irish mobile networks and links to their price plans. These cover what calls are included within their packages, standard call rates and premium call rates.

Network Standard/out of plan call charges Other information
48 Call charges Unlimited calls, subject to a fair usage cap of 10,000 minutes per month.
Clear mobile Price plan Unlimited calls, subject to a fair usage cap of 45,000 minutes per month.
eir Price plan Unlimited calls, subject to a fair usage cap of 45,000 minutes per month.
GoMo Call charges Unlimited calls, subject to a fair usage cap of 45,000 minutes per month.
Lycamobile Standard rates and Special/premium rates Buy additional bundles as ‘add-ons’ if you like. Bundles with unlimited minutes available.
Tesco Mobile Call charges and other call charges Unlimited calls available, subject to a fair usage cap of 10,000 minutes per month.
Three Call rates Unlimited calls available, subject to a fair usage cap of 10,000 minutes per month.
Virgin Mobile Call rates Unlimited calls available, subject to a fair usage cap of 10,000 minutes per month.
Vodafone Call charges Unlimited calls include European calls.

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What about roaming call charges?

You can Roam Like at Home (RLAH) when you travel within the EU, meaning that you can make and receive calls at no extra cost than when you’re in Ireland.

Roaming outside the EU however, can be costly. Some of the price plans in the table above show the cost of making calls from outside the EU.

Find out more about roaming charges, including in the UK, in our dedicated guide.

How to find the best call bundle

Here’s what to consider when you’re looking at choosing your next bill pay phone or SIM-only deal:

  • Check your calling history: Check your mobile phone bill or log in to your account to see how many minutes on average you use each month and if it’s well under or over your allowance.
  • Don’t be seduced by unlimited calls: Only pay for the minutes you need and make sure the calls included are right for you. If most of your calls are to Europe for example, make sure the plan includes them.
  • Check for add-ons: If you find a plan that covers most of your calls but you need an allowance for calls to the UK for example, see what the network offers. For example, Virgin Mobile offers a UK calling add-on with 500 international minutes to the UK for €5 a month.
  • Check for special rates: If you need to call out of bundle numbers regularly, compare the rates different networks charge, including any hidden connection charges, to find the cheapest.
  • Shop around for the right deal: Use our comparisons to help you compare bill pay phone deals or SIM-only deals.

Although call charges are an important part of your mobile phone plan, you also need to consider data, texts, flexibility and coverage in your area.

Our comparisons are perfect for helping you find the cheapest overall deal for your needs.

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Call charges FAQs

What do unlimited calls mean?

Unlimited calls mean you can call the types of number your plan covers, as much as you like and you won’t pay extra.

For most networks that offer unlimited call plans, there’s a fair usage policy attached which means that your calling allowance is capped.

It’s usually capped at such a high level that most people wouldn’t come close to reaching the limit e.g. 10,000 minutes.

There are a select few plans that are truly unlimited though, meaning there’s no cap on the number of calls you make. You’ll still be restricted to the type of numbers you can call though, to avoid extra costs.

What is a Non Geographic Number?

Businesses may use non geographic numbers (NGN) to avoid the need for an area code, these include 1850, 1890, 0818 and 076 numbers. This can help their business to seem more accessible nationwide.

NGNs used to be charged at a premium rate but they are now included in free minutes or charged at the same rate or less than an Irish landline.

What are premium rate services?

Premium rate services (PRS) are entertainment based services you can pay for by phone e.g. competitions, TV voting and charity donations.

You’ll pay a higher rate than a standard call and your network may charge an extra amount on top of what’s advertised, so check.

You can find out more about PRS on the Comreg.ie website.

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