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Your Money: CUT COST OF XMAS CALLS; How to stay in touch with loved ones on the cheap.



Byline: MELANIE WRIGHT

STAYING in touch with loved ones overseas is more important than ever at Christmas, but you'll need to plan ahead if you want to avoid a nasty New Year phone bill.

There are plenty of ways to save money on your festive fes·tive  
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or appropriate for a feast or festival.

2. Merry; joyous: a festive party.
 calls, and even people who only make the odd call abroad can cut costs by looking around for cheaper deals.

One way to reduce costs is to ask your phone company if they offer an international calling package that can be added to your existing deal. Our table on the right shows some of the best bolt-on deals available.

According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 comparison site uSwitch.com, BT Together Option 1's 10.8million customers could save more than 67 per cent on calls to Australia and the US by opting to take the BT International add-on for just pounds 1 extra a month.

Without the bolton, a 15-minute call to Australia with BT Together's Option 1 would cost pounds 1.56, but with it the cost drops to 51p.

If you make lots of calls overseas, then it might be worth considering paying pounds 5 a month for the International Freedom bolt-on, also from BT. This enables you to make calls of up to an hour to landlines in 36 countries, including Australia, France, the US, Hong Kong Hong Kong (hŏng kŏng), Mandarin Xianggang, special administrative region of China, formerly a British crown colony (2005 est. pop. 6,899,000), land area 422 sq mi (1,092 sq km), adjacent to Guangdong prov.  and New Zealand New Zealand (zē`lənd), island country (2005 est. pop. 4,035,000), 104,454 sq mi (270,534 sq km), in the S Pacific Ocean, over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) SE of Australia. The capital is Wellington; the largest city and leading port is Auckland. , for no extra cost.

Calls of up to an hour to mobile phones in the US, Canada, Bahamas and Hong Kong are also included at no extra cost. Calls over an hour are charged at 3p a minute.

TalkTalk are offering their customers a special deal which gives inclusive calls to 36 overseas destinations at no extra cost if you sign up to one of their plans for 12 months. Normally their International Extra plan costs pounds 2.50 a month.

If you only make occasional calls overseas, such as at Christmas or on birthdays, then an alternative is to use a prefix code A prefix code is a code, typically a variable-length code, with the "prefix property": no code word is a prefix of any other code word in the set. A code with code words has the prefix property; a code consisting of does not, because "1" is a prefix of both "10" and "11". , which provides you with a special number to enter before making the call. Primus's Planet Talk Instant service, for example, enables you to choose the destination you want to call from a list on the website www.planettalkinstant.com.

Once you have picked out the destination, the site tells you how much calls will cost per minute, and you can then choose the appropriate access number to make your call.

A 15-minute call to Australia, Germany or the US using this service would cost 36p.

Another way to cut international call costs is to use your computer to contact loved ones through a system called Voice over Internet Protocol See Internet and TCP/IP.

(networking) Internet Protocol - (IP) The network layer for the TCP/IP protocol suite widely used on Ethernet networks, defined in STD 5, RFC 791. IP is a connectionless, best-effort packet switching protocol.
, otherwise known as VoIP.

Skype customers, for example, can make calls directly from their PC, using a special headset Headphones combined with a microphone. Used in call centers and by people in telephone-intensive jobs, headsets provide the equivalent functionality of a telephone handset with hands-free operation. Many people use headsets at the computer so they can converse and type comfortably.  and software that needs to be downloaded.

Vonage customers connect a VoIP box to their broadband modem, then connect their standard home phone to that box and make calls in the conventional way.

If you are calling someone who is using the same technology, then calls are completely free. If, however, you are calling a normal landline using VoIP, then the cost of calls is still significantly reduced. As said earlier, someone making a 15-minute call to Australia, Germany, Ireland or the US would pay pounds 1.56 with BT Option 1, but the average cost of the same length call using VoIP is just 12p. There is no set-up or monthly cost with Skype, but the Vonage plan costs pounds 9.99 a month.

Steve Weller, of uSwitch.com, says: "It is clear that VoIP is a great way to save money on calling abroad.

However, the sophisticated range of international calling plans and other landline options show that there's no reason to write off the traditional home phone just yet.

"Christmas is an expensive time of year and a few pounds here and there can really mount up - so if you have family or friends abroad that you wish to call, plan ahead."

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WHAT INTERNATIONAL BOLT-ONS COST YOU.. Source: www.uSwitch.com; Steve Weller says 'plan ahead'
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 16, 2007
Words:677
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