Despite BT raising the minimum charge for making a call from a payphone by 50%, from 40p to 60p, using a phonebox can still be cheaper than a mobile.
It costs only 60p to make a 15 minute call from a phonebox if you use cash, but up to £1.55 from a Pay As You Go mobile.
Although mobiles are more convenient and can be cheaper for short calls, consider using a payphone if you want to save money on longer calls.
For a 2 minute chat, a typical PAYG mobile charge is 38p. A payphone costs 60p. For a 15 minute call, the mobile charge rises to £1.55 while the callbox remains at 60p. For a half hour call the mobile is £2.55 – this is 8.5p per minute, compared with a BT callbox’s 2p per minute. BT has a minimum callbox charge of £1.20 if you’re using a card.
Use them or lose them
As mobile phone use in the UK has grown, with over 48m subscribers, the number of payphones has fallen from 92,000 in 2002 to 53,000 today. Only 12,500 of these are the iconic red boxes, first introduced in the 1920s. Payphone use has halved in the past two years, according to BT, with 10% of boxes used just once a month. It says that 58% are unprofitable.
Removing a box can involve a consultation process with the local authority, with factors such as its proximity to an accident blackspot and the surrounding area taken into account. Councils can sponsor uneconomic boxes, so BT continues to maintain them. A separate system exists for redundant red boxes, which can be ‘adopted’ by councils for a nominal sum and left in situ once the phone has been removed.
English Heritage has saved 2,340 telephone boxes by awarding them listed status.
Mobiles are more convenient and can be cheaper for short calls. We can help you find the best mobile phone tariff for you, and the best mobile phone. And our straightforward guide will get you up to speed with accessing the internet from your mobile.
Which? Money when you need it
You can follow @WhichMoney on Twitter to keep up-to-date with our Best Rates and Recommended Provider product and service reviews.
Sign up for the latest money news, best rates and recommended providers in your newsletter every Friday.
Or for money-saving tips, and news of how what’s going on in the world of finance affects you, join Melanie Dowding and James Daley for the Which? Money weekly money podcast
For daily consumer news, subscribe to the Which? news RSS feed here. And to find out how we work for you on money issues, visit our personal finance campaigns pages.