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How to use a UK payphone

Updated April 17, 2017

Public payphone use is shrinking in the UK as mobile phones become more popular, according to telecommunications giant British Telecom. Peak usage was in 2002, when there were 92,000 phone boxes on UK streets. Since then BT has been removing many payphones, arguing that calls from them have dwindled more than 80 percent in the past five years. However, many people still need to use public payphones, including foreign visitors without mobile phones and UK residents on low incomes.

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  1. Pick up the payphone's telephone handset. Check that the phone is working; if so, you will hear a continuous ringing tone.

  2. Insert coins into the coin slot if you are paying by cash and not by phone card or debit/credit card. The minimum fee if you are paying by cash, as of August 2011, is 60p. This includes a 40p connection fee. Insert coins before dialing.

  3. Run your debit or credit card through the card reader on the phone if you are using this method of payment and carry out the instructions given. If the payphone does not have a card reader, call 0800-032-0023 and follow the voice prompts to make your call.

  4. Dial the access number written on a prepaid phone card or a BT charge card. With a prepaid phone card, enter the PIN and follow the card's instructions. With BT's charge card, dial the access code (either 144 or 0800-144-144). Enter your access number, PIN and the hash symbol. In both cases, once confirmed, dial the telephone number, including the national and area codes.

  5. Insert more money or another phone card if you hear a bleeping tone during the call.

  6. Hang up the handset carefully when you finish. Check to see whether you have any returned coins. Take out your credit/debit/phone card.

  7. Tip

    Many UK payphones operate as BT Internet kiosks where you can send email and text messages. You can also gain access to the Internet.

    Buy phone cards from post offices, supermarkets and newsagents.


    Avoid using high-value coins, such as £2, when using a payphone as you will not get any change back.

    Ensure you have all your personal belongings when leaving the payphone. Some people leave address books, diaries and important papers on top of the phone.

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Things You'll Need

  • Coins
  • BT charge card/phonecard

About the Author

Based on the south coast of the U.K., Sally Nash has been writing since 1988. Her articles have appeared in everything from "Hairdressers Journal" to "Optician." She has also been published in national newspapers such as the "Financial Times." Nash holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University.

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