Contracts, bills & Council Tax

Contracts, bills & Council Tax

Phones

A mobile phone will help you keep in touch with friends and family whether they’re thousands of miles away in China, in locations across Europe like Germany or Bulgaria, or just on the other side of Glasgow.

You can stay connected to the internet even while on the move, and by choosing the right mobile phone contract you can save money too.

Choosing the right network

As the largest city in Scotland, there’s extensive mobile network coverage across Glasgow. Yet it’s still important to check the availability of any mobile network before you sign up for a contract to ensure you’re getting the best possible signal. 

We’d also suggest checking coverage in any other location where you're likely to be using your phone. This could include your non-term time address or the location of any placements or fieldwork you’ll undertake during your studies.

All major UK mobile phone networks offer postcode-based coverage checkers which should reveal how strong the 3G or 4G signals are in a chosen area. Accuracy can be an issue though, and if availability looks good but you subsequently find your signal is inadequate, you may be able to convince the network to provide a signal ‘booster’ – possibly at no extra cost. These can be a great way to transform a poor mobile signal, but do require a fixed-line broadband connection in order to work. And using them can eat into any download limits your home broadband may have, so beware of that.

How to pay

Once you’ve chosen the right mobile network for you, the next choice is what type of contract you should go for.

Your four options are:

Pay Monthly

Often including a free (or subsidised) handset, you’ll pay a fixed monthly fee, plus any additional costs from calls made outside of your allowance.

Pay monthly contracts are likely to include a number of inclusive calls, texts and data.

Contracts are typically between 12 and 24 months, with early termination fees if you leave before the minimum period has passed. So be sure not to get locked into a contract longer than you need.

Pay As You Go (PAYG)

You carry on using your current handset or purchase a new phone, adding credit as it’s needed. This credit gets you a specific number of minutes, texts and in some cases data.

PAYG is a highly flexible option, with no contract and no minimum term commitment. It’s also easy to stay within budget and monitor how much you’re spending when you top up.

This flexibility means that PAYG doesn’t offer the best value for money, however, and you could get a greater number of inclusive minutes, data and calls if you commit to a contract. 

SIM only

With this option, you order a SIM card for your current handset with a pre-determined number of inclusive minutes, data and texts.

Since SIM only contracts don’t require networks to provide expensive smartphones to customers, savings are often reflected in the monthly cost. Many SIM only contracts are also offered on a rolling 30 day contract, meaning it’s simple to switch providers with little notice if you find a better offer.

Compare SIM only deals to find the best deal for you.

How much data do I need?

Ofcom state the average mobile phone user downloads around 200MB of data per month, so any contract with an allowance of approximately 500MB should be more than enough for most people.

However, if you plan on using your phone to access the internet, you should connect to Wi-Fi networks whenever possible. This will help you reduce your mobile data usage and keep costs down.

Some contracts allow you to ‘tether’ your phone to a laptop, tablet or PC so it acts as a modem which can enable other devices to connect to the internet, which can be incredibly useful. Bear in mind though that not all tariffs allow this, particularly on 3G, and it’s also a really easy way to go way over your data allowances!

If broadband on the move is useful to you, then it could be cheaper to sign up for a separate mobile broadband contract or get a SIM for mobile broadband.

Check out the best mobile broadband deals

Calling abroad?

If you’re going to call overseas numbers regularly, seek out a mobile contract that includes cheap international numbers, or consider a provider that specialises in calls to other countries.

Lebara Mobile, for example, offers SIM-only deals which allow you to call international numbers at a reduced cost:

  • Ccalls to China start at 1p per minute,
  • Dialling the US or Bulgaria costs 6p per minute while you can ring Germany from 7p per minute. 

Lebara SIM cards are widely available from stores across Glasgow, and can be purchased in shops close to the Gilmorehill Campus or by the underground Kelvinhall stop.

Know your rights!

Surprisingly, mobile networks have been perfectly within their rights to increase monthly repayments in the middle of your contract. However, Ofcom (the UK’s telecommunications watchdog) have recently ruled against such mid-contract price hikes, so if you find unjustified price increases have been levied, you should now be able to cancel without any early cancellation fees being charged.

Some important questions to ask:

Inclusive minutes

  • How many minutes of calls will your chosen tariff give you?
  • Can you call any network with your inclusive minutes, or just landlines and other phones on your network?
  • Are customer service and voicemail calls free?

Texts

  • Will get you get enough texts included?
  • How much are messages to other networks if you’re on PAYG?
  • Are MMS picture messages free?

Internet usage

  • How much data do you need?
  • Will it be enough?
  • What happens if you exceed your limit?
  • Can you ‘tether’ your phone to a laptop and use it as a modem?
  • Would a mobile broadband dongle be more appropriate?

Handsets

  • Do you want a new phone?
  • Could you save money by using an old phone?
  • Is your phone ‘unlockable’ so it can work on another network?
  • What happens if you lose your phone or it’s stolen?

Contracts

  • Is the contract length appropriate?
  • If you already have a contract, have you passed your minimum contract period?
  • If so, are you possibly eligible for a free upgrade?

And finally

  • Do you really need the latest 4G smartphone?
  • Are you honestly going to use a huge data allowance?
  • Is streaming video on the bus to your lectures really necessary?
  • Be careful not to over-commit, and remember those early termination fees.
  • If you have to leave, a network can charge you all the outstanding monthly fees left on your contract, but all in one go!

Where to buy

If you don’t want to sign up for a contract online or want to see what the latest handsets look like in real life, there are a number of mobile phone stores around the Gilmorehill Campus – many within just a few minutes walk.

Your options include:

3 Store
42 Buchanan St, City Centre, Glasgow G1 3JX ‎
Carphone Warehouse
Unit 1, 276-280 Byres Rd, Glasgow G12 8AW
EE
195 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3ER
O2 Glasgow
711 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 8QX
Phones 4u
276-280 Byres Rd, Glasgow G12 8AW ‎
Virgin Mobile
235 Buchanan St, Glasgow G1 2NG ‎
Vodafone
106 Argyle St, Glasgow G2 8BH
 

Produced with Ofcom accredited broadband, TV and phone comparison site Cable.co.uk


Internet

There is an extensive network of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the University of Glasgow, from the main building on the Gilmorehill Campus to the Garscube Campus Vet School, and across other locations like the Dental School and Millport Marine Station.

So, wherever you are on campus, you should find it easy to get online. However, when it comes to broadband at home, it’s important to get the right package. If you research and compare what broadband deals are on offer before you sign, you could save money and avoid committing for longer than is necessary.

Types of broadband you can get in Glasgow

As the largest city in Scotland, there are many options available to you when you want to get online in Glasgow.

You can choose between Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (commonly known as ‘ADSL’), fibre optic broadband or even mobile broadband, with the city also benefitting from 4G mobile broadband coverage since 2012 and double-speed 4G since 2013.

Whichever option is right for you, it’s a good idea to find out exactly what's available where you are before you commit to a contract. There are a number of broadband comparison sites with Ofcom accredited comparisons that can help. This way you’ll be sure the advice you’re getting is impartial, accurate and up-to-date.

Visit the broadband comparison website to see what deals and offers are available locally to where you live.

Broadband speeds you can get in Glasgow

Newer fibre optic broadband offers speeds up to a maximum of 76Mbps at key locations near the University of Glasgow, with conventional ADSL broadband speeds varying between 3Mbps up to 15Mbps.

If you’re based near Gilmorehill Campus, the optimum fibre speed available is currently 76Mbps with a fibre connection, or up to 8Mbps with ADSL broadband. Results are very similar for students near the School of Education too.

If you live near Archive Services, the West End of the city or Kelvinhall underground, although fibre speeds remain up to 76Mbps, ADSL speeds are a little faster than elsewhere in the city, with estimates of up to 15Mbps.

Students near the Observatory or the Garscube Sports Complex can again benefit from up to 76Mbps fibre, with ADSL speeds up to 3Mbps.

Best broadband for a shared student house

The right broadband for a student home can be determined by how many people will be online and how heavily they’ll be using the connection. If you know there’ll be several housemates online at the same time, or if you’re planning on connecting multiple devices to your Wi-Fi, then the faster your selected service the better.

Another important consideration is download allowances. Providers offer either a ‘fixed’ allowance (where you sign up to an agreed monthly data limit, and extra charges are incurred if you exceed it), or a range of ‘unlimited’ services.

One word of warning - watch out for this word ‘unlimited’ as it can sometimes be a little confusing. Generally speaking, only broadband deals offering ‘truly unlimited’ services have no limits whatsoever, so if you’re a large household and likely to be doing a lot of data-intensive activities like steaming video and online gaming, you really should be looking for that kind of package. In this case, you’ll probably also be best off looking for decent fibre broadband connection so that everyone can get the speeds they need.

What’s on offer can differ dramatically so be sure to compare fibre optic broadband deals online first.

However, if there’s just going to be a few of you sharing, and you don’t think you’ll be likely to need ultra fast connections and infinite data limits, then you really shouldn’t worry about getting the latest and fastest technology – a conventional ADSL connection should be perfectly adequate for your needs.

And if you’re living alone or just want to stay independent, your own mobile broadband contract might offer the most flexible solution – just be sure to shop around first and look out for things like the ability to tether a laptop or tablet to your phone. This can be incredibly useful, especially when working away from home, but is not always available to 3G users.

Best contract length

The majority of broadband providers ask you to commit to either a 12 month or 18 month minimum term. For students who are staying on in Glasgow through the summer and into the new academic year, such a year-round contract could be ideal, meaning that there’s no break in your broadband provision. However, for students planning on returning home over the summer or moving to different accommodation, a student broadband deal could be more suitable.

There are a growing number of providers offering 9 month broadband contracts designed to cover one year of study. The service providers promote such deals during the summer break and continue to offer them until a month or so into the new academic year. The shorter nature of such student-friendly broadband offers means they’re flexible and usually end when your studies do – but be aware that not all providers offer them and they don’t always offer the best value for money.

The situation changes each year, but each September there are usually several different student broadband deals available.

Top student broadband tips

Switch to e-billing

Most broadband providers offer e-billing as an alternative to traditional paper bills. On average, you could save around £35 per year by making the switch.

Pay phone line rental up-front

Since almost all broadband provides require you to have a landline, paying for your line rental in advance can save you money. You can save approximately £15 by paying up front. 

Get all your names on the contract

If you’re sharing a house with other students, ask if your provider will allow more than one name on your broadband contract – they won’t always allow this, but it’s worth asking. This way, you’ll all have equal responsibility for the payments and there’s less chance of one person being left with an unfair burden. 

If prices rise, you can walk away

Because of a recent ruling by the telecommunications watchdog Ofcom, if you find that your provider raises the monthly cost of your broadband in mid-contract, you’ve got the right to cancel without any penalty – no matter how long is left on your minimum term.

Downloads and uploads count

If you’ve got a capped broadband data allowance, both your download and upload activity will count towards this limit. So do take this into consideration if you’ll be using your broadband to do things like online gaming and making video calls to your family back home.

Consider bundling

If you think your household will be looking for other things like digital TV, then consider bundling all your broadband, TV and phone services from the same provider – it’s a great way to save money and can make things a lot more convenient, with only one company to deal with.

Compare phone, digital TV and broadband deals

Compare, compare, compare

Whatever you do, be sure shop around – never just take the first advertised offer you see. And, if you visit an Ofcom accredited price comparison site, you can be confident the information you’re getting is up-to-date, impartial and accurate.

Think carefully!

Finally, just ask yourself if you really do need the services you think you do. Many people make the mistake of thinking that signing up to the fastest broadband and lots of movies and sports channels will end up saving money as it’ll mean cheap nights in. However, it doesn’t always work out that way and once you’re committed to a contract, you’ll need to see it through to the end.

Produced with Ofcom accredited broadband, TV and phone comparison site Cable.co.uk


Keeping in touch with home

Whether you’ve travelled to the University of Glasgow from China, the USA, Germany, Bulgaria or any of the other countries that our international students call home, you’ll want to keep in touch with friends and family there. Unfortunately, ringing home or calling international numbers while you’re in the UK can be very expensive.

The good news is that there are several ways to keep in touch while keeping the costs down.

Stay in touch via the internet

There is an extensive Wi-Fi network across the University of Glasgow, plus hundreds of computers available in campus libraries, so keeping in touch with friends and family via email is a low-cost and simple option.

Make VoIP calls

If you have a your own laptop, desktop computer, tablet or even smartphone and have access to broadband, there are several software packages or apps that you can use to call home.

Whether you choose a high-profile instant messenger like Skype or another service such as Vonage or Google Voice, you can make free device-to-device calls around the world using a Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (or ‘VoIP’) system. The person you’re calling also needs to have the same software installed, but this is a great budget way of talking to people back home - and to even see them if you both have webcams.

If you haven’t yet arranged your home broadband, visiting a site with an Ofcom accredited tool, which allows you to compare broadband prices, can help you get the best value. You can see an Ofcom accredited comparison of broadband deals on sites like www.cable.co.uk.

Some internet service providers also even offer student broadband packages which cover the length of the academic year, although they tend to only be available between August and October. 

Skype and Vonage plans

If you use Skype to make calls to international numbers, you can pay for your calls before you make them with ‘Skype Credit’ (£10 or £20 credit bundles are available).

Alternatively, you can use ‘Pay As You Go’ or subscribe to a one month rolling contract which offers Skype’s lowest calling rates to over 170 countries/regions. 

You can choose between a set number of inclusive minutes that you can use to call any country, an ‘Unlimited’ package allowing you to call as much as you like to a selected country, or ‘Unlimited World’, which gives you free and unlimited calls to over 60 countries worldwide.

Depending on the plan you go for, you’ll find that you can call locations like:

  • China from 0.6p per minute,
  • The USA from 0.7p,
  • Bulgaria from 2.2p and
  • Germany and other locations in the EU from just 0.03p per minute.

Vonage offers a similar range of choices on their ‘World Option’ tariff, which allows you to make international calls on two smartphones at no extra charge, unlimited calls to UK and Ireland landlines and unlimited calls to 68 countries around the world. Prices start at £13.80 per month.

Make sure you’re on the right mobile phone contract

If you’ve got a new mobile phone contract from any of the UK networks, you should be able to add an international ‘bolt-on’ package to your contract.

Another option to explore if you’re a Pay As You Go customer is to order a SIM card that already has credit on it. Some UK mobile providers include bonuses like extra international call minutes for free if you top up a fixed amount each month.

There are many SIM card deals available, but be sure to compare SIM-only prices first, as prices from the various mobile networks can differ widely.

If you’re going to use your phone to access the internet, which would also allow you to use free VoIP services, that can be a good idea but do be careful as it’s also a sure way to use up any data allowances you may have. You may face penalties which exceed the savings you’ve made on the calls.

If calling whilst you’re on the move is important, you could consider a separate mobile broadband dongle, but again, be sure to do a comparison of what mobile broadband offers are available from the different providers. Having a dedicated mobile broadband contract can offer much better value than using your phone contract’s data allowance to get online.

Get an International SIM card

You may have brought a mobile phone with you – if so, be very wary of using it as you would have at home, as you’re likely to rack up very high roaming charges. However, you can purchase a SIM card in the UK specifically designed for making international calls, which will greatly reduce the costs.

One of the most widely used International SIMs is offered by Lebara Mobile. You may need to get your phone “unlocked” to work on the Lebara Network – especially if you’d previously used it on a different network at home – but you’ll then be able to use a Lebara Mobile SIM to make low-cost calls to a wide range of international destinations at a greatly reduced rate.

It’s possible to buy a Lebara SIM (and top it up when you’ve used your credit) in many different shops around Glasgow, including some stores near the Gilmorehill Campus or at the Kelvinhall underground station.

Students calling China will find particularly good rates with Lebara: calls to the country cost from just 1p per minute. The USA and Bulgaria can be called for 6p per minute while calls to Germany start from 7p per minute.

You will also find that UK networks like O2 and T-Mobile also have international SIM cards that enable you to make low-price international calls.

Pick up an international calling card

In addition to international SIMs, you can also purchase international calling cards which enable you to to make calls from both landlines and some mobiles – with some calls starting at just one penny per minute.

To use an international calling card, you dial an access phone number (found on the card), enter a PIN number and then call the number you want to reach (including the international dialling code). The fee for your call will be deducted from the credit on your card, and you’ll also be charged a connection fee for each call you make.

If you’re using a landline then be sure to dial the 0800 access number as it’ll be the cheapest rate. And don’t use these cards in pay-phones unless you have to because there could be a rather high additional cost.

Use “Simply Dial” international access numbers

Another option is to use international access or “Simply Dial” numbers. Call charges made using international access numbers are added to your phone bill by the minute, and you’ll also be charged a connection fee. Be sure to look out for the differing access numbers to use depending on whether you’re calling a landline or mobile phone.

Shop around

Before you buy a SIM card or commit to a UK mobile phone contract, it’s important to research how much it’ll cost to call the country you’re planning on contacting most frequently. This way you’ll be able to save money while still keeping in touch with people at home.

Produced with Ofcom accredited broadband, TV and phone comparison site Cable.co.uk


Bills & utilities

Household utility bills are for electricity, gas and water.

If you live in University of Glasgow halls of residence your accommodation fees include these utilities.

If you live in a private rented property or your own home you will be sent a bill from the utility suppliers.

If you live in a shared private rented property you should budget at least £15 a week to pay all their utility bills.

The main household utility bills are:

  • Gas
  • Electricity

Council Tax

Find out about Council Tax, how to pay and check if you are eligible for an exemption or a discount.

Council Tax for Dependants

If an international student is living with their partner, who is not a British citizen, and is prevented by the terms of their Leave to Enter or Remain from taking paid employment or having recourse to public funds, the partner, as a student dependent, will also be exempt from paying Council Tax. 

If you are accompanied by your partner you should provide both confirmation of your student status as well as showing the Council Tax office the visa page in your partner's passport. We would advise taking this in person to the local Council Tax Office. 

There is further information on Dependants' eligibility for exemption is given in the Council Tax FAQ document.

If the partner of a student is an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen and is therefore not prevented by immigration conditions from taking employment or having recourse to public funds, they are not exempt from paying Council Tax.