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MONEY

The Spanish phone numbers to avoid if you don’t want to be overcharged

Calling certain phone numbers in Spain can result in nasty surprises on your phone bill. Here are the Spanish phone prefixes that tend to overcharge as well as other useful tips to avoid these numbers.

man in Spain calls expensive phone number
There are ways of recognising which Spanish numbers will charge you extra for making a call. Photo: Joshua Woroniecki/Pixabay

One of the most common surprises you can get on your Spanish mobile phone bill is an extra charge which falls outside the tarifa plana (flat fee) conditions of your contract, linked to a phone call you made to a particular number. 

These are usually numbers with a special pricing prefix (prefijo de tarificación especial). 

They don’t start with a 6 as is the case with most mobile phone numbers in Spain and they don’t have the three-number provincial landline prefixes which start with 9 but are never followed by a 0, as seen in the map below. 

So which phone prefixes should you watch out for?

According to Spain’s top consumer watchdog OCU, they usually start with a 9 or an 8 and are then followed by a 0 (zero).

If you’re having to call special pricing prefixes in Spain often it may be advisable to speak to your phone company to see if there are more suitable contracts for you, or instead use a pre-paid sim card to keep a closer check on expenses.  

You are also able to block your phone from making calls to these ‘special’ prefixes.

With Movistar this is done online from your user profile, for Orange you have to call 1470 and Vodafone users usually have these numbers blocked by default on their contracts.

800+ numbers

Calling a phone number with the prefix 800 is actually free but  numbers higher than that can come with a high extra charge. They are phone lines in which a service is provided during the call, with your company and the company providing the service each charging extra.

803: Adult services 

806: Entertainment services such as gambling or tarot.

807: Professional services such as doctors or consultancy companies.

Tip: Checking the fourth number can give you an idea of whether the phone call will cost you. If the fourth number is 0 or 1, calls from the mobile cannot have a price higher than €0.65 per minute. If the fourth number is higher than 6, you must have expressly authorized your phone company to allow you to access this type of ultra-expensive services. Each minute will cost you from €1.3 onwards.

And there is no fixed maximum limit, it can be the one decided by the company that offers you the service.

900+ numbers

Calling a number starting with 900 is also free and is often used by companies for customer service purposes. 

901: Normally it is used by Spain’s Public Administrations, the Tax Agency or Spain’s Social Security. Dialling a 901 number will result in you paying part of the call. And it isn’t cheap. OCU’s table below shows the rates for a five-minute call with different phone companies in Spain, for both landline (fijo) and mobile (móvil) numbers.

902: People who dial this prefix must pay the full cost of the call, which works out to be roughly €3 for a five-minute call from a mobile and €1 from a landline.

905: These numbers are used for televoting services although a fixed amount is paid per call as it’s a special rate.

907, 908, 909: These phone numbers are used by companies that connect to the Internet to provide a service, although it must be expressly approved by the customer.

READ ALSO:

118 numbers 

118 numbers are over-the-phone guidance services that vary in price.

According to a report by Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) the average price for a one-minute call was €5.56.

To avoid surprises, certain measures have been adopted by Spanish authorities such as being informed previously that 118 numbers cost extra, a ten-minute limit on calls and if the call costs more than €2.5 euros callers must be informed.

OCU has requested that phone calls to these numbers are by default blocked for phone contracts.

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PROPERTY

How to change from a variable to a fixed mortgage in Spain

The rise in interest rates has increased the price of variable mortgage rates by hundreds if not thousands of euros, causing panic among those who have this type of plan. So, what are the best ways to change to a fixed mortgage?

How to change from a variable to a fixed mortgage in Spain

With the rise in inflation, the price of daily goods going up and the increase in energy bills, residents in Spain are definitely feeling the squeeze on their wallets.

The cost of the Euribor (the basic rate of interest used in lending between banks in the European Union) has increased too, putting a further strain on people with variable mortgage rates and increasing their monthly payments. 

According to the latest data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), 28.4 percent of homes have a variable rate mortgage and 71.6 percent have a fixed rate.

What has the rise in interest rates meant for variable mortgage rates in Spain?

If for example you have a mortgage of €150,000 for 25 years, the increase in the Euribor could mean that you will be paying an extra €120 per month or an extra €1,400 per year.

READ ALSO: What the Euribor rise means for property buyers and owners in Spain

This is why many people on variable mortgages have been looking into the option of changing it to a fixed plan instead. 

What is the difference between a variable and a fixed mortgage?

A variable interest rate mortgage is where the interest charged on the outstanding balance changes based on factors such as the Euribor.  

A fixed interest rate loan is a loan where the interest rate on the loan remains the same each month for the amount of time you’ve taken out the mortgage for. 

Will variable mortgages keep rising to keep up with the rise in the Euribor?

The increase in the Euribor reached a daily rate of 2.5 percent last week, its highest level since January 2009. This means that if you have a variable mortgage rate, your payments will be subject to change to reflect this. When the interest rate is updated once a year or every six months, the price of your mortgage will go up.

How do I change from a variable rate to a fixed rate mortgage?

According to Miquel Riera from the finance website HelpMyCash.com, there are three different ways to do this in Spain.

The first way is called novación and is a way to modify the conditions of your current mortgage by going to your bank and signing a new agreement, however, it’s up to the bank if they will accept the new proposal and the terms and conditions for doing so.

The second way is what is called a creditor subrogation, which is when you transfer your mortgage from one bank to another one, so that you can modify the price or the terms. This involves contacting many different banks in order to find one that will agree to take on the loan and accept the change in interest rate to a fixed one.

Finally, the last way is to take out a new mortgage at a fixed rate and use the money to pay off your existing variable-interest loan. In this case, you can take out the new mortgage with the same bank or a different one.

According to the housing website Idealista, if you’re going to change banks and find better conditions, it’s best to hire a mortgage broker, so you can get a broad perspective of the different loans available, as well as the various banks that offer them.

How much will it cost me?

This entirely depends on what type of agreement you organise with your bank, but according to Riera, if you switch to a fixed rate via one of the first two ways, you may be charged for an additional assessment on your home.

This could cost around €300, but by law, the amount cannot exceed 0.15 percent of the outstanding amount of the mortgage. But, if it’s after the fourth year since you’ve taken out your mortgage, then this extra commission can’t be charged.

If you choose the third option and take out a new mortgage, then your costs will be significantly higher because you will have to pay property tax, possibly fees for taking out a new loan, as well as other associated fees, which could be between 0 and 1 percent of the amount. There are also cancellation fees to pay off your existing mortgage, which could be around €1,000 on average.

So, although contracting a new mortgage may seem like the best idea at first, it can actually be the more expensive option.

Are banks willing to negotiate?

According to the Association of Financial Users (Asufin), this will depend on the type of loan you have, the amount that remains on your mortgage and your personal situation. They also stress that banks are not obliged by law to offer you an alternative.

The president of the Spanish Mortgage Association, Santos González states that “Families are not going to find a lower offer in the market… There is not a strong likelihood that you will be able to make a big negotiation that would ease the rise in costs.”

What are the pros and cons of changing my mortgage?

The main advantage is of course changing to a rate that is more stable, so you know exactly how much you will be paying out every month.

One of the disadvantages is that if Euribor falls again in the future, you will not be able to benefit from the decrease and will have to continue paying the same amount.

Asufin also warns people that the costs of exchanging the mortgage may work out more expensive, so in the end, it will not be advantageous for you to do so.

According to Idealista, it is really only worthwhile changing your mortgage from a variable to a fixed rate in the first half of the life of your mortgage. For example, if you have a 30-year mortgage, it’s advisable to only change it during the first 15 years. This is because the majority of the amount of the loan is paid during this period. 

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