What Are The Pros & Cons Of Pre-Payment Meters? Should I Consider Switching To A Standard Meter?

 How Do Pre-Payment Energy Meters Work?

With prepayment meters you have to pay for gas and electricity before you use it – a bit like a Pay As You Go mobile phone. You may use a token, key or smartcard to ‘top-up’ at recognised PayPoints or Post Offices. Alternatively, some suppliers allow you to ‘top-up’ using a smartphone (by using an app, text, online or over the phone). Others may simply require you to put money straight into the meter itself.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Pre-Payment Meters?

Advantages of using pre-payment meters include: Disadvantages of using pre-payment meters include:
  • Helping people to manage energy usage
  • Helping people to manage and avoid debt
  • Preventing unexpected and large bills
  • Higher gas and electricity costs (Citizens Advice estimate that average annual pre-payment bills are over £220 higher than the cheapest direct debit deals)
  • Lack of access to cheaper energy deals
  • Inconvenience of having to ‘top-up’ account
  • Standing charges
  • Energy may be switched off if account is empty
  • Energy prices may not be automatically updated on old meters. Therefore you may end up over-paying or even owing an unexpected lump-sum bill

Can I Switch Suppliers If I Use A Pre-Payment Meter?

Yes. Most suppliers have pre-payment tariffs, which can vary as much as standard tariffs. It is worth investigating if you could change suppliers as you may be able to save a large amount of money. Ask for a copy of our leaflet on how to switch energy suppliers.

Can I Switch From A Pre-Payment Meter To A Standard Meter?

It is possible to switch from a prepayment meter to a standard meter. However, some suppliers may charge for this (typically about £50). It is worth considering paying for this switch as savings from the new meter and tariff will often quickly payback and outweigh this cost.

 Your energy supplier may also perform a credit check and investigate whether you meet certain conditions – for example that you have a current account and are prepared to pay by direct debit, and if you are debt free. Call your energy supplier to find out more about how to change your meter.

I’ve just moved to a house with a prepayment meter, what should I do?

It is important to register as the new account holder as soon as possible, otherwise you may be paying the wrong rate as the previous occupier may have been in debt to the energy supplier.