When you use a prepayment meter, not only do you get to enjoy a bill-free existence, but you also have total control over the energy you use. It’s not surprising that around 6 million people in the UK use prepaid gas and electric meters as a way of managing their energy spend.
Prepayment meters are essentially the pay-as-you-go mobile deal of the energy world. You are simply paying for the energy you'll use up front using a key or card that you take to the shop to top up with or online via the smart meter website.
Any of the 23,000 PayPoint stores in the UK will be able to top up your energy key or card for you. Alternatively, you can do this at your nearest Post Office using their Paystation service.
You simply load your credit onto the key or card at the shop, bring it back home and reinsert the device back into the meter. Your electricity and gas credit will then transfer automatically once you reinsert your card or key so you won't be sat in the dark for hours waiting for it to take effect.
A prepayment meter may suit some more than others, for instance single people renting who use less energy may get more from a prepayment meter, whereas a large family will likely benefit from having a standard meter.
If you're in debt, or struggle to keep up with bills, a prepayment meter is perfect for you as you can't get caught up in arrears. With no monthly bills filled with nasty surprises, you're in total control of what you pay, when you pay it and how much energy you use.
Landlords may prefer to install prepayment meters in rented property to stop any build-up of energy debt in between tenants. With a prepaid meter, there's no chance of energy bills being carried over to new tenants.
They're also a smart choice for shorthold tenancies as a credit based plan may not be the most cost-effective option for someone only living at an address for a few months.
Some advantages of having a prepayment meter are:
And some of the reasons you might not want to get one::
To top up your gas or electric, all you need to do is take your key or card to a shop with PayPoint and ask them to top it up by the desired amount. Once this has been done, all you need to do is reinsert your key or card and, voila, your credit will be updated automatically.
If you’ve got a smart meter, you can pay online using your smart card rather than venture out to the shop.
If you've got a traditional meter installed in your property, simply give your provider a call and ask for an engineer to come out to install your prepayment meter.
You'll need to advise them on where to put the meter as it needs to be easily accessible for manual top ups. Most suppliers will do this for free, however it's always a good idea to double check this with them.
If you've got a prepayment meter and would like to move to a traditional meter, you'll need to check with your supplier whether you're eligible for a credit meter. They'll usually run a credit check to see whether you'll be able to manage the monthly repayments.
If you pass the credit check, your provider will send an engineer to come and fit your new credit meter. You may be charged for this depending on who you're with - give them a call to make sure.
Don't forget to ask your landlord if you're renting, they may prefer to keep tenants on a prepayment meter to avoid any leftover debt.
If you’ve moved into a new property and you’ve inherited the previous occupant’s prepayment meter, you should give the supplier a call and let them know they’ll need to set up a new account for you. From there, you’ll be able to ask them to come and remove the prepayment meter if you want to move to credit based energy bills.
It’s wise not to use any cards or keys left behind as you may wind up inadvertently topping up somebody else’s account!
While with prepayment tariff you're not given any promotional offers or incentives on your rate, it could still benefit you to switch providers to get a better deal.
Use our handy energy comparison tool (also available on Google Play and the App Store) to check for better fixed-rate offers in your area.