Prepayment meters, often known as 'pay as you go' meters, can offer peace of mind for many people, as they allow you to pay for your energy in advance. This means that you won't receive any hefty energy bills from your electricity supplier. For some people, a prepayment meter is the only option available, as some energy companies will only allow customers with significant energy debts to open an electricity account if they use a prepayment meter. However, using a prepayment meter is often more expensive than paying for your energy in other ways, so finding the best deal is essential for keeping your electricity costs down.
In order to pay for your electricity in advance, you will need to have a prepayment meter installed at your property. In most cases, this is a simple process that involves replacing your regular meter with a prepayment meter. However, if your current meter is situated in an inconvenient location, your electricity provider may need to relocate the meter and associated wiring, in order to provide easy access. Once your prepayment meter has been installed, you will need to 'top up' your electricity meter with credit. If your meter runs out of credit, your electricity supply will stop.
Switching to Prepayment
If you intend to switch to a new energy supplier, you may need to undergo a credit check before you are accepted for a prepayment meter. If you have energy debts at your current address, or from a previous address, you may need to clear these debts before switching suppliers. However, in some cases, electricity providers will allow you to transfer the debt to your new prepayment meter. Check with the energy company to find out their policy on energy debts. If you live in rented accommodation, you will also need to gain permission from your landlord before switching to a prepayment meter.
Choosing a Supplier
Finding the right supplier can depend on a variety of factors, including how and when you use your electricity. Some energy providers offer prepayment tariffs that give you cheaper electricity at different times of the day or night. This can work out cheaper for those who intend to use the bulk of their electricity during these times. Economy 7 tariffs, in particular, are popular with people who use storage heaters, which are typically 'heated' during the night, as this tariff enables you to use cheap electricity rates during off-peak hours. Other similar economy tariffs are available to suit different circumstances.
Meanwhile, some energy providers offer tariffs with no standing charge (the annual cost of having an energy supply to your home), which means that you only pay for the energy you use. This can be the best option if you use only a small amount of electricity or spend a large amount of time away from the home.
Some energy companies charge a fee for installing a prepayment meter. However, there is usually a way around this. Initially, you could try bargaining with your currently supplier, as many will choose to waive the installation fee, rather than lose your custom to another supplier. If this doesn't work, you can always switch to another electricity provider. However, some providers will charge a fee if you switch to another provider before the end of your contract period, so always check the terms and conditions of your current energy agreement.
Once you have chosen a prepayment electricity supplier, it is important to keep an eye on your energy usage. Compare the unit cost, fees and charges on your bills or statements to those quoted in your contract. In addition, make regular notes of your meter readings and compare these against the readings provided by your supplier, as this is the best way to prevent price mistakes and overcharging.