A prepayment meter is a type of domestic energy meter that uses a ‘pay-as-you-go’ tariff and requires consumers to pay for their gas and electricity in advance. Prepayment meters are usually the most expensive way to buy your energy. They often need a special key fob or smart card that is then inserted in to the meter, however you can pay over the phone or go on line to top up with some services. Customers who are in arrears on a credit electricity meter might be moved to a prepayment meter, at least while they pay off their debt.
Prepayment meters can be used by those that have difficulties with a credit check or do not regularly use banks accounts to manage their money.
Switching from a prepayment meter to a credit meter could save you money on your energy bills as it allows you to take advantage of the more cost-effective tariffs on the market.
It’s possible to switch from one prepayment meter to another if you find a better tariff. But it’s still the case that the best deals and most competitive tariffs go to those customers on credit meters who pay for their energy monthly or quarterly, usually by Direct Debit.
The good news if you’re on a prepayment meter is you can change it for a credit meter, switch to a cheaper tariff and instantly make savings on your energy bills.
The bad news is, unlike when you just switch supplier, switching from prepayment to credit means a new meter to be physically installed in your home, and installation times can vary.
Although switching provider takes just 17 days, switching meters can take longer so you may have to wait.
There could also be a fee involved to cover the cost of the new meter and its installation but this is being phased out by most suppliers.
If you’re in debt with your current energy supplier you can still make the switch provided you owe no more than £500, and you’ll have to arrange a payment plan to get this debt settled. It may be possible to have help to pay off the debt, Charis grants or the Citizens Advice service may be able to help.
If you are a renter, please note that you will need the landlord’s permission to change the meter (this does not apply to smart meters).
Read more about about prepayment meters here.
Can I switch from a prepayment meter to a standard meter?
In some cases you can switch from a prepayment meter to a standard meter. However, you may find that your supplier will charge you to remove your prepayment meter and install the new meter.
Your energy supplier may also insist that you meet certain conditions before you can switch – for example that you have a current account and have been debt free for at least 3 months.
Call your energy supplier to find out more about removing your prepayment meter. If you rent your home it’s a good idea to check with your landlord before making any changes, as this may be a requirement of your tenancy agreement.
Can I switch energy suppliers if I have a prepayment meter?
Yes. Nearly every supplier has at least one prepayment tariff available, the rates of which can vary just as much as standard meter tariffs. It’s worth checking to see if you could switch prepayment meter plans to save money. There is a huge difference between the cheapest and most expensive prepayment plans on the market, and you could save nearly £200 per year by switching.
Compare prepayment meter deals using an Ofgem accredited energy comparison website now. Simply select “Prepayment meter” when asked how you pay for your energy.
Why do energy suppliers install prepayment meters?
Prepayment energy meters are usually installed into homes that have slipped into debt with their energy supplier at some point, to help them manage their debt and their budget more effectively. Some landlords also like to have them installed in their rental properties to try and reduce the risk of their tenants running into debt.
If you have to switch to a prepayment meter because you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you will pay off your debt bit by bit at the same time as you pay for the gas and electricity you use. This means that as well as paying the unit rate for the energy you use, you’ll pay a little extra to go towards what you owe.