Prepayment meters require you to pay for energy before using it. This is done via a smartcard, token or key that can be "topped up" at a corner shop or via a smartphone app.
Cost of prepayment meters
Prepayment meters can be an easy way to budget, however, they are usually more expensive to use than a standard credit meter.
If you have a prepayment meter, you can request it to be exchanged to a standard meter. To do this:
- Ring your supplier and ask for a standard meter to be installed
- You will need to pass a credit rating check
- Usually a new meter can be installed for no charge.
What is a standing charge?
A standing charge is the cost of having a gas and electricity supply, then you pay usage charges on top.
Typically, standing charges on prepayment meters is around 46p per day, which is about £3.22 per week.
Even if you don’t use any gas or electric you still need to top up your meter on a regular basis as you will still receive a daily standing charge.
For example, if you didn’t use gas for 6 months, the standing chargeswould soon build a debt of around £50
If you don’t use gas or electric for long periods of time, it may be better to switch to a supplier that doesn’t charge a standing charge. Contact Community Switch to check for the best deal.
(Although deals are currently not available to switch, when this changes the service to help you shop around will be available.)
How do I budget on a prepayment meter?
Most people use less gas and electric over summer and more over winter, which can be difficult to afford during the winter months if you don’t budget.
Budgeting is simply calculating your annual spend and splitting the payment over 12 months.
You need to know how much you spend in summer and winter, so here is an example of how much to budget on your gas bills. We assume this customer spends £5 per week on gas in summer and £25 per week on gas in winter:
A) Summer = £5 per week (multiply by 26 weeks = £130)
B) Winter = £25 per week (multiply by 26 weeks = £650)
C) Add together A & B = £780 annual spend on gas
The annual cost for gas is £780 - divide this by 52 weeks which makes the budget payment £15 per week.
If you budget £15 a week throughout the year for gas, ie put £5 on the meter and £10 into a savings account in summer, you will build up a reserve which you can then use in winter to top up.
You can open a simple savings bank, building society or Hoot account to put money aside for winter.
Using emergency credit
If your prepayment meter runs out of credit and you can't get anywhere to top up your card or key, there is a small amount of emergency credit available for you to access on the meter.
Any emergency credit that you have used will be recovered when you next top up your meter and it's important to remember this when using the emergency credit facility.
If you use all of the emergency credit before topping up, you will need to make sure that you top up with enough credit to restore supply.