Prepayment meters are used by around 10% of the people in the United Kingdom. Unlike with a standard gas and electricity supply, prepayment meters require payment upfront. Find out how to use them and how to change from a prepayment meter to a standard meter.
Prepayment meters work through top-ups. They require you to purchase credit at The Post Office or at other shops that offer Paypoint or Payzone services. The credit normally comes in the form of a key, token or smartcard.
The difference between prepayment meters and standard meters is similar to the difference between pay per month and pay as you go mobile phone contracts.
On certain occasions it is possible to change to a standard meter from a prepayment one. Often your gas and electricity provider may require you to meet specific requests before they allow you to change. Having a usable current account and not being in debt are often examples of these specifications. It is also likely that your supplier will charge you for the removal of your old meter and the installation of the new one.
The best way to find out about the specifics of each energy provider is to contact them directly.
If you are unable to change to a standard meter, then there are still plenty of competing tariffs out there for prepayment meters. At our website we offer a free and impartial price comparison service. This allows you to see the most competitive rates that are on offer and also to find the one that suits you best.
Often energy providers install a prepayment meter because the household has fallen behind on gas and electricity payments. The purpose of the prepayment meter is to allow the home to manage their energy budget more efficiently.
It is often fairly common for landlords to have them installed on properties that are being rented.
If you have fallen behind on payments, then the rate on your prepayment meter will be raised slightly to account for this. This allows you to pay off your debt bit by bit, whilst continuing to receive your energy supply as usual. It is important to check with your supplier how much you are paying per unit and how much you are paying towards your debt.
Usually the default display setting on a prepayment meter is to show the level of credit remaining on the meter. Typically you will need to press a button on the meter to change it to the actual reading. From that point onwards you proceed to take the reading as you would any other.
Prepayment meters are typically a bad way to receive your energy supply.
If you have taken up residence in an address with a prepayment meter, you must contact the energy company as quickly as possible to let them know that you are a new occupant. If you don’t do this, then you may find yourself paying a higher rate. If the previous tenant had fallen behind on their payments, then the energy company will have added a portion of their debt to the rate they were paying
It is also advisable to use our comparison service to make sure that you are getting the most competitive rates that are available to you.
Key meters and smart card meters are the two main forms of prepayment meter.
Key meters are used with an electronic key that holds the information on your current energy deal.
Smart card meters are used with a card that will transfer information directly to your supplier when topped up.
Both of these methods work in similar ways, so there is no real advantage to using one over the other. It will simply depend on which energy supplier you use and what type of meter you have.
First and foremost it is important that you understand the top up process with your new prepayment meter. If you fail to top up the meter, and your credit level runs out, then your gas and electricity supply can be cut off.
To avoid your gas and electricity supply being cut off, you should make a list of the nearest shops that you are able to purchase a top up from. It is important to remember that shops and post offices may not be open on weekends or bank holidays. As a result of this you should ensure that you have topped up that little bit extra before these occasions.
Once you have had your prepayment meter for a while, it may become clear what your average weekly expenditure is. If this is the case, then you may want to consider setting aside a weekly budget for your gas and electricity supply. By doing this you will be better placed to manage your finances, and you won’t run the risk of having your energy supply cut off unexpectedly. Consider topping up at the same time each week, this will further allow you to develop a routine which means you’re less likely to forget.
All gas and electricity companies will have a slightly different policy when it comes to replacing lost keys or smart cards. However, no matter which energy supplier you have an account with, it is important to notify them as quickly as possible, once you realise that you no longer have your key or card.
Many energy companies can allow you access to a temporary card, you will use this to top up until a new card is delivered. However, if this service is not offered by your supplier, then you may have to pay a charge for an emergency call out.
We advise that you check what your suppliers ‘lost card policy’ is as soon as you join them as a customer. This will save you time if you do ever lose your card or key.