If you’re looking for cheap energy, switching from a prepayment meter to direct debit is a great place to start. By 2025, all UK homes should be fitted with smart meters. But if you’re one of the 4 million UK households with a prepayment energy meter, don’t wait until then to save money – consider switching to payment by direct debit today.
Should I switch from prepayment to direct debit?
If you’re looking for cheap energy, tariffs on direct debit meters are far more competitive and affordable than prepayment meters. When you compare energy deals, you’ll notice the sheer abundance of plans by comparison to the limited range of prepayment tariffs. Unit rates per kwh of energy consumed are lower, as are standing charges.
That being said, prepayment meters are preferential for some households. Typically, you get fewer billing mistakes and don’t have to worry about inaccurate estimates, simply paying for what you use. Prepayment meters can therefore make it easier to budget, although you’ll generally pay more for the energy you do use.
How long does switching take?
Changing energy meters isn’t as seamless a process as simply switching energy suppliers. That’s because a technician needs to come to come to your home to install your new meter and, with the pandemic, waiting times can vary – from between a few days to a few weeks.
For the Big Six energy suppliers, installation is usually free, but if you’re looking to switch to a lesser-known provider you may be charged installation fees. However, these rarely compare with the savings you’ll make from switching.
Switching times may also depend on whether you’re in arrears on your account. If you are, in most cases you’ll have to pay off any debt before you can change meters.
How to switch from a prepayment energy meter
First, contact your energy supplier to see if you’re eligible – remember, if you’re in debt you may be unable to do so. When you speak to your supplier, it’s helpful to have your recent meter readings to hand, too.
If you’re free of supplier debt, your new supplier will run a credit check on you. This determines whether you can keep up with your payments, since with a standard credit meter, you’ll be billed you once you’ve already consumed your energy.
Once you’ve passed your credit check, an engineer will come and install your new direct debit meter.
Why is my prepayment meter in debt?
There are a number of reasons you might have fallen into debt on your prepayment meter.
Meters have emergency credit, a bit like an overdraft. When running off your emergency credit, you still owe your daily standing charge, so until this is paid off, you’ll be in arrears.
If you’ve recently moved into a new property, you may have inherited the previous occupant’s debt. That’s why it’s really important to contact your supplier as soon as you move in to avoid this happening.
You may have also been placed on a repayment plan to help manage the debt on your meter.
How to choose a direct debit tariff
When you know you’ll be approved for a direct debit meter, use a tool like ours to run an energy comparison to find available tariffs in your area. Sticking with your current supplier doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the best rates – that’s why it’s important compare energy plans from a whole host of suppliers in order to find the best one for you. You can decide whether you want separate gas and electricity plans or a dual fuel deal, as well as choosing often you’d like to be billed.