A prepayment meter (sometimes called a key card meter) works just like a pay-as-you-go mobile, by letting you pay for your energy use in advance.
You pay by topping up either a token or key card at a local shop, by text, or an app on your smartphone – some suppliers even let you top-up online.
The amount you credit your account with is up to you. Although you can pay little and often and avoid big bills, you’ll still pay more in the long run than with a standard credit meter. As you get to know how your meter works, you’ll roughly know how much you’ll need to top-up to keep your energy going for however long you want – just remember it should cover any extra energy debt that you owe too.
Prepayment tariffs are usually more expensive though, and if you have one you should consider whether you should switch to a credit meter to save money. You can ask your supplier to remove it and install a standard meter. Most suppliers will do this free of charge but a few may charge you for this, so always check with them first.
Your supplier will let you know if there are any conditions for having your prepayment meter removed, and whether you need to be debt free or undergo a credit check. A small number of suppliers may also ask you to pay a refundable security deposit.
If you can’t switch to a standard credit meter, you can still switch to a cheaper prepaid meter tariff with a different supplier – even if you owe money. As long as you owe less than £500 for gas and £500 for electricity you can switch.
Energy suppliers may also want to install a prepayment meter if you owe them money or you haven’t stuck to a previously agreed payment plan – but before they do, they’ll first work with you to find another solution.
A prepayment meter may be in your house when you move somewhere new. If this is the case, contact your supplier immediately so that you don’t end up paying off any debt left by the former occupants, and to make sure you are paying the right rate.