Prepayment tariffs are great if you’re keen to keep a very close eye on what you spend on your energy, but they’re not as competitive as other tariffs available in the UK. Due to concerns about the price of prepayment tariffs, Ofgem, the energy regulator, introduced a price cap in April 2017 – unfortunately, this cap has already increased.

What is a Prepayment Meter?

Also known as a top-up, key, or pay-as-you-go meter, a prepayment meter is a type of domestic energy meter which requires the user to pay in advance for gas and electricity.

Typically, users will add credit to a special key or top-up card, and this is then inserted into the meter to track energy usage and spend. As energy is used in the home, the balance on the meter decreases, until it’s time to add more credit to the meter, or it top-up.

What are the Benefits of a Prepayment Meter?

One of the biggest benefits of a prepayment meter is the overall awareness of how much gas and electricity you use – you can literally see the credit count down as you use appliances around your home. You will also only be charged for exactly what you use, instead of your supplier estimating your usage and billing you accordingly.

Other benefits include:

  • Easier budgeting, as you pay for your energy in advance.
  • No worry of debt building up.
  • No nasty surprises, as your balance is displayed clearly on the meter screen.

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So, What are the Disadvantages of a Prepayment Meter?

As mentioned at the top of the article, prepayment tariffs are not as competitive as other energy tariffs – up to £100 more expensive in some cases. There are other inconveniences in some cases with prepayment meters too, as credit needs to be added to the card or key in a petrol station, supermarket or other local shops.

Even worse than that, if you’ve not set up your ‘Emergency Credit’ and your meter runs out, your energy supply could be turned off. This is especially problematic if you have a disability, or you’re not able to access the meter immediately.

Other downsides include:

  • Inability to access the cheapest tariffs on the market.
  • You’ll require more top-ups in winter, meaning more trips to the shop (in some cases).
  • The risk of key appliances turning off if your meter runs out.

Can I Switch From a Credit Meter to a Regular Meter?

Provided you’re not in debt and your credit is not in bad standing, the short answer is yes – you most likely can switch! If you’re looking to save money by switching to the cheapest tariffs on the market, you’ll need to replace your physical meter though.

Switching your physical meter can take longer than switching your supplier, as it will require an engineer coming to your home and making the replacement. In some cases, there will be a fee for this, but more on that later.

If you are in debt with your current supplier, they may still allow you to switch away from a prepayment meter provided you can set up a repayment plan.

How Much Does it Cost to Switch to a Regular Meter?

Again, this depends on certain factors. If you’re currently with a ‘Big 6’ energy supplier (British Gas, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power, SSE or EDF), they will most likely switch your meter out for free. If you’re with a smaller supplier, they might do it for free but it’s likely that they will charge you for the privilege.

Don’t worry though, you could always switch to a ‘Big 6’ supplier’s prepayment tariff, and then make the switch your meter out for free. In order to do that, you’d need to compare prepayment tariffs with BillBuddy.

Should I Switch to a Regular Meter?

There are huge cost benefits of being on a regular meter, as it opens up the cheapest tariffs on the market for you. Provided you can keep up with your payments and your credit isn’t in poor standing, it could be a great way to save money on your energy bills.

Compare Prepayment Tariffs

Categories: Energy

1 Comment

Pat williams · January 22, 2021 at 4:11 pm

How do i get my gas meter changed from a pre payment meter

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