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Pay as you go energy

Compare prepayment energy meter tariffs through our preferred provider, Energylinx[1]

What is a prepayment energy tariff?

Prepayment meters supply energy on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis, instead of paying by direct debit or on receipt of a bill.

You’re given a token, key or smartcard which you can top up with credit at local convenience stores or Post Offices displaying the PayPoint or Payzone sign. Some suppliers have an app or a smart meter where you can top up your credit from home.

If your prepayment runs out, your energy supply is stopped until you've topped up.

Energy charges for pay-as-you-go tariffs can be higher than other options. You’re more likely to be put on a prepayment plan if you’ve had credit problems in the past.

There’s a price cap on prepayment energy meters until 2020

That’s when the UK’s smart meter roll-out was due to end. 

The smart meter deadline has been pushed back to 2024. The CMA has recommended the prepayment meter price cap is extended too, but there’s no guarantee. 

EnergyLiveNews and Independent

Why might I be put on a prepayment meter?

Below are a few reasons why you might have a prepayment meter in your home:

  1. Bad credit history

    Prepayment meters are typically installed if you’ve had a poor payment history. The meter requires you to pay upfront, so your energy supplier gains protection

  2. Previous owners

    If you’re buying a property that has one already installed, it’ll be due to a previous owner

  3. In debt with your energy company

    As a last resort, your energy provider can apply for a warrant to install a prepayment meter soyou can pay off the debt you owe. Don’t worry, you’ll be given plenty of other options to repay your energy bill before this happens

  4. Rented accommodation

    Landlords often install prepayment meters in their properties to guarantee that their tenants won't leave with unpaid energy bills. They’re often found in shared accommodation, including student housing

  5. Managing your finances

    Prepayment meters can help with your budgeting and to avoid overspending on a credit energy meter. But you could end up paying more than you need to for the gas and electricity that you do use

Homeowners on prepayment meters

If you're the homeowner, ask your energy supplier whether it's possible to switch. They'll run a credit check to make sure you can keep up with repayments.

If you’re accepted, an engineer will come to install a replacement meter. You might have to pay a fee for this, but try challenging it. Though you could be able to make back more in energy savings than you pay for installation anyway.

Shop around and compare energy prices after the switch to a credit meter has been made to be sure you’re not paying more than you need to for your energy.

Tenants on prepayment meters

If you're a tenant, switching from a prepayment to a credit meter can be a more difficult process.

The first step in this situation is to contact your landlord – you’ll need their permission to get the meter changed. 

Even if the landlord says no, it's still possible to switch to another prepayment energy tariff and, perhaps, a different supplier. Read more in our guide on energy switching for tenants.

Why are prepayment meters more expensive?

You’re likely to be put on a standard variable tariff if you have a prepayment meter – these tend to be your provider’s most expensive plan.  

However, suppliers are starting to offer more varied pay-as-you-go tariffs and making them more convenient which could bring prices down.

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Page last reviewed: 16 November 2020
Next review due: 18 January 2021

[1]GoCompare has partnered with Energylinx, part of the GoCompare Group, to help you switch energy. Energylinx Limited is registered in Scotland, registration number: SC244794, registered office: the e Centre, Cooperage Way, Business Village, Alloa, FK10 3LP

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