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Decide if a prepayment meter is right for you

This advice applies to England

Even though you can pay small amounts often instead of getting a larger bill, with a prepayment meter you'll still pay more in the long run.

If you have a choice about getting a prepayment meter installed, think about how it'll affect you.

You could end up with no gas or electricity

You shouldn’t get a prepayment meter if running out of credit and having no gas or electricity would cause you a serious problem. If, for example:

  • you have a long-term health condition
  • you have a disability
  • you have medical equipment that wouldn’t work
  • you have young children

If you have impaired hearing or sight, you might find it hard to hear an alert or read the meter. A standard meter might be a better option, so you won't risk running out of credit.

You’ll need to top up your credit

Every time you want to top up you'll need to buy credit for your meter from a top-up point - often a local shop or post office.

You shouldn't get a prepayment meter if you'd find it hard to get to a top-up point, for example if you'd have to travel a long way.

You won't be able to get the best deal

With a prepayment meter you'll pay more than you would on the best direct debit deal. There are also fewer tariffs and suppliers to choose from.

If you want to save money on your gas and electricity, it’s usually better to keep your meter and switch to a different supplier.

You’ll pay a daily fee

As well as paying for the gas and electricity you use, you pay a daily fee for being connected - known as a standing charge. You pay this with a normal meter too, but with a prepayment meter you need to have credit to pay it - even on days when you don’t use any gas or electricity.  

You still have to pay the daily standing charge even if you don't have any credit on your prepayment meter. When you next top up, you'll have to pay back all the standing charges that you owe.

The amount of the standing charge depends on where you live and what tariff and supplier you have. It’s typically around 28p a day.

Jacintha’s story

Jacintha has gas central heating, which she switched off last summer.

She didn’t top up her gas meter because she wasn’t using any gas.

The meter still took 28p a day for the standing charge, so she soon ran out of credit.

The standing charges built up until Jacintha decided to add some credit because she wanted to switch her heating back on.

By this time Jacintha owed £17.64 in standing charges. When she topped up by £20 the meter took what she owed and she only had £2.36 left. This meant she had to top up again the next day.

Next steps

If you don't want a prepayment meter, but your supplier wants to install one, you might be able to stop them and keep your normal meter. This way you can continue paying for energy after you use it, rather than in advance.

If you think a prepayment meter would suit your situation, you might want to get a prepayment meter installed

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