It's estimated that there are around 4 million households with a prepayment meter in the UK. Prepayment meters are also known as Pay As You Go meters and work in a similar way to a pay as you go mobile phone where you 'top up' you credits.
There are several reasons that you may have one of these meters. If you move into a new property then a pay as you go meter may already be installed. You can request a new prepayment meter installation from your energy supplier which is usually installed for free.
A warrant obtained by a court order due to action taken by your current supplier can also mean that a prepayment meter gets installed.
What is a prepayment meter?
Unlike standard credit meters where you pay by monthly direct debits or on receipt of a bill a prepayment meter works by being topped up from a card or key. Top ups can be purchased from paypoints or the post office for both gas and electricity meters.
This type of meter requires you to pay for the energy upfront which can help people on low incomes to budget. The downside is that you are charged a premium for this service and if you run out of credit then so does the gas and electric.
Smart prepayment meters
A smart prepayment meter is different in that you can top up your energy online or through an app rather than have to visit a shop or the post office. Smart pay as you go meters make it more convenient to pay for your energy especially when you can top up when shops are closed.
Are prepayment meters more expensive?
The cheapest energy tariffs for the average UK household will cost you around £70 to £74 per month for both gas and electricity. The equivalent cheapest tariffs for a prepayment meter will cost £82 to £90.
So yes, prepayment meters are more expensive and there are far fewer cheap energy deals to choose from.
If you look at the difference in price charged by the largest energy supplier in the UK, British Gas then a customer on the cheapest prepayment tariff 'Safeguard PAYG' would be paying £91.18 a month. Compare this to the cheapest tariff from British Gas for a standard meter which is the 'Energy Plus Protection Oct 2021v2' tariff you would be paying less at £76.31 a month which is £14.87 a month cheaper.
Are standard and smart meters cheaper?
Standard and Smart meter tariffs are cheaper compared to tariffs available for pay as you go meters.
A whole of the market energy comparison for prepayment meter tariffs show that prices per month range from £82.54 all the way up to £102.68. Compare this to a similar whole market comparison for a standard meter the monthly cost ranges from £69.95 to £115.79.
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How to get cheaper prepayment energy
If you have a prepayment meter you have two options open to you to reduce your gas and electricity costs.
Switch to a standard meter if you don't want a pay as you go meter which your energy supplier should do for free. Once you have your new meter then do an energy comparison and switch to a cheaper energy deal.
If you want to pay as you go for your energy then compare prepayment meter tariffs nd switch to a better deal.
Who are the best prepayment meter energy companies?
Two of the best and also currently the cheapest suppliers to offer prepayment tariffs are People's Energy with the 'The People's Prepay' energy tariff and Omni Energy and the 'Omni Prepay Variable' tariff.
Both suppliers are ethical energy companies with the intent of helping energy customers which is also reflected in the prices they charge their customers.
Prepayment energy tariffs
Listed below are the prepayment tariffs currently available (October 2020) that you could switch to in order to save money. This data will give you a comparative view of the gas and electricity tariff available so you can get an idea of which energy suppliers have better deals.
The comparison was made for the eastern region for the whole of the market. Energy usage was presumed to be 12,000 kWh of gas and 3,100 kWh of electricity over the course of a year.
When you do an energy comparison your quotes may vary based on your own actual energy usage and your region based on your postcode.
|Supplier||Tariff Name||Monthly cost|
|Omni Energy||Omni Prepay Variable||£82.54|
|People's Energy||The People's Prepay||£83.64|
|London Power||my london top-up plan prepay variable jan 2020 v1||£86.58|
|Orbit Energy||Prepayment Orange||£86.92|
|E Energy||1 Year Reward Smart (Winter 20)||£88.54|
|E Energy||1 Year Reward (Winter 20)||£88.59|
|EDF||Prepay Total Service May22||£88.70|
|Green Network Energy||GNE Prepayment V1||£90.18|
|Nabuh Energy||Rachel Tariff (Variable)||£90.23|
|Omni Energy||Omni Prepay Variable||£82.54|
|SSE||Standard Pay As You Go||£91.11|
|SSE||Standard PAYGO SMETS2||£91.11|
|Boost||Smart Pay As You Go energy (All Online)||£91.11|
|Boost||Smart Pay As You Go energy||£91.11|
|British Gas||Safeguard PAYG||£91.18|
|Spark Energy||Get Swift||£93.83|
|Shell Energy||Flexible Prepayment 3||£98.68|
|Spark Energy||Move-In Saver 9||£99.08|
|ecotricity||Green Electricity + Green Gas||£102.68|
Can I save money by switching my prepayment tariff?
You can save money by switching to a cheaper prepayment tariff. If you switched from the most expensive pay as you go energy tariff (Green Electricity + Green Gas) costing £102.68 a month to the cheapest (Omni Prepay Variable) costing £82.54 you could save £248 a year.
If you switched from one of the big 6 energy companies to the cheapest prepayment energy deal you could save between £73 and £103 a year.
Top Up a prepayment meter
With a Pay As You Go account you can top up using a variety of methods dependant on which company you are with. With Utilita you can top up online and through their app, via a paypoint outlet or Utilita has a top up number where you can get connected to an automated payment system or you could use their SMS service and top up using a text message.
You will also have a minimum and maximum amount that you can top up. With Utilita the minimum is £2 at a paypoint, online or on their app whilst the minimum is £5 using the Utilita to up number and £10 via text.
If we look at how a larger energy provider such as SSE then topping up your meter will depend on if you have a standard or smart meter. SSE pay as you go can be topped up at a paypoint or post office if you have a standard meter. With a smart meter an SSE pay as you go top up can also be done online or over the phone.