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Everything You Need to Know About Prepayment Meters

We’ve collated a range of frequently asked questions around prepayment meters. You can then make an informed decision on whether this type of meter is right for you or if you’re better off with a direct debit meter.

Everything You Need to Know About Prepayment Meters

What is a prepayment meter?

A prepayment meter is based on a pay as you go tariff, enabling you to pay for your gas and electricity upfront. This allows you to add money to your meter by using either a key or smart card when required.

Once the key or card is inserted into the meter, it credits the account with the balance available on the card or key. With older models, you may find that you run out of credit which can leave you literally ‘in the dark’. More modern meters are fitted with an emergency credit function, providing a small amount of credit which gives you additional time to top up the meter.

Certain prepayment meters may also have a non-disconnect feature, meaning that if your credit runs out in the middle of the night and you are unable to top up your credit (due to shops being closed) the lights will stay on even if you have reached your emergency credit limit.

Why would you have a prepayment meter?

There are several reasons as to why there would be a prepayment meter in a property. Energy companies can install a prepay meter if you fall behind in your monthly repayments (this is quite rare but it does happen).

It’s not to say that a prepayment meter has been installed in a property for that reason. Prepayment meters can be requested as they make it easier to monitor your energy usage and pay for your gas and electricity in advance.

Certain prepayment meters have multiple displays, so the numbers needed for providing energy readings will always be visible. There are also single display meters that require you to toggle through various options to find the information for a meter reading; there will be information on the meter itself explaining what you need to do to find the relevant information.

Can you owe money on a prepayment meter?

Although a prepayment meter is for adding credit so you always stay ahead, you can fall into arrears on the meter by using the emergency credit (by pressing the emergency credit button). If this is the case, the next time you top up the meter that negative amount will be paid off straight away and any leftover balance added as credit.

If you’re in a rented property, you don’t need the landlord’s permission to change the meter as the metering equipment is owned by the energy supplier. The landlord can request that you change everything back to its original type when you vacate the property. You may be charged by the energy supplier for this change.

Do you have to pay for a prepayment meter to be installed?

There can be charges for having a smart prepayment meter installed, but there shouldn’t be a fee for having a non-smart prepayment meter. To get the installation charge waived, tell your energy supplier that you will change suppliers to someone that will do it for free. If they don’t offer to install for free, you can go ahead and make the switch.

How do you change from a prepayment meter to a direct debit?

If you’re not in debt with your energy provider there is no reason as to why you can’t move to a standard debit meter. The cost of installing a standard electric meter can differ; certain energy providers can do it for free whereas others can charge for the service.

You may need to go through a credit check or a reasonable deposit before a new meter installation is approved. According to Citizens Advice, deposits are anywhere between £150 to £300.

Can I move credit from one meter to another?

If you have a smart gas and electric prepayment meter then you may be able to top up credit via text message, phone call and with certain providers on an app. You can move credit from one-meter type to another with a smart meter or the app, making it easier to manage pre-paid utilities.

What do I do if I lose my prepayment key or card?

If you don’t have a smart prepayment meter you will need your key/card to keep your meter in credit. If the key/card is lost, you need to get in touch with your energy provider as soon as possible. They can issue a temporary replacement from your nearest top-up point so you do not run out of credit.

If the energy company is unable to provide a temporary replacement, you may require an emergency callout which can incur a charge.

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