A prepayment meter is a special type of energy meter that can be installed in domestic properties. With a prepayment, or 'pay as you go' tariff, customers pay for their energy before they use it – usually by adding money to a 'key' or by purchasing special tokens. These are then inserted into a slot in the meter, which credits the energy onto the meter. Your meter will then use the credit you have bought until it runs out, which could happen at any time. Historically, prepayment meters have had a reputation for leaving people quite literally 'in the dark', but measures have now been put in place to ensure 'black-outs' only occur at times that it's perceived safe to do so - i.e. when the shops are open and you can nip out to buy more credit.
Paying for gas and electricity in advance helps to ensure you don't accumulate any debt on your energy bills. The major downside with prepaying for your energy usage is the cost, as it is one of the most expensive.
However, not all prepayment tariffs are the same, and if you have a prepayment meter you may still be free to switch providers and find a cheaper deal. Click here to start a comparison and find the cheapest pre-pay energy tariffs on the market.
Generally speaking, prepayment gas and electricity meters are suitable for two groups of people. The first is landlords who rent their property to tenants. Many landlords choose to install prepayment meters, as it means their tenants cannot leave unpaid energy bulls for the landlord to deal with if they move out. Prepayment meters also reduce the headache of having to change the account holder registered with the energy company each time there is a chance of tenancy.
The second group of people that a prepayment meter may be a good idea for, are those who have struggled to keep up with bill payments in the past. If a customer has fallen into debt with their energy company, the company may install a prepayment meter to help the customer control their usage against their budget.
If you would like to get a prepayment meter installed in your property, it is fairly simple to do. First, find out which energy company is currently offering the cheapest by performing an energy price comparison of prepayment tariffs. Once you've found a deal you'd like to switch to, give the supplier a call and explain to them that you want to have a prepayment meter installed in your property. The energy provider will then take you through the process.
If you've just moved into a new property that has a prepayment meter installed and you want to remove it, you will need to speak to your energy provider. They may be happy to send an engineer out to remove the meter, but they may also try and charge you a fee for this, as there is obviously a cost associated with sending someone out.
One potential way around the fee may be to negotiate signing up to a new tariff with the energy provider in question. Energy suppliers typically charge to install or remove prepayment meters, as they don't want to pay for an engineer to visit you, only for you to then switch away. So, if the energy supplier can see that you are happy to stay as a customer (at least for a short while) they may be willing to remove the meter for free.
Alternatively, you could compare energy prices to find a cheaper deal, and then call that supplier to let them know that you would like to switch to one of their tariffs. Tell them you are only willing to do so if they agree to remove your prepayment meter for free. Some energy providers may be happy to do this to get a new customer signed up.
Lastly, you could consider keeping the prepayment meter and simply finding a cheaper prepayment deal. UKPower.co.uk's energy comparison service compares the whole market - including all available prepayment meter tariffs - and only takes a few minutes to complete. Fill in your post code in the blue box at the top of the page and click 'Compare Prices' to get started.