How to Use a Pre-Payment Meter to Pay for Your Energy Bill as You Go


What is a prepayment meter?

A prepayment meter, also known as a pay-as-you-go meter, is an electricity meter that requires the customer to pay for their gas or electricity in advance, as opposed to a traditional credit meter where the customer is billed after the energy has been used.

With a pre-payment meter, the customer purchases credit or a top-up token from a local shop, online or via phone, and then enters the code into the meter to add credit to their account. The meter then deducts the cost of the energy used from the customer’s account balance, and the customer must top up the meter again when the credit runs low.

Prepayment meters are commonly used in rental properties or for customers who have a poor credit history. They provide a way for customers to manage their energy use and budget more effectively, as they can see exactly how much energy they are using and how much they are spending.

It’s important to note that prepayment meters often have higher tariffs compared to traditional credit meters, and that they may not be the most cost-effective option for some customers. Some energy providers may also charge fees for installing or removing prepayment meters.

Why might your energy supplier fit a prepayment meter?

  • Payment history: If you have a history of late or missed payments, your supplier may install this meter as a way to ensure that you pay for your electricity bill in advance.
  • Credit issues: If you have a poor credit score or a history of bankruptcy, your supplier may not be able to trust you to make regular payments on your energy bill. As a result, they may require you to use a pre-payment meter to avoid the risk of unpaid bills.
  • Debt management: If you have an outstanding debt on your energy bill, your supplier may install a pre-payment meter as a way to help you manage your debt. With a pre-payment meter, you can pay off your debt gradually while still having access to energy.
  • Tenant issues: If you are a tenant in a rented property, your landlord may have requested a pre-payment meter to be installed as a way to manage energy usage and costs.
  • Budgeting: Some customers prefer to use pre-payment meters as a way to budget their energy usage and avoid large bills at the end of each month. With a pre-payment meter, you can monitor your energy usage in real-time and adjust your usage accordingly.

How to top up your prepayment meter?

To top up your prepayment device, you will need to purchase credit and add it to your meter using a top-up gas card or electricity key. There are many ways to pay for this, but the first step is to find your usual top-up point.

Most well-known suppliers use PayPoint or Payzone locations for their top up services, which can be found at many convenience stores, supermarkets, and newsagents. You can use your supplier’s website or mobile app to find your nearest top up point.

Once you’ve located a top up point, you can head there and ask the staff member for a top up. You’ll need to let them know how much you want to top up your meter by, and you can usually pay by cash, debit card, or credit card. They will give you a top up card or key that you’ll need to take home and insert into your meter.

The process for adding credit to your meter can vary depending on the type of meter you have, but your supplier should provide you with instructions on how to do this. Generally, you’ll need to insert your top up card or key into the meter, and then enter the code provided to you by the top up point. Once you’ve done this, the credit will be added to your meter, and you’ll be able to use your gas or electricity as normal.

It’s important to keep an eye on your meter balance, so that you don’t run out of credit unexpectedly. If you do use all of your credit, your meter will usually give you a warning before it cuts off your supply. If this happens, you’ll need to top up your meter again to restore your supply.

What is a gas card?

As for gas cards, they are a type of top up card that is used specifically for gas meters. Gas cards are similar to top up keys, but they have a magnetic strip that contains information about your gas account. You can use a gas card to top up your gas meter at a PayPoint or Payzone location, just like you would with a top up key. When you insert your card into the meter, it will read the information on the card and add the credit to your account. Some energy suppliers also offer online top up services, which allow you to top up your gas key or card online using your computer or mobile device.

Get emergency credit on your meter

If you have a prepayment meter and you’re running low on credit, your supplier may offer you an emergency credit facility. This credit allows you to borrow a small amount of credit to keep your supply running until you can top up your meter again.

To get emergency credit on your prepayment device, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Check if your meter has an emergency-credit facility: Not all prepayment device have a support scheme for this, so you’ll need to check with your energy supplier to find out if this option is available to you. You can usually find this information on your energy supplier’s website or by calling their customer service line.
  2. Check how much emergency credit you can get: If your meter has an emergency credit facility, your supplier will let you know how much credit you can access. This amount can vary depending on your supplier and your meter type. Some suppliers may offer up to £10 of emergency credit, while others may offer more or less.
  3. Activate the emergency credit: To activate the emergency credit, you’ll need to press a button on your meter or your top up key or card. The button is usually labeled “emergency credit” or “ECO” on the meter or “E-Credit” on the card or key. Once you’ve activated the allowance, your supply will continue to work for a short period of time (usually around 24 hours), giving you some breathing room to top up your meter.

It’s important to remember that emergency credit is a temporary solution, and you will need to top up your meter as soon as possible to avoid running out of credit again. When you top up your meter after using emergency credit, the amount of emergency credit you used will be deducted from your top up. If you’re having difficulty topping up your meter or managing your energy bills, it’s important to contact your energy supplier to discuss your options. They may be able to offer you additional support, such as payment plans or advice on reducing your energy usage.

What is an energy voucher?

An energy voucher is a type of payment voucher that can be used to pay for energy bills. Energy vouchers are usually provided by charities, government agencies, or energy suppliers as a way of helping low-income households or those experiencing financial difficulties to pay for their energy bills.

Energy vouchers can be used to pay for both gas and electricity bills, and they work in a similar way to prepayment meter top-ups. When you receive an energy voucher, you can take it to a designated points (such as a PayPoint or Payzone location) and use it to add credit to your prepayment meter or to pay your energy bill if you have a credit meter.

The amount of credit provided by an energy voucher can vary depending on the provider and the specific circumstances of the recipient. Some energy suppliers may offer vouchers that cover a specific amount of energy usage (such as a certain number of kilowatt-hours), while others may offer vouchers that cover a set amount of money (such as £20 or £50).

Energy vouchers can be a useful tool for those who are struggling to pay their energy bills, but they are usually only available to those who meet certain eligibility criteria. To find out if you are eligible for energy vouchers, you can contact your energy supplier, a local charity or community group, or a government agency that provides energy assistance.

What extra support is available?

The Energy Bill support Scheme

The Cost of Living Payment

Debt advice

If you’re struggling to keep up with your energy bill payments and you’re worried about falling into debt, there are several steps you can take to get help and support:

  • Contact your energy supplier: If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, it’s important to contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. They may be able to offer you a payment plan or a reduced tariff to help you manage your energy costs. They may also be able to provide you with information on energy-saving tips to help reduce your usage and lower your bills.
  • Seek advice from Citizens Advice: Citizens Advice is a free and impartial service that can offer you advice on debt management, budgeting, and financial planning. They can also provide you with information on energy-saving measures and government schemes that can help you reduce your energy costs.
  • Consider switching energy suppliers: If you’re struggling to keep up with your energy bill payments, it may be worth considering switching to a cheaper energy supplier. You can use price comparison websites to compare different energy deals and find the one that’s right for you. Be aware that some energy suppliers may require you to clear any outstanding debt before you can switch.
  • Check your energy supply: It’s important to check that you’re on the right energy tariff and that you’re not paying more than you need to for your energy supply. You can contact your energy supplier to check your tariff and make sure you’re on the best deal for your usage.
  • Seek financial advice: If you re struggling with debt, it may be worth seeking advice from a financial advisor or debt charity. They can provide you with information on debt management plans, debt consolidation, and other options to help you get your finances back on track.

Remember, if you’re worried about keeping up with your energy bill payments, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Contact your energy supplier and seek advice from Citizens Advice or other support services to help you manage your energy costs and avoid falling into debt.