Prepayment meter to credit meter?
November 18, 2011 2:41 AM   Subscribe

My new flat has a prepayment meter for gas and electricity. I think we want to switch to a credit meter, but I'm not sure and I don't really know what I'm doing so I'm afraid of screwing this up. Help?

The joys of moving into a new flat continue! I've recently moved, and my new flat has separate meters for the gas and electricity where you pay by topping up a certain amount when the money runs out. I have no experience with this (I'm American and in my previous flat, all the bills were included in the rent so I never had to deal with this). My flatmate has lived there a while and says he'd like to look into switching to a credit meter because it would be cheaper. We'd all like to save a bit so I said I'd look into it, but I have no idea what I'm doing.

This is what I know:

-We currently use British Gas for both gas and electricity
-We're on a six-month lease, and it seems most bills are for the year, so we would prefer to pay in installments if possible in case we don't stay the whole year or one of us moves out &c.
-It's a 3-bedroom flat with 3 people living in it
-I'm not sure how much is usually spent on gas and electricity, but I think it's something like £40 a month on gas and around the same, or maybe a bit less, on electricity?
-We live in London (zone 2)
-British Gas currently provide both gas and electricity, but they are on separate meters. We are happy to have the same company provide gas and electricity or to have one company provide gas and another provide electricity if that's cheapest.

If I've left out anything important, let me know and I'll respond.

I have read that British Gas will switch you from a prepayment meter to a credit meter for free, but you might have to undergo a credit check. I just want to do whatever's cheapest. Should I stay with British Gas or look into other companies?

Do you think it's a good idea to switch to a credit meter or is it not worth the hassle?

I'd love to hear any advice you have on this -- I am a total newbie to these things, so please just assume I know nothing (basics and all) and advise away.
posted by Put the kettle on to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Credit meters are cheaper for you and, once installed less hassle for you and your supplier. Your supplier will install one for free. It takes an hour or two. MoneySavingExpert can help you figure out whether to change supplier from British Gas. You should check with your landlord before you change supplier or have meters installed though. They may have advice or rights as owner that they wish to assert.
posted by caek at 2:49 AM on November 18, 2011

Credit metres are always cheaper because you pay less per unit used.

Look at your average usage, based on how long a prepayment lasts and your unit cost and then look at somewhere like or and they will find out what companies may offer the best deals.

Read the small print.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:00 AM on November 18, 2011

You definitely need to check with your landlord.

Landlords have prepay meters installed because they cannot be left with an unpaid bill at the end of the tenancy.

If he insists you keep the prepay meter, you may be able to switch to a cheaper prepay supplier, check on confused and moneysavingexpert.
posted by chrispy108 at 3:05 AM on November 18, 2011

The prepayment meter is far far more expensive than regular billing, because it's set to charge at a level that helps delinquent customers to pay back the money they owe the utility company.

If you visit USwitch you can find out which supplier will be cheapest. You'll often find a discount for having both utilities with the same supplier. Most (all?) suppliers will bill the same monthly amount through the year. The amount will be an average over the year based on previous meter readings; they will adjust it based on your ongoing meter readings every so often.

You will need to phone around a bit to find a company that will remove the prepayment meter for free. Some companies will want to charge you for the privilege, but some won't.

If nobody in your flat can pass a credit check, the companies will be likely to ask for a deposit against future bills; depending on the size of the deposit you may decide it's not worth it, but it will be cheaper in the long run.
posted by emilyw at 3:05 AM on November 18, 2011

Credit meters will generally be cheaper and more convenient. However pre-payment meters are common in rental properties because of the high-turnover of tenants and related problems with non-payment of bills.

You may not be able to switch to a credit meter, or your supplier if you get one fitted; check your contract first and confirm (in writing) with the landlord or rental agent.

If you can't switch to a credit meter you might still be able to switch your supplier to Ebico, who are a not-for-profit company with a flat-rate across the board. Their rates can be found here.

As you might guess, Ebico is my supplier, been happy with them so far which is a first for a utilities company.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 3:13 AM on November 18, 2011

Yes, you want to swap. It's cheaper (and more convenient - you don't need to remember to top up!).

Yes, you will need to get your landlord's permission. If it's an ongoing lease (i.e. lease changes when someone moves out and someone moves in, rather than a completely new tenancy) and you're good tenants (i.e. rent always paid on time, no ongoing issues with the landlord) then they may well agree to it. And yes, get it in writing.

Most energy companies will usually swap the meters out for free but you may need commit to them for a period of time (it's a competitive market). British Gas isn't the cheapest but it would still be cheaper than prepayment meters.

Credit checks - best thing to do is get the tenant with a good credit rating (basically anyone who's got a credit history in the UK and hasn't defaulted on payments in the past - it's a fairly low standard, but if you're a newcomer to the UK you may not have a credit rating) to be the name on the bill. You can then change the names on the bill afterwards to reflect all tenants (advisable - it helps you get a credit history).

If you pay by direct debit you get the best rates - and they'll tend to average bills over the year so you pay the same amount each month which helps manage your finances.
posted by finding.perdita at 12:54 PM on November 18, 2011

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