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Can I change my prepayment meter?

Posted 30 September 2016

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Want to switch your meter? Find out if this is possible.

If you pay for your energy bills with a prepayment meter, this often means your gas and electricity works out more expensive. You generally can’t benefit from the cheapest tariffs, as these are usually reserved for Direct Debit customers.

But do you have to stick with a prepayment meter or can you switch to a traditional meter instead? It probably depends on why you’ve got a prepayment meter, how long you’ve had it and your current circumstances. Let’s take a look at when you can and can't switch. 


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When you can’t switch your meter

Your energy supplier will usually install a prepayment meter in your home if you fall behind with your gas or electricity bills. They might also do so if you don’t pass a credit check to pay your energy bills monthly. So if you’ve got problems with your credit history due to missing debt repayments, defaults or CCJs, this could mean you end up with a prepayment meter. 

If you’ve only had your prepayment meter for a couple of months or you had problems with your credit history quite recently, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to move to a standard meter. The reason for this is because your energy supplier still sees you as a risk. And if you’re still in arrears to your energy company, they will probably want you to pay off what you owe before you change your meter. 

When you might be able to switch

But if your problems with your energy bills were quite a while ago and you’ve cleared any arrears, it’s possible you could move to a standard meter and pay by Direct Debit. Your energy provider will usually have to credit check you first, and they’ll use this to decide whether or not to let you switch. 

If you moved into a rented property, you might find that it already has a prepayment meter in it. This could be because a previous tenant was in arrears with their energy bills or the landlord may just prefer you to pay bills in this way. If this is the case, it’s worth asking them if you can switch to a standard meter. And if they say you can’t, you should at least ask if you can look for a cheaper prepayment tariff. 

It’s worth keeping in mind that your energy provider might charge you to switch from a prepayment meter to a standard meter. If your supplier does this, check to see if you’ll be better off switching to a different supplier that won’t charge you for a new meter. But check which one will save you the most money on your energy bills overall – you might find that it’s better value to pay for a new meter but then benefit from lower bills.

Dealing with energy debts

If you’ve only recently had a prepayment meter installed, this may be a warning sign that you’re struggling to afford your energy bills. Gas and electricity are priority bills and you should always make sure you pay all priority bills and debts before any non-priority debts.

But if your unsecured non-priority debts are making it difficult to afford your priority bills, this might be a warning sign of a bigger debt problem. You might be better off speaking to your creditors about this and setting up a new affordable payment plan.

If you don’t want to speak to your creditors yourself, one option is to set up a debt solution to deal with your debts. Your debt solution provider could speak to your creditors on your behalf and make your debts more affordable for you. And – depending on your solution – you might get some debt written off.

You can get in touch with our debt advisors now by calling us on 0161 605 4810, or check out our Money Smart Report for a free, personalised guide to your finances. 


by Emily Bancroft

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.