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Will my electric run out at night?

Posted 08 November 2016

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Your electric shouldn’t run out at night – learn more about emergency credit here.

If you pay for your electric with a prepayment meter, it is possible for you to run out of credit and therefore power. This can be a scary thought – what if you were to run out in the middle of the night? If you’ve got a meter, it’s important to understand how your electricity supply works and what to do if you run out. Keep reading to make sure you’re not left in the dark.

Emergency credit

First of all, it’s important to say that prepayment meters offer such a thing as emergency credit. Emergency credit means that you shouldn’t be left in the dark or the cold in the middle of the night. If the credit you’ve loaded onto your meter runs out in the middle of the night, you won’t be cut off straight away. You’ll be given a certain amount of time until the shops open again and you can top up your credit. Emergency credit works like an advance – you catch up with what you owe when you go and pay for more credit.

Exactly how much emergency credit your provider gives you just depends on their particular policy. Some companies give you £5 worth of credit for example, regardless of when your meter runs out. Or, if it runs out at night, they might cover you until nine o’clock the following morning, unless you’ve already used your emergency credit, so you’ve got time to run to the shops and top-up. Some suppliers allow you to top-up online – it’s worth checking what your supplier does so you’re prepared.

Forward plan

The idea of being left without any power isn’t a nice one, especially in winter, so be sure to plan for the future. Bank holidays mean that some shops will be closed, so make sure that you have enough power to see you through these times. And of course if you go away, you need to be sure that you’re covered for this period – it’ll be annoying to come home and find everything in the freezer has defrosted.
In general you should watch out for your energy running low, try to keep on top of your payments and take notice of any warning light or warning beep on your meter.

Is a meter the only option?

Pre-payment meters are not the only way to pay for your electric. The best deals are usually available to those who pay their bill via Direct Debit. It may be possible to switch from a prepayment meter to Direct Debit, but there are a few things that you have to check first. Your supplier will probably want to do a credit check first, before they allow you to switch. This will show them how successful you’ve been paying back debts in the past. If you’ve had any trouble like defaults or a Country Court Judgment (CCJ) within the last six years, this will be visible and may affect their decision.

You’ll also need to make sure that you’ve paid everything you owe your supplier up to this point – they may not allow you to switch payment methods if you still owe them money.

Some suppliers charge fees to change, so be sure to check this. It’s also worth doing a comparison to see whether you can save any money by switching supplier altogether – Uswitch can help with this. If your supplier charges a fee to change to Direct Debit, and they won’t budge on this, see whether you can switch supplier before you change to Direct Debit.

Help with your energy bills

If you’re struggling to keep up with your bill, it’s understandable that you might be worried about losing power. You might even be worried that you won’t be able to top-up after the emergency electric supply runs out.

If this is you, there might be ways to ease the financial strain you’re under. Some emergency companies offer grants and schemes to help those struggling the most with their bills. You can learn more about them on this page. Remember, you should get extra help from your supplier if you’re elderly, disabled or chronically ill.

You should also make sure you’re claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to, as this extra income might make affording your essential household bills much easier. This government page allows you to see whether you should be claiming anything.

Juggling debt repayments and household bills

Are debt repayments stopping you from being able to afford your other bills? If that’s the case, there’s help out there. Always remember that your gas and electric bills take priority over your unsecured debt repayments. This is because the consequences of missing your electric bills are more severe than the consequences of missing unsecured payments, like credit cards and personal, unsecured loans.

You should get in touch with your lenders – missing payments without any explanation will only make the situation worse. They might be able to put a plan in place for you that gives you a break from your payments, or at least freezes interest and charges on your accounts.

You can also get in touch with a debt advisor, like the ones here at Debt Advisory Centre and find out whether there’s a plan you can start to deal with your debts. There are a range of debt solutions available – your personal circumstances will determine which one is right for you.


by Christine Walsh

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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.