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Paying for your energy

There are a wide variety of ways you can pay your energy bills it is important that you try to understand what methods will be the most appropriate for you. Below we have outlined some of the key information you will need know.

How can you pay?

Energy suppliers provide several different payment methods for you to pay your bills, these can depend on your tariff and circumstances.

It is important to find a payment method that suits your needs. It is also worth remembering that not all payment methods will be available with all tariffs so it is important to check this before switching. Below are some advantages and disadvantages of various payment methods to help you decide the most appropriate one for you.

Quarterly bill – Paying for the energy you have used once every 3 months


  • Don’t need to worry about credit/fuel running out
  • Only have to think about and pay for when bill arrives.


  • Difficult to budget because of big differences between summer and winter bills
  • Estimated bills can lead to large under or overpayments.
Direct debit – Paying a set amount towards your bill every month


  • Wide range of tariffs available
  • Suppliers often offer discounts if pay by Direct Debit
  • Payments stay fairly constant throughout the year.


  • If you use more energy than predicted, you may need to make up the deficit at the end of the year or your Direct Debit will increase to cover payments.
Prepayment meter – Paying as you go for your energy before you use it


  • Can recover debt and helps people not to get into further debt
  • No bills
  • Can compare how much energy you use on a daily/ weekly basis.


  • Fewer discounts and tariff choices so can be a more expensive option
  • Can be impractical to top up if struggle to reach shops
  • Payments vary greatly between winter and summer.
Payment Card - Paying for your energy and spreading the cost of your bills throughout the year


  • Money is not automatically taken from your account
  • You can make payments whenever you can afford to


  • You will have to get to a Post Office or PayPoint to make your payments
  • You cannot use the card to make payments online
  • You could be charged a late payment fee.

To download a pdf of the above please click the links below:

Understanding your meter

Economy 7 meters

Meter ImageThis meter gives you two rates for your electricity. A cheap night rate and a more expensive day rate. This kind of meter will only benefit you if most of your electricity usage is at night, for example if you have storage heaters or an immersion heater to heat your water up at night. You can tell if you have economy 7 because there will be two readings on your meter and bill, normally called low or night for your cheaper electricity and day for your more expensive rate.  Remember Economy 7 meters may not be right for you, for example, if you use lots of electricity during the day.

Heatwise meters (Also called Economy 10)

This meter uses day and night economy 7 rates but also has 2 further cheaper rate times during the afternoon and evening. There is also a boost setting, but this can be expensive. This meter can benefit you if you have storage heaters as it can give you extra heat during the evening and afternoon on a cheaper rate. However, these meters are not very common and can be complicated to compare, as such few suppliers support them and you may struggle to switch.

Optimized Shutterstock276374000Smart meters

Smart meters are starting to be installed across the country, with the majority of people set to get them before 2020. Smart meters are able to communicate directly with your supplier so you will rarely need to read your meter and helps eliminate estimated bills. They can communicate directly with your energy supplier meaning that no one will need to come and read your meter in future. Smart meters have a display function which can tell households how much energy they are using at a particular time, helping people to understand where they could save money on their energy bills.

Prepayment Meters

Prepayment meters are an attractive option for many people as you pay for your energy before you use it, and can also manage debts These meters are run on prepaid for credit. Once this has run out the meter needs to be topped up with its key or card via a PayPoint or Payzone. Your meter will most likely have some emergency credit in case you run out when you are unable to top up, however emergency credit is limited and will have to be paid back when you next  top up.

Be aware that Prepayment meters can be one of the most expensive ways to pay for your energy as there are fewer tariffs and discounts available. Below are several things to think about if you are considering a prepayment meter.


  • Helps customers to repay and not get into further debt
  • No big bills, pay for your energy before you use it.


  • Fewer discounts and tariff choices available
  • Impractical to top up if you struggle to reach a top up point or don’t have the internet
  • Payments vary a lot between winter and summer
  • Still pay for standing charge and debt repayments even if not using any energy e.g. if you go on holiday or are in hospital, so can still accrue debts
  • Energy could run out at impractical times if not monitored e.g. at night.

If you already have a prepayment meter...

  • Check with your supplier that you’re tariff is the most appropriate for your needs and heating system
  • Check if you are eligible to pay by credit meter, some companies will fit these for free if you pass their credit checks and will allow you a wider choice of tariffs and discounts that would not be available with prepayment meters
  • If you are out of your property for a number of days, ensure you top up your meter before you go. This will avoid building up a debt for when you return as your meter continues to take a standing charge from your credit even if you have no appliances turned on
  • Try not to rely on emergency credit. If you do use your emergency credit, you will still be charged your usual standing charge. Normally this is not taken off when you are using your emergency credit but will be taken off when you top up resulting in you needing to pay more to get back into credit. This is often why people believe emergency credit costs more
  • Keep your meter in credit this minimises the likelihood of running out of credit in the middle of the night or during public holidays when it maybe difficult to top up your credit, particularly if you live in more rural areas.

Moving to a home with a prepayment meter

Call the energy supplier of your new home to advise them you have moved in, to get the meter read/reset and for them to send you a new key if needed. This should help avoid you having to pay off the previous tenant’s debt.

Also check with your supplier that you are on the most appropriate tariff for your needs and heating system in addition to checking that a prepayment meter would be most suitable for you.

Switching with a prepayment meter

You are still able to switch to another supplier with a prepayment meter, providing you are responsible for paying the bill. If you wish to switch from a prepayment meter to a credit meter some companies will do this free of charge , however, you may need to pass a credit check in order to do this.  Also under certain circumstances your supplier may not be able to change your meter, for example, if you have an outstanding debt.

Universal Credit

Universal credit is being introduced across the country. Monthly universal credit payments may make it easier to budget and also pay monthly for your energy, helping you to take advantage of cheaper tariffs and payment methods. This provides an opportunity to think about switching away from a prepayment meter. 

Struggling to pay for your energy?

If you are struggling to top up your meter call your supplier as soon as you are able. They may be able to reduce your debt repayments  on your meter if you have any (however this will mean it will take longer to pay them back) or they maybe able to advise you of cheaper tariffs or grants to put towards your energy bills. Also visit to see if you are able to access a grant yourself.

To contact the Advice Services Team you can complete and send the self-referral form, or alternatively, you can visit our Contact Us page.

To download a pdf of this webpage please click the links below:

For more information please contact Customer Service Centre on, via our website enquiry form or call 0800 678 1221 for the South, 0345 600 2535 for the East, 0345 8 500 500 for Heart of England.