Individual circumstances will dictate whether a prepayment or credit meter is best for you and your energy needs. Normally the best deals are only available with a credit account but these are not always suitable for everyone. This is especially true if you have fallen into debt with a supplier or have a poor credit rating. An energy supplier may insist that you use a prepayment meter or refuse to offer to supply your energy on a credit basis. If this is the case, you will not usually be able to change your meter, at least not through your existing supplier.
Because credit accounts usually involve setting up a direct debit, the energy supplier is likely to carry out a credit check. This means that changing over can be difficult, but not impossible with a poor credit score.
First and foremost, it is usually cheaper to use a credit meter. As long as you’re not in debt with an energy supplier and have a strong enough credit score, you are likely to be eligible for a credit account. If you intend to pay by direct debit and especially if you are using the same supplier for both gas and electricity, you will find the best discounts on the market.
Another reason to change over could be for practical reasons or even as a matter of safety. Meters installed in hard to reach places, can make getting readings or topping up the meter difficult or dangerous. This is especially true if you have any disabilities or other health conditions that may hinder movement. You may also need to ensure that you have an uninterrupted power supply due to the requirement of a stair lift, or medical equipment such as a sleep apnea CPAP machine or home dialysis machine. In these cases running out of credit would be much more than just an inconvenience and would make prepayment meters totally unsuitable.
What do I need in order to change over?
Older style analogue meters are unfortunately not interchangeable between the payment methods. This means that if you are currently using a prepayment meter for your energy and would like to move onto a credit account, you will need to have a new meter installed before this is possible. Newer smart meters allow energy suppliers to select between prepayment or credit settings. This means that in theory, changing over should be a much less disruptive and altogether easier switch.
In the first instance, contact your supplier and let them know that you wish to change from a prepayment meter to a credit one. At this stage it is likely that your energy company representative will take a look at your account. Here they are looking for any history of debt or problems in paying for bills in the past. At this point you will provide further details so that a direct debit can be set up (if applicable) and a credit check on you can now be done. If this all comes back fine, a representative will contact you to organise a date and time for an engineer to come and carry out the work.
You may have fallen into debt with a supplier but still need to change to a credit meter for health or safety reasons. In these cases you should not be turned down by the energy company. If you find that your energy supplier is refusing the change under these circumstances, you should contact Citizens Advice.
Will it cost me anything?
If you need to change to a credit meter because of health or safety reasons, then your supplier should not attempt to charge you. If under these circumstances, your supplier attempts to take payment or even a deposit, you should contact the Citizens Advice helpline.
None of the current big six energy suppliers will charge you to change over your meter. Some of the smaller firms will, but you always have the option to change to an energy firm that won’t.
In today’s market it is likely that your supplier will want you to upgrade to a smart meter. This again doesn’t have to cost you anything and not all suppliers will pass the costs of installation to you. You are also under no obligation to opt for a smart meter, if you would rather stay with an older style meter then you can.
If you would rather not have the energy company carry out a credit check, then you do have another option. You could opt to pay a deposit to negate the need for the checks being done. This will involve paying an up front fee before the installation is carried out that is used to keep your account in credit.
You should have a last check of how much credit is remaining on the prepayment meter before the engineer starts work. This will make sure you know how much credit you have remaining, which can be transferred to your new credit meter energy account.
What if I’m a tenant?
You can still change from prepayment meter to credit meter if you are renting a property. You don’t even legally need to inform your landlord of the change. However, your landlord may insist that you change it back to how it was before leaving the property. Failing to do this would be likely to result in you losing a part of your deposit.