Switching from a Prepayment Meter to Direct Debit

Prepayment energy meter and Direct Debit card payment

For some customers, a prepayment energy tariff can be a good way to budget and stay on top of energy costs. However, switching from a prepayment meter to Direct Debit could help you save money and access some of the cheapest gas and electricity deals on the market.

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What is a prepayment meter?

Prepayment electricity meter

Prepayment meters let you pay for electricity and gas in advance by adding credit to the meter using a special key or card. While this may be a great option for those who like to budget and know how much they are spending on energy ahead of time, prepayment gas and electricity tariffs are typically more expensive than fixed-price tariffs on a credit meter.

What is a credit meter?

A credit meter is the most common type of energy meter. The meter measures how much gas or electricity you use and then your energy supplier bills you a monthly amount based on an estimate or meter reading.

For many, using a credit meter can also be a more convenient option, as there is no risk of running out of credit and therefore no need to go to the shops to top up.

Can you switch from prepayment meter to Direct Debit?

Provided you are debt-free, you should have no problem changing out your prepayment meter for a regular credit meter. To find out if you can switch, you should contact your energy supplier.

How do I change from prepayment meter to credit meter?

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  1. The first step to switching from a prepayment meter to Direct Debit payment is talking to your current energy supplier. Don't forget to have your supply and meter numbers handy when you speak with them.
  2. Not everyone is eligible to switch from a prepayment meter to a credit meter, and your supplier typically won’t replace your meter if you’re in debt to them. If your account is debt-free, your supplier will often first run a credit check to ensure that you can keep on top of monthly Direct Debit payments.
  3. Once you pass the credit check and agree on a new tariff, your supplier will arrange a time for an engineer to remove your prepayment meter and replace it with a credit meter. The timeframe for this can vary, though should take no longer than a couple of weeks. If your home has a smart meter, the switch over will be instant.

Prepayment meter debt

Before you can switch, you need to make sure you will not be liable for any prepayment meter debt.

Here are the main reasons why you might have debt that is stopping you from switching from a prepayment meter to Direct Debit payment.

  1. If you’ve just moved into a new home, the previous resident could have built up debt on the meter. To avoid potentially being liable for someone else’s debt, you need to contact the energy company currently supplying the home and let them know you have just moved in.
  2. If you dipped into the emergency credit on a prepayment meter, you will have built up daily standing charges for however long the emergency credit was in effect.
  3. Once you go into emergency credit on a prepayment meter, you have to top up to pay back the emergency credit as well as a little more to stay in good standing moving forward.
  4. Your top-up amounts have not been enough to sufficiently cover both standing charges and your energy consumption. If this happens for long enough, those unpaid standing charges start to build up.
  5. Your home was fitted with a prepayment meter so you could pay back energy debt according to an agreed payment plan. If this is the case, part of every prepayment top-up will go towards lowering what you owe.
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