Don't overpay any longer - Switch now!

01704 325069

You are here

Prepayment Meters - Top Up Meters & Emergency Credit

Prepayment Meter Top Up

What is a Prepayment Meter?

Prepayment meters are increasingly common, with over 6 million households using them. They work like pay-as-you-go or prepaid mobile phones. You get a card or sometimes a key that you need to top up with money. Instead of minutes, you get electricity and gas units to use in your household. With a prepayment meter, you need to watch out because when you use up your credit, your power can be cut off unless you can use your emergency credit. More and more prepayment meters are being set up as smart meters too.


Five Prepayment Meter Tricks

  1. Keep on top of your credit: Check how much credit you have by looking at the display in your home. Write it down on a post-it on your fridge or calendar so that you can always check at a glance.
  2. Pick the best payment method: Think about what is the easiest way to top-up for you. Is it online, in the corner shop, over the phone or with an app for smart meters?.
  3. Lower your energy bills: Energy saving tips can help you save a bundle. You might also be eligible for help through the Warm Home Discount and other energy schemes like it.
  4. Don't lose your top-up key or card: It seems obvious but if you lose your top-up key or card you may be charged for a replacement. Also, make sure everyone in your house knows where to find it so they can top-up quickly too.
  5. Shop around for better deals: There are many prepayment tariffs and you can easily switch energy suppliers to get a much better deal and save a bunch.

Smart Prepayment (PAYG) MetersPrepayment Smart Meters allow you to see your electricity and gas consumption in almost real-time and to top-up your prepayment tariffs from your smartphone, tablet or computer. They are the next generation of energy meters and the UK is aiming to have everyone on a smart meter by 2020.

More information about Smart Meters


How to top up your prepayment meter

There are three different ways to top up your prepayment meter:

  1. All prepayment energy suppliers allow topping up at your nearest Post Office or PayPoint location.
  2. Some energy suppliers like Npower use PayZone, which works the same way as PayPoint.
  3. Many energy suppliers like Ovo Energy, British Gas, Economy Energy and E.on Energy will allow you to top up by phone, text message, online or with a mobile app.They can do this thanks to Smart Prepayment (Pay As You Go) Meters.

Step 1: Top Up at Post Offices, Shops, by Phone or Online

Before heading out, make sure to leave your card or key inserted in your meter for a full minute.

  • Post Office, PayPoint and PayZone: You give your card or key to the salesperson and request a top up amount in full pounds. After paying, they will load your card or key with that amount. It’s important to keep the receipt so you have a record of what you paid.
  • Phone, Online and Mobile Apps: Make sure you have your account number, key or card number and some other details like your email ready. You will need to have a Smart Prepayment (PAYG) Meter installed so its best to check with your energy supplier to see if you can top up without having to go to the post office or a shop.

How much can I top up?

Generally, the minimum top up amount is £1 while your top up card or key is designed to hold up £249 (card) or £250 (key) worth of credit. Bear in mind, when you go to the Post Office or a shop, you can only buy up to £50 of credit for your electricity and £49 for gas at any one time.

Step 2: Load the credit onto your Prepayment Meter

If you have a Smart Prepayment (PAYG) Meter, you are done. After topping up with the mobile app, online, by phone or even in a shop or post office, the credit will show up on your meter within 45 minutes at most.

Even if there is a reception issue preventing smart top ups, you can still manually enter a code (from a paper or text receipt) into the smart meter to credit your account.

If you don’t have a Smart Prepayment (PAYG) Meter, there are a couple of extra steps:

Gas Prepayment Meters

Always check top up details with your energy supplier.

  • Insert your card and leave it there for a minute while the credit transfers to the meter.
  • Some gas suppliers like Npower and British Gas require you to press the red A button to credit your meter.
  • Other suppliers like Economy Energy do not, unless you need to restart your gas supply or use Emergency Credit.
  • The on-screen will confirm the new balance either way

Electricity Prepayment Meters

Always check top up details with your energy supplier.

  • Insert your card and leave it there for a minute while the credit transfers to the meter.
  • Some gas suppliers like Npower and British Gas require you to press the red A button to credit your meter.
  • Other suppliers like Economy Energy do not unless you need to restart your gas supply or use Emergency Credit.
  • The on-screen will confirm the new balance either way

I’ve topped up but the credit hasn’t gone on to the meter

There are three possible reasons that your top up is not working:

  • Prepayment key or card needs to be cleaned or is faulty. You can clean your key or card with a dry cloth. If that doesn’t solve the problem and you are inserting your key or card correctly, then contact your energy supplier to get a replacement key or card.
  • Credit was not loaded up correctly. You will see ‘Credit Failed’ written on your receipt. If this happens, take your key or card back to the same Post Office or shop so they can load it up correctly at no extra cost to you.
  • Prepayment credit bought from a scammer. Criminals are tricking people by offering prepayment top ups that are too good to be true. Their cloned keys and cards are immediately flagged by energy companies. Customers who fall for these dirty tricks have no recourse and have to pay a second time for the real top up from their energy company.

About Emergency Credit on your top up meter

Prepayment Meter Emergency Credit

Just like driving on empty in cars, electricity and gas meters have a reserve called emergency credit, so that you don’t immediately get cut off from your gas or electricity supply.

Emergency credit, between £5 and £10 worth, does not kick in automatically. You have to manually activate it before your credit runs out so that everything in your home stays on. Usually, it involves pressing a red button on your meter but you should check with your energy supplier as instructions can vary by company. The full emergency credit amount will be used when activated.

Be aware that once you turn on emergency credit, you will owe the emergency credit amount (anywhere between £5 and £10) to your energy provider moving forward. You will pay it off automatically with your next top up, which means that new credit amount needs to account for the owed emergency credit.

If you turn on emergency credit, you should top up with a £15 or more credit, when you can, so that you pay off the emergency credit and still have some credit afterwards.

Emergency credit is a one-time deal which can only be paid back and never replenished, unfortunately.


What to do if you have lost your prepayment card or key?

Most suppliers will charge anywhere between £5 and £10 for a replacement if you lose your key or card. The replacement charge will often be covered by top ups and most suppliers spread out the cost over several top ups to make it easier to pay off.

Replacements can take up to 5 working days to arrive, which can add to the hassle of losing it in the first place. If that is too long, prepayment energy suppliers like Toto Energy are able to get you one as soon as the next day if you call them.

Tired of card or key issues? Switch from Prepayment to Direct Debit.


Moving into a house with a prepayment meter

If you have just moved and your new home has a prepayment meter, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  1. You could be liable for the previous resident’s debt unless you contact the energy supplier to reset the meter so you don’t end up footing the bill.
  2. If the previous tenant or occupant did not leave you with the top up key or card, you cannot just borrow or use different keys or cards because they will not work.
  3. Contacting the energy supplier is the only way to get your meter and top up method sorted out. Have your supply and meter numbers (MPAN & MPRN) handy when you speak with them.

How to read a Prepayment Meter

Electric Prepayment Meter Instructions
  1. Press the Blue button on the front of the prepayment meter.
  2. With each button press, you will move to a different readout screen. They either go from letters A to T or from numbers 1 to 9, depending on your prepayment meter model.
  3. Press the button until you get screen H or 5 to get your meter reading. You will want to take down all the numbers even if there are zeros in front.
  4. Be aware that the meter reading only shows for a little while before switching back to the first screen. If that happens, all you need to do is move through the screens to get back to the one you want. Just make sure that you go back to the same one to avoid making a mistake that could cost you a lot of money.
  5. If you have an Economy 7(link) tariff, you will need to press on the prepayment meter button to move to screen J to get the correct off-peak night meter reading.
Gas Prepayment Meter Instructions
  1. Press the Red button.
  2. If your gas prepayment meter has a window located on top of the LCD display, that will show the meter reading.
  3. Other gas prepayment meters will have two displays, in which case, the left one will give you the meter reading.

The main reason to take a prepayment meter reading is if you are moving homes and need to close your account. Not all prepayment meters need to be read because your electricity and gas power company will get readings when your prepayment key or card gets recharged.

More information about Meter Readings

Our Recommended Prepayment Energy Company

Toto Energy, our choice for Prepayment Meters

While energy companies like British Gas, EDF Energy and Npower offer prepayment tariffs, they do tend to be significantly overpriced because they all have brand recognition. You can have the exact same electricity and gas at lower rates by switching to an independent energy supplier.

Currently, there are few independents that provide prepayment energy. We believe the most attractive prices are being offered by Brighton-based energy company Toto Energy. While independent suppliers are generally cheaper for direct debit energy tariffs, Toto Energy breaks that trend and takes on the Big Six with their competitive prepayment rates.

Toto Energy Customer Service Ratings

To get a quick and simple comparison between Toto Energy tariffs and the rest of the market, so you can decide if they are right for you, give Selectra a call on 01704 325069. If you’d like to get a better idea about what you’re likely to pay before you give us a ring, click here to see averages in each area of the UK.

Use our Comparison Tool