The Pros & Cons Of Using Gas, Electric & Water Prepayment Meters

Before you decide to get an electric or gas pre-payment meter, read this very handy guide detailing the pros and cons from years of experience.
New Gas Card Meter
New Gas Card Meter
If you're thinking about getting a prepaid electric, gas or water meter this handy guide will help you choose the best option.

From firsthand experience using this kind of meter over the years I've endured numerous problems -- so you won't have to.

Below is an example of the pros and cons of using electric and gas prepaid meters and my personal experiences using them.
  • For Water Meters Advice, see further down the page.

The Pros of Prepaid Meters

  • You will never fall into debt again because you pay in advance for any electric or gas you use.
  • If you're already in debt with the gas or electric company you can arrange to have these arrears paid off by paying a fixed arranged amount which will be deducted automatically every time you top-up.
  • If you have people renting your home you'll never need to worry about them running up high bills without paying. That's all the pros.

The Cons Of PrePaid Meters

  • Electric and gas companies charge a fixed weekly or monthly rate for having these types of meters installed. Tip: In theory, you're paying rent for them so you'll save money instantly by switching companies who will then remove the prepaid meters and install the standard type. Some companies charge you a fee for changing from a standard to a prepaid meter. Tip: Shop around; Ask what the charges are because some companies will change it for free.
  • If you lose your top-up card/key, you'll be unable to top-up and will have to wait for a replacement by post which is usually free, but some companies do charge.
  • Finding a shop near where you live to top-up is not always simple. Tip: Find out where the nearest top-up locations are before you decide.
  • While trying to top-up my card/key I've been told many times that my key and/or card is not working and on other occasions the shop's key/card reader is broken.
  • Prepaid meters or meters in general are not always located inside your home. Some are fixed to the outside so think about the times when it will be snowing and'or freezing cold when a simple thing like topping up would be just plain awkward.

My personal experiences using prepaid meters

• Sunday afternoon while in the middle of cooking a Sunday roast my gas supply ran out! I then had to insert my gas card to activate the £6.00 emergency when I noticed my gas meter was not working resulting in a 4-hour wait for a technician to correct the fault.

• Late at night while taking a nice hot shower the hot water suddenly became freezing cold because my credit had run out! I had to dress and go outside to where the meter was located to activate the emergency credit.

• Another day my electric just ran out! I already used the £6.00 of emergency credit. No problem, I thought, I'll just pop into the shop -- only to find it closed. The only other nearby place to top-up was at a local garage, which required cab fare.
Charlotte Symonds, from Whiteway, and her two young children were left without heating, hot water or a cooker for more than three days after a mix-up over a new gas payment card. Read the full story here.

Save pounds and DON''T get a pre-paid meter installed.

My advice, if you're elderly, disabled or a single parent. In fact, even if you're just a human, get a payment/budget card and top it up each week or month so when you do get your next bill you will have paid most or all of it already. Any amount you paid that exceeds the total gas/electric bill will be credited to your account to help pay your next bill.
Having said all this, I spoke to a neighbor who had his meters for 20-plus years without ever encountering any problem. If he knew how much he had paid in rental fees over the years he definitely would see the problem!

Questions to ask your potential new supplier.

  • How much do they charge (tariff prices) for their energy? It's not as easy to compare as you may think. Check out this price comparison Website: to see how you can save money.
  • How much per month do they charge for "renting" the key/card Meter they will install?
  • What's the procedure if the meter stops working; i.e, How much time will it take to be fixed?
  • What happens if you lose your key/card, i.e, How long will it take to be replaced, and how much is the fee for a replacement card/key.

Water Meter Information

Should I Have a Water Meter Installed

Things to consider before you decide to have a water meter installed.

Even though it was a free installation and no monthly rentals, I knew I could save money on my water bill because I am very water conservative and use much less water than the average user, but I decided against having one installed. Why? Because I was thinking of all those days when I have visitors, including some who stay over and may not be as water conscious as I am! Many visitors I have include children who usually forget to turn the taps fully off or often leave the taps on unnecessarily, which is practically pouring money down the drain.

The benefits of having a water meter installed.

If you want to reduce your footprint and save money then having a water meter installed would be your best option. When you receive your first bill you'll know if you're using too much water. If your bill is much higher than usual after having a meter installed, then that is the time to start reducing the amount you use with the many water saving advice tips. You can obtain Water saving tips and more information by contacting Thames Water. Note: All leaks from all pipes and taps would have to be fixed before having a meter installed.
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