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A pre-pay meter

Pre-payment meters

Sometimes paying for the gas and electricty using a prepayment meter can help you manage a budget. Unfortunately  this can mean you are paying more the energy you use.

What is a prepayment meter?

With a prepayment meter you have to pay for your electricity or gas before you use it.

There are different types of prepayment meter:

• Token meters
• Key meters
• Card meters
• Smart card meters

How do I pay for my gas or electricity?

Your gas or electricity company will give you a list of places where you can 'top up' your token, key or card with money. Newsagents and post offices often provide this service.

Do I have to have a prepayment meter for my gas or electricity?

If you are behind with your gas or electricity bills, your energy supplier may fit a prepayment meter in your home instead of cutting off your supply.

However, if you are keeping to a payment agreement to gradually pay off your debts, you do not have to have a prepayment meter installed.

Can I ask to have a prepayment meter installed to pay for my gas or electricity?

Yes. However, you may have to wait until one is available for your home.

Are prepayment meters a good idea?

A prepayment meter may be offered to you instead of having your electricity or gas cut off.

Prepayment meters can:

• Help you gradually pay off any money you owe and pay for your electricity and standing charges at the same time
• Help you manage your money if you are on a low income.

What are the drawbacks of a prepayment meter?

Prepayment meters have some drawbacks, including:

• Electricity and gas usually costs more when paid for in this way.
• You won't have any gas or electricity if you do not keep your meter topped up with money.
• Places to top up your meter may not be nearby and may cost you money to get there
• Some meters are not updated straight away if the cost of gas or electricity goes up. This means you may build up more debt without meaning to.

Even Government MInisters feel the extra people money pay for having prepayment meters is unjust:

"The extra costs that people on pre-payment meters are now having to meet seem totally disproportionate"

Malcolm Wicks, Energy Minister

Find out more on the BBC News website

Someone's given me some tokens for my meter, can I use them?

No. Only use tokens that you have bought from a place named by your supplier. If you use someone else's tokens your next meter reading will show that you have been using electricity you haven't paid for and you will have to pay the difference.

For the same reason, never buy tokens from car boot sales or markets.

I'm worried about how to pay for my gas and electricity

Visit our 'Affordable warmth' page for more advice and information.

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