If you have a ‘Pay As You Go’ or prepayment meter it simply means that you pay for energy before using it, in the same way that you might load a gift card to your Amazon account or buy credit for your mobile phone. These are particularly popular in Northern Ireland with over 330,000 homes (almost half of all electricity customers) using this payment option. Paying in advance means no unexpected bills and can help track your energy use. As well as this, many suppliers offer competitive tariffs or cashback offers for PAYG customers.
How do prepayment meters work?
Every Pay as You Go meter is issued with two plastic top-up cards. Payment is made by ‘topping-up’ your card at a shop, post office, Paypoint or Payzone outlet. A ‘top-up’ can also be purchased by phone from your supplier, or increasingly online or via an app.
Once you purchase your ‘top-up’ you will be issued with a 20-digit PowerCode. Key in all 20 digits of the code on the keypad and when entered correctly the credit on the meter will be increased by the value of the top-up.
What top up options do suppliers provide?
- Budget Energy: Online, App, PayPoint, PayZone, Telephone
- Click Energy: Online, PayPoint, Telephone
- Electric Ireland: Online, App, PayPoint, Telephone
- Power NI: Online, App, PayPoint, Post Office, Telephone
- SSE Airtricity: Online, App, PayPoint, Post Office, Telephone
Topping up your Pay as You Go gas meter
You can only buy credit for your gas prepayment meter by bringing your gas card to a PayPoint outlet or to a Post Office. Once you top up your card, you should insert the card into your meter to transfer the credit.
Your meter will shut off temporarily when the credit reaches 15 units. You should consider topping up at this point, or you may run the risk of having no heating or warm water.
Can I switch to a cheaper Pay as You Go energy plan?
All five electricity suppliers in Northern Ireland provide PaYG tariffs and like other energy deals some plans will be cheaper than others. To find the best deal you can compare prepay deals with Power to Switch.
Gas suppliers also provide PaYG deals. For example, if you live in the Greater Belfast area (Phoenix Natural Gas network) then you can choose between Firmus Energy or SSE Airtricity Gas.
With PAYG, of course, there is a risk you could run out of credit at an inconvenient time, such as in the evening or over the weekend.
This risk can be minimised, however, through friendly credit. Suppliers provide friendly credit so that you will continue to be supplied with energy (e.g. £2 credit) until you are able to buy a top up at a more convenient time. The emergency credit is then repaid at the same time as purchasing more credit. This means that if you spent the £2 emergency credit and top up £10, you will have £8 credit remaining on your meter.
Friendly credit is given automatically on:
- Weekdays – if your emergency credit runs out after 4pm, Monday to Thursday, the supply will stay on until 8am the following day.
- Weekends – if your emergency credit runs out after 4pm on a Friday, the supply will stay on until 8am the following Monday.
- Holidays – friendly credit will not run out on any of the following dates and your supply will stay on until 8am the following working day: 1st January, 17th March, 12th July and 25th December.
Remember, the next time you buy electricity, the amount of emergency credit and friendly credit used will be deducted from your balance.
Can I change my meter?
Yes, you can change to a prepay meter from a credit meter or from credit to prepay at any time.
To arrange a change of meter, speak to your current supplier, or your new supplier if you are switching. They will schedule an appointment with NIE Networks (or Gas Network company) to change over the meter. This should usually be free but some suppliers may charge a fee, so confirm if there is any charge with your supplier first.
Finding the best Pay as You Go deal
At ‘Power to Switch’ we compare all Pay as You Go deals and offers across all electricity and gas suppliers to make sure you find the best deal. You can even filter results to show only prepay deals, with or without cashbacks included. Switching is quick, hassle-free and means you keep more money in your pocket. So switch energy suppliers and start saving.