Can you switch supplier if you’re on a prepayment gas or electricity meter?

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Around four million homes are on a prepayment meter –  where you pay for your gas or electricity in advance, either by a key, token or smartcard. Your energy more expensive than the best deals, but you may be able to switch to a different supplier.

Q. I’m on a prepayment meter for electricity and gas. Can I switch to a different supplier?

A. Yes, you can switch to another gas or electricity supplier if you’re on a prepayment meter for electricity and/or gas, although there are some restrictions. For a start, you can’t switch if you owe more than £500 per fuel on your prepayment meter to your supplier.

Q. I’m on a prepayment meter and in debt. Can I switch to an ordinary meter and pay my bills as I go along?

A. You may be able to ask for your meter to be changed from a prepayment one to an ordinary meter if you’re in debt, if you also change supplier. If you are in debt on your prepayment meter and you want to switch to an ordinary meter so you can pay your bills as you go along, but don’t want to change supplier, your energy company may say no.

There’s no guarantee that you will get a standard meter if you switch to a new supplier, although it is worth asking. Some will insist that you have been with them for a certain time before you can get an ordinary meter, others will ask you to sign up to a contract of a certain length of time. Either way, you are likely to be credit checked.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re going to switch to a new supplier so you can have an ordinary meter, ask them whether there’s a cost for taking out your prepayment meter and fitting a standard meter. It could cost between £60 and £100, although not all suppliers charge.

Q. Can I get a fixed rate tariff on a prepayment meter?

A. Not all of the energy companies may let you switch to a fixed price tariff. Check before you switch.

Q. Can I switch to any energy company if I have a prepayment meter?

A. No. Some of the smaller, independent energy companies don’t take prepayment meter customers. Co-operative Energy and Good Energy will let you pay with a prepayment meter, but not all others will.

Q. How do I find the best tariff if I’m on a prepayment meter?

A. You can use one of the online price comparison sites. You just have to select the ‘prepayment meter’ option when you’re asked how you pay your bills.

Q. How long will it take to switch supplier with a prepayment meter?

A. It shouldn’t take any longer than it takes someone who has an ordinary meter, but at the moment the process isn’t particularly speedy, taking around six weeks.

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