Prepayment meters

A prepayment or prepaid meter allows you to pay for your gas and electricity in advance using a key or a card.

How to use a prepayment meter

You may be given a prepayment meter if you have existing debt with your energy company and they want you to pay back the debt. You may also be given one if you fail a credit check or don’t have a good enough credit record to get an ordinary meter.

Electricity prepayment meters are usually installed inside the property, gas meters can be found inside or outside the property.

A prepayment meter will have a place to insert a key or card which tops up the meter with credit.

You can top up at the Post Office or any local shop or garage which displays the Payzone or PayPoint logo :

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Find the location of your nearest top-up point:

If you have a smart prepayment meter, you may be able to top up online or through an app.

When you move in

Your landlord or letting agent gives you the top up card or keys when you move in. If you don’t get one, phone your supplier.

Call the energy supplier to let them know you are a new tenant. They will update their records and make sure that you are on the correct rate.

Contact the energy supplier if there is debt left on the meter from a previous tenant. They will issue you with a new key and start your new account.

Forced to have a prepayment meter

Your utility company might force you to have a prepayment meter installed as a way of paying back debt if you owe them money or have trouble budgeting. They program the meter to deduct a portion of your credit when you top up, to pay off the debt.

You can refuse to have a prepayment meter installed if you can show it wouldn’t be safe or practical for you to have one. For example, if you have a disability and the prepayment meter would be difficult to reach or if there are no shops to top up the meter near your home.

If you don’t have a good reason and you refuse to allow the supplier to install the meter, they can get a warrant to enter your home and install a meter. They can charge you up to £150 to do this.

Lost energy key or card

Contact your supplier for a new card if you lose yours. They activate a temporary key or card which you can pick up from a local Pay Point, Pay Zone or Post Office.

Energy providers issue a replacement card or key free of charge. They may charge if you lose it a second time.

Emergency credit

Emergency credit allows you time to top up your key or card. It is either activated automatically or you must manually activate it when you run out of credit.

The amount of emergency credit differs between suppliers but usually lasts for at least a day, giving you time to recharge your key.

You pay the emergency credit off the next time you top up.

Cost of having a prepayment meter

Prepayment meters are normally more expensive than standard credit meters.

You have the right to switch supplier if you owe less than £500 to your current supplier.

Shop around for the best deals. Three of the biggest price comparison websites are:

Removing a prepayment meter

You need to get the landlord’s permission to have a prepayment meter removed.

You may have to pay for the meter to be reinstalled at the end of your tenancy, if the landlord wants the property to be returned in the state that you moved in to it.

Problems paying fuel bills

If you have problems with fuel bills or debt you can get free, confidential, face-to-face help from specialist Shelter Cymru debt advisers at several locations in Wales. Click here to find details of the debt advice surgeries nearest to you.

You can also contact the Energy Saving Trust.

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

Phone an adviser

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This page was last updated on: November 27, 2018

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.