Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of July 26, 2021.
If you’ve just had a prepayment gas or electricity meter installed, you might have a few questions. Find out how your meter works, how to top up, and the benefits of having a prepayment meter in your home.
- What is a prepayment meter?
- Topping up your electricity meter
- Topping up your gas meter
- Topping up your smart meter
- Advantages of a prepayment meter
- How do you know when to top up?
- What to do if your top up hasn’t gone onto your meter
- How to get a new key or card
- If you can’t afford to top up
What is a prepayment meter?
A prepayment meter lets you pay for your gas and electricity before you use it. It’s often compared to a pay-as-you-go phone as you top up your electricity key or gas card in order to receive energy in your home.
When you top up, energy is credited to your account and your meter will only use this until it runs out. It’s important to top your meter up regularly to avoid getting into debt or losing energy supply.
Top up your electricity meter
You’ll be given a key to top up your electricity meter which you’ll have to activate before you can use it. All you have to do to activate it is put it in your meter and leave it for at least a minute.
When your key is activated, you can top it up at either the Post Office or a shop which offers PayPoint or Payzone. Some electricity providers only use PayPoint and some only use Payzone, so it’s important to check before you go to top up.
To top up, take your key to the till and tell the cashier how much you’d like to pay. They’ll put your key into a reader to top up your key. You normally have to top up a minimum of £5, and it has to be in whole pounds. While you can only top up a maximum of £50 at a time, most electricity meters can hold up to around £250.
When you’ve topped up, the only thing left to do is to put your key back in your meter to transfer your credit over.
Top up your gas meter
For your prepayment gas meter, you’ll be given a card to top up with. You can activate this card by slotting it into your meter for a minute. This will register your new card to the meter so you can start topping up and using your gas.
Once your card is set up, you can visit your local PayPoint, Payzone, or Post Office to top up. Where you can top up depends on your gas provider, however, most of them work with all 3 locations.
Take your card to the till and tell them how much you’d like to top up your card. You can top up from as little as £1 up to £49 each time, but prepayment gas meters normally hold up to around £250. Your cashier will put your card into a reader to transfer your credit to the card.
Before you transfer the credit to your meter, you should make sure all of your gas appliances (for example, your oven) are turned off. Your meter should prompt you to make sure. Once everything’s switched off, slot your card into the meter and press and hold the red ‘A’ button.
Top up smart meter
Topping up a smart prepayment meter is a lot easier than a traditional one. While you can still top up at a Payzone or PayPoint, a smart meter top up can be done in various other ways.
If you have an online account with your provider, you can use that to top up. You can normally register for an account quickly and easily, setting up a username and password to access different insights into your account. To top up, you’ll also need your smart top up card and payment card.
Some providers let you top up a smart meter through their app, including:
Automatic meter readings!
Did you know that with a smart meter you’ll never have to submit a meter reading again! 100% accurate bills, all the time. Give us a call to find out more about automatic meter readings.
Advantages of a prepayment meter
Although prepayment meters tend to be the most expensive option, almost 6 million households across the UK have a prepayment meter, so they can’t be all bad.
- You’re in control of how much you pay and when
- You’ll never pay for more energy than you’re using
- They help you set and stick to energy budgets
- It prevents large, unexpected bills
- It helps avoid going into debt with your energy provider
- If you have fallen into debt, it allows you to pay your debts easily over a longer period of time (although you’ll have to top up extra each time to cover it)
- You can still switch providers easily (however, you might have a limited number of tariffs to choose from)
- They have a no-disconnect mode, so even if you run out of credit, your energy supply won’t be cut off. This is activated at certain times of the day when it’s the most inconvenient to run out of energy and you can’t get to a shop to top up
- Emergency credit is available if you run out of credit until you can top up
How do I know when to top up?
If you start running low on credit, your prepayment meter should make a noise to alert you and remind you to top up. However, the best way to find out when to top up is to check your credit regularly. You don’t need your key or card in the meter to see this, it should be easily accessible on the screen.
If you have a smart prepayment meter, you can see on your in-home display how much credit you have left without having to look at your meter. Keeping this in a prominent place lets you keep an eye on how much you have and how much you’re using.
With some smart prepayment apps, you can set an auto top-up to top up a certain amount automatically or set up alerts when you’re low on credit to make sure you don’t run out or forget.
I’ve topped up my key/card but it hasn’t gone onto my meter
There are a few reasons why this might have happened. There might be something wrong with your key or card. Sometimes, it’s just a bit dusty or dirty and needs a bit of a wipe down before you put it back in. If this doesn’t work, there might be a fault with your key or card and you should contact your energy provider to get a replacement.
There should be a code on your top-up receipt somewhere. You can use this code to manually transfer the top up to your meter using the keypad.
There might have been a problem loading the credit. If this has happened, it will say ‘credit failed’ on your receipt. All you have to do is take it back to where you topped up and they’ll reload it up correctly.
If you’ve used emergency credit or gone into debt with your provider, this debt will be taken out of your top up so some of what you’ve paid might not go towards your gas or electricity. Your energy provider will still leave you with some money from your top up for energy, but your debt will be taken automatically from all of your top ups until it’s paid off in full.
How to get a new key or card
If you’ve lost or damaged your key or card, it’s easy to get a replacement. Simply get in contact with your provider and they’ll either send you one in the post or give you a reference number so you can pick one up from your local PayPoint or Payzone.
Bear in mind, you might have to pay extra for a replacement, so have a good look before you ask for one!
What if I can’t afford to top up?
If you’re running low and can’t afford to top up, your meter will let you use emergency credit. This is normally around £5 and you can activate it when your meter makes the ‘low credit’ noise.
All you have to do to activate your emergency credit is take your key/card out of the meter and put it back in again.
The emergency credit will be taken from your next top up, so make sure you put on enough to cover it next time. Even if you’re paying back your emergency credit, your provider will usually let you use at least 30% of your top up for energy and you can keep paying it back over a few payments.