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Paper vs online bill cover

Which is best: a paper or an online bill?

Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of June 18, 2021.

Most energy providers offer tariffs with e-bills rather than paper bills and some are online only. But which is actually better: a paper bill or an online bill? Both have their pros and cons, which we’ll weigh up to come to our final conclusion.

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Are paper and online bills different?

There isn’t much of a difference between online and paper bills – they show the same information in the same format. The only real difference is the way you access them.

Paper bills are printed out and set to you in the post. A lot of suppliers will now make you opt-in to receive paper bills rather than online, however, they still seem to be the most trusted option of the two.

Online bills can either be sent via email or simply to your online account. This is the preferred option for most suppliers as it saves them money in printing and posting – some providers don’t even offer paper billing any more. However, you can still download and print out your bill to have a physical copy without paying extra.

Advantages of paper billing

A lot of customers still prefer paper bills over online bills. Even with the rise of online billing, it still has some great benefits such as:

  • You’re more likely to open it if it comes in the post
  • There’s no need for a computer, smartphone or internet
  • They’re still accessible if you switch providers
  • It’s easier to notice when you haven’t had one
  • They can be used as proof of residence
  • Easier to access

Disadvantages of paper billing

While paper billing has been around for a long time now, there are still a few things they’re yet to improve on, including:

  • They take up space at home
  • They’re more likely to get lost both at home and in the post
  • They’re not environmentally friendly
  • You might be charged extra for them
  • They’re easier for someone else to get hold of, putting you at risk of fraud
  • There are no back-ups

Why am I being charged to receive a paper gas and electricity bill?

As online billing is the preferred way for companies to send your energy bill and, while it may not seem fair, it’s not uncommon for them to charge you for paper bills or give discounts to those who choose paperless billing.

This is usually for the energy provider to cover their printing and postage costs. It also creates an incentive for people to switch to paperless billing to improve their carbon footprint and stop using less paper.

Different providers will charge different amounts and some don’t charge at all, however, it’s estimated that customers who are charged for paper billing will pay around £36 extra per year.

You might also notice that online-only tariffs tend to be cheaper rather than introducing a fee for paper bills. This makes these tariffs look more appealing to customers and means that the business doesn’t lose its reputation by charging a fee – it’s simply part of your tariff instead.

How to switch to paper billing

All of the Big Six and most other providers still offer paper bills alongside the option for online bills, but you might have to opt-in for them.

To switch to a paper energy bill, all you have to do is contact your energy provider, however, most of the time you can also do this through your online account if you have one.

Bear in mind that you might not be able to receive paper bills if you’re on an online-only tariff and could be charged if you want to switch. If you are on an online-only tariff, you just have to download and print out a paper copy at home.

Advantages of online billing

Online billing is massively on the rise at the moment, and so it should. There are so many great benefits it has over paper billing, such as:

  • It’s better for the environment
  • It brings all your bills into one place
  • Sometimes paperless tariffs can be cheaper
  • You can download and print them when you like
  • Bills are received instantly without relying on third parties

Disadvantages of online billing

However, sometimes people are right to be wary of online billing. There are still a few kinks to be worked out, including:

  • They’re easier to forget about or ignore
  • You might miss payments if you pay on receipt of bill
  • It means there are more passwords to remember
  • Your bills are unavailable if you don’t have access to the internet
  • You can’t always look back past a certain number of bills
  • You could lose access to bills if the company goes out of business

Where to find your online energy bill

The majority of the time you can find your latest and past bills through your online account or through the app. Some providers might also send your bills by email to remind you that they’re there and avoid missing payments.

If you view your bill through your online account, you can either leave it there or download and/or print it to keep a spare copy. Many people like to do this as your bills might not be available again if you switch providers or they go out of business.

How to switch to online billing

Sometimes you’re automatically sent online bills rather than paper bills to keep providers’ costs down. However, you can easily switch to online billing by contacting your provider or through your online account.

You can often choose to have both a paper and an online version of your bill but, don’t forget, you might be charged for each paper one you’re sent.

The verdict

Overall, we would suggest that you choose an online bill.

This would help both save money and cut down on paper usage, decreasing the need for deforestation. While sustainable and recycled paper sources are available, you never know whether they’re used or not.

If you are after paper copies, you can always print your bills at home – a stack of paper or even prints from the library probably costs less than what you’d pay to have it sent to you.

If you need some more help...

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This page was written by...

Polly Tyler

I've loved writing since I was a child and have worked on a number of different projects since I left school, including journalism, copywriting, and marketing. Utilty Switchboard has given me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and experience and I've loved every minute!

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