Prepay electricity is a pay-as-you-go method of paying for electricity usage, designed to give customers more control over their electricity consumption and spending. With prepay electricity, customers can top-up electricity credit on a home meter and only pay for the electricity that they actually use.
How does prepay electricity work?
1. Your supplier installs a pay-as-you-go meter in your home
Once you opt for prepay electricity, your supplier will arrange for a pay-as-you-go meter to be installed in your house. This usually takes less than an hour and is free with Pinergy and PrePayPower, each of which specialise in pay-as-you-go metering.
2. You add credit to your meter
Your supplier will give you a prepayment card and some free electricity credit to get you up and running, but you’ll be responsible for topping up your meter yourself pretty soon after installation.
Thankfully, this is very straightforward. You can buy credit online through your supplier’s website, over the phone or at a Paypoint or Payzone outlet. You’ll need your prepayment card to do this so keep it safe!
Once you’ve bought your credit, you’ll be given a 20-digit Power Code, which you'll enter into your pay-as-you-go meter to add the credit.
If electricity unit prices change, you will be issued with a one-off 40- or 60-digit Power Code, which will update your system to the new rates once entered.
3. You only pay for what you use
Your credit will be eaten up as you use electricity and, once you’re down to your last few euro (€1 with PrePayPower, €5 with SSE Airtricity), your meter will beep for two minutes to let you know.
You can then opt for some ‘emergency’ credit to keep you going until you have a chance to top-up properly, so you don't have to worry about your electricity being unexpectedly cut off. Phew!
If your ‘emergency’ credit runs out late in the evening, over the weekend or on a Bank Holiday, when it might be difficult to head out to a Payzone outlet or jump online to top-up, you can opt for some ‘friendly’ credit. This extra few euro should get you through to the next working day, when you can top-up again.
‘Emergency’ and ‘friendly’ credit will be taken out of your following credit purchase.
If you decline ‘emergency’ and ‘friendly’ credit, your electricity will stop working once your credit runs out. If this happens, all you have to do is add more credit to get up and running again.
What are the advantages of prepay electricity?
1. It helps you to budget more accurately
With a pay-as-you-go meter, you’ll be able to monitor exactly what you’re spending in real time.
This brings peace-of-mind, eliminates the fear of getting a shock bill (which are a regular occurrence during winter months) and helps you to see which appliances use the most electricity. This visibility of your usage and spending can really help with budgeting.
2. No more bills
Your supplier will send you a yearly statement, detailing what you spent and when. But apart from this, you won’t receive any paper bills.
If you decide to get a pay-as-you-go meter, your supplier will basically get out of the way and give you control of your own electricity consumption and spending. You will only pay for what you use, and it’ll be up to you to choose how and when you pay.
How much does prepay electricity cost?
If you take advantage of the increased control over your usage, you should end up paying less for your electricity. If you don’t, you’ll probably pay more.
Most suppliers will install your meter for free, but you have to pay an ongoing service charge to keep your meter running. Added on top of standard rates, this makes pay-as-you-electricity pretty pricey.
However, with the visibility you get over your consumption and which appliances are costing the most, you should be in a position to reduce the amount you’re using and make good savings that way.
If you’re wondering whether or not prepay electricity is right for you, visit our Compare Natural Gas and Electricity Prices page to see how all of your options stack up.