Prepayment meters - are they right for you?

Whether you're a seasoned prepayment user or just getting started with Pay As You Go electricity (and gas) we've got all the information you need to make the most of your prepay meter. From your first few days with one, to what you should do if it develops a fault. So, let's dive in and get you up to speed.

Sun with bill.

What is a prepayment meter?

A prepayment meter is part of a pay-as-you-go system (along with a credit key or card) that allows you to control your energy usage by paying for it in advance. It also helps you stay on top of your energy spending by providing a real-time overview of your consumption (along with how much credit you have left).

There are various prepayment or pay-as-you-go meters, including those for electricity and gas, which we'll focus on.

How do prepayment meters work?

Prepayment meters must be topped up with a payment before you use any energy. This can be an excellent way to manage your energy bills and avoid getting into debt. So how does it work?

  1. You have a prepayment meter installed in your home. This will measure how much energy you use.

  2. You get a prepayment key or card from your energy supplier. This will have a unique code that is linked to your meter.

  3. You top up your card or key from a Payzone, PayPoint or Post Office outlet (more on that later).

  4. When you insert your credited key or card into the meter, your credit is "transferred" and is used to pay for the energy you consume.

  5. Your meter will display your balance. You will see this balance decrease as you use the energy you have paid for.

  6. When your balance is low, you will receive a warning. This is designed to give you time to top up before your balance drops to zero.

What happens after my prepayment meter is installed?

We'll put £30 credit on your meter when we install it, so you have some energy while we get your new top up card or key to you - you'll need to pay this back when you top up. (To avoid being temporarily disconnected, make sure you top up before you've used all your credit.)

Joining us with a prepayment meter?

If you've just moved over, your new gas card will be with you soon. Don't worry about the electricity key, you can keep on using your current one.

Once you've received your new gas card you'll need to register it before you can top it up with any credit. Just pop it in your meter and leave it for two minutes or until it beeps, simple.

Top tip - make sure you use up your credit on your old card before using your new one.

If you do need a new electricity key don't worry, call us on 0808 501 5200.

If you have an outstanding debt, we'll continue taking this at the same rate you agreed with your previous supplier.

How to top up a prepayment meter.

Topping up is a breeze:

  1. You just take your top up card or key to a Payzone, PayPoint or Post Office outlet. You can find your nearest outlet on their respective websites.

  2. Simply give them your key, along with the amount of money you want to top up. The minimum payment is just £1, and you have to top up by full pounds.

  3. They will top you up - and then you're ready to pop your card or key into your meter and add the credit.

If you are one of our Smart Pay As You Go customers, you also have the option to top up online. Smart PAYG combines the flexibility of Pay As You Go with the convenience of a smart meter. Why not find out more about the many advantages of Smart PAYG and see if it's right for you.

If you use prepayment to manage your energy bills, it's important that you keep a close eye on your consumption and payments. For example, you should keep topping up during the summer. Yes, you will probably use less energy, but there is still a standing charge to pay. (This is to pay for things like maintaining the pipes and cables that get the energy to your home).

To cover this, a small amount is debited each day from your balance during the summer months. This means that your credit will slowly be used up even if you are not using any energy (like when you are away, for instance).

What's more, by topping up your balance when you use less energy, you can build up a store of credit that you can use later on. This can help spread some of the cost of your energy use throughout the year. Paying in advance for your energy in this way gives you a buffer and can help with your spending and budget. If you choose to top up a little extra during the summer, you can be

What are the advantages and disadvantages of prepayment meters?

A prepayment meter is a great way to manage your energy costs. But they're not suitable for everyone.

So how can you decide if it's right for you?

Well, here are some of the pros and cons you should consider before deciding.


  • You'll have a better idea of your energy spending. With prepayment meters, you can monitor and manage your energy usage in real-time, so you're in control.

  • You'll have less chance of running up debts. Since you pay in advance, there's less chance of accumulating debts with your energy consumption.

  • What's more, knowing you're in control and have less chance of running up debts means you won't have to worry so much about budgeting for the future, and that can bring you real peace of mind.

Cons :

  • Some people find topping up the prepayment card or key an inconvenience.

  • Falling below credit thresholds can lead to temporary disconnections.

  • However, we want to help you avoid this situation. And we have measures in place to do just that...

Emergency credit .

What happens if you run out of electricity or gas and you can't top up your meter? (Maybe you have no money to hand or it's late at night and all the shops are closed.)

In an emergency, like that you will be credited with £10 worth of gas. Handy for when you are sometimes caught short (as we all are).

There is also an emergency credit for electricity. It's currently £5 but we are updating this to £10, starting with the most vulnerable customers.

We'll contact you with more details about what's going to happen and when the change will be made.

(But for now, it's £5 unless we've told you it's changed.)

You can use the emergency credit for electricity if you've got less than 50p credit. Simply pop your key into the meter and press the blue button.

You can use it for gas if you have less than £2 left. Just put your card into the meter and press the red "A" button.

And remember, you'll need to pay this back what you've used with your next top up.

Emergency credit and smart prepayment.

With a Smart PAYG meter, you get the same emergency credit our regular prepayment customers receive. Furthermore, we won't disconnect you outside of 10am - 4pm, Monday to Friday, as we know shops may not be open for you to top up at these times.

If you're still out of credit when it reaches 10am Monday to Friday, then you will be disconnected.

And remember, next time you top up, you'll need to pay for any emergency credit you use during those times, plus any overdue repayment plan payments and the daily standing charge.

How to handle faults with your prepayment meter.

A problem with your meter can be serious. You want to be able to top up, check your balance and so on in order to manage your energy properly. A problem could stop you doing that. So here's a guide on dealing with potential faults.

For gas meter faults:

If your gas meter displays one of these codes, you need to call us on 0808 501 5200.

  • Call help.

  • Battery fail.

  • Card not accepted, shown as M***** or M----- on your meter display.

  • Blank screen.

  • Card fail 04, 28, 25, 28 shown on your meter display – make sure your card is clean and reinsert the card. If this does not work, call us.

For electricity meter faults:

If your electricity meter displays one of these codes, here's what you need to do:

  • Error A3 - don't worry, this just means you've taken out your key too soon. Pop it back in.

  • Error 10 - Try cleaning your key's chip with a dry cloth. If the message stays, then your key's programmed for a different meter. Please call us on 0808 501 5200.

  • Blank screen - Insert your key and hold the blue button down. If that doesn't work, call us and we'll send someone to take a look.

  • Error number from 6-44, NO, A1, A2, A6, A10, B1-B7, B9, C4, C5, D1-D7, D9, E4, E5 - These different error codes are all caused by a faulty key. Please call us on 0808 501 5200.

  • Reset, token no, or error number 1, 2, 3, 50, 99, A4, A5, A7, A8, A9, C1, E1, E6 - Unfortunately these error codes all mean that your meter is broken. Please call us on 0808 501 5200.

How do I monitor my energy usage on my prepaid meter?

Tracking your energy consumption can help you identify areas where you can save money (and reduce your carbon footprint). Here are a few tips on how to track your energy usage:

  • Prepaid meters have a display that can show you a lot of information. Regularly check the display to understand your daily and monthly energy consumption.

  • Take a note of your meter readings at regular intervals, such as weekly or monthly. This lets you track your usage over time and identify any changes in your consumption.

  • Your meter and/or in-home display provides valuable insights into your overall energy consumption. You should review your bills regularly to understand your usage patterns and spot any areas where you can improve your energy usage.

By regularly tracking your energy consumption, you can better understand how you use energy around your home. This can help you make informed decisions about your energy habits and reduce your costs and environmental impact.

Switch to Smart Pay As You Go.

Prepayment customer? Combine the flexibility of a pay as you go tariff with the convenience of a smart meter. Switching to smart means you can top up by app, online, by phone or at a Post Office.

Learn more about the smart combination.

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Got more questions?

If you've got more questions, have a look at our prepayment FAQs. The chances are we've been asked it before.

Why not head over to our community forum?

Chat with other customers just like you to get some hot tips and the latest news.

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