Prepayment Meter Guide: What Is a PAYG Meter?

Prepayment Meter Guide

What’s in this guide?


Prepayment meters are a type of residential meter that allows customers to pay for their energy before they use it.

Around 5.9 million households currently use a prepayment meter, so if this applies to you or you are considering a prepay method, this is everything you need to know about the deals available as well as how to switch to a credit meter.

Sometimes, people are put on prepayment meters to manage arrears if you’re in debt.

Let’s take a closer look at the details and see if this option is right for you.

What is a prepayment meter?

With a prepayment meter, like a pay as you go mobile phone, you top up your energy before using it with a top-up card, key or some suppliers allow you to prepay online or with an app like Powershop.

Your ‘credit’ which you purchase then decreases as you use your energy, so the more power that you use, the quicker you will run out of your credit.

If you run out, your power will be shut off unless you are with a supplier that offers emergency credit.

You can also switch credit from your electricity meter to your gas meter or vice versa in emergencies.

A top up of £10 would only last four days, assuming that you use the average of around £2.44 a day.

This is why forced prepayment tariffs are not the first option that your supplier will want to take, as they are far more costly than the fixed or variable rate tariffs from the same company.

According to reports, the cheapest prepayment tariff would still be more expensive than the cheapest fixed rate tariff.

Cheapest Prepayment Deals

Supplier Plan name Price
Bulb Vari-Fair BETA £976
EDF Blue+Fixed Prepay September 2019 £1070
Boost Traditional PAYG £1083
Boost Smart PAYG energy (all Online) £1083
SSE Standard Pay As You Go £1087
British Gas Safeguard PAYG £1135
EON E.ON Energy Plan with Prepayment £1135
EDF Standard (Variable) Prepayment £1135
Npower Prepayment £1135
Scottish Power Standard. £1135

Company comparison with customer ratings

Supplier Trustpilot Reviews Positive Reviews
Bulb ★★★★★ 92%
EDF 30%
Boost ★★★★ 52%
SSE 10%
British Gas 37%
EON 4%
Npower 3%
Scottish Power 2%

According to these tables, the best available supplier for prepayment meters is Bulb Energy.

For a quick look at the company and their tariff, see the information below.


Bulb Logo


Bulb is one of the highest rated energy suppliers in the UK, enjoying a 5-star excellent rating on Trustpilot.

They only offer one tariff, to set themselves apart from the confusing sea of suppliers each with many different tariffs to choose from.

Bulb is a young company having only launched in 2015 and says they want a more open energy company.

✔Variable tariff means prices increase and decrease with the market
✔You can switch at any time without penalty
✔No fixed term contracts
✔Very positive rating on Trustpilot

Prepayment Meter Pros

✔You control when you pay for your energy and how much you pay for
✔You can switch suppliers
✔Prices are becoming more competitive
✔Helps customers manage their debts
✔Avoid large, unexpected bills

Prepayment Meter Cons

✗Far more expensive than fixed or variable tariffs
✗You’ll pay more when you use more
✗Your power will be shut off if you don’t top up
✗If you have to buy a top-up key or card, it can be inconvenient
✗Older meters have to be updated manually, potentially meaning you pay too much

Prepayment meter FAQ

Are prepayment meters more expensive?

Unfortunately, prepayment meters are often far more expensive than standard credit meters, as the cost of your energy per unit is going to be higher.

That means that you would be paying more for your monthly energy than someone else who uses the same amount but has a credit meter.

This is why prepayment meters are often regarded as a last resort, and while they can help you get out of debt with your energy company, you should probably try and get back to a credit meter as soon as possible.

Can I still switch suppliers in debt?

Yes, as long as your debt is under £500, you should be able to switch.

How do I top up?

You can top up at a Paypoint, Payzone or Post Office and add it to your meter.

Some suppliers will allow you to top up online or via an app.

How does the meter collect the debt?

If you use a prepayment meter to help you repay a debt, it will be collected from the credit you use to top up every week at the agreed rate with your energy supplier.

What happens if I forget to top up?

Unfortunately, with some suppliers in the instance that you forget to top up, you will lose all of your power.

However, some suppliers have ’emergency credit’ which will keep your power going until you manage to get a top up.

This is usually for only a few hours, so it is essential to keep an eye on your meter.

Can I switch to a credit meter?

As long as you don’t have any debt, you should be able to switch to a credit meter.

You will have to discuss this with your supplier as it does depend on a few factors.


Are you on a prepayment tariff? Are you interested in seeing which tariffs are available to you?

Take a look at the EnergySeek guides to find out more about your energy, or see reviews of the top 7 energy switching sites to compare gas & electricity.