Payment for gas and electricity in the United Kingdom can be by quarterly billing, monthly direct debit or via a prepayment meter. Quarterly billing can mean getting a shock when your bill arrives, especially if it is after a very cold winter. Getting a prepayment meter means you pay for your gas or electricity in advance. You know exactly how much you are using and you never get another bill. Research in the U.K. by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets concluded that there were an estimated 5.8 million prepayment meters in the U.K., equating to about 14 per cent of electricity consumers and 10 per cent of gas consumers. There are several types of prepayment meters, but they are all similar in design and are simple to use, once you have read the instructions.
Go to an authorised outlet with your charge key or payment card to purchase credit for your prepayment meter. You can do this at most local retail outlets in the U.K. Look for a PayPoint or Pay Zone sign. You can also top up at some post offices.
Hand your charge key or payment card to the retail assistant and tell him how much credit you want to purchase. There is usually a minimum purchase amount, which varies depending on the utility supplier. For example, Scottish Gas has a minimum of £1.
Pay your chosen amount. Get your key or card back. Always obtain a receipt from the PayPoint or Pay Zone outlet. Check that the correct amount is credited.
Insert your charge key or payment card into your prepayment meter. Wait while the meter recognises your card and displays the amount of credit you have purchased.
Check the display to ensure that the credit on your key or card is correct. Press the button on your meter to confirm you want to transfer the credit from your card (the display will tell you which button to press if you have more than one).
Check the display again. It will tell you the total amount of credit available (the amount you transferred from your key or card and the amount that was already available.
Remove your card from the prepayment meter.