How to pay for energy by cash or cheque

Last updated: 15 October 2020

In this guide you’ll find answers to the following questions:

  • What’s the most common way to pay for my energy using cash or cheque?

  • Which suppliers offer PAYG plans with prepayment meters?

  • Which suppliers allow me to pay my gas and electricity bill by cheque?

  • Does paying by cash or cheque offer good value for money?

  • Should I switch to Direct Debit?

What’s the most common way to pay in cash or cheque for my energy?

The most common type of energy plan that supports cash or cheque payments is the pay-as-you-go tariff, which requires a prepayment meter. Each meter comes with a key that ‘carries’ your credit. Once topped up, just slot the key back into your meter to start using your electricity.

You can top up your key in person at the supermarket, Post Office, or newsagents, so long as PayPoint is available. All locations should accept cash or card, but cheque may be more problematic in some shops. Luckily, the Post Office does accept your gas or electricity bill payment by cheque.

Some keys can also be topped up online or via an app using a debit card, which is obviously easier than having to run to a shop when you find your credit running low.

Which suppliers offer pay-as-you-go plans with prepayment meters?

Most suppliers offer PAYG plans, all of which require energy payment to be made in advance. Here’s a small selection:

SupplierTariff name
British GasSafeguard PAYG
BulbVari-Fair
SSEStandard Pay As You Go
E.ONE.ON Energy Plan with Prepayment
ScottishPowerStandard
UtilitaMultiple prepayment tariffs
Ecotricity Pay As You Go (PAYG)

Which suppliers allow me to pay my gas and electricity bill by cheque?

There are some non-PAYG tariffs that support payment by cheque – these are always quarterly billed plans, but it doesn’t follow that all suppliers support payment of quarterly bills by cheque. Be sure to check with your new supplier that it’s possible to make an electricity bill payment by cheque before you make the switch.

The following suppliers allow you to pay your quarterly energy bill by cheque. These include:

  • British Gas

  • EDF

  • E.ON

  • SSE

  • Scottish Power

  • Npower

  • Octopus Energy

  • Shell Energy

  • Ecotricity

How do I pay my bill by cheque?

You can pay bills with cash or cheque at your local Post Office, or you can send a cheque directly to your supplier in the post.

Cheque and cash payment will be based on a quarterly payment plan – in other words, a plan where you receive a bill every three months that needs to be paid in arrears. This can be useful if you want to see precisely what you have spent (unlike Direct Debits that take payment in advance), giving you an opportunity to quibble your bill – say for incorrect billing – but on the other hand you need to write and send your cheque promptly, so it clears before you get flagged for late payment.

Does paying by cheque or cash offer good value for money?

It’s worth noting that pay-as-you-go gas and electric is rarely the option that offers the best value for money. While it can help you stick to a budget and stop you going into debt if you’ve had trouble keeping up with energy bills, your overall energy costs will probably be higher than they would have been on a fixed-rate tariff.

Similarly, it’s also worth knowing that if you do pay a quarterly bill by cash or cheque, you’ll almost always end up paying more – almost £100 a year according to Ofgem – as suppliers place additional admin fees on these plans to cover the cost of processing your payment.

Should I switch to Direct Debit?

Yes: the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of Direct Debit. Although you lose the ability to pay upfront for your energy, you’ll be able to spread your payments evenly through monthly payments. 

Some providers allow you to vary your monthly payment to match your actual consumption for the previous month. That said, to avoid expensive monthly bills during the winter months, we recommend going with the fixed monthly payment, which is based on your annual consumption and designed to spread the cost so you can budget around a consistent monthly amount.

Direct Debit customers also get the best deals, including fixed-rate tariffs where you know exactly how much each unit of energy will cost you over a set period (typically 12-24 months).

Direct Debit also prevents you from going into debt as suppliers will always take payments proportionate to your use, in fact, sometimes your supplier may even take more, so if you do switch supplier you should ensure you are not owed credit by your current one

Switching is easy: just enter your details into a comparison tool, choose the Direct Debit payment option and see if you can find a better deal for your household. If you don’t want to switch energy company, call your supplier directly to see what offers are available on a new monthly Direct Debit plan.

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Published on Wed 13 Nov 2019 10.50 GMT