Paying for energy by cash or cheque

Pay-as-you-go gas and electric

When it comes to paying your energy bills, it may seem like Direct Debit is the only option, in fact, some tariffs can only be paid by Direct Debit. While alternative means of paying for your energy aren’t always easy to find, they do exist, but if you are certain you want to pay bills with cash or cheque, you may need to switch supplier to a company that accommodates these methods. 

The most common type of plan that supports energy payment via cash or cheque is a pay-as-you-go meter. Each meter comes with a key that ‘carries’ your credit. Take this with you to top up and then slot it into your meter to start using your electricity. You must also be on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariff.

These meters require you to prepay for your energy, which can be done online or via app with a debit card. Alternatively, you can prepay in person at the supermarket, Post Office or newsagents, so long as PayPoint is available. The option of paying at the Post Office is doubly useful for those who want to make a gas or electricity bill payment by cheque, as some shops may not accept cheques.

If you don’t have access to a current account or just prefer to pay bills with cash, then pay-as-you-go gas and electric is an available option. Below are some of the suppliers that have pay-as-you-go meter plans available, all requiring energy payment to be made in advance, allowing you to pay bills with cash by making face-to-face payment at a shop.

British Gas

The UK’s number one energy supplier, British Gas have a PAYG tariff named Safeguard PAYG which allows payment by card online, on the app, over the phone or by cash at the local PayPoint outlet or Post Office.

Utilita

Utilita specialise exclusively in PAYG plans, allowing you to top up your credit online, via app, by SMS or in person at a PayPoint using cash. 

EDF

EDF offers two PAYG tariffs, one of which is the Prepay Total Service. This tariff is set at a fixed price and doesn’t require exit fees, so it could be a great choice for those who want to balance the convenience of paying bills in cash with a rate that won’t fluctuate. Your credit can be topped up at any PayPoint or Post Office.

Bulb

Bulb, which offers 100% renewable electricity in all its plans, also has a PAYG option. Your credit can be topped up at the Post Office or any shop with a PayPoint, and Bulb will also let you switch even if you have up to £500 in debt to your previous supplier.

Ecotricity

Ecotricity, styling itself as Britain’s greenest energy supplier, offers a range of PAYG plans. In order to sign up for its prepaid plans, you must already have a prepayment meter or be in debt. You can pay online or with cash at the nearest Post Office or PayPoint.

Ebico

Ebico is a not-for-profit supplier that specialises in helping people escape and prevent fuel poverty. The PAYG plan is designed to be competitively priced, so that people who have been moved onto a PAYG plan do not find themselves paying significantly more. Credit can be topped up at PayPoint and the Post Office. 

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 have 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.

Gas and electricity bill payment by cheque

While prepayment meters make it possible to pay for your energy by cash, settling a power bill by cheque is not always a possibility. There are some suppliers – including the big six – that permit this, but if your top priority is to make your monthly energy payment by cheque, then you may need to make sacrifices in other areas. In most cases, you’ll need to compromise on the price of the tariff that permits cheque payment. 

Cheque and cash payment will be based on a quarterly payment plan i.e. a plan where you only pay once you have received a bill every three months. On the one hand, this can be useful if you want to see precisely what you have spent (unlike Direct Debits that take payment in advance), so you can argue against incorrect billing etc. On the other, this also leaves a window where you must have your cheque written, sent and cleared before you are flagged for late payment. 

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

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.

Here are some of the suppliers that accept cheque payments for your power bill:

  • British Gas

  • EDF

  • SSE

  • Scottish Power

  • npower

  • Cooperative Energy

  • Shell Energy

  • Ecotricity

  • Green Star Energy

While all energy tariffs that are payable by cheque or cash are quarterly billed plans, not all quarterly billed plans are payable by cash and 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.

Switching to Direct Debit

If you are already paying your bills by cash or cheque but are in a position where you can pay by Direct Debit, then it is recommended that you do so. Suppliers see Direct Debit as a guarantee of monthly payment, and as such, reward this form of payment with the best deals. 

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 ever 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 do not want to switch supplier, call directly and see what offers are available on a new monthly Direct Debit plan.

Bjorn GriffithDec 9th 2019