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Should you get prepay electricity?

If you’re thinking of switching to a prepay electricity deal, we look at the cost, how it works and how to switch. Here’s everything you need to know about pay as you go electric in Ireland.

What is prepay electricity?

Prepay electricity is an alternative to being billed for your energy, and may suit your needs better.

It involves pay-as-you-go (PAYG) electricity that is paid for upfront and spent as it’s being used.

Who provides prepay electricity in Ireland?

Some suppliers specialise in prepay electricity and others offer it alongside more traditional billed energy. You can get prepay energy from these suppliers:

How does prepay electricity work?

Unlike the standard billed method of paying for electricity where payment is usually made bi-monthly or monthly, a PAYG meter requires topping up before energy is used.

Monitor and control what you spend on your energy, and only pay for what you can afford.

Not all prepay electricity costs the same. Unit rates vary amongst suppliers, and to find the best deal, you need to compare the suppliers and plans available.

Is prepay electricity more expensive than billed electricity?

Yes, PAYG electricity is usually more expensive than standard billed electricity but there are some benefits to it, that could outweigh the cost difference, for example:

  • More direct control of your electricity costs
  • No electricity bills, or estimated bills
  • Easy, hassle-free top up service
  • No disconnection or reconnection worries

You’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons for your circumstances, and remember that you can always switch at a later date.

Who is the cheapest prepay electricity supplier?

Below is a table of the cheapest PAYG electricity tariffs available based on the national average consumption.

According to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), the average Irish household uses 4,200 kW/h of electricity a year.

Supplier Plan Name Price  
Electric Ireland Smarter Pay As You Go €1,235 Compare now
PrePay Power Classic Pay €1,261 Compare now
Pinergy Pinergy Smart €1,332 Compare now

You should only use these costs as a guide. If your household’s consumption is higher or lower than the average, the cost will go up or down.

Other costs involved with prepay electricity

As well as the difference in energy unit rates, there are other costs associated with PAYG electricity, for example:

  • Annual standing charge: This is a fixed charge set by your supplier that keeps you connected to the network.
  • Annual prepayment service charges: An annual fixed cost that’s set by the supplier, to keep your meter going.
  • Annual PSO levy: The Public Service Obligation is set by Government so all electricity users must pay the same amount.
  • Meter installation fees: This is the cost of installing a prepayment meter, with some suppliers it’s free.
  • Early exit fee: If you leave before your contract ends, you may be charged either a set fee, a charge for the remaining months on your contract, or a capped amount if lower.

Check you’re happy with the full terms of the contract before signing up for a prepayment service.

What happens if you run out of credit?

If you’re running very low on credit and you can’t top up at that time, you can activate some Emergency Credit. This isn’t free credit, it will simply be taken off the balance of your next top up.

If you’ve used all your emergency credit too before you’ve had chance to top up, you won’t be cut off during Friendly Credit times.

Times vary by supplier, but they all ensure you’re not without electricity in the evening, at weekends or during the main public holidays.

Again, as with Emergency Credit, any Friendly Credit you’ve used will come off your next top up. Your top up will need to cover the negative balance on your meter, as well as the amount of credit that you need.

Try and plan ahead for the credit that you need, as using emergency credit regularly can make it harder to budget for.

How to switch to a new PAYG supplier

Switching energy supplier is a very simple process. It’s good to have a rough idea of your typical energy usage to help you to find the cheapest and best suited PAYG tariffs for your needs.

After you apply to switch tariffs, your existing supplier will be contacted by your new supplier to process your switch.

Your new supplier will handle all aspects of the change over and ensure your electricity supply isn’t cut off.

Which electricity supplier is cheapest in Ireland?

If you’re happy to explore the option of billed electricity as well as PAYG, there are more suppliers to choose from and you stand to make much bigger savings.

At the moment, the average electricity customer can save up to €284 by switching from a standard rate plan to the cheapest deal on the market.

Find out more about comparing electricity prices and cutting your costs in our guide.

Switch and save up to €444 on your energy bills

It only takes a few minutes to find a cheaper deal and start saving

Prepay Electricity FAQs

How do I buy credit to top up my prepay electric?

There are three main ways you can top up your credit with each supplier:

  1. Via the app on your mobile
  2. Local shops displaying a Payzone sign
  3. By phone; a minimum top up may apply

With PrepayPower you can also top up on their website and in shops displaying the PayPoint sign too.

How do I get emergency credit?

If you have run very low on electric and can’t top up right away, you can activate some Emergency Credit on your meter.

This is intended for use until you’re able to top up, when it’ll be taken off your new balance.

How do I read my prepayment electric meter?

You may have to take a meter reading, for example if you’re moving house, or if you want to change from a prepayment meter to billed electricity. Or, you might just want to check your prepay energy rates and prices.

Find out how to read your prepayment meter in our guide: How do I read my electricity meter?

What happens if my emergency credit runs out?

If you’ve used all your emergency credit and still not topped up, at certain times of the day and on certain days, you will still have an electricity supply.

Friendly Credit is available:

  • In the evening
  • At the weekend
  • On a public holiday

Any credit you use during these times will be taken off your next top up balance. Your top up must cover the debt in addition to the credit you need.

Switch and save up to €444 on your energy bills

It only takes a few minutes to find a cheaper deal and start saving