Prepayment meters

How do prepayment meters work?

Instead of receiving bills based on your energy usage, you pay for your energy before using it, by pre-loading energy credit onto your meter.

If you already have a second generation (SMETS2) we should be able to change your current payment mode - most likely direct debit, or pay on receipt of bill - to prepayment. We never change the mode of your meter without letting you know in advance.

If you have a first generation (SMETS1) smart meter then please get in touch to discuss your situation with our team.

With a prepayment smart meter you can top up online, on our app, in store, or over the phone with one of our energy specialists. If you choose to top up in store, you can go to any PayPoint and top up using the barcode on your app, or by reading the cashier your top up number (PAN). We can also send you a card with a barcode at PayPoint vendors if that’s what you prefer.

If you have a traditional meters (that is, one that doesn't communicate readings to us automatically), you’re given a top-up key for electricity, and top-up card for gas, which are loaded with information about your property and energy tariff.

You can use these keys / cards to top up your meter balance at local payment points.

Advantages and disadvantages of smart PAYG


1) You’ll be able to top up from anywhere

Because your meters are smart, you can top up in just a few minutes using your mobile app or online account at any time whether you are at home, at work or on holiday. Online top ups mean you won’t need to make unplanned trips to the shops or find a store that’s open on a bank holiday.

If you prefer topping up in store you can top up at any PayPoint location, or you can also top up by giving us a call. The top up will be sent straight to your meters so if the meter is difficult to access, you won’t need to worry about crawling on your hands and knees or reaching for that ladder.

2) Emergency credit and Friendly credit hours

Unlike traditional prepayment, friendly credit hours apply to gas meters too. Click here to view our hours.

You’ll also have £10 emergency credit available on both meters if you run out of credit. You’ll need to pay back what you use on emergency credit and friendly credit the next time you top up.

3) Navigate prepayment easily with the in home display

Your in-home display will easily allow you to view your daily, weekly, annual consumption, remaining credit, outstanding debt, activate emergency credit and more.

4) Receive low credit alerts

You can opt in to receive a text alert when your meter’s credit balance reaches £2 so that you can top up wherever you are and ensure your supply remains connected.

5) Have greater security and increased support

Smart PAYG meters can be topped up through multiple methods, increasing your security of remaining on supply. If you have any problems, you can always contact us and our team can help you to top up, or get you back on supply remotely. We also offer friendly credit hours for both gas and electric in the evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

6) Manage your bills easily

By paying for your consumption beforehand, you can help prevent building up debt that is unmanageable. It helps you budget as you always know how much you’re spending and it allows freedom to spend as little as you want i.e. £1 top ups are available.

7) Debt repayment is gradual

We can load any debt on your account to your meters, and set the debt recovery rate to anything between £1 per week and £10 per week based on what you think you can afford. That way you can slowly pay back debt without worrying about it.


1) You can end up going off supply

When working out if smart PAYG is right for you, it’s important to consider that there is still the risk that if you let the meters run out of credit, you will lose supply until you have topped up again. If you have any vulnerabilities such as a dependency on electricity for medical support or if you have very young children, prepayment may not be right for you.

2) If you go off supply, you have to manually reset your meter

We’ll remind you when you’re running low on credit but you’ll need to remember to top up at this point to stay on supply. Once you’re off supply, you’ll need to re-arm your supply on the meters or in home display to turn the power back on which can be inconvenient if you’re far away from the property when this happens.

3) You can't spread costs over long periods of time

Credit meters usually work with a fixed direct debit, so in the summer you build up credit to use up in winter. Most people only top up when they’re low on credit, so the odds of saving up money for winter decreases, meaning you’re likely to spend more in winter and less in summer.

Advantages and disadvantages of traditional prepayment


1) Manage your bills easily

By paying for your consumption beforehand, you can help prevent building up debt that is unmanageable. It helps you budget as you always know how much you’re spending and it allows freedom to spend as little as you want i.e. £1 top ups are available.

2) Friendly credit hours (for electricity only)

  • Electricity: Friendly credit 4pm - 10am Monday - Friday, all weekend and Bank Holidays
  • Gas: No friendly credit (find out why here)

3) Emergency credit

We can help you stay on supply if you run out of credit - but you'll need to pay it back when you next top up. Find out more here.


1) Higher tariffs

As traditional prepayment meters cost more to maintain, your energy rates will likely be higher than on a smart PAYG meter.

2) You can end up off supply

If you run out of credit, you can go off supply. There are “friendly credit hours” for electricity meters (generally evenings, overnight, and over the weekends) when your supply will never go off. But outside of these times, if you forget to top up, your home energy will be disconnected.

3) A portion of your debt is deducted from your top ups

If you have debt on your meters, and you top up small amounts or don’t top up regularly in the summer, you’ll be settling more of your debt in the winter when you need the credit more.

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!