Prepaid power is an excellent way of ensuring certainty in your bills and power cost, and helping to avoid debt. But who provides it, and is it really a good option?
The first thing you need to know is you most likely need a smart meter to be eligible for the service. Approximately 80% of NZ households now have smart meters. You also need to be in an area where service providers are offering the option. This one is a little tougher, as with some companies coverage is limited to only a few major cities.
The costs and benefits of prepaid power are pretty simple: paying in advance means you know exactly what you are spending, and it will help you avoid unexpected future costs and surprise bills at the end of the month. However, customers on prepaid plans can’t use any power they haven’t yet paid for, meaning they often can’t utilise discounts or varied pricing plans that are available to post-pay customers.
Be aware: If you depend on electricity for critical medical support, you do not want to run the risk of suddenly losing power due to depleted credit. A responsible energy provider will require you to notify them if your situation changes and you become a medically dependent consumer, in order to discuss alternative service plans.
Globug is the current leader in the prepaid market. Like its peers it has an app to help you track your usage and top up your account, and you can buy top up cards at local dairies just as you would for your phone.
As the biggest and one of the earliest providers of prepay power, they have however received a fair share of criticism about high prices, and prepaid in general, in the past.
Their minimum top up is $20, and they charge a fee for every transaction: 20 cents for internet banking, 40 cents for debit/credit card, and 75 cents in stores
If you are a Mercury customer with a current unpaid account, you can switch over to prepaid and pay off your balance over time with no additional interest incurred.
Contact energy offers prepaid in addition to their normal contracts, but the option is limited to a few areas for now. Their rates are the same as they normally are for any plan you choose, including any prompt payment discount you might be eligible for.
They also have an app to track usage and top up your account, and you can opt-in to text alerts to know when your balance is getting low. Be aware though that they do charge top up fees and reconnection fees if you are disconnected.
WISE Prepay Energy is a small energy retailer that actually specialises in prepaid. They too have an app for easy tracking and top up. Signing up with them doesn’t involve a credit check, or even a contract so there are no hidden costs like fixed terms and cancellation fees.
Wise Top ups are free through internet banking, and incur a $0.40 fee with debit/credit card.
Powershop straddles the line between being a prepaid and postpaid service provider, as they classify themselves as a postpaid electricity provider but they “offer our customers discounted electricity in the form of ‘Powerpacks’ – an excellent way to save money by buying in advance, plus, you won’t lose supply if you do not buy in advance.”
This makes Powershop an interesting middle ground, where you don’t need a modern smart meter, but you get the flexibility of buying in advance and keeping on top of your day to day usage and end of month bills.
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