Thinking of switching your energy provider? Bitterwallet’s top 5 tips
It is almost September, which means before we know it, it’ll be all cold and dark and the electricity meter will be whizzing round like there’s no tomorrow. And once the children are back at school and the morning rush hour is back to full strength, it’ll be no time at all until Christmas- in fact there are only 116 days and counting until the big day.
So why not start saving money now by switching your gas and electricity bills? A number of companies have recently reported (overly) healthy profits, so now may be a good time to look at liberating some of those profits to top up your own pocket.
But what things do you need to think about? Here are Bitterwallet’s top 5 tips for energy switchers:
1. Check your tariff and usage
This may sound silly, but the first thing to do is to find out what tariff you are on, and whether you are tied in to your current supplier. Tariff and usage details should be shown on your bill, but make sure you get an annual usage level, rather than just using your last bill- as energy usage is seasonal, this could give you a distorted comparison when you compare prices. Some energy suppliers will tie you in for a fixed period of tariff deal- you should have been made aware of this when you signed up, but a quick call to your supplier can check this if you are unsure. This is crucial, as some suppliers could levy an early exit charge of £30 per fuel, meaning a dual fuel switch would need to be at least £60 cheaper to get any benefit from switching now.
2. Compare prices and rates
Of course, once you know you can switch now, you need to know whether you should. There are a number of price comparison sites that will compare your usage and tariff with those available on the market, which is why it is important to get these figures right. If you don’t know or can’t find details of your annual usage, you can normally enter how much you pay as a next best estimate. Note though that if you pay by monthly direct debit, and you have overpaid, your monthly payment will likely overestimate your usage (and vice versa).
You also need to consider whether you want a fixed rate tariff. Some suggest energy prices will rise early next year, in which case fixing would be a good thing, as even prices tied to the standard tariff would rise under those circumstances. However, prices fell earlier this year in line with wholesale gas prices, and those on a fixed rate would have missed out.
TIP: Even if you’re not switching, if you do pay monthly and have a large overpayment at the end of the year (normally energy companies nominate one quarter as a ‘settlement’ quarter) you can request repayment of your money. If you don’t make a request, the energy company would much rather keep your money in their bank account, and will likely do so, or may reduce your monthly payment. However, if you would rather a £400 lump sum than a £35 a month reduction, get on the phone.
3. Maximise switching profit
Once you have explored the different prices out there, maximise your money. In addition to any pay monthly discounts or dual fuel payments you can get by changing your payment method and switching both at the same time, you can also normally get cashback on the switch. Make sure you shop around though, as different cashback providers may have better offers- for example at the moment Topcashback has an exclusive £101 cashback for a dual fuel switch to npower’s standard tariff, while Quidco has a £100 exclusive on the Go Save tariff. You can normally get a better rate of cashback if the provider has it’s own account with a cashback company, but if not, USwitch.com for example can get you £21.21 cashback for a dual fuel switch. Remember to find the best tariff first and then look for the best cashback on that tariff. Do not switch to the tariff with the highest cashback unless it is the cheapest one for you.
4. Customer Service
So, after you’ve done all that, you may find that there are a number of options open to you for switching. How do you decide between them? One way would be to try and find out which supplier gives the best customer service. USwitch comparisons have a customer rating against some of the larger suppliers, or our friends over at Which* have compiled a handy customer service rating table. As you might expect, those with the worst customer service tend to be the larger suppliers who often, although not always, also have the cheapest and widest range of tariffs. However, if customer service is really important to you, you might decide to go for a smaller saving and better service. Assuming Which* know what they are talking about that is.
5. Check the Green credentials
But what if you have decided they are all as bad as each other? Why not see how green they are? After all, green credentials are becoming more important to more people these days.
However, there is a bit of disagreement within the energy industry as to what being a green energy supplier actually means. Ecotricity think that greenness should be measured by pence per pound of profit invested in alternative energy technologies, probably because they are top of their own league. However, other Green companies like Green Energy and Good Energy claim greenness owing to the amount of green (alternative) energy instead of brown (fossil fuel) energy they provide on their grid. Both Green Energy and Good Energy have 100% green energy tariffs, but npower’s Juice tariff currently has the most green UK customers. Green tariffs are unlikely to be the cheapest, however, but again, if it’s important to you, you won’t mind paying for it. Perhaps.
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