Pay As You Go Electricity: Is it more expensive?

Pay as you go cards

Pay As You Go electricity can help you budget your energy costs more easily. It allows you to pay for your electricity before consuming it. Read on to learn how Pay As You Go meters work, find out their pros and cons, and compare prices against more traditional payment methods.

In this article we’ll be talking about traditional Pay As You Go meters. For more information on smart PAYG meters, head to our dedicated Smart Meter Guide.

How does Pay As You Go electricity work?

electricity meter

Pay As You Go (PAYG) electricity meters allow you to pay for your electricity before you use it, much like with prepaid mobile phones. In Ireland, these prepayment meters are topped up with specific electricity cards, with the exception of smart PAYG meters.

With Pay As You Go electricity meters, you only pay for the electricity that you actually use. They meters can be a good option for those who prefer to budget their spending ahead of time.

Your credit will be deducted from the meter as you consume electricity. It's important to make sure you always have credit on your meter. Unless you have emergency credit, your electricity supply could be cut off if you use up your balance.

PAYG is expensive. Find a better energy offer with help from Selectra.Call us and we'll help move you to a cheaper tariff, fast. Call 1800 816 036 or get a free callback now.

Pay As You Go electricity suppliers

In Ireland, most electricity providers do not supply Pay As You Go electricity meters on demand unless the customer requests it and can prove financial hardship. Pay As You Go electricity meters may also be installed as part of a repayment plan to clear customer energy debt.

There are currently just three main Pay As You Go electricity suppliers in Ireland: Electric Ireland, Pinergy, and PrePayPower. These suppliers provide the PAYG meter "free" of charge. “Free” is a bit misleading, as this option results in a higher PAYG service charge in order to recoup the cost.

The two exclusively Pay As You Go electricity suppliers in Ireland, PrePayPower and Pinergy, have achieved 7.06% and 1.9% respective market share of the residential electricity market, a combined 8.96%.

This is impressive (given that both companies are relatively new) and seems to indicate an upward trend for Pay As You Go usage. A few years ago in 2016, their 2016 numbers were 5.81% and 1.07% (6.88% combined).

Energy consumers can also switch to Pay As You Go electricity with Bord Gáis Energy: however, the supplier charges €373 for a normal installation. For customers in financial difficulty, various installation options are available.

BeEnergy, Energia, Just Energy, Panda Power, and SSE airtricity only provide Pay As You Go electricity meters for hardship and arrears cases.

In the table below, you'll find the best Pay As You Go plans in Ireland per supplier.

Cheapest Prepayment Electricity Offer per Supplier
Supplier Best offer Price per year
Electric Ireland €210 Cashback €1,024.73
Pinergy Standard €1,232.43
PrepayPower Standard €1,261.03
Find the best offer for your home. Find the best offer for your home.

*Figures are for illustrative purposes only. Calculations based on average consumption figures for an urban home with a 24-hour standard meter. All discounts and cashback have been applied. Last updated: May 2021

How do I top up my prepaid electricity meter?

Topping up your Pay As You Go electricity meter depends on which energy provider you are with and whether or not you have a smart meter. All smart meters can be topped up via SMS, your energy supplier’s app, your provider’s online portal, or at any Payzone point. Traditional Pay As You Go electricity meters can be topped up online (depending on your provider), in any Payzone outlet, or by text.

If you’re feeling a little confused about how to read your meter and access the different options, have a look at our handy meter reading guide.

If you are supplied by one of the main PAYG energy providers, select your companies' dedicated top-up guide from the list below for provider-specific details.

Prepayment meter problems? Selectra can help!Call us for help resolving your top-up issues quickly and without hassle. Call 1800 816 036 or get a free callback now.

Lost your top up card?

If you’ve lost your electricity top up card, then you’ll need to contact your electricity provider to order a new one. They can also provide you with your keypad number which you can use to top up in the meantime. There is normally a nominal charge of no more than €2 for replacing your electricity PAYG card.

If you lose your Pay As You Go electricity receipt before you top up your meter, you can either call your electricity supplier’s customer services and they can give you the last purchased top up code, or you can go back to where you bought the credit and they will reprint the receipt for you. The minimum top up amount you can make is €10, and the maximum amount is €100.

Helpful hint!Take a photo of the front of your electricity PAYG card as soon as you receive it, or write down the number on it somewhere you can always access such as in your online email account. This is your keypad number, which you can also use to top up your meter should you lose your top up card or misplace it.

Are Pay As You Go electric meters more expensive?

Compare to credit meter tariffs, even the cheapest Pay As You Go electricity offers have some of the most expensive prices.

Not only do you pay standard rates with Pay As You Go electricity, but a Pay As You Go service charge as well. On the other hand, customers with credit meters can benefit from sign-up discounts, online switching discounts, dual-fuel discounts, paperless billing discounts, and Direct Debit discounts.

As you can see from the table below (which compares the best electricity offer per all suppliers), PrePay Power's best offer is the worst deal on the market, just in front of Pinergy. Electric Ireland's Pay As You Go electricity plan comes in third from last just before Pinergy at €1,084.75 per year. Note that the Electric Ireland offer in the table is for its direct debit customers only. The difference in these offers is almost €300 per year!

Cheapest Electricity Offer per Supplier
Supplier Best offer Price per year
Bright Energy Standard €1,031.43
Bord Gáis Energy 36% Discount €854.99
Community Power Standard €1,032.65
Electric Ireland 5.5% Discount
€210 Cashback
Energia 37% Discount
€30 Cashback
Flogas 31% Discount €927.72

26% Discount
€15 Cashback

Iberdrola 18% Discount
€80 Cashback
Panda Power 28%
€100 Cashback
Pinergy Standard €1,332.43
Prepay Power Standard €1,261.03
SSE Airtricity 10% Discount
€200 Cashback
Find the best offer for your home. Find the best offer for your home.

*Figures are for illustrative purposes only. Calculations based on average consumption figures for an urban home with a 24-hour standard meter. All discounts and cashback have been applied. Last updated: May 2021

Should I switch to Pay As You Go electricity?

We advise thinking long and hard before switching to Pay As You Go electricity, as saving money on your energy bills is easier with credit meters. If monitoring your energy usage or savings is your goal, home energy monitors, such as Owl, can be a more economical solution.

Below, we’ve put together some of the pros and cons to help you make your decision.

Selectra can help you save money on your energy bills.Our energy advisers can help you find a better energy offer for your home. Call 1800 816 036 or get a free callback now.

The pros of Pay As You Go electricity

  • It can enable you to reduce your energy usage, to save energy, and reduce your household’s carbon footprint.
  • You can budget your home energy more easily, particularly if you’re on a low or variable income.
  • There is no need to submit estimates.
  • You don’t need to pay large monthly or bimonthly energy bills.
  • No large unexpected energy bills.
  • Eliminates the possibility of billing errors.
  • Emergency credit is available to Pay As You Go customers as a last resort.
  • You can’t be cut off in the evenings, at the weekend, or on certain holidays should your credit run out.
  • If you have built up some debt from unpaid bills it can be a more manageable form of repayment.
  • It’s useful for landlords as they avoid the risk of being left with large bills to pay if a tenant leaves without settling their account.

The cons of Pay As You Go electricity

  • It will cost you money even when you’re not using any energy (for example, if you go on holiday) due to higher standing charges and the PAYG charge.
  • Due to the extra PAYG charge, it’s more expensive than even standard rate tariffs.
  • If you’re not in debt or undergoing financial hardship, switching from a PAYG meter to a traditional credit meter, or vice versa, could incur some hefty charges (from €100-€300).
  • PAYG customers generally don’t have access to the same apps and online portal services as traditional billing customers.
  • If your Pay As You Go electricity plan is updated and any of the charges are changed, you’ll need to manually enter a code (40-60 digits long) instead of being automatically updated (unless you have a smart meter). The code will be given to you when you top up after the price change.
  • If you move to a new house where there is a PAYG meter, you’ll need to reregister it with your details as soon as possible, otherwise you could be paying the wrong tariff (for example if the previous resident had an arrears repayment plan, part of your top up will go to paying off their debt). This is another hassle on top of all the things you need to worry about when moving.
  • If you need to use emergency credit, all standing charges will be suspended and build up as debt that you’ll need to repay on top of the emergency credit next time you top up, making it difficult to calculate how far into the red you might be heading.
  • If you can’t afford to top up, you’ll very quickly be cut off.
  • Outlets to purchase credit might be far enough away to be a hassle to get to - or worse, if your car breaks down or you’re ill.
  • You can’t make use of a level pay plan in order to spread out the higher costs of winter energy bills over the entire year
  • “Free” installation of PAYG meters is not really “free” as it results in a higher PAYG charge, although it is still less expensive overall than choosing to pay up front for the installation.
  • You cannot opt in to PAYG if you or anyone in your household is critically dependent on electrically powered equipment, and it’s generally not recommended for vulnerable consumers(link) or for certain cases regarding customers who need special services.

If you’re still unsure, give us a call at Selectra and we’ll find the cheapest tariff for you, that best suits your needs.

Pay As You Go gas

gas meter

In Ireland, PAYG gas options are not as common as PAYG electricity options. All Pay As You Go gas meters in Ireland are installed by ESB; however, customers can only opt into PAYG Gas for free with PrePayPower.

Bord Gáis and Flogas also provide a PAYG option, but if you don’t have a PAYG meter,(and unless you can prove financial hardship or that you’re in arrears), you’ll need to pay a fee to have one installed. This will cost you around €111.

With all other natural gas suppliers, such as Energia, Panda Power, and SSE Airtricity, you can only opt in to Pay As You Go gas to alleviate financial issues or as part of a repayment scheme.

Credit can be bought for all gas Pay As You Go gas meters at any An Post, Payzone, or PostPoint outlet. If you should lose your top up gas card, replacing it is fairly simple, just head to your nearest An Post office or Payzone outlet and they’ll sort out a replacement for €1. Gas top up cards have a minimum top up amount of €10 and a maximum of €250.

Helpful hint!For first time use or replacement cards, you must insert your new card into your meter and leave it there for about one minute in order to register it with your meter, before attempting to top it up. Your gas PAYG meter will only accept credit from the last card inserted into it.

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