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Saving money and increasing income

Can I switch utility suppliers?

Utility bills such as gas and electric are some of the most important bills you need to deal with. A good way of keeping them low is to make regular checks that you’re getting the best deal from your energy supplier.

Switching utilities is part and parcel of good budgeting. There are many price comparison websites that can help you switch providers, and we'd recommend using one that has the Ofgem confidence code. Sites that show this logo offer ‘whole of market’ comparisons, so you can be confident you’re being offered unbiased and impartial comparisons.

Is utility switching right for you?

People save money every year by shopping around for the best energy prices but there are a few things you should think about before you switch.

Are you on a fixed term contract?

Most suppliers charge an exit fee if you leave a fixed term contract early. If you have to pay an exit fee make sure it’s less than the amount you’re going to save when you switch. An Ofgem confidence code accredited price comparison site can tell you if you're better off leaving your current supplier and paying the exit fee. You can find information on accredited price comparison sites on the Ofgem website.

Are you living in a rented property?

Some tenancy agreements state that you can’t change utility supplier. However this is an unfair contract term and a landlord can’t stop you from changing supplier.

Your landlord also can't take money from your deposit if you change suppliers, except for small administrative costs to change the supplier back. These costs must be agreed beforehand and shown in the tenancy agreement.

These rules only apply when switching providers, but your deposit could be affected if you've changed from a normal meter to a pre-payment meter without permission.

Do you have a prepaid meter?

If you've got a pre-payment meter you can still switch energy suppliers and transfer debts of up to £500. You’ll have to carry on using the prepayment meter with your new supplier at least until any arrears are paid off.

Can you get a better deal from your current supplier?

If you stay with your current provider, there are other ways you could save money. Most companies offer a discount for paying by direct debit. Or if you have gas and electricity from the same supplier, you could get a dual-fuel discount. Contact your supplier to see if that’s available to you.

Can I switch utility supplier if I have arrears?

If you’re in debt to your gas or electricity provider you can still switch to a different provider, except when:

  • you have arrears of more than £500 still outstanding on a pre-payment meter
  • you have arrears that have been outstanding for over 28 days on a normal meter

There are some exceptions to these rules, for example situations where your arrears were the fault of the supplier. Check with your supplier to find out more.

Other ways to save money on electric and gas bills

Apply for a Warm Home Discount

You may be eligible for a rebate on your utility bills. One way to find out is to visit gov.uk and apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme. By applying, you could get money off your electricity bill during the winter.

While you don't receive the discount as a payment, the amount can be deducted from your electricity bill, usually between September and March.

You may qualify for the discount if all of the following apply (2015 criteria):

  • your electricity supplier was enrolled in the scheme
  • your name (or your partner’s) was listed on the bill
  • you received the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if you get Savings Credit as well)

If you don't meet this criteria you may be able to apply directly to your electricity supplier for help if:

  • you’re on a low income
  • you get certain means-tested benefits

Check with your supplier to see if you’re eligible.

Utility switching in Northern Ireland

Energy comparison sites in the UK won't work if you live in Northern Ireland.

To compare electricity and gas tariffs you'll need to visit the Consumer Council website.

Apply for free home insulation

British Gas offer free loft and wall cavity insulation to households across the UK. This is being done as part of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme set out by the government.

Insulating your home can save you over £100 every year, as it prevents heat escaping through the loft and wall cavities. If less heat is escaping, you may find that you don't need to use your heating appliances as much, which could save more money. Read our free home insulation article on our MoneyAware blog for more information.

I don't know how to manage my budget! What can I do? 

If you’re struggling to manage your budget we offer free debt advice and a personal action plan to help you get your finances back on track.

Helping you become debt free...

“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

*This is the average rating of our service based on the StepChange reviews on Feefo by DMP and DRO clients three months into their solution.

© StepChange Debt Charity 2018