30 Aug 2018

How to manage your bills

Illustration of a book

Here’s some handy guidance to help you stay on top of payments and get the best deal.

Setting up utility accounts

There will usually be running water and energy when you move in, so no worries about spending your first night parched and in the dark!

You’ll automatically be put on a ‘deemed contract’ with the property’s current suppliers. This is normally a more expensive option, so you may want to arrange a new deal or change suppliers quickly.

Take meter readings as soon as you move in (or get the existing supplier to send someone over). Send the readings to the supplier to ensure you don’t pay for anything you didn’t use.

Paying your bills

Credit vs prepayment

Firstly, it’s important to understand that utility contracts (or ‘tariffs’) are a form of credit. This means you can use the service now and pay for it later.

You’ll typically pay bills every month or quarter. And the amount you’re billed can change depending on how much you use, although some utilities may charge a flat fee.

Some households have a prepayment meter instead. This is essentially a pay-as-you-go arrangement: you can add money to prepayment meters using a key or card, at newsagents, post offices or online.

It’s commonly used by people who can’t get a tariff due to a low credit score, and it’s usually more expensive than a credit meter. You can switch from a prepayment meter to a credit one, but you might have to pay.

How to pay utilities

You can choose to pay your bills in several ways:

Setting up a Direct Debit means you can pay your bills automatically from your bank account. This can help you avoid missed payments – just make sure you have enough money in your account. If you use Monzo, we’ll show you tomorrow’s Direct Debits to help you prepare.

Paying online, by phone or post can give you more control over your bills, but you’ll need to remember to do it regularly. If you’re paying by post, you’ll usually need to send a cheque five working days before the deadline.

Staying on top of your bills

It’s important to keep on top of your bills so you know how much money’s coming out. Plus, missing a payment can lead to fines, a lower credit score and even legal action.

Here are our top tips for staying in the black:

  • Put payment deadlines in your calendar
  • Create a budget. If you have a Monzo account, we’ll predict your committed spending for the month ahead so you know how much you need to set aside
  • Put money aside for bills (or do it automatically with pots)
  • Keep an eye on your usage so you know what to expect from your next bill
  • Expect higher energy bills during the winter
  • If you can’t pay your bills, talk to your suppliers as soon as possible
  • Respond promptly to any letters, emails or other communications from your suppliers
  • Tell your supplier how to contact you if you move or go away for a long period

Saving money on your bills

Small changes to your monthly bills can really add up over time. So it’s worth finding the right deal and keeping an eye on your usage.

Energy

You can choose to get your gas and electricity from the same supplier, or two different ones.

Using the same supplier for both is sometimes called a ‘dual fuel’ tariff. It can be convenient because you only need to deal with one company, pay one bill, and you’ll usually get a discount.

But remember to shop around because the discount might not always be bigger than the savings you might make by using two separate suppliers.

Use a comparison website to compare energy offers side by side. Make sure you understand the features of each deal, and think carefully about how you use energy. For example, a multi-rate tariff can be perfect for night owls who use less energy during the day.

You’ll also need to choose between a fixed tariff and a variable tariff.

On a fixed tariff, the cost per unit won’t change, meaning you’re protected from energy price rises. (Remember, your bill can still vary depending on your usage.) You’ll usually be locked into a 12-month contract – you can leave early, but there’s typically a fee.

A variable tariff lets you switch at any time with no charge. This gives you flexibility, but it’s often a more expensive option.

Make sure to check when your fixed tariff will end, because once it does you’ll usually be moved onto a more expensive variable one. Find out when your tariff ends by checking your bill or getting in touch with your provider.

If you use Monzo, we’ll tell you when a regular Direct Debit changes so you’re aware if your bill has gone up.

Broadband

Broadband packages often include internet, a landline line and even TV. You can choose separate suppliers for these services, but it’s normally cheaper and easier to combine them under one plan.

As with energy bills, it’s worth using a comparison site to understand your options. You could also try haggling with the provider, especially at the end of a contract.

Water

There’s no need to shop around for the best water supplier, as each local area has only one. But you can choose between using a rate or a meter.

If you’re on a water rate, the amount you pay won’t change – no matter how much water you use. The rate depends on the size and build of your home. Typically, you’ll pay around £405 per year in England and Wales, or £363 in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the cost of your water is covered by the domestic rates you pay.

With a water meter, you pay only for what you use. This can save you money if you’re water conscious, but could get expensive if you love a soak in the bathtub. Getting a water meter installed is free in England or Wales, or about £300 in Scotland.

Closing utility accounts

Get in touch with your provider directly to close a utility account. Give them at least 48-hours notice if you’re moving home. Take a final meter reading before you leave too – you don’t want to end up paying for the next tenant!

Your supplier may ask if you want to use them at your new home, but you can always haggle or shop around first.

Once you’ve paid the final bill and closed your account, you may want to cancel any Direct Debits for peace of mind.

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