Cut out these simple errors and you’ll find switching and fixing energy even easier.
I know you lot are a savvy bunch. And that means you already know switching and fixing energy can save you hundreds of pounds. So for this article, I’m going to assume you’re one of the 43% of households already on a cheaper fixed deal (well done!). But this doesn’t mean you can switch off.
Whether you’ve just fixed or did it a year (or more) ago, it’s easy to get a few things not quite right – and regret it afterwards.
Avoiding these errors can save you cash or cut the time you spend switching. Some of these I’ve been guilty of myself – and I’ve learnt my lesson! Others I’ve seen friends and family get in a mess over. Hopefully, by reading this you can avoid them altogether.
1. Not switching again when a fixed deal ends
I was filming with a couple last year who were pretty savvy. They’d fixed their energy bill, and were saving a few hundred quid a year. But when I asked when the deal ended they had no idea. It was actually less than two months away.
That might seem like plenty of time, and it is, but only if you’ve got some kind of reminder to check again.
Put a note in your diary or on your phone for around six weeks before your contract ends as this is when you can leave a deal early and not get charged exit fees. Most switches take 17 to 21 days, so make sure it’s done by then to avoid slipping onto the expensive variable deal for a few days.
2. Comparing energy too early and too often
At the other end of the scale, you can compare and switch too early. This is a little complicated but bear with me.
Most comparison sites will give tell you what you’ll pay over the next 12 months. This could be a mix of your current fixed deal and the more expensive standard rate when the deal finishes.
But if you were to switch when your deal ends, you’ll never pay the higher variable rate. This means the whole comparison is skewed and could suggest you’d save more than you actually will. It could easily cost you more money if prices have shot up.
I use Martin Lewis’ Cheap Energy Club rather than any other comparison site as you can choose how your energy is compared. I’ve explained it in more detail in the blog on the link below.
3. Spending too long on the comparison
You can spend too long looking for the best deal – an energy comparison should take just 10 minutes, 20 at a push.
As long as you’ve got bills with how much gas and electricity you’ve used in the last year there’s no point obsessing over the different prices per kilowatt. Most of us are never going to understand how it all adds up.
4. Ignoring customer service reviews
Since the gas and electricity you get through your pipes and wires is exactly the same whoever you buy from, it makes no difference who you buy from. But the quality of customer service can vary wildly.
My experience with NPower was so bad there’s zero chance I’ll ever get my energy from them again. Even if they were £50 a year cheaper I’d go for the next best bet – as long as they don’t also have shocking reviews.
5. Sticking to the big six energy companies
There are now so many energy companies that you don’t have to stay with British Gas, EDF, NPower, Eon, Scottish Power and SSE.
The newer companies are often really competitive on price, and your supply is always protected if they go bust (as happened last year with GB Energy). The only thing to bear in mind is customer service.
I’m not saying always go for one of these. I chose EDF over a smaller company, even though it was a couple of quid more, but don’t dismiss them out of hand.
6. Missing out on cashback
Always see if you can get a little more off your bill through cashback. Cheap Energy Club usually offer this, and don’t forget to look at Quidco and TopCashback.
You can sometimes even get cashback if you change to a new deal with the same company!
7. Misunderstanding how much you’ll pay
When you use a comparison site, the price that comes up is estimated based on your energy use in the last 12 months. So if you use more energy in the next year, you’ll pay more than the estimate.
Likewise, Direct Debits are based on an estimate, so they could lead to underpayment or overpayment. If you’re worried about this, give regular meter readings.
8. Not checking your final energy bill
Finally, when you move from one supplier to the other, there’s a good chance you’ve paid too much (but only if your Direct Debits were too high).
However, that money won’t necessarily be automatically paid back to you. I’ve had to call up and claim this once the final bill has been settled – often not made easy if your account has been closed.
Of course, there’s also a chance you’ve been underpaying and might have to pay a lump sum. Fortunately when this happened to me last year I had the savings available to pay it.