expat life

American Expats: Get to grips with your UK bills

2 Comments 11 April 2012

There are lots of differences between the United Kingdom and the United States. In the UK, people drive on the opposite side of the road, speak of “chips” when they are referring to what you’ve known all your life as fries, and speak with an accent. However, as you’re navigating all of these differences, there’s one that’s even more important because it can have a direct effect on your finances–energy companies.

You’ll be happy to know that there are many similarities between signing up for an energy company in the US and doing the same in the UK. But just to make sure you get your new life in Europe started on the right foot as you compare energy prices, here’s a rundown of the basics.

To begin, the agreed upon amount that you will be charged for electricity or natural gas is commonly referred to as a ‘tariff.’ Energy tariffs vary on which company you choose and the kind of service you sign on for. One of the most popular kinds of tariffs is a dual fuel tariff in which you get your electricity and natural gas from the same company, similar to most US companies. You’ll love the same convenience that you’re used to getting at home, but you’ll also benefit from lower rates for tying your services together.

You will also be relieved to see that you have the opportunity to choose a capped energy tariff, though this is only beneficial in certain situations. If you are worried about rising energy prices, a capped tariff will provide some stability in your financial planning for your household, but these tariffs are generally more expensive than the standard prices offered by the same company. You are also locked into a capped tariff for an expressed amount of time and may be charged a fee if you want to switch tariffs before that time has passed.

Economy tariffs are also a popular option in the UK. An economy tariff is one that offers lower rates for energy used during certain times of the day, usually at night-time. The Economy 7 tariff, for example, cuts the price for energy usage between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m., and the Economy 10 tariff offers lower rates for five hours during the day and five hours at night, during which the price for energy usages is about half of the standard rate. You can save significantly on energy usage with economy tariffs, but you will likely also have a higher charge for the standing fee.

When signing up for an energy company, you should also inquire about discounts for online users. Many times, a company will be willing to give you a lower tariff if you use their Web site for bill paying and customer service issues because it makes servicing your household more convenient for the company.

At the end of the day, you will find that navigating electricity and natural gas services in the UK will offer you more freedom over how much you will pay. Keep this guide handy, and you’ll be speaking like a Brit in no time!

If only I had this information when I first arrived! This post was written for The American Resident by Leo Fisher, for USwitch, a really useful website for discovering the best prices in utility bills–I wasn’t paid to say that, btw! I was, however, paid for publishing this post.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Carole says:

    What a great post Michelle, I’ve added a link back to this on our Facebook page. :)


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