Do you need to overhaul your utilities?

It’s always good to stay agile when it comes to money and one good way to do this is to make sure that your essential costs are as low as they can be. You can’t escape paying utility bills, so you need to get the cheapest deals possible so that you’re not paying more than you need to.

There can be a lot of confusion over switching providers and this can discourage consumers from going through the process. It’s actually quite simple, especially if you have a roadmap and you know your efforts will be rewarded by some tasty savings.

Switching providers in ten steps

Review your current plan, including any exit fees

Look at your last two or three bills to get a good idea of what you’re already paying each year and whether you’ll have to pay a break or exit fee to leave your deal.

Work out how much energy you use

If you use significantly more energy – or, indeed, less – than average then this will help you to identify the best deals for you.

Look at the deals available in your area

Use a comparison site to search for the best deals in your area. Look at the value overall, any discounts for new sign–ups, perks or loyalty rewards.

Choose the ideal new provider

Spend some time comparing to make sure you’ve got the best possible deal and then select it. The new provider will do the rest, including breaking up with your old provider for you…

Be ready for your old provider to sweet talk you

Your old provider may well contact you to offer a better deal and it could actually work out well, so keep an open mind.

Receive your welcome pack

This will come either through the post or online and it’ll ask for your payment details and give you your new account details.

Your old provider will perform a final meter reading

This is so they can issue your final bill. It could be a few weeks before this happens as it depends on when your last meter reading was.

Your new provider will contact you

Your new provider will let you know when your switch has happened and when your next bill will be.

Log into your new account to use the features

It could be a customer rewards programme or something similar and you should be able to set and monitor it.

Keep half an eye out for the next deal

Your new deal is great, but it’s a jungle out there, with the various providers competing and undercutting each other for your business.

Things to watch out for when switching

Strings

If you’re drawn in by a discount, see if there’s strings attached to it, like a minimum spend or a minimum term. If there are strings, does the discount make them worthwhile?

Usage charges

Your usage rates are charged by cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity and by cents per megajoule (MJ) for gas. These charges vary between providers.

Supply charges

This is what you pay for the delivery of the gas or electricity into your home and these charges generally vary between 80 cents and $1.20 a day.

Connection fees

These fees aren’t hidden, but they’re not shouted from the rooftop either. They include connection, disconnection and exit fees and are something you need to factor in to your calculations.

Incentives

These can include conditional discounts, credits, sign–up sweeteners and rewards programmes. They look great, but they may need you to fulfil criteria that could bump up your eventual spend.

The customer service

Do you have 24/7 access to customer service or is it trading hours only? Can you chat online or do you need to call in?

Can you change electricity providers in all states?

Most states allow electricity customers to switch but some regions have regulated markets so you can’t choose or switch your gas or electricity provider.

If you’re in QLD you can only change gas or electricity provider if you’re in south east QLD.

In Western Australia you can’t change electricity. There are two providers but they operate in different areas and you can’t swap.

Northern Territory recently opened for competition, but there’s at present only one provider for both electricity and gas.

Does it take long to switch energy providers?

It can take up to three months, depending on when your last meter reading and bill were. Your old provider sends this reading to your new supplier so that everything’s accurate and up to date.

You can ask for a special meter reading to speed things up, but this usually comes at a cost and it may be more than you’ll be saving, so do the maths.

When’s the best time to switch?

You can change at any time, but you might have to pay exit fees and these fees will probably be larger according to the length of the term you have left. Look at the small print – it may be worth hanging on for another few months before jumping.

What actually happens once you switch?

Nothing much! Your lights will stay on! The paperwork is handled by your old and new providers. You simply have to agree to the new deal and hand over your payment details.

Can I change my mind?

If you change your mind – maybe your old provider manages to talk you round after all – then you should have a 10–day cooling–off period during which you can cancel.

Is switching the only solution?

You might be on the lookout for a cheaper deal and that deal may well be with your current provider. Talk to them and namecheck a sweeter deal from another supplier. If your current supplier offers to match or better it, result! If not, you know who to turn to.

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