Have you got £100 or more sitting in your electricity or gas account? An estimated 13 million of us have. And that cash could be very handy right now, especially for the millions whose income has been cut due to furlough, redundancy or reduced hours of work.
Balances build up because energy firms like us to pay a regular monthly amount based on what they estimate we will use over the year. If we don’t give them regular meter readings, that can get out of step with what we use. So it’s very common to pay too much for your energy – especially in the summer, when you use less.
The good news is that you have a right to recover any surplus money in your energy account. When you switch supplier it should be paid back automatically – but your old energy company may not always do that. Check if yours did, and if not, contact them now to get it back.
You are entitled to a full repayment, and interest may also be added. If you are forced to switch because your old supplier has gone bust – as seven have in the last 12 months – then it’s your new supplier that must refund you, though that process can take some time.
To find out if you have a credit balance with your current supplier, check your latest bill or contact customer service. This is worth doing even if you have a smart meter: although smart meters allow your energy firm to work out what you owe each month, some people still prefer to pay the same amount over the year – and that can lead to a surplus.
If you find you have a credit balance, it isn’t hard to get it back: call customer service. They may want to keep some of it in the winter months to anticipate higher bills. But if you insist, you should get it all repaid (although the firm may then increase the amount of your monthly direct debit).
Some of the smaller firms pay interest to customers on unused credit balances at high rates – up to 3%. If yours does, and you do not need the surplus right now, you may be better off leaving it there!
Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4