BRITISH Gas has doubled the emergency credit available to prepayment meter customers.
The supplier has hiked the limit in case households run out of cash to top up their meter.
Millions of families with a prepayment meter will have to pay an extra £708 a year for their energy bills on average after the price cap jumped last week.
That’s more than customers who don’t have a prepayment meter and pay via direct debit.
Those households will see a jump of £693 a year on average.
However, the actual amount you pay depends on your tariff and energy use.
Prepayment meter customers are often on lower incomes or have struggled with debt.
British Gas’ hike to the emergency credit limit has already come into force.
It said it is in response to the rising cost of living, in case customers run out of cash to top up their meter.
The supplier said households with a top up key or card will now be able to go £10 into debt before they’re cut off.
Smart meter customers will still have a £5 limit, but the company is looking to roll the increase out to these households too.
You can access it when your electricity meter falls below £1, or 50p in some cases.
Just insert your key into the meter to activate the emergency funds.
If you have a gas prepayment meter, insert your card when the screen displays “emergency credit available”.
But remember, emergency credit works like a loan.
If you use it up, you will have to pay it back next time you top up.
That means that if you dipped into the emergency pot by £5, next time you topped up with £20 you would only be £15 in credit.
If you don’t top up, you will be without an energy supply until you add more funds and repay the debt.
British Gas’ “friendly credit” policy hasn’t changed and is available for both smart and key meters.
This type of credit keeps you connected to your energy supply if you run out overnight or on a Sunday.
It should also cover most Bank Holidays.
That’s because it might not be possible for you to top up in a shop during those periods.
But again, any credit you use will have to be paid back when you do top up.
What help can I get with energy bills?
There is support available if you’re worried about paying your energy bills.
Contact your energy supplier as a first step.
They can check if you’re eligible for their hardship fund or help in other ways like changing your payment plan.
For example, British Gas and Octopus both have funds to help households who are struggling to pay.
British Gas recently announced it has added an extra £2million to the pot of cash set aside to help customers.
You should also check that you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.
Make sure you’re not missing out on any extra cash by using an online benefits calculator.
Doing a grants search could help you find cash to pay for gas and electricity bills.
The Household Support Fund, which helps families with the rising cost of living, has been extended.
To find out what support is available in your area, contact your local council.
Making your home more energy efficient is a good way of saving money.
Check whether you can reduce your energy use with a simple trick such as putting foil behind your radiator.