Tired of footing your roommate’s share of the electricity bill?

Just think: right this minute, somebody in a yurt somewhere is yelling at their roommate for burning the last yak butter candle and not replacing it.  Okay, maybe yak butter candles are not a problem in Texas but utility bills?  Whoa, Nelly!  Major cause of roommate discord!  There’s always someone who never seems to have money when it’s time to pony up their share, leaving the account holder to take the hit on their credit report.  Now, thanks to the deregulation of the Texas power industry, consumers have the option to choose from prepaid or postpaid electricity plans.

Yes, “prepaid” electricity, just how they’ve been doing it for decades in England!  You top up your account in advance and the electric company pulls from it according to your usage.  When your account runs low, you’re sent a warning by automated phone call, text, or email and you simply top it up again.  The beauty of prepaid electricity is that you can top it up as you get the funds so if your income is irregular or unpredictable, bump it up when you’re boom and relax when you’re bust.  Now, if cheap electricity is your number-one priority, perhaps prepaid plans aren’t ideal since they are often a higher rate than contract plans – but how much are you saving, really, once you’ve factored in the hassle and expense of a delinquent roomie?  Suddenly, your cheap electricity is looking mighty costly!

When you’re a landlord or living in a shared accommodation situation, the benefits of implementing prepaid electricity for your owned or rented property are immediately apparent: “No power payment?  No Xbox for you!”   Others who could benefit from prepaid electric plans are those with less-than-stellar credit or those just starting out on their own, such as teenagers in their first apartment or women coming out of a bad relationship.  The ones who really benefit are those like international students who lack citizenship, a credit history, a residency history, are typically in the age bracket of highest credit risk, and who frequently don’t have the funds to go locking up hundreds of dollars in an electricity deposit.

Here’s a quick summary of the pro and cons of choosing prepaid electricity:

Pros:

  • No deposit required
  • No credit check required
  • No contract buy-out fee
  • Daily usage monitoring – you’re not waiting until you get a shockingly high bill at the end of the month to discover your neighbor’s not only been riding on your Wifi but also stealing your electricity to run his hot tub.
  • Much more authority to enforce shared utility situations.
  • As a landlord or leaseholder, the electric bill is not your problem if the tenant does a midnight move.
  • Pay when you can
  • There’s usually a number of payment options, including smartphone, text, bank, in-house, telephone, and mail-in.
  • Quick reconnect in the event of an account-related outage (typically within an hour or two)

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud:

Cons:

  • The rates tend to be higher than post-paid accounts
  • If you use electricity more than you expected, you could be caught short.
  • You might get stuck with an inconvenient payment platform because the company, for example, only accepts in-branch payments (and they’re all the way across town!) or levies a fee for telephone credit card transactions.
  • Warnings could be pretty last-minute:  24 hours is no good if your paycheck isn’t until Friday!
  • The rate still fluctuates so while a sudden drop will give you more electricity than you expected, a sharp spike can leave you short.
  • Some prepaid plans use a month-to-month structure where anything left in the account is not carried over to the following month.

In a perfect world, we would have all the electricity we need on demand.  Until that happy time, head on over to ComparePower to learn all you need to know about the Retail Electric Providers in your area and how you can keep ultimate control of your electric bill in your own hands.