Martin Lewis has explained three tips families must do now before energy bills hike in price from April.
The energy bill increase comes following regulator Ofgem’s confirmation that it is increasing its price cap by £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 from April 1 – marking a rise of 54%.
Worse hit will be prepayment customers with a jump of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017.
Here’s the three tips Martin Lewis issued to families to help save money over the coming months.
Martin has reminded those who are on older prepayment meters to check if they can “stockpile” energy now.
If you top up now, but use this energy after the price cap changes, you’ll be charged for your gas and electric at the rate that applied when you topped up, Mr Lewis explained.
Your rates shouldn’t change until the first time you top up following a price adjustment, and will help you beat the April price hike.
The stockpile trick won’t work if you have a smart prepayment meter as these meters are updated remotely with the new rates on the day of a price change.
Mr Lewis said: “That means if you max out your top-up in March before the rate goes up, that’s what you’ll get, even if you then use that energy in April.
“So you can extend the cheap rate we have now for longer by maxing your top-up if you can afford it – and I know not everybody on prepay can.”
He contacted 11 of the biggest energy suppliers, including British Gas, SSE, E.on and EDF. Scottish Power was the only provider that said the stockpiling trick wouldn’t work.
Scottish Power said the additional amount you would’ve paid under the new rates would be recovered by adding a small amount of debt to your meter at your next annual statement.
Mr Lewis asked Ofgem if Scottish Power is allowed to do this but hasn’t issued a further update.
There is no way to “stockpile” energy now if you pay by direct debit.
But Martin Lewis advises you to take regular meter readings so that you can check you’re being billed correctly.
Mr Lewis recommended taking one reading today followed by another on 31 March – before the new price cap comes into force.
He said: “I would suggest you do a meter reading today and diarise to do a meter reading on 31 March, so you draw a line and tell the energy company all this energy I’ve used should be at the cheap rate.”
Martin has urged families to check how they can claim a £150 council tax rebate from April.
The council tax rebate will apply to homes in council tax bands A, B, C or D in England and Wales.
But not those who live in council tax bands E, F, G and H (or I as well, in Wales).
Residents in Scotland will be entitled to £150 off if they are in bands A to D – but they will also be eligible if they are currently receiving council tax reduction too.
In England residents have been told they will receive the rebate automatically if they pay for their council tax by direct debit.
If you don’t pay by direct debit, you will be instructed on how to apply from your council.
The MoneySavingExpert said: “Keep an eye out for a letter from the council because each council will tell you its claim system and you need to watch for that.
“If you’re not eligible for the £150, say, because you’re in a higher band, then there is a discretionary £140 million fund being set-up to help those who are struggling.”
“It will be up to each council to decide how it distributes it, but be ready to claim that,” he added.
The price cap was introduced in January 2019 and is reviewed twice a year.
It is intended to ensure customers pay a fair price for their energy, but according to the MoneySupermarket website it is only a cap on the most expensive tariffs and does not safeguard you against price fluctuations.
It sets a limit on the rates a supplier can charge for each unit of gas and electricity you use.
It is currently reviewed twice a year.
It applies to you if you are on a default energy tariff, whether you pay by direct debit, standard credit or a prepayment meter.
The energy price cap will increase from 1 April for approximately 22 million customers.
The increase is driven by a record rise in global gas prices over the last six months, with wholesale prices quadrupling in the last year.