A history of bad credit can lead to issues when signing up with a new electricity provider. However, for consumers who have credit-related problems, there are ways to get electricity with no credit checks. Canstar Blue explains.
Many energy retailers will check your credit score when you apply to become a customer. And for those with troubled credit histories, this can create obstacles to opening an account. In the worst case scenario, you might be denied a new power account.
What is a credit score?
Just because you’ve never taken out a personal loan or mortgage, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a credit score. Credit isn’t just about borrowing money. Your payment history utility providers also plays a part in your credit rating. If you’ve had utility bills in the past, or even a mobile phone plan, your past payment history will affect your ability to access credit.
Conversely, never having had debt can also affect your credit rating. If you’ve never applied for any form of credit, you can be something of a cleanskin, and an unknown for some lenders. However, a bad credit score will instantly raise a red flag for a power company. So if you think that yours could be a little less than perfect, it’s worth finding out for yourself how your credit rating stacks up.
How to check your credit record
If you’re concerned your credit rating could prevent you from opening a power account, it can help to check your rating before making an application. Your credit record lists the times you’ve been issued credit by a bank or company, and whether you paid the debt off on time. It’s worth noting that:
- Repayment history information can be kept on your record for up to two years
- Unpaid debt, when a lender has tried to recover money owed, can appear for up to five years, even if you’ve paid off the debt in full
If you do have a bad credit rating, don’t despair. It is possible to improve your credit record over time. So it’s always worthwhile being proactive with your credit and payment obligations.
→ Related article: How Long Does It Take to Fix a Poor Credit Score?
How to get electricity with no credit checks
If you know that your credit score is lousy, don’t despair, there are still ways to sign up with an electricity provider.
Rather like prepaid mobile phone plans, some power companies offer pay-as-you-go options, allowing you to pre-purchase electricity. Because you’re paying for the power upfront, these power payment options don’t require any credit checks.
Prepaid electricity providers
The following are some of the electricity retailers currently offering prepay power plans. Of course, you’ll need to confirm that individual retailers are offering plans in your area. Further information can be found on retailers’ websites.
And while you don’t have to worry about being charged extra for prepaid, as their rates are similar to those offered by regular, post-paid power accounts, it’s worthwhile shopping around. Always compare a range of deals and providers when determining what’s best for your household.
Globug, which is part of Mercury Energy, requires no bonds or credit checks to join its prepaid electricity service.
Customers can top up from $10 via the Globug website or app using a debit/credit card or internet banking. Or you can pay in-store at dairies and convenience stores around the country. A fee of 20c per top-up applies for internet banking, 40c for debit/credit cards, and 75c in-store.
The Globug app allows customers to see their current balance, along with an estimate of how many days of power they have remaining. Plus information on how much they’re spending by the day, week and month. Text and email notifications are also available.
If you’re thinking of joining Globug, information on pricing, along with a bill calculator, is available at the Globug website.
Wise says that no credit checks or bonds are required for customers signing up for its prepay service.
Customers can top up from $10 via Wise’s website and app, using a debit/credit card or internet banking. Internet banking is free. But a fee of 40c applies for debit/credit card transactions, or 75c for in-store top-ups at participating merchants.
In addition, Wise offers a range of online tools. Customers are able to check their usage and balance from any device via the Wise website and app. Text and voicemail notifications also available.
If you’re keen on checking out what Wise has to offer, information on its pricing, along with a bill comparison calculator, can be found at its website.
Contact Energy’s Contact PrePay service is available for residential customers on electricity supply only. Customers need to have a mobile phone to receive text alerts and be set up for email correspondence.
Do note that new accounts require a satisfactory credit check. In its Ts&Cs, Contact states: “The availability of Contact PrePay for customers (new or existing) with an unsatisfactory credit rating / history (as determined by us) will be at our sole discretion and will only be available on selected plans of which we will advise you of at the time.”
Contact’s prepay rates are the same as their normal plan rates. Customers can top up any amount via Contact’s website and app, or by text, using a credit/debit card, or internet or telephone banking. Fees apply to all payments made by credit or debit card.
Customers can keep track of how much power they’re using, and view their balance and estimated days remaining, via Contact’s website and app. Contact also notifies customers by text when their balance is low and a top-up is needed.
Further information on Contact PrePay, along with Contact’s electricity rates, is available via the Contact website.
How can I improve my credit score?
Just because you have a bad credit score now, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it for life. But if you want to repair or improve your credit score, keep in mind that doing so generally won’t be a quick and easy process. It may take a significant amount of time and require an extended period of financial responsibility on your part. But if you want to improve your credit score, you should:
- Pay your bills on time
- Think carefully before applying for any new credit
- Pay down any existing loans and debts
- Consider seeking the assistance of a financial counsellor
- Check your credit report for any inaccuracies
- Hold onto credit cards you can manage
- Lower the limit on your credit cards
Problems paying bills? Alternative methods of managing payments
Of course, the best way to avoid potential credit issues is to effectively manage your payments. So if you are having problems paying your electricity bills on time, it may be worthwhile considering different payment methods.
For instance, if increased winter electricity bills throw out your budget, many retailers offer alternative spread-payment options. These average out your total year’s usage into equal monthly payments. You’ll pay slightly more in the summer months, when you’re using less electricity for hot water and heating. But come winter, you’ll pay reduced monthly bills.
Some retailers also allow for you to set up automatic payments, arranging for fixed weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments to be made.
And Powershop has a unique system. It sells Powerpacks, which are like pre-paid phone packs, but for electricity. They are available in different dollar amounts – big and small and for different types of usage and budgets – from Powershop’s online shop.
But regardless of the payment option you choose, if you are having difficulty paying your power bills, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your provider. Power companies have guidelines in place to help those facing financial hardship, and will generally help customers in need.
Ignoring a problem power bill won’t make it go away. And you could find yourself having your power cut off, which will be even more costly in the long run, as you’ll have to pay extra to have your supply reinstated.
Finding the best power provider
Ultimately, finding affordable power involves shopping around. And the fact that you’re reading this means that you’re already on the right track to finding a great deal on power. But when comparing power companies, it’s important to consider the broader picture – don’t become too focused on finding a deal with a big prompt payment discount or special perk. Be sure to balance all the rates, discounts, fees and contract periods when making a decision, as well as more personal factors, such as customer service and support.
To help you find the best value electricity retailer, Canstar Blue rates NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results, or you can click on the button below for the full results of our survey.
Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.
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Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in April 2022, published in June 2022.
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About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar’s Editor, Bruce Pitchers. Bruce began his career writing about pop culture, and spent a decade in sports journalism. More recently, he’s applied his editing and writing skills to the world of finance and property. Prior to Canstar, he worked as a freelancer, including for The Australian Financial Review, the NZ Financial Markets Authority, and for real estate companies on both sides of the Tasman.