It could be simply that you’re on an inappropriate tariff. Or it may be that other retailers have better deals on offer, more suited to your household’s usage. Whatever the reason, you don’t have to keep overpaying for your power. And the good news is that it can be pretty quick to dive into your power bills and work out how to get a better deal.
As with any purchasing decision, when shopping around for power plans it helps to be both informed and proactive. You’ll need to have access to previous bills. These will provide insight into your household’s usage over a period of months, which you can use to compare deals from different retailers. You’ll then be able to weigh up what’s available and whether it’s worthwhile making a switch.
Below we run through a three-step power bill comparison process for finding cheaper power:
- Gain an understanding of your usage history and patterns
- Compare the deals on offer from different retailers
- Do the math and make an informed decision
Step one: pull apart your bill and examine your usage
As a first step, you need to grab a power bill. Ideally, not just one, but enough to cover your usage over several months or even the past year.
Having more than one power bill on hand will provide a broader overview of your household’s usage. You’ll be able to get an idea of your average usage from one billing period to the next, and how usage fluctuates during different seasons and at different times of the year.
You’ll usually be able to access bills and usage information via your online account with your current power provider. Some providers may also present this information in charts and graphs to make it more accessible.
Most bills include costs for fixed (also referred to as daily) and variable charges:
- Fixed charges – are displayed as cents or dollars per day. You are charged a fixed rate each day, regardless of how much power is used
- Variable charges – are the charges for the actual power used. This is based on your household’s consumption of kWh, charged at the rate agreed to with your retailer
The fixed charges per day (and total per billing period) are a straightforward point of comparison between providers. It’s the variable charges that change from one billing period to the next, depending on your tariff and usage.
With this in mind, you need to weigh up the following:
- Tariff – are you on a fixed (flat rate) or time-of-use (peak, off-peak and night rates) tariff?
- kWh rates – what is the fixed kWh charge, or time-of-use peak, off-peak and night kWh charges?
- Time of usage – from one billing period to the next, when does the majority of your usage occur?
If you are having any trouble accessing this data, you should follow up with your retailer directly. Retailers are required to provide their customers usage information from the past 24 months, if available.
With this information on hand, you’ll be able to start making informed decisions. For instance, you may discover that you don’t use much power, and should be on a low-user tariff. Or that much of your usage is outside of peak times, but your current plan doesn’t have cheaper off-peak rates.
This could lead you to contact your provider to change plans. Or, to look at what’s on offer from providers elsewhere. Which leads us to step two.
→Related article: Questions to Ask When Switching Power Plans
Step two: compare power companies
Now you can start shopping around and actively weigh up what the market has to offer. There are plenty of providers out there, and a great place to start is right here on Canstar Blue. We compare power providers every year, to find which Kiwi consumers love the most.
The next step is to visit the retailers’ websites and to look at what plans and offers they have. Consider factors such as:
- Off-peak tariffs
- Sign-on bonuses and benefits
- Prompt payment discounts
- Free power hours
- Bundle deals with other utilities, like broadband and mobile phone plans
Of course, you’ll also want to compare prices. To do so, you’ll need to get a quote for your personal address from the individual retailers’ websites. And as advised above, you’ll have to take note of both the daily charge, and the variable rate(s) being offered.
Furthermore, be sure to note if GST is included in the given price.
Compare electricity providers with Canstar Blue
We rate 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.
^ By clicking on a brand or 'details' button, you will leave Canstar Blue and be taken to either a product provider website or a Canstar Blue NZ brand page. You agree that Canstar Blue NZ’s terms and conditions apply (without limitation) to your use of this service,to any referral to a product provider from our website, and any transaction that follows. Canstar Blue may earn a fee for referrals from its website tables, and from sponsorship (advertising) of certain products. Payment of sponsorship fees does not influence the star rating that Canstar Blue awards to a sponsored product. Fees payable by product providers for referrals and sponsorship may vary between providers, website position, and revenue model. Sponsorship fees may be higher than referral fees. Sponsored products are clearly disclosed as such on website pages. They may appear in a number of areas of the website such as in comparison tables, on hub pages and in articles. Sponsored products may be displayed in a fixed position in a table, regardless of the product’s rating, price or other attributes. The table position of a sponsored product does not indicate any ranking, rating or endorsement by Canstar Blue. See How we are funded for further details.
Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in April 2023, published in June 2023.
See Our Ratings Methodology
Step three: time to run the numbers
At this point, you’ll have all the information you require to make an informed decision. You’ll be able to compare the plans on offer from retailers and decide what’s best based on your household’s individual patterns of usage.
It’s worth reiterating that you’re not only comparing the rates on offer. A plan may come with a higher variable rate, but a significant prompt payment discount that works out cheaper, as one of us here at Canstar found when doing a power bill comparison.
Or, a power company may provide a signing-on credit, or free power hours that improve the value being offered. Or there may be significantly cheaper night rates that, with a few adjustments, can lead you to shift most of your usage to the cheaper hours.
Another byproduct of going through this step-by-step process is the insight you’ll gain into your household’s electricity usage. You might find you’re churning through more power than you thought, and be able to make even more savings by cutting not only the cost of your electricity but your power consumption, too!
About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies