Three of the big six energy companies have now announced price hikes – but according to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, there is still time for many to lock in and beat the hikes.
What’s happening with prices?
Energy companies are like sheep, when one moves the rest follow, and we're in a price hike time right now, three of the big six are raising prices, but it's likely the others will join soon.
Scottish & Southern Energy (and its sub-brands Atlantic, Scottish Hydro, Southern Electric and Swalec) is hiking gas and electricity prices today by 9%.
British Gas is hiking gas and electricity 6% on average on 16 November, Npower by roughly 9% on 26 November.
Eon is the only company that has pledged not to hike prices but that only lasts until the end of the year, so it could well follow all the others in January.
Most people are massively overpaying
A typical home on a standard tariff pays £1,310, even before price hikes, according to energy watchdog Ofgem, yet switch to a cheap tariff and it can drop to less than £1,100 for the SAME gas, SAME electricity and SAME safety.
But of course switching from a company hiking prices will probably see you move to a company yet to announce price rises, so that's best avoided.
Yet taking out a fixed tariff is like insurance against rate hikes. The very top tariffs are changing regularly, for the latest updates see Martin's cheap gas and electricity plus cashback guide.
The two top fixes on the market at the moment are First Utility which is the cheapest, and Scottish Power, which is the cheapest without any early exit fees (so if things did change there's no cost to leave). Both let you lock in for two winters, with no hikes guaranteed – until 31 March 2014 and will typically save those on standard tariffs over £200/year.
How do I find the cheapest tariff?
Your exact winner depends on your current tariff, region and usage. So use a Consumer Focus accredited comparison site to find out what comes top for you. Just plug in your details (for fixes click the 'show only fixed tariffs' tabs).
It’s also worth taking into consideration whether any comparison sites offer you additional cashback as well.
What about those on prepayment meters?
Here the market is much less competitive and while it is still possible to switch, there are no cheap fixes. Therefore as the market is in a state of flux, it is likely to be best to wait until all have announced price hikes before doing a comparison. Otherwise you risk moving from the frying pan into the fire.
However, if you're a good budgeter it is worth looking at whether your current supplier will allow you to move to a credit meter ie, a pay by bill system - sometimes this can be done free - which once done lets you access cheaper tariffs.