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Myths about prepaid electricity shattered

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Some myths and truths about prepaid meter systems. By Bonny Fourie

Myth: The amount you pay per unit is different, depending on which suburb of Cape Town you are in.

Truth: Your electricity usage, combined with your municipal property valuation and/or meter type, determines what you pay.

The city has three residential tariffs: Lifeline, Domestic and Home User (HU). You will have one of these tariffs applied to your meter not because of the suburb in which you live but based on the above criteria, of which property value is one. Should you have an old-style credit meter, you will be placed on the Home User tariff.

Myth: You should buy units on the first of the month if you want to get the full free units, otherwise the amount you get drops throughout the month.

Truth: You don’t have to buy on the first of the month to get free units. Free units, or free basic electricity, is only applicable to customers on the Lifeline Tariff. Two free allocations are applied, depending on the average level of consumption: an allocation of 60 units if you use less than 250kWh per month on average; or 25 units if you use between 250kWh and 450kWh per month. Free units are granted on your first purchase of every calendar month, irrespective of when that is.

Myth: Monthly totals are based on how much you use, not on how many units you buy at a time.

Truth: It is about how many units you buy. Prepaid meters are not intelligent meters. The meter merely accepts tokens and then reduces as units are consumed. When buying electricity at a vending station, our computer server determines what has been bought previously in the month and what block rate to apply to the purchase of electricity for the given amount.

Myth: You should buy as many units as you can in one go as they are cheaper in bulk.

Truth: Buying in bulk is not cheaper. You should only buy what you need in a given month to keep costs down. When buying in bulk, you move onto the second block for units above the monthly usage threshold, which is more expensive. Buying in bulk can be considerably more expensive.

Source: City of Cape Town

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