finance

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by making one phone call. Here's how.

GOOD NEWS: As of January 1st, energy companies have dropped costs for some customers on their most expensively priced plans due to pressure from the Australian Government.

Woohoo!

While this is very exciting, what does this mean for you and the large chunk of cash spent on power coming out of your bank account every year?

In short, it’s time to get on the phone to your energy provider and negotiate a better deal.

Which sounds great, but how do you do that, exactly?

What most of us don’t know is there’s one simple question you can ask your energy provider to save hundreds on your power bill.

It’s just a matter of knowing what to ask, and how.

To help you take charge of your power (see what we did there?), we’ve sifted through all of the jargon to present exactly what you need to know before ringing your energy provider for a better deal.

How to save money on your power bill.

woman-looking-at-power-bill
It's time to get on the phone to your energy provider and negotiate a better deal. Image: Getty.

Did you know there are certain questions you can ask your energy provider to get a better deal and reduce your energy bill?

According to the Australian Government's Powering Forward website, asking your power company one specific question can help shave up to $600 off your annual power bill, depending on where you live.

Ask this: Can I get a better deal?

It's a simple question we don't ask enough, and if you don't ask your energy provider if they can do more for you, they won't.

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Depending on where you live and who your electricity is with, calling and asking your energy provider for a better deal could save you (Source: State of the Energy Market 2018, Australian Energy Regulator):

  • $634–$787 in Victoria.
  • $416–$517 in NSW.
  • $555 in South Australia.
  • $529 in south east Queensland.
  • $259 in the ACT.

Considering power is bloody expensive, any saving, let alone up to $600 off your energy bills, will make a big difference.

Tips and techniques for asking your energy provider for a better deal.

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Gather all your information in one place before picking up the phone. Image: Getty.

So, now you know what question to ask your energy provider, but how do you... actually ask it?

Knowing what to say to get that better deal when you're on the line with your power company means getting your head around how your energy bill works, what you're currently paying, and what you could be paying.

Before you call your energy provider.

Before you pick up the phone, there are some terms and numbers you'll need to be across to get the most from your energy provider.

To begin with, your energy provider will ask you these questions, so it's a great idea to have the answers handy on a piece of paper or in front of you on your computer:

  • Your full name, address and date of birth (to confirm your ID).
  • Your account number (you can find this on your bill).
  • What plan are you currently on? Look up online and find out what supply charge and rate per kWh you're currently paying (It’s OK if you don’t know this, just keep asking if you could be on a better deal).
  • How much energy you're currently using, and when - pull out your recent power bills and write down how much energy you're using (kilowatt hour or kWh), and if it's during peak or off-peak times (more on that in a bit).

Terms you'll need to know.

Getting your head around all the terms on your electricity bill (and what they actually mean) can feel overwhelming, but it's doable.

Here are some of the terms you'll need to be familiar with when speaking to your energy provider or comparing your current provider with others:

  • FIXED TERM CONTRACT (OR FIXED TERM) - A contract where you are locked in for a certain amount of time.
  • HARDSHIP PROGRAM - A program which helps customers who are having trouble paying their home energy bills. All energy retailers must have a customer hardship program.
  • STANDING OFFER / STANDARD OFFER / DEFAULT PRICE - A basic plan for electricity and gas, with no special discounts.
  • MARKET OFFER / MARKET CONTRACT - Plans featuring a different, often discounted rate to a standard/standing/default offer. (For example, you may be eligible for a discount when you bundle your electricity and gas.)
  • TARIFF - The price you pay for electricity or gas on your energy plan. Tariffs include a:
    • Supply charge – the cost to supply electricity or gas to your home or business.
    • Usage charge – the amount of electricity or gas you use.
    • Solar feed-in tariff – if you have solar panels, the amount you get paid for the electricity they make.
  • TIME OF USE TARIFFS (OR PEAK, OFF-PEAK AND SHOULDER TARIFFS) - A tariff where you are charged different rates for electricity and gas usage depending on the time of day. (For example, rates are higher during peak times which are usually in the evenings from Monday to Friday. Rates are lowest during Off-peak times, which are usually overnight and on Saturday and Sunday.)
  • KILOWATT HOURS - A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure of energy. It shows you how many thousand watts you use in an hour. (For example, using a 1000 watt air conditioner for one hour would use 1kWh of electricity. A 100 watt light bulb, on the other hand, would take 10 hours to use 1kWh.)

Other tips for reducing your energy bill.

woman-on-her-phone
Jump online and compare deals from different energy providers. It's worth it. Image: Getty.
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Aside from calling and asking for a better deal with your energy provider, here are some other tips to give you the best chance of shaving dollars off your electricity bill:

  • Go to energymadeeasy.gov.au for help comparing energy plans - – it’s a free government website and they won’t hassle you with annoying phone calls! It helps to know what offers you can get before calling your current provider or who you could switch to if they can’t offer lower prices.
  • Read the fine print: Some energy providers offer a big discount if you pay your bills on time - sounds great, but they can also slug you with higher prices and a big fee if you don't, so make sure you can feasibly pay on time - every time - before accepting that offer.
  • Call often - speak to your energy provider every year to see if there is a better offer for you.
  • Call when your circumstances change - if you're moving house or starting a new business, ask for a better deal.

At the end of the day, the age old saying rings true when it comes to saving money on your energy bills. If you don't ask, you won't receive.

So just ask, OK?

For more tips on making the call, visit PoweringForward.energy.gov.au. If you need help comparing energy plans and understanding your bills, go to energymadeeasy.gov.au.

Want to help make Australia a better place for women and girls? Take our survey now to help.

MMSurvey
Department of Environment and Energy: Powering Forward

Call your energy provider today to get a better deal. For tips on making the call, visit PoweringForward.energy.gov.au

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