A power bill usually includes some typical information. When it comes to comparing bills from your old and new company, what should you look out for to know whether you’re winning after the switch?
On this page, you'll learn things like:
- Common information found on a power bill.
- How to compare energy costs properly.
- Deciding how often you’d like to pay.
What’s the purpose of a power bill?
A power bill details your electricity usage for a given period. Commonly it relates to a month’s worth of power, but sometimes retailers also offer weekly and fortnightly billing cycles. Your power bill is a ‘tax invoice’ – it details the services provided and how much it cost. Depending on how you’ve set up payment, your bill will either trigger you to make a payment, or simply indicate how much the next automatic payment will be so you can make sure that amount is in your bank account ready to be paid by the due date.
You should hold onto your power bills when you are comparing power companies – so you know what your usage and payments are like at certain times of year. That way you’ll be able to line up your existing costs with those quoted by potential alternatives and make an informed decision.
If Powershop’s on your shortlist, we do all the hard work with our Upload Your Bill function. More on this later!
Information you should expect to see on your energy bill
A power bill should provide you accurate usage information, provided you’re running on a smart meter (otherwise it’ll be an estimate until the next manual reading is taken). So what sort of information might you look for to compare your bill vs. another retailer’s costs?
- Date of invoice
- Your address.
- Opening Balance – this will detail the balance of your account before this invoice, including the most recent payment you’ve made (i.e. the most recent billing cycle)
- New charges – then, you’ll probably see the new cycle’s charges – what you need to pay by the due date.
- Credit Card surcharge –now this is commonly overlooked, but comparison shoppers should take note of different retailer’s credit card surcharges if they plan to use a debit or credit card. This should factor into your pricing comparison.
- Your ICP – this is an identifier for your specific connection. It stands for ‘Installation Control Point’.
- Usage period – this outlines the date range of usage this bill actually relates to. This won’t always be the start and finish of the month, and may depend on your billing frequency and sign up date. When you’re comparing bills, make sure your dates line up – especially if you tend to use more power in certain parts of the month.
- Daily charge – this rate is set out in your plan and isn’t affected by your usage or on/off peak times. You’ll get the daily rate (e.g. $0.75/day) shown and the total amount based on days in the billing cycle.
- Electricity rates – here you’ll find how much you pay per kWh of electricity (for example $0.2853/kWh). This is one of the most important parts of your power bill when you’re comparing it to other possible retailers.
- Usage – this will take your per/kWh charge against the total kWh used in the billing cycle and give you a total. Combined with your daily charges this will form the majority of your bill (outside of credit card fees etc)
- Other charges – often retailers will compile the cost of generation, transmission, EA levy and other charges into their rates. But have a look to see if these are broken out on your bill.
- Discounts – some retailers will offer you a discount to your total bill. This can come in the form of a prompt payment discount, free hours of power, or loyalty rewards. Make sure you factor these in.
If nothing else, make note of your daily and usage charges – plus the time period. This will give you good information to go off when you do your comparison.
Apples with apples – making sure you are comparing the right charges
Price comparison can quickly become inaccurate without comparing the right information. The most common example of this is when consumers line up a power bill relating to one time in the year with another – there’s no way you’ll get a clear view of how things stack up! Retailers like Powershop allow you to upload your bill or advise us of your latest charges and we crunch the numbers – including seasonality – to give you the best estimate possible.
There’s some other factors you need to consider:
- Is your current rate calculated on current or legacy prices? These change over time.
- Are you getting a discounted rate from your current retailer as part of a loyalty programme? Is this temporary?
- Does your bill represent the standard daily and usage charges, or is there a promotional discount applied like a sign up credit?
- Does your bill have a ‘prompt payment’ discount applied? (By the way, we don’t really agree with these - we believe customers should be rewarded with fair pricing vs. an ability to pay their bill immediately).
- Where in the country is your bill from compared to the property you’re getting quotes for? Different generation and transmission costs by region can be a factor in your cost – this is why we need your address for an estimate!
- Are you going to be using power for the same size house and number of occupants? If that’s changing, so will your energy bill.
- Not all power companies include GST in their rates - so if you're making a comparison, you may need to add 15% to theirs!
Seasonality and power charges
The amount you pay a given retailer will be influenced by what’s happening in the stages up to them selling you electricity. That means the cost of generation and transmission will factor in – as well as the retailer’s own cut to bring you that power. In winter, the demand on the grid is much higher as Kiwis crank the heating to keep warm. This directly affects the cost of power on the wholesale market as the grid comes under more load.
How power companies choose to cover these fluctuations can vary. If you come across ‘spot pricing’, this means the fluctuations in price for electricity (both high and low), will be passed on to you as the consumer. This can save you and cost you depending on market factors. Some power companies will charge you a rate that’s consistent but factors these peaks and troughs in – which can result in you paying a bit more in summer but keeping winter costs under control. Otherwise, your retailer will factor in seasonality to rates without directly passing through the full impact of fluctuations brought about by spot pricing. Our Classic rates are an example of this - pay a bit more in winter/autumn, and a bit less in summer/spring.
If you need a reasonably consistent price per kWh over the year, spot pricing might not be for you. However, if you’re happy to ‘ride’ the wholesale market up and down, over the long term you might possibly save.
Powershop isn’t a spot priced retailer. Rather we offer a number of options for our customers designed to provide the best possible rates and control over what you spend. Find out more here.
So when you’re comparing a power bill to other companies’ rates, make sure you’ve taken seasonality into account – and know whether you’re buying power through a spot pricing or standard model.
Don’t judge a bill by promotional discounts
If you’ve got a bill that includes a sign up bonus credit or multiple-month discount, you’ll need to take this into consideration when comparing. Your bill should include the discount as a separate line item, which makes things easier to work out. If your sign up bonus is tied into a fixed term contract, you’ll want to factor in the average kWh rate over the full term (or the early cancellation fee).
All this can get a bit messy – so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, get help from other retailers to do the calculations. We live and breathe this stuff!
Power bill frequency – how often do you want to be charged?
Power companies will typically offer a monthly billing cycle, starting at an agreed day of the month. If there’s a date in the month that makes the most sense for you to pay your bill, make sure your new provider can accommodate this. Most if not all retailers should offer this.
But how about a household that works to a weekly or fortnightly budget? Some retailers offer these periods as standard, but you should always contact your shortlist of power companies as they may be able to accommodate a shorter cycle.
Payment methods for power bills
There are a few common ways Kiwis pay for our power, including:
- Credit card payment
- Debit card payment
- Internet banking
- Direct Debit (with an authority you set up)
But there’s another way to do it – and it’s why so many NZ households have chosen Powershop for years. We’re talking, of course, about the Shop. The Shop is an online power purchasing tool that allows customers to buy discounted power in chunks we call ‘Powerpacks’. Powerpacks are an excellent way to stay ahead of your power costs and get discounts by buying power through the month.
You’ll know what payment method is preferable to you and your household. Make sure you research this part closely – as once all the dust settles, paying your power bill is one of the only interactions you’ll be having with your retailer; may as well make it a positive experience!
Upload your power bill
Powershop’s team can use the details from your latest power bill (any NZ retailer accepted) and produce a savings estimate for you. Simply head over to our Savings Estimate page with a PDF or image version of your bill handy and upload it – our team will do the rest and get in touch!