Quarterly cash or cheque
Rather than paying every month for their gas and electricity, some people prefer to pay every three months either by cash or cheque.
Cheques can be sent through the post direct to your energy supplier, or paid in through a bank or Post Office. If you do send a cheque by post, however, you must ensure you send it off in plenty of time so that you meet the payment deadline.
You can also pay in cash using a bank or the Post Office, or using a credit or debit card over the phone or online via your energy supplier's website.
If you always pay on time, you may be eligible for a 'prompt payment' discount, although these won't be as much as the discounts that are available for customers who pay using direct debit.
Pros and cons of paying quarterly
Paying your gas and electricity quarterly by cheque or cash gives you more control over your finances, and if you think your bill is wrong, you can challenge it before payment is taken automatically.
However, you have to be disciplined and make sure you get your payments in on time, otherwise you could be charged a late payment fee. If you do always pay before the deadline, then you might qualify for a discount, but you usually get much more money off if you pay by direct debit.
The reason for this is that direct debit accounts are easier for energy suppliers to manage as they simply take the same amount at the same time each month, so payments are always made on time.
However, if you do pay for your gas and electricity by monthly direct debit, make sure you check your energy bills regularly to ensure you're paying the right amount.
Another disadvantage of paying quarterly is that rather than paying a smaller amount each month, you have to find a much bigger lump sum each time as you are paying for three months' gas and electricity use at a time.
Paying quarterly by cash or cheque is likely therefore to suit those who are very organised about their finances and who are careful to ensure they have enough money set aside to pay for their energy bills every quarter.
For those who don't think they are disciplined enough to pay this way, then paying monthly by direct debit is likely to be a more sensible option as payments will be deducted from your account monthly automatically.
What if I cannot afford the payment?
If you do opt to pay quarterly and suddenly find you aren't able to make your payment, then you should contact your energy company as soon as possible and let them know you are having difficulty paying. You may be able to negotiate a manageable repayment plan with them, or switch to a different payment method to ensure you don't fall behind with payments again.
If you are struggling to cover the cost of your energy bills, make sure you aren't paying more than you need to for your gas and electricity.
You can compare tariffs online through MoneySupermarket's energy channel to find the best deals, and if you find a cheaper quote and aren't locked into your current tariff, you should switch as soon as possible.