Proof that dual fuel deals AREN’T always cheapest: The best tariffs if you split your suppliers… and if you don’t
- The total saving from switching and splitting could be up to £390
- The average annual bill for 11m customers on a default energy tariff is £1,254
- The cheapest deals on the market lowers the bill to £864 a year for average use
Millions of households could benefit from cheaper energy bills if they split suppliers with one each for gas and electricity.
The gradual death of ‘dual fuel’ discounts for customers who choose the same provider to manage their gas and electricity means single deals could now be the way to cut pounds from staggeringly high energy costs.
For people whose accounts are drifting on a ‘default tariff’ – the standard rate that applies unless a customer chooses a specific deal with their provider or a rival – the total saving from switching and splitting could be up to £390.
Single deals could now be the way to cut pounds from staggeringly high energy costs
It has always been an option to have a different supplier each for gas and electricity. But special discounts for those who double up with the same company typically made dual fuel tariffs both simpler and cheaper.
But this picture is changing as discounts are disappearing.
Victoria Arrington, of comparison service energyhelpline, says: ‘There has been a decline in suppliers offering dual fuel discounts. These originally helped suppliers to save money on administration and other operational costs because they supplied more fuel to a single account or household.
‘Now that almost all suppliers are digital or online in some way, dual fuel discounts are no longer as relevant as they once were.’
The total saving from switching and splitting could be up to £390
The average annual bill for 11 million customers on a default energy tariff is £1,254 – the price cap set by regulator Ofgem for a medium-use dual fuel deal.
But splitting suppliers for gas and electricity with the cheapest deals on the market lowers the bill to £864 a year for average use. This is £47 a year cheaper than the best dual-fuel offer from Utility Point.
Arrington adds: ‘This may not seem huge, but energy is the easiest big bill to switch and this saving could be made in minutes.’
Savings start to widen depending on the type of tariff searched for. For example anyone looking for a ‘green’ tariff can save up to £80 a year by splitting suppliers.Those hunting a fixed-rate tariff can save £55 a year by ditching dual fuel.
But there are also plenty of snags to this plan. Splitting suppliers is most appealing to people who are above-average users of energy and are keen to squeeze household budgets.
Customers would also need to be comfortable dealing with two small-scale suppliers, which typically offer the cheapest deals.
Joe Malinowski, of energy comparison website TheEnergyShop, says: ‘It is worth checking out and potentially doing. The greater your usage the bigger the cash benefit. However you need to set that against the added inconvenience of dealing with two smaller energy suppliers.’
For some this will be a step too far, especially given the high rate of small supplier failures over the last year.
The money-saving trick is also better for the ‘active’ switcher. Auto-switching companies such as Look After My Bills, Switchcraft and Weflip, mostly cater for ‘passive switchers’ – those who want a better deal but want someone else to find it for them.
Look out for the best service
The biggest concern for many people will not just be price but also customer service.
Smaller suppliers that are more cost-effective for individual fuel types might not be top performers in terms of managing accounts. Choosing two contracts may also mean signing up to two different tariff periods.
For example, the cheapest electricity deal might be for one year, while the best gas deal is for 18-months. This throws annual switching out of kilter.
Anyone determined to stick with a Big Six supplier – British Gas, SSE, EDF Energy, Scottish Power, npower or E.On – will be better off by £76 on average if they stick with the cheapest dual fuel deal available.
To compare tariffs specific to your usage get a copy of your annual statement from your existing supplier.
This will help produce more accurate results on websites such as TheEnergyShop or energyhelpline, which can also be contacted on 0800 0740745.
But typically they will shift customer accounts between dual-fuel tariffs for ease and simplicity.
Andrew Long, of auto-switch service Switchcraft, says: ‘Right now we only offer dual fuel deals because it saves the hassle of dealing with two suppliers, and our mission is to make life simpler. But there are a handful of small firms offering just electricity or just gas and if there is a worthwhile saving to be made we will add single fuel switching.’
WeFlip says someone who wants to be automatically switched for separate single fuels would need two separate accounts to achieve this.
However, proactive switchers happy to do the legwork themselves and who are keen to seek out the very best deal – rather than just a better one – can use comparison websites to judge whether a bundled energy deal or single fuel suppliers is best. Most will show dual fuel deals as well as the cost of single fuel alternatives.
Malinowski adds: ‘The majority of savings – around 90 per cent – are achieved by switching away from a standard variable rate tariff to a competitive dual fuel tariff.
‘Opting for separate gas and electricity suppliers is the icing on the cake, but only gets you the last 10 per cent.’
Any type of switch is likely to be of benefit to customers – even if it’s not the maximum possible saving. New figures show that more than 600,000 households changed their energy providers last month – a 29 per cent rise compared to the same time last year – showing that households are starting to recognise the savings on offer.