How Direct Debit reviews (or “check-ins”) work
Learn about Direct Debit reviews, and find out what they are, how they work, and why they’re so important.
Think of Direct Debit reviews as regular health checks for your account. Also known as “Direct Debit check-ins”, they help us protect you from any unexpected big bills at the end of each year-long billing period.
Read on, to get the scoop on Direct Debit check-ins, how they work, how to change your Direct Debit amount, and much more.
What’s a Direct Debit check-in?
Simply put, it’s a regular assessment of your current monthly payments, to make sure you’re on track to end your contract (or 12-month billing period) with a £0 balance. Doing this protects you from having to pay a lump sum.
How Direct Debit check-ins work: your step-by-step guide
When you join OVO, we estimate the cost of your energy over a year, then divide it by 12. That’s your recommended monthly amount.
After 2 months, when we've had a couple of readings from you, we'll have a clearer picture of your energy use. This is when we run the first check-in.
We’ll then keep doing rolling check-ins every 3 months.
If we think your payments won’t cover your energy for the year, we’ll ask you to increase them.
If we don’t hear back, we’ll do it automatically for you (always with 10 days’ notice). This protects you from building up a bigger negative balance – and having to pay a lump sum later on.
If you're ever worried about your Direct Debit increasing, or if you're struggling financially, please give us a call. There are many ways that we can support you. We're always here to help.
Other reasons why we might ask you to change your payment amount
Using more energy than you expect is the most likely reason to ask you to increase your payments – but there are a few more. They include:
- Changing your plan
- Upgrading to OVO Beyond
- Missing a payment
- Asking for a refund when your account is in credit
How we calculate your Direct Debit amount
To calculate your Direct Debit, we work out your costs for a year, and then divide everything by 12.
Here’s an example, to show how we do it:
How did we work out your first Direct Debit amount?
When you join OVO, we estimate how much energy you’ll use in a year, and what it’ll cost. To do this, we look at the size of your home, and any meter readings we already have. Then, we divide everything by 12. And voila, that’s your monthly Direct Debit amount.
By the way, it’s worth noting that the more accurate info you can give us when you join, the more accurate your estimated Direct Debit amount will be – which means less chance of it being adjusted later!
Calculating your new Direct Debit amount
With every Direct Debit check-in:
- We’ll estimate your energy use and costs for the rest of your contract
- We take into account any positive or negative balance you might have
- Then we just divide it by your remaining months
- That’ll be your new Direct Debit amount
Here’s an example showing how we calculate your new Direct Debit amount:
What happens if you use less energy than the Direct Debit amount you’ve chosen?
If you use less energy than your monthly payment amount, you’ll build up credit on your account – also known as a positive balance. This can help to pay for your future energy costs when you use more over the winter.
Plus if you’re already an OVO member, you’ll also get 3% Interest Rewards on any credit you’ve got. It’s our way of saying thank you for keeping your energy account balance in credit. And more good news – your interest rate will go up the longer you’re with us:
- Year 1: 3%
- Year 2: 4%
- Year 3 and beyond: 5%
Not with OVO yet? Get a quote in just 2 minutes, and find out how much you could save by switching to 100% renewable electricity.
Calculating your new Direct Debit amount when you renew your plan
Say you’ve got 2 months left on your current plan, which you’ve already renewed for another year:
- We’ll estimate your energy use and costs for the next 14 months (the remaining months of your current year + the next year)
- We’ll take into account any positive or negative balance you might have
- Finally, we divide everything by 14 – to make your payments nice and manageable
Why it’s important to get Direct Debit amounts right
Life changes sometimes – and so does your energy use. Think of your energy account like a pot of money – each month, set payments go in and a variable amount comes out (to cover the energy you actually use).
In months where you use less energy, you might build up a positive balance. Other months, the opposite may happen. The idea is that it should all even out.
Our goal is for you to have a £0 balance at the end of your contract (or 12-month billing period), so you don’t have to pay back a lump sum.
Use our Direct Debit calculator to see how changing your monthly payments can affect your balance over time. To access the calculator, scroll down the Payments page in your online account.
How to change your Direct Debit amount via your online account
Changing your Direct Debit amount is a doddle. Just hop into your online account, head to the Payments page and click Adjust your Direct Debit. You’ll need to do it at least 8 days before your next payment.
It’s also quick and easy to change the date the payment is taken. Just scroll down the Payments page until you see Change Direct Debit date and click to change your nominated date.
Other frequently asked questions
Why do we run check-ins, even if you have a positive balance?
Even little things like the weather getting colder, or watching more TV than usual, can change how much energy you’re using. So checking in on your monthly payments is a handy way to protect you from ending up with a negative balance – even if it’s looking pretty healthy right now.
Why is sending us regular meter readings so important?
Regular meter readings help us to work out how much energy you’ve used, so we know how much to charge you.
We like to get a meter reading from you the day before we calculate your bill, so we know exactly what you’ve used. If we don’t get a current meter reading, we’ll create your bill by estimating the amount of energy you’ve used since the last meter reading.
We’ll take into account any meter readings given since the last bill, and estimate any missing days – even if it’s only one. Or if we haven’t had a meter reading at all, we’ll estimate your entire use since the last bill.
Do you still need to give meter readings if you have a smart meter?
If you already have a smart meter, there’s usually no need to give regular readings, as they’re sent automatically. But there are some situations where you may still need to send a manual reading from your smart meter. For instance:
- If you’re a new customer
- If a technical issue means your energy company can’t automatically connect to your smart meter
- If your smart meter has only recently been installed
Read more about smart meters and how they work, in our handy guide.
Why has your Direct Debit amount changed?
We increase your Direct Debit if you’re not paying enough to cover the energy you’re using.
If your Direct Debit goes up, it’s because your current amount doesn’t cover the cost of the energy you’re using – which could cause you to build up a negative balance. We’ll always ask you to increase your Direct Debit amount first, and then increase it on your behalf if necessary (always with 10 days’ notice).
You can help to make sure your Direct Debit’s correct by giving us regular meter readings (unless you have a smart meter – in which case, they’re usually sent automatically). Sending meter readings once a month is ideal.
Keeping a positive balance is a good idea for a number of reasons. As well as covering a higher winter spend, you’ll also have the flexibility to change suppliers. Being in debt to an energy company makes it harder to switch to a cheaper supplier – which means a less competitive energy market and higher bills. So we encourage you to stay on track.
Why can your payments still change, even if you’re on a fixed-rate plan?
A fixed-rate only refers to the amount you pay per kWh. You still need to pay for however much energy you use. When you use more energy, you pay more. When you use less energy, you pay less.
We estimate your Direct Debit payment by calculating how much energy we think you’ll use over the year. If you use more, we’ll ask you to increase your Direct Debit amount. And of course, if you’re using less, a positive account balance creates a nice buffer over those more expensive winter months! Plus, remember that you also get 3-5% Interest Rewards on any positive balance. Win-win!
Why do we recalculate your Direct Debit when we renew your plan?
We do this to help you spread the costs for your next year with us. We’ll estimate your energy use and costs for the remaining months of the current year + the 12 months of next year, add any positive or negative balance you might have – and divide everything by the total number of months.
Why do most of our customers pay in advance by Direct Debit?
Paying in advance by Direct Debit helps us keep our costs down – which means we can buy your gas and electricity in advance. And that means we can pass those savings on to you, via our great-value plans.
Book a smart meter appointment today
Still sending meter readings yourself? A smart meter will do it all for you! Book an appointment to get your free smart meter fitted. It sends readings automatically from the get-go, and you’ll get real-time feedback via your free In-Home Display that comes with it.
Join OVO, for a lower-carbon life!
Want to use your energy for good? Welcome to OVO! Together, we can use green energy and tech to cut waste and live lower-carbon lives.
If you’re not yet with OVO, check out our new Better Smart energy plan. It’s our lowest-rate plan that’s powered by a smart meter. Join us and see if you can save money on your energy bills, and cut your carbon footprint, too.
Find out more about Better Smart.
Any further questions?
We understand that Direct Debit check-ins can sometimes be a little confusing – so if you need a hand, don’t hesitate to get in touch. There’s more help available in the OVO Forum. And if you don't find the answers you need, feel free to ask a question, and one of our forum members will be happy to help!