How to read bills and understand pricing

Your energy bill contains a lot of information, and if this is your first-time paying bills on your own it can be quite daunting understanding exactly what is on that piece of paper! In this article we are going to run through how to read a bill, understanding pricing as well as being able to ensure that you are not being overcharged for your usage and getting the best value for money.

What information is usually on my bill?

Depending on your provider, you may see the following:

  • Name of energy provider
  • Which tariff you are on
  • How much you have used
  • Pay on time discount (where applicable)
  • Details of your contract
  • Exit fees (where applicable)
  • Payment due date
  • Energy usage breakdown

How do I read it?

The best way to read your bill is to look at the amount of usage against your tariff, as well as any extra charges for peak usage. A lot of bills will contain a lot of information about ‘saving money’ and ‘could you be on a better tariff’ which can sometimes deflect you from looking at the total cost.

Reading bills can be a lot easier if you have a smart meter, as using a smart meter is a much more efficient and accurate way of billing you for your energy usage and can save confusion. You can just correlate your usage from your smart meter against what you have been charged, and if it matches, then you know you have been charged correctly.

Something else you can do if in doubt, would be to call your provider and ask them to explain your bill over the phone, particularly if you have just switched to a new supplier, as bill formats can vary depending on your energy provider.

How I know I am not being overcharged?

As mentioned earlier, if you have a smart meter it can be a lot easier to check whether you have been overcharged. If you do not have a smart meter, then you will need to analyse the numbers and check that it is correlating with the amount of time you spend in the property, as peak and off-peak usage can help you determine this on your bill. Sometimes, if living in a shared property this can be difficult as you cannot keep track constantly of energy usage. Our advice would be to invest in a smart meter as it can cut out a lot of stress of overcharging and makes reading bills a lot simpler.

How can I get the best value for my money?

The best way to check you are getting the best value (especially if you have been with your current supplier for over twelve months) would be to use a price comparison website to check deals. You will be able to see on your bills whether you are due to switch to a standard tariff, which can be higher and can indicate that it may be time to look for a new energy supplier.

Author: Claire Stapley
Claire Stapley is's Energy Editor, based in Melbourne Australia. Claire is a founding member of News and Energy Team.