Hello everyone! A relatively recent additional to the ever-useful comparison website arsenal of tools that has appeared over the last couple of years is the automated energy switching service, and sites like Look After my Bills and Switchd
With these, you input your details and if they think a better deal appears that the one you’re one now they’ll switch you over to a new one, with limited intervention from yourself. Sounds pretty snazzy!
It also is one of those things which makes you question if it’s safe or if it’s too good to be true, so today I thought I’d take a run through how these services operate and if there’s a better alternative on offer.
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How do automated energy switching sites work?
They operate on what’s really an similar process to using an energy comparison service. You give them details of your energy usage, and instead of a one off search they scan the market constantly for what’s the best deal out there.
The different to a comparison site is they also handle the execution side – where a better offer comes along, they automatically cancel your arrangement with your present supplier, and set you up on the new one, moving your direct debit only.
What are the advantages of automated energy switching sites?
In a perfect world you become the ultimate “rational” consumer – you’re always ready to take the cheapest deal for the same service.
If an automated energy switch puts you truly on the best deal, you’re always going to save some money on what you’re paying now.
To me this is one of the biggest advantages – it’s not too much of a hardship to get on a comparison site and work out which is the cheapest. However the actual act of signing up to the new energy provider and cancelling the old one can prove more time consuming that you feel it should be.
The fact that these automated services do the legwork for you each time on that is a major boon!
Often we have good intentions of looking to check if we’re getting the best deal out there and we address this….once. Then we forget about it until it next crosses our mind.
I see this as the biggest advantage of an energy switching service – the fact that it’s a relentless deal hunting machine and doesn’t stop when you do.
Not every service lets you do this, but some let you set parameters like only transferring to options which provide green energy, as an example. This is a good thing as it can help you get exactly what you want.
By the way we don’t believe in getting preachy here at the Wilderness but we would encourage you to choose green energy policies if you can – often, they’re actually the same price these days but even if a little bit more it’s a very easy way to make a difference.
Another option can be to make sure you only switch to organisations which have high ratings for service to ensure that if something does go wrong, you can get it sorted out easily. I think this is worth considering – I’ve heard a few horror stories from some of the providers who are the absolute cheapest, but it’s often for a reason – i.e because they’ve skimped massively on how they deal with customer issues!
What are the disadvantages of automated energy switching sites?
It’s (potentially) not all the deals
Whilst these sites are good for you as a consumer, they also have to make money to be viable! Unfortunately this means that in practice some won’t feature every deal on the market – only the ones that will pay them to attract your custom.
Some services do look at every deal on the market but you’ll pay them a small fee instead.
Look After My Bills looks at a limited selection, and Switchd allows you to choose a range of plans – there’s a free service that includes a limited list or a small payment for a full range of energy supplier.
What this means is you’re often getting a really good deal but it may not be the very best deal out there in the market. It then becomes a time vs. optimal moneysaving debate. I will say that of most services I’ve looked at as part of my research for this, they weren’t far off.
You miss out on cashback
The other advantage of switching your own energy is there’s some really good cashback offers out there which if you use an auto-switcher you won’t get the benefit of.
For those unfamiliar with cashback it’s where you buy through a link, where the referral fee that would usually go to an advertiser goes to you instead. I use and recommend TopCashback for this who I think are the best out there.
If you switch your energy frequently, this is an extra little cash benefit to you that can help offset those bills further.
It’s not quite so flexible
It can sometimes pay off to take a similar approach to looking at a mortgage with energy, as there can be some great long term fixed deals out there. With this you often pay a little more as you start off but if energy prices go up you can find yourself in a better position long term.
The automated energy switchers tend to prioritise the most flexible deals first – probably the cheapest in the immediate moment, but potentially not always the best deal for those thinking longer term.
What do I use?
For the moment I’m not using an energy switcher, and it’s largely been as a result of the cashback argument.
For now I use Bulb, who I’ve got a good deal on as one of the cheaper providers that also offers constant renewable energy.
If you use my referral link to sign up to Bulb, you’ll get a massive £50 statement credit for a dual fuel switch and £25 statement credit for a single fuel switch. (That’s a better deal to you than I’m able to find on any cashback site.)
I honestly think most people who are not regularly checking their bills can really benefit from using an automatic energy switcher. In practice whilst it’s sometimes not the very best deal, the fact it’s close to and continuous places you in a very good position.
It’s definitely a better position than only checking your bills every few years for sure! So have a think about if it might be a good route for you.
If you have any questions about the energy switching services, just let us know in the comments below!