In the more than 100 years electricity has been made and sold, many things in the industry have changed. But the way people pay for their power has stayed the same. The meter gets read and a bill gets sent every month. That has changed for 4-County Electric Power Association residential members who now have the opportunity to prepay.
Four-County’s prepay payment program allows members to pay ahead and then get charged based on their daily usage. When their accounts gets low, they are alerted by text message or email that they need to add money. “It’s a lot like putting gas in your car. You put money in your account, and as you use electricity you draw down on that money. How much you put in and when you do it is up to the individual customer,” said 4-County spokesman Jon Turner. Four-County, whose coverage area includes part of Webster County, sees prepay as a benefit for both the association and many of its residential members.
“Lots of our members would rather not have to come up with the money to pay one larger bill each month. Say their bill averages $100. Instead of having to come up with that amount, they can pay $25 a week, or $50 every two week. The amount and frequency of their payment is up to them, as long as they keep their account above $0.”
Another benefit is that people who choose prepay don’t have to pay a security deposit. “Because these members are paying ahead, we don’t require a security deposit on prepay accounts.” Turner said.
Prepay users also tend to be more aware of their power usage and tend to manage it better, according to Turner. “Because they get more immediate feedback, and see what their costs are every day on prepay, members tend to look for ways to conserve power. They see how doing several loads of laundry in an afternoon or having people at home all day on the weekend does to their use and they can adjust,” he said. Other benefits are available to every member, not just those on Prepay. “Every 4-County member can set up an online account with us and track their daily usage. They can also choose to get a variety of reminders by email or text message, including a look at their account balances and power usage every day, bill due-date reminders and more,” Turner said.
Four-County CEO Joe Cade says he’s proud 4-County is one of the first utilities in the country to offer this service. “We at 4-County pride ourselves on using technology to help provide the best service we can for our members. From our meters to our new payment kiosks, we have the technology to offer prepay to our members. Now they will be able to choose a different way to pay for their electricity, one that reflects the way people live today and not 120 years ago.”