No Tricks, Just Treats!

By Vernon Trollinger, October 27, 2017, Energy Efficiency, News, Save Money, Special Offers

Remember back when you would go out trick-or-treating and you’d check over your haul of candy once you got back home? You’d hang on to all AirHeads, Skittles, and anything chocolate but dumped the stuff you thought was lame, like orange toothbrushes with a big “BOO!” sticker on them or black pencils with jack-o-lanterns on them — or those little rocks with tiny shell fossils in them that you found out actually came from the guy’s gravel driveway. (Seriously, Mr. Faust? Seriously?)

Those same evaluating skills you honed while trick-or-treating are perfect for when you shop for a new electricity provider. However, there’s more at stake than candy —we’re about talking your hard-earned money. Because it’s almost Halloween, we’re going explore both the tricks and the treats that you should watch out for while shopping for an electricity plan that fits your family’s needs.

The Tricks

Grave Concerns— Hidden fees and surcharges can pop up at the worst possible moment. You’ll be rushing to make a payment on the due date and suddenly one pops up out of the ground, grabbing for your ankles. Believe it or not, some providers will charge you to make a payment online, make a payment over the phone, or if you make more than one payment to your account in one month. Some also charge daily account fees. Plus you can also be charged for each time your energy provider calls you to remind you about a late payment. How are you supposed to know about them? All of these fees and surcharges are spelled out by law in the provider’s Terms of Service (TOS) and are directly viewable in your search results at powertochoose.org. The TOS outlines the terms of your Texas electricity service and includes length of agreement and expiration, billing information, service disconnection, pricing and payment, cancellation, other fees, credit, and deposit information. While TOS documents aren’t the most exciting to read, knowing what’s in yours will keep you from getting skinned to the bone.

Now, let’s summon the specter of the 1¢ per 1,000 kWh deals last year. If you recall, that was where some providers baited the PowerToChoose.org website with one penny plans to show up in the search results. When customers signed up for these too-good-to-be-true deals, they found they had to use EXACTLY 1,000 kWh to get the 1¢ price. If customers used too little or too much electricity, they wound up paying a higher rate. The Public Utilities Commission has since done away with these Penny-Plan Tricks on the PowerToChoose.org website, but all the same, it underlines the importance of reading a plan’s Electricity Facts Label (EFL). That’s because the EFL spells out exactly what the plan is and how it works.

Nevertheless, there are still plans with confusing rates and beguiling technical language that disguises the real cost of service. Lately, there have been two broad types of fixed rate plans that try to lure customers with insanely low rates if they watch their use. However, once you look away from your usage they put the bite on you.

Phantom Bill Credits —Some Retail Electricity Providers give a certain dollar amount of bill credits if usage is within a certain range. Say you sign up for the 1,000 kWh to 1500 kWh range. If your usage stays right in that 1,000 to 1,500 kWh bracket, you get a bill credit. But if your monthly usage sags below 1,000 kWh because you go on vacation or there’s a stretch of nice weather, then that bill credit vanishes. You wind up paying more for using less. And if you use more than 1,500 kWh, you must pay for the amount you used, plus you lose the bill credit.

Devil in the Detail Plans — These plans are built around a specific or tiered levels of use. Examples include zero for the first 1,000 kWh. But once you venture beyond, the rate jumps up to 15¢/kWh for anything after. Or, consider the tempting single flat amount for any electricity used up to 1,000 kwh. Stray but a little over the threshold at 1,001 kWh and the initial flat rate doubles or even triples! Some providers take it one step further by tacking on an additional X¢/kWh rate. None of these prices include the Transmission and Delivery Service Provider (TDSP) charges collected by your distributing utility, either! These plans may also contain high monthly base fees of $50 or more in addition to standard recurring TDSP fees and charges.

The Lurking Low Intro Rate — A very powerful beastie with hypnotic power, it’s able to mesmerize customers with fabulously low rates to get them to sign up. It can be so beguiling, so enticing that customers seem not to notice that the fabulously low rate is just an introductory rate which rises after the first month and then varies month to month. Because these kinds of variable rate plans once caused considerable confusion due to misleading language, most providers now include the following uniform sentence in the EFL:

“Except for price changes allowed by law or regulatory action, this price is the price that will be applied during your first billing cycle; this price may change in subsequent months at the sole discretion of [Insert company name].”

The Treats

When you know how to avoid the tricks, you can look for the treats. The retail electricity providers with the best plans always offer incentives designed to keep you a happy and loyal customer. So what are the best treats you can snap up in your goodie bag? The ones you get with Bounce Energy!

  • Something chewy— The more you do it, the better it gets. When you pay your bill on time, you start earning rewards. The more you do it, the better and better rewards you get, like movie tickets, gift cards, and free electricity.
  • Something rich and luscious— When you sign up with American Airlines AAdvantage miles, each time you pay your bill you earn more flight miles.
  • Something crunchy — Sink your teeth into getting 3% cash back for a year of on-time bill paying.
  • Something Mocha — All of the wonderful moms out there can start earning rewards for themselves and their families just by paying their Bounce Energy bill on time.

By signing up with Bounce Energy before midnight on Halloween, not only will you score the best plan for your home and great rewards for your family, but you’ll also get a $50 gift card to Amazon! No Tricks. Just Treats!

(See, Mr. Faust?) Happy Halloween!

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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