How to Pay Utility Bills During COVID-19

Reduce your bill and avoid scams.

Many utilities have stopped disconnecting services, but these tips will help avoid a large bill in the future.


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En español: Utilities serve many purposes in our lives, from keeping our food and medicine refrigerated, to washing and drying our clothes, to charging our computers and phones. We use gas to cook and warm our houses, water to drink and bathe, and telecommunications for work, school and communication with family and friends.

Due to the public health warnings associated with COVID-19, many more Americans are working from home and taking classes online. While many utilities have stopped disconnecting services and started waiving late fees, here are some tips to avoid a large bill in the future. 


How to Handle Bill Payment Issues

If you may be unable to pay your utility bills, you should take a few actions to protect yourself now and in the future.

  1. Avoid bill shock. Although many utilities have said they will not disconnect service during COVID-19, consumers will eventually still need to pay their utility bills. We recommend paying what you can along the way to avoid a huge bill later down the road.
  2. Engage with your utility early. Many companies have set up programs to help people cope with financial issues during the pandemic through direct financial support, waived fees, or promises to not disconnect. Check out your utility’s website or call them before you have any problems.
  3. Set up a payment plan. Many utilities can set up a payment plan of six months, with the ability to extend if circumstances are warranted. So ask them to give you peace of mind.


How to Reduce your Bill

  1. Understand your plan. For example, if you are on a plan that incentivizes your household to reduce using electricity at certain times of the day, such as a Time-of-Use or Demand Rate plan, that plan may no longer be the most cost-effective option for your household particularly if you need to run your air conditioner during the late afternoon. However, if  you can continue your routine of running major appliances, such as your washer or dryer, at the least expensive time on your rate plan, such as weekends, the plan may still be your best bet. 

  2. Explore cost-effective options. Contact your utility to explore the lowest cost rate plan for your household, due to estimated changes in usage. If it makes sense to switch plans, make sure your utility will allow an additional switch without penalty.

  3. Use energy efficiency programs. Take advantage of energy efficiency programs that can reduce your electric bill. Many utilities offer rebates and other programs that can provide financial savings on a monthly basis.


Scams and Other Dangers

  1. Look out for scams. If someone comes to your door or you receive a phone call or email claiming to be from your utility company, don’t give them any information. It is best to call your utility directly to ask questions or to make a payment. 
  2. Be careful of phishing emails. A phishing email may look like it comes from your utility with urgent information, but then will ask for a bank account or log-in information. Check out U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s advice on avoiding common phishing scams.


Answer Our Poll

Which consumer problem are you most concerned about during the COVID-19 outbreak?

price gouging on critical supplies
COVID-19 related scams
utility and student loan payment
airplane and travel refunds