Fall is a great time to lock in your natural gas rate if you live in a state where the energy industry is deregulated — and about half of us in the United States do.
What makes this time of year so ideal for shopping natural gas rates?
The cold weather hasn’t really come yet, so there’s not a lot of demand driving up the price!
Here’s what you need to know about switching natural gas providers
A lot of people are intimidated by or unfamiliar with how to shop for a better fixed natural gas rate.
I’m here to tell you it’s easy!
1. Check your renewal rate
Unless you’re starting service at a new residence, you already have an existing natural gas provider right now.
Get in touch with them to see where you are in your contract. If you’re near renewal time, they’ll probably have already contacted you with an offer to get you to re-up for another year or so with them.
I typically sign 12 months fixed-rate contracts for natural gas.
Years ago, I managed to time the expiration and renewal cycle to happen right around early fall. So my natural gas provider was offering a “special discounted” rate of .3990 cents/therm to sign with them for another 12 months.
That represented a discount over their “published rate” (more on that shortly) of .419 cents/therm.
But here’s the thing: My expiring rate for the last 12 months was .389. So their best offer actually would likely mean a higher monthly bill for me.
I’m never keen on seeing my monthly bills go up, so the hunt was on for a better rate.
2. Compare all other marketers’ published rates
If you live in a state that’s deregulated for either gas or electricity, chances are you have a utilities service commission or something similar. They’re the ones who typically offer a one-stop-shop for savvy comparison shoppers.
In my state, we have the public service commission. All the state’s gas marketers have to file their rates with this commission by the fifth of each month. Then they take that info and compile it into one handy monthly rate chart.
The nice thing about this example below is that it highlights both the lowest and highest rates at a quick glance.
3. Search around for secret discount offers
So we’ve established that your state’s public service or utilities commission will be a good starting point to get the lay of the land when it comes to the most current pricing.
But you’re not done yet. Never take the officially published rates as gospel; they should just be your first point of reference.
I’ve found better rates advertised on billboards along the highway, on mailers in my mailbox and even by doing a simple Google search.
You’ve just got to keep your eyes open and know where to look!
The rate from the Google search above that caught my eye was .379/therm — the very last of the ads that are served up on top of your Google searches.
4. Select a provider and call to negotiate better terms
Once you see a rate you like, you have two options: You could either call your existing provider and ask them to match the better offer, which they’ll usually do. Or you can jump ship and go for the better offer, which will often come with a welcome credit or sign-up bonus.
If you decide to go with a new provider, a lot of people think you have to call your existing provider and tell them you’re switching away from them. Not true! There’s no need to inform them of anything in the state where I live.
Furthermore, the changeover behind the scenes from one gas marketer to another happens automatically with no interruption to your gas service.
So feel free to jump ship if you want. Just be aware you may pay an early termination fee if you’re still under contract. Sometimes the company you’re switching to may offer to pay that termination fee for you via a bill credit. Ask if this is a possibility.
A couple additional things to note: During the negotiation, you’ll want to get straight on the monthly customer service charge you’re going to be paying under your new fixed-rate contract. The range tends to be anywhere from $3 to $6 a month.
Here’s another little tip: You should always ask for three or six months of no customer service charge at all; you just might get it for inquiring!
Failing that, you can at least try negotiating the standard customer service charge down a dollar or two. Every dollar you save each month counts, right?
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