Gas & Electric Bills – No More!

Todd Posted in Uncategorized,Tags:

[Found this in my drafts from a month ago, oops - forgot to publish it!]

Any of you ever wished you could just kiss your gas and electric bills goodbye forever?  Well, come move to China!  Turns out that we’ll never receive a single bill for our gas and electric usage.  Sound too good to be true?  Wondering what the catch is?  You’ve come to the right place – here is the 101 on gas and electric bills in China (or at least in Beijing).

My typical experience in the U.S. was that once a month someone came and checked my gas meter, and my electric meter.  They noted the new values on the meters, and then we ended up receiving a bill for the amount used (sound pretty normal?).  Things are done differently here in Beijing, no one comes by and checks how much electricity or gas you’ve used, no one sends you a bill.  So, is it all free you ask?  How does this work?  Well, in our apartment (and in most all apartments from what I can tell), we have an electrical meter sitting directly outside of our front door in the hallway, it looks like this:

Our electric meter is the one on the right, showing we have a bit over 100 units of electricity left.

This meter works in a much different way than meters in the U.S. – it counts down.  The number you see is how much electricity you have remaining until your electricity will just stop working.  It’s up to you to go out and pre-purchase electricity when you need it and add it to your meter for usage.  Smart cards are used for this purpose.  I have a smart card that I take to a 24 hour terminal and the local bank from which I can purchase electricity, gas, water, internet service, amongst others.  I put in my electricity smart card, type the amount I want to buy, swipe my bank card, and the amount is added to my card.  When I return home, I simply insert the card into the electric meter which then updates the amount I have remaining.  Pretty cool ay?

I’m particularly impressed with what seems to be the norm so far concerning most purchases here in China.  Rather than paying after the fact (as seems to be the norm in the U.S. and other countries for many purchases including utilities), you actual purchase things ahead of time before you use them.  It is this way with our electricity and gas, as well as with our rent (albeit rent is typically pre-paid in the U.S. as well).  It might seem like a minor difference (i.e. a one month difference in when you pay), but I think it shows a difference in mindset somewhat between living within your means and living on credit.  Living within your means is the best way to go.


- Todd