Prepaid Gas and Electricity in Beijing

In Beijing, almost everything related to household utility is prepaid. This is the biggest difference in life in Beijing and Shanghai.

I have taken it for granted that the following things should be billed after use:

  • Natural gas
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Hot-water (if it is provided)
  • Fixed Line Telephone

In Beijing, things are very different.


For most of the households in Beijing, they have many different cards:

– Electricity card. You have to go to bank or self-serve machine to buy electricity credit, and then insert it into the electricity meter to get electricity.

– Gas card. The same thing. Buy it at bank first, and insert the card into the gas meter, so you get gas.

– Hot water card. You have to got to the property management company to prepay the hot water you need, insert it into your hot water meter, so you can get hot water.

If you do not insert the card, the meter just stops anything from passing it – no matter it is electricity, gas, hot water, or anything else.

Big Difference

Mvm has complained for this when he was in Beijing. There are all types of people – people like to plan and people hate plan in advance. Not everyone can plan exactly how much electricity, how much water, and how much gas the family will use in that month. I assume in Beijing, people may often run into the situation of no gas, no electricity or no water. Imagine at night, you don’t have electricity, like what Eric experienced during the middle festival. You have to wait until the second day to take short leave from work to buy some electricity…

Nothing Right, or Wrong. It is Just Different

I just feel the pain in Beijing, but there is no right or wrong. It is just different from Shanghai, just like many foreigners felt the difference and suffer from the difference from their own country in China.

What do you feel about the prepaid model in Beijing?

P.S. This page was actually created on October 1, 2008

7 thoughts on “Prepaid Gas and Electricity in Beijing

  1. I’m not good at planning, hence, I will feel severe unconvenience if I’m in Beijing. Whereas, I’m fortunately in Shanghai, and I just encountered the big problem of finding someone to fix or change my light or just trying to do it myself instread of having no electricity to use.

  2. In 2004 the wife, I, daughter and son-in law visited wife’s family. We stayed a day or two in a small hotel in Hengyuan. All the others went shopping and I went back to the hotel room but could not figure out how to get the electricity in the room to work. I saw a slot in the wall by the door and remembered the clerk had put the card in the slot when showing the room. THAT was what turned on the juice. The prepaid cards, while putting some pressure on the users have an upside in that they allow for budgeting. You can allocated only what you can for various utilities. With the cards you will also learn exactly what you use.

  3. Maybe one of the side effect of the prepaid thing is to help people to raise awareness of natural resources, and maybe someone will think of environment protection. You always need to worry that turning on the light meaning that you need to go out and buy the electricity quicker….

  4. isn’t that troublesome? have to go to the bank and queue to reload the prepaid cards? I guess I will be miserable having to queue and reload the prepaid. Worst if you have language communication problem.

  5. I like prepay all the utiliy and never worry about queue to buy it at midnight.

    1、safe. No one can claim he will check the meter and cheat you open the door.

    2、convinient. you can buy it by self-help machinery, you don’t need queue up and find some cents to pay for the water.

    3、Not a matter of planning. you don’t need plan how much water or electicity you gonna use, just buy enough, it doesn’t hurt.

    4、if you rent a house. the dashboard will show the number ,and you don’t need the last renter didn’t pay for the water and electricity.

    and so on….you will love this way if you believe we should live in a digital society.

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