New CFE Cards ( Listening to your Inner Curmudgeon )

Feb. 27, 2014

I stopped by the CFE office on Reforma and Avenida Colon yesterday to check our balance on our apartments and noticed something new: The CFE “Automatic Teller” machine has a new option in its menu for accessing your account. You can now use your new “CFE smart card” to enter your meter information and get your balance.

~ “Pago Programado” ~ Sounds cool, huh?

Electronic cards, like credit cards, are obviously always more cool than old junk like paper-statements, paper cash, and coins.

Computers and electronics always make our lives better, faster, cheaper,     no?

CFE Card Front

Still, my inner codger hesitated.

Do new systems work as promised, especially when they are first starting-up?

Do I have to get a new “digital meter” ?
Digital meters sound cool and look cool, but every CFE customer we know (including us) who were forced to get new meters find our power usage has mysteriously jumped by 20%-30% for the months since the change.

Change….    grrrrrr…

What other hidden catches are there?

Since everything new under the sun generates some internet comments, I popped out to expat web-forums  around Mexico this morning, and found some interesting twists / consequences that happen if you shift to the new cool card system:

~ You will not receive paper bills; (interesting)
~ You get a new smart card;
~ Your new CFE card magically reads your meter ~  ( very cool );
~ You lay the card on top of your meter once a month on specific day, like the 25th; (?)
~ The card only reads the meter when you lay it on top of the meter… (15 sec.)
~ You can choose the monthly payment date that suits you from these day-options: 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25th of the month.
~ The meter signals when it is acceptable to set the card on the meter: When the green light bulb in your electronic meter is solid, it means that your selected date payment is close enough for you to place your card on the meter (for 15 seconds) to take a reading.
~ You then go and upload that month’s electricity usage from the card into the CFE computer at CFE payment centers, or CFEMáticos (CFE ATMs).

~ This means: You have to take the card into a CFE office or CFE teller machine, every month…

Interesting, but ….
Do I really want to have to remember to do the card-dance on one special day of every month?

Do I really want to trust that some fool won’t steal the card?CFE official with card

What if I lose the card? ( $$ and/or hours of hassles ?)

What if I am not here in Merida?

curiouser and curiouser….

A bit more digging finds:
~ You sign a new agreement with CFE to get the card.
~ That new agreement changes all your current billing terms.
~ No more auto pay.
~ You MUST go to the CFE office with your card every month to log your electricity usage.
~ If you forget, or cannot go to your CFE office with your shiny cool card – CFE does not have your current meter reading.
~ If your forget, or cannot go to your CFE office to log-in your monthly value on the card then ~ your service is cut off ~

~ Agreeing to go onto the new “card system” also sort-of wrecks some people’s pre-pay plans, where foreigners who are not at their Mexican home often like to pay an estimate 4 months or 6 months of expected bills – but that does NOT work with the card system, because someone must put the card on the meter (monthly) and then physically take the card to CFE to be read (data upload).

meter and CFE card

Why? Unless someone does the card dance monthly,  for CFE to know how much electricity you used,   CFE shuts off your service, regardless of prepayments or credits. …

Note: We are all welcome to refuse to change to this new whiz-bang card system.
If a CFE person comes to your door and offers you a new card, decide for yourself. Sign up and get a card, or say: “No, gracias. Yo no me gusta a cambiar mi servicio.

If you don’t want the service (plus monthly trips to CFE): Don’t sign… CFE Office

These details are preliminary reports on how the new CFE card system works, as described by the ever-reliable Lawyer Spencer McMullen – so, the details may change, but Spencer is generally very accurate and very thorough in his assessments.

Additional perspectives:  One Mexican media outlet describes the new CFE card program this way:

Molestos y decepcionados por el nuevo sistema de pago a través de una tarjeta inteligente, cientos de usuarios decidieron ponerle fin a esto y acudieron a cancelar este nuevo servicio

El Horizonte, 15/Ene/14 08:40
Anyone care to translate “”Molestos y decepcionados ” for the rest of us?

Happy Trails (and yes, I will keep listening to my inner curmudgeon),

*     *     *     *
Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry

Read-on MacDuff . . .

21 Responses to New CFE Cards ( Listening to your Inner Curmudgeon )

  1. Pingback: The New CFE Cards and Listening to your Inner Curmudgeon | Surviving Yucatan

  2. Every place I know in Mexico we pay every two months – something different or new, the monthly?

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Bery,
      Yes, you read correctly: IF you choose to go to the new paperless system using a CFE card, you must read your meter monthly, take the card into CFE to upload that month’s electricity usage, or face having your electricity service cut off.

      That’s one of the main points why we wrote this article, because the CFE reps who are going around to people’s homes hawking the new program, do NOT explain the details or pitfalls.

      Plus, some people report that the CFE reps make it sound like this program is mandatory. Changing is OPTIONAL: You can certainly stay with your current payment system and current payment schedule.

  3. Jack Inmanz says:

    Last part translates as:

    Upset and disappointed by the new system of payment through a smart card, hundreds of users decided to end it and went to cancel the new service

    • yucalandia says:

      Hey Jack,

      I put that bit about translating it as an attempt at humor, since I hope that even gringos can understand “Molestos y decepcionados”.

      Glad you enjoyed the article,

    • Lili Harrison says:

      but were they allowed to cancel? my understanding is CFE staff say there are no more “old” meters being manufactured. so once you switch, you may not go back…

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Lili,
        “Cancel” means that you cancel out of using the card system for billing, and you go back to having your meter read by a CFE employee every 2 months.

  4. The new system sounds just awful!
    We were offered new “smart meters” in the small town where I live. My research showed they emit more frequencies (bad ones) than a cell tower. They give an advantage to the power company in that they don’t need to send out a meter reader, but I don’t want all the high tech stuff and its resulting emissions. I opted out. They threaten to raise my rates to pay for the meter reader (the same one they can currently afford) but I opted out on for medical reasons. Don’t think they can use it against me, or at least I hope not!

  5. Carolyn Guerrero says:

    Thank you for the “heads up”. I live in Cuernavaca and if the card is ever offered to me, will refuse it. Thanks to your article, I also know which points to argue and not be fooled.

  6. MeridaGOround says:

    I went to CFE with a carefully drafted letter in hand, in my best creole, thinking I had to opt out of the system before it devoured me. The customer service woman explained to me that I couldn’t opt out because I NOT had signed up. I asked that my letter be entered into my file, but she declined, telling me not to worry, and telling me not to sign anything.

    Well, my meter cage is locked (although bolt cutters could open it). But I surely hope the optional aspect of the policy, requiring my signature, is serious. And I suspect the “hook” (or inducement) is that those who have their service turned off don’t have to pay a fine to get it turned back on.

    • yucalandia says:

      I’ve got 3′ bolt cutters if you want the lock off.

      • MeridaGOround says:

        Thanks, Steve, but it’s my lock, and I’ve got the key. (I noticed that meters had gone missing on a few nearby properties, so I caged and locked mine.) Or, maybe those neighbors don’t subscribe; or maybe they don’t buy their juice from the same utility? Dunno. But I don’t want any part of this pago programado. They passed much of the labor cost of reading meters onto the public, in exchange for free re-connects. Those who pay in a timely fashion have nothing to gain aside from much inconvenience. DON’T SIGN unless you anticipate being late with payments.

  7. Debra Jean Sullivan says:

    This was very informative, especially after reading all the comments. Sounds like CFE is really trying to over think this program in regards to the payment system. Even Mexicans want to be free of being chained to your meter. It makes absolutely no business sense that CFE would not what our payment in advance, if we wish to pay it for whatever reason. Glad people gave experiences in this post. Very helpful!

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Debra,
      The problems continue with this new CFE system, especially regarding the requirement to bring in the card “updated-by-meter” every month or have your power shut off. There are reports from across Mexico of people having their power unexpectedly shut off – and not turned back on for days – and you are correct: A number of them have tried to pre-pay their bills – to keep a balance – but if you don’t take the card in on-time, CFE shuts you off under the new policy regardless of any prepaid balance.

  8. Debra Jean Sullivan says:

    Steve, thanks for the update on this situation. Have not heard much about it in San Miguel de Allende, GTO. And here we are usually at the top of the food chain when it comes to mentioning things that are important. This is a great resource. I like hearing about the situations that we encounter in our chosen lifestyle. And everyone seems to be pleasant. That is a plus. Love the name…curmudgeon!

  9. creaghsteve says:

    Steve, you missed a few very important points that maybe unknown to the masses. The new meters in addition to giving readings to the new card you need, can also be shut down remotely, via a digital signal sent down the transmission line. Lets say customer 123456 fails to pay on time. No need to send anyone to the house anymore. A coded signal that only effects 123456 is fed into the grid and poof 123456 has no power as the meter will shut it off. But there are some benefits, once the system is fully functional. The meter will also be able to read your card to see if you have a money surplus. So, you go to CFE and pay them 6 months in advance, having a positive balance on your card. When you do your monthly wave of the card over the meter it registers the difference and should send the digital info down the line to CFE where it shows customer 123456 is still paid up. BUt me I like the paper system. :-), I can read the paper bill, a digital bill, not so much.

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Steve,
      Good stuff. The method of shut-offs from a central CFE office fits what’s happening in other parts of Mexico. Unfortunately, some CFE offices refuse to accept pre-payments – and require the homeowner (or their representative) to bring the card into a CFE office to be read. Hope that CFE broadly starts working with early pre-payments as you describe,

  10. Pingback: CFE, new pain | Living in Cancun & Riviera Maya Forum

  11. Joe says:

    Hey Steve, we need an update on this.

    Are they allowing people to opt out of this new system and revert to the old as a CFE representative said they would? “…si los usuarios no están de acuerdo pueden retornar al formato antiguo….” quoting this article

    I went today to the offices of the CFE in Cancun asking to opt out and was told I couldn’t and that no one’s permission was required to place me in the new system- mine or any others. Of course I don’t know if I was being told the truth- and that’s where you come in!

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Joe,
      The CFE offices in Guadalajara, Merida, and Chapala areas all agree that the person whose name is on the bill is allowed to file a letter requesting that they be taken out of the new smart card system. They also agree that we should not be enrolled automatically in the smart card system without the approval of the person whose name is on the bill.

      As long as the CFE bill is in your name: Ask to talk with the gerencia, and explain that you will continue going up the management chain of CFE to get this resolved – and tell them that you will file a formal complaint with PROFECO if CFE does not correct this problem.

      PROFECO has the power and responsibility to force CFE to correct these sorts of problems – but that is a slow process.

  12. Ed says:


    The last post regarding the CFE card meters was in 2014.
    Last month (May 2018) I had my first encounter with the CFE card meter and it has been much as described in previous posts.

    I purchased a house in the GDL area, that already had one of these card meters. The previous owner had one installed to provide power for his construction crew…. the house has never been occupied until I purchased it. During trips to CFE, I was advised that I could have the meter replaced with a new wireless model, that operates similarly to the previous meter reader type, from a payment perspective. CFE advised that I would need to purchase one of the new wireless meters at my own expense, at a cost of $7000 pesos; otherwise, I would be stuck with the card reader model the seller had installed in 2017.

    The house closed on April 27th, the seller accompanied me to the house with his CFE meter card to read the meter. After placing the card on the meter, the seller headed to CFE to pay his bill. The power had been off for months. Upon return after paying his bill, the meter read the card and the power was restored. 4 days later, I departed on an out of country trip, returning on May 13th.

    The electricity was shutoff. A neighbor advised that the electricity was shut off on May 11th, only 2 weeks after the seller had paid his bill in full. The next morning, I headed to the CFE to learn why the power had been shutoff, with the bill being paid 2 weeks earlier. No intelligent answer from CFE. Forgot to mention that all food in the reefer had to be toseed out. In order to avoid a similar fate for June, I placed the CFE card on the meter on June 3rd. I inadverently left the card on the meter for 2 read/write cycles. The meter shut the power off on the 2nd cycle. As near as I can tell, when the meter read the card the 2nd time, it apparently assumed that the bill had not been paid and immediately killed the power. I wound having to drive all over GDL looking for 24hr CFE card reader type ATMs. Finally, after driving to the 4th 24hr CFE location, I found a working Reader ATM and was able to pay the less than 1 month old bill. Of course the CFE ATM was out of paper, so I have no paper proof of payment.

    I will install solar panels and generate my own power to avoid having to deal with such a clown type circus act that CFE is.

    Whomever conceived such an abortion card meter system should be summarily executed.

    Has there been any new details about the CFE card meter system?

    Thanks for your assistance.


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