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Help to Save explained

What is a Help to Save account?

The Help to Save account is a special savings account that you can only open with the Government-backed bank NS&I.

You can save between £1 and £50 into the account each month and have the account for up to four years.

Unlike a normal savings account, the Help to Save account doesn't pay interest, but instead it pays a generous Government bonus.

If you keep paying into the savings account; at the two year and four-year mark, the Government will pay a bonus of 50% of your highest balance throughout that time. 

If you save the maximum £50 per month it means after two years you would have saved £1,200 of your own money and would be eligible for the tax-free Government bonus of £600. Continue to save the maximum amount and you’ll earn another Government bonus of £600 at the four-year mark. 

You can access your savings at any time via your online account or through the HMRC app although withdrawals may take up to three working days.

Who can get a Help to Save account?

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You can apply for a Help to Save account if any of the following apply:

  • You are receiving Working Tax Credit
  • You are entitled to Working Tax Credit, and receiving Child Tax Credit
  • You are claiming Universal Credit and (with your partner if it's a joint claim) earned a minimum of £658.64 from paid work in your last assessment period.

If you get Universal Credit or Tax Credit payments as a couple, you and your partner can still apply for your own, individual, Help to Save accounts.

You must also be living in the UK, or if you’re overseas, in the armed forces, a Crown servant or a spouse or civil partner of either.

If you close your account, you won’t be able to reopen it or open a new one.

The accounts last for four years, with a bonus payment of up to 50% on savings after two and four years.

Is a Help to Save account right for me?

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A Help to Save account might be right for you if:

  • you can afford (or plan to make) regular payments without negatively affecting your living standards.

It might not be right for you if:

  • you'll have difficulty meeting outstanding debt commitments, particularly priority debts such as Council Tax.

If you decide you don’t want to continue paying into your Help to Save account or are unable to save for a period, it’s worth keeping the account open. This is because if the account is closed, you can never reopen it and you won’t receive any bonus payments. If you keep it open, you’ll at least get bonus payments on your eligible savings.

How can I open a Help to Save account?

You can apply for a Help to Save account online,  through the Government GatewayOpens in a new window. You won’t need to submit any paperwork as as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will assess your eligibility.

If you’re having problems applying online you can call HMRC’s Help to Save service on 0300 322 7093 (Mon–Fri, 10am–6pm). Have your National Insurance number to hand before you call.

Your Help to Save account will be held with National Savings & Investments (NS&I). You can manage your account on the GOV.UK website or via the HMRC appOpens in a new window if you have a smartphone.

But you’ll need a bank or building society account to pay money into the Help to Save account and to receive your bonus payments.

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How can I manage my Help to Save account?

Once opened, you can manage your Help to Save account online by visiting GOV.UK or through the HMRC app which is available to download for free for iOS or Android.

You ‘ll receive an account number and sort code so you can pay money into the account.

You'll also get a welcome pack from HMRC when your account is opened.

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You ‘ll receive an account number and sort code so you can pay money into the account.

You'll also get a welcome pack from HMRC when your account is opened.

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What if I don’t have access to the internet?

Help to Save makes provisions for people who are digitally excluded so that they get the support they need.

A telephone service, is available for customers who cannot use the digital service or need support following the opening of an account.

The helpline number is 0300 322 7093 (Mon–Fri, 10am–6pm).

How much money can I pay into my Help to Save account?

You can pay in any amount between £1 up to a maximum of £50 a month. As long as you don’t exceed the £50 monthly limit, you can pay into the account as many times as you want.

The easiest way to do this is to set-up a standing order from your bank account. This means you won’t miss an opportunity to save.

You can also make individual payments from your bank into your Help to Save account, or by using your debit card.

Payments will normally show up in the account within 24 hours.

There is no penalty if you’re not able to save every month, but this will affect your maximum bonus payment.

If you miss a payment, or pay in under the £50 maximum, you can’t overpay or top up at a later date. The maximum you can pay in during any one month is £50.

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Can I withdraw money from my Help to Save account?

Yes, you can. Withdrawals can be made from your Help to Save account to your nominated bank account and will take about three working days. However, this might affect your bonus payment. 

How is the Help to Save bonus payment calculated?

Help to Save accounts last for four years from the month you opened them, with bonus payments made after two years and at the end of four years.

The bonus payment can be up to 50% of what you pay in and will be paid into your nominated bank account, not your Help to Save account.

The savings in the account and the bonus payment are not subject to tax.

After two years

After two years, you’ll receive a bonus payment of 50% of the highest balance you achieve in this period. This bonus is paid into your nominated bank account, not your Help to Save account.

For example, if the highest balance during the first two years is £500, you will receive a £250 bonus payment. 

The bonus is paid on the highest balance during the two years, so even if you withdraw some money from your Help to Save account, the bonus is calculated on the highest balance.

If you manage to save the maximum £50 a month, after two years you’ll have saved £1,200 and receive a £600 bonus payment. 

After four years

After four years, you will receive another bonus of 50% of the difference between the highest balance achieved during the first two years and the highest balance during the third and fourth years

For example, if the highest balance after the first two years is £500 and the highest balance in the second two years is £900, the bonus will be calculated on the £400 difference. So, in this case, you’ll get a second bonus of £200.

If you manage to save the maximum £50 a month, after four years you’ll have saved another £1,200 and receive another £600 bonus payment.

The maximum total bonus you could receive is £1,200 (£600 after two years and £600 after four years). 

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What happens to my Help to Save account after four years?

After four years, your Help to Save account will be closed.

The money saved into the account, along with the final bonus payment, will be paid into your nominated bank account.

Should I use my Help to Save account as my emergency buffer?

Your Help to Save account might be used as an emergency savings account. But it’s important to remember withdrawals can take three days and any money you take out will affect your bonus payment.

It’s best to have a separate account for emergencies where you can access the money straight away.

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How will Help to Save affect my benefit payments?

If you’re claiming Working Tax Credit, the money in your Help to Save account will not affect your benefit payments.

If you’re on Universal Credit or claiming Housing Benefit, the savings will not automatically affect your benefit payments. But if the money in your Help to Save account, combined with other savings, goes over £6,000, your payment might be affected.

What happens if I stop being eligible for Tax Credits or Universal Credit?

Nothing. If you were eligible and opened a Help to Save account, it’ll stay open for the full four-year period. You only must be eligible on the day you apply.

What if I have debts?

Having debts doesn’t stop you from opening a Help to Save account.

But if you have debts, particularly priority debts like Council Tax arrears, it might be a good idea to consider paying these off first before opening a Help to Save account.

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What if I leave the country?

If you’re claiming Working Tax Credit and leave the UK for less than eight weeks, or on Universal Credit and leave the UK for less than four weeks, this will not affect your Help-to-Save account.

You might be able to leave the country for six months without any effect if you, your partner or child is getting medical treatment, you’re a mariner or oil worker on the UK continental shelf, or because you’re out of the UK because your partner, child or close relative has died.

If you, or your partner are serving in the UK armed forces, or are a Crown Servant, then you can carry on using your Help to Save account while overseas.

Will Help to Save affect my credit rating?

No, but having savings helps you to avoid financial problems, which can have a positive impact on your credit rating.

If you don’t have a savings buffer, you might struggle with unexpected expenses, which could result in late or missed payments. This might negatively affect your credit rating.

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Can HMRC recover money from my Help to Save account?

HMRC has legal powers to recover debts directly from any UK bank account. But it is only used as a last resort in a small number of cases. Help to Save accounts are no different to any other capital asset.

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What if I have problems with my Help to Save account?

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