Help to Save: Accounts for Low-Income Workers

If you claim the working tax, child tax or universal credit, you may be eligible for the Help to Save scheme that pays you a bonus of 50p for every £1 you save.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby 18 November 2020

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Help to Save is a government scheme to help low-income workers build a savings pot. Find out how the Help to Save bonus works and whether you are eligible for a Help to Save account.

What is Help to Save?

Help to Save accounts are a type of savings account offered by the government to encourage people on a low-income to save. The account pays a bonus of 50p for every £1 saved. You can deposit between £1 and £50 into a Help to Save account every month.

Help to Save accounts can last for up to four years. You can access your money whenever you like but the bonuses aren’t paid until after the second and fourth years. So, it makes sense to try and leave your pot untouched so that you maximise the bonus.

Who can open a Help to Save account?

Help to Save accounts are aimed at people on low incomes. That means, to be eligible for an account you need to be claiming one of the following:

  • Working tax credit.
  • Child tax credit and entitled to working tax credit.
  • Universal credit and have a household income of at least *£604.56 from paid work during your last monthly assessment.

All Help to Save account holders also need to live in the UK. The only exceptions are Crown servants or members of the British armed forces.

If you aren’t eligible for a Help to Save account, you could still receive a government top-up on your savings by opening a Lifetime ISA instead.

What’s the maximum you can pay into a Help to Save account?

You can save from £1 to £50 into a Help to Save account each month. Save the full amount over four years and you could put aside £2,400. Add in the Help to Save bonus and you could end up with a total balance of £3,600.

There is no penalty if you don’t pay anything in for a month.

You can only have one Help to Save account.

After four years your account will be closed with the balance and your bonus paid into your nominated bank account.

What is the Help to Save bonus?

The government will give you a bonus of 50% of your highest balance at the end of the second year of having your account. So, if you save the full £50 a month, your highest balance would be £1,200 after two years, meaning you’ll get a £600 bonus.

You then get another bonus at the end of the fourth year. This is 50% of the difference between your maximum balance at the end of year two and your maximum balance in years three and four. So, another £600 is up for grabs if you save the full £50 a month.

How to open a Help to Save account

You can apply online for a Help to Save account.

  1. Apply at Gov.uk. You will need to have or create a Government Gateway user ID and password to start your application.
  2. Provide your bank details. This is the account that your bonus payments will be paid into and where you will make deposits from.
  3. Review. HMRC will check your application and confirm if you are eligible for a Help to Save account.
  4. Start saving. If approved, you’ll receive a sort code and account number so you can start paying money into your Help to Save account.

Alternatively, you can apply for a Help to Save account via the HMRC helpline on 0300 322 7093.

How can I manage a Help to Save account?

Once your Help to Save account is up and running, you can check on your balance and arrange withdrawals online. You can either go via Gov.uk or through the HMRC app.

Can I withdraw money from Help to Save?

Yes, you can take money out whenever you like. Withdrawals take around three days with the money being paid into your nominated current account.

Just be aware that taking money out could mean you get a smaller bonus payment.

Are Help to Save accounts safe?

Absolutely. National Savings & Investments (NS&I) operate Help to Save accounts. NS&I is a government-backed bank which means your savings are 100% guaranteed by HM Treasury.

About the author:

Ruth is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for national newspapers, magazines and websites. Specialising in savings, investments, pensions and property. Read more

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