By Nic Hopkirk

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Help to Save is a government-backed savings account with benefits: you can earn a bonus of 50p for every £1 you save over four years.

What is the government’s Help to Save scheme?

Help to Save is a government scheme designed to help people on low incomes to save money.

It’s a savings account with benefits: you can earn a bonus of 50p for every £1 you save over four years.

Because it’s backed by the government, all savings in the scheme are safe and secure.

How do you qualify for Help to Save?

You can open a Help to Save account if you:

  • receive working tax credit
  • are entitled to working tax credit and are receiving child tax credit
  • claim universal credit and earned more than £617.73 in the last month
  • Live in the UK 
  • Or if you’re working overseas, are a crown servant or member of the British armed forces, or are the spouse or partner of someone who is.

If you get payments as a couple, you and your partner can apply for your own Help to Save accounts. You’ll just need to do it separately.

You only need to meet the above criteria on the day you apply for a Help to Save account. 

If your circumstances change and you stop receiving tax credits or universal credit, you can still keep saving into the account and collect the government bonuses. 

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

How do Help to Save accounts work?

Help to Save accounts last for four years from the day you receive your account number. Bonus payments are issued at the end of two and four years.

You can save between £1 and £50 per month, but you don't have to save every month. 

At the end of two years, you're paid a 50% bonus on the highest amount you’ve managed to save.

At the end of four years, you’re paid a 50% bonus on anything extra you’ve managed to save beyond those first two years.

Say you saved £500 in the first year but then needed to withdraw some money and your savings went down. You’d still be paid a 50% bonus on that £500, because it was the most you managed to save. So the bonus would be £250.

At the end of four years, you’re paid a 50% bonus on anything extra you managed to put away.

So if you saved another £400 in the last two years, you’d be paid 50% of £400 and the bonus would be £200. 

The maximum bonus you could earn with Help to Save is £1,200. That’s if you put away £50 a month, every month, for four years. 

The government bonuses are paid into your normal bank account, rather than the Help to Save account.

How do I set up a Help to Save account?

You can apply online at Help to Save on Gov.uk

You'll need to sign in to your Government Gateway account (it will be the same details you use for your personal tax credits account).

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 when you do.

You’ll need a bank or building society account to pay money into your Help to Save account from. And so that you can receive your bonus payments from your Help to Save account, which will be paid directly back into your bank account.

The savings account will be held with the government’s savings bank: National Savings and Investments. 

After four years, it will automatically be closed and your savings, plus the bonus payment, will be paid into your bank account.

How do I withdraw money from my Help to Save account?

Help to Save accounts have easy access, so you can make withdrawals if you need to, but they can take up to three days to process.

You can make a withdrawal from your Help to Save account at any time by logging into the account and making the request. 

The funds will be transferred to your nominated bank account.

Will having a Help to Save account affect my Universal Credit and benefits payments?

If you’re claiming working tax credit or child tax credit, your Help to Save account won’t affect your benefits payments.

But if you have other savings, and with your Help to Save account these go over £6,000, this could put you over the universal credit threshold and could affect your benefit payments.

It’s important to note that if you live with a partner, their savings will also count towards this £6,000 threshold.

How long is the Help to Save scheme running for?

You can open an account up until September 2023.

Find out more about the Help to Save scheme here.