Help to Save is a government-run savings incentive for people on a low income. If you qualify for the scheme, the government will add 50p for every £1 you save over a period of four years. This is known as a “bonus”.
Every month you can save between £1 and £50. You can pay in different amounts throughout the month or add just a single payment. You can do this by bank transfer or debit card or set up a standing order to make regular payments. At the end of the second and the fourth year of saving you will receive your ‘bonus’.
The more you save, and the longer you hold your money in the Help to Save account, the bigger your balance and your bonus will be at the end of the four years. The Help to Save scheme has also been extended until April 2025.
If you are entitled to Working Tax Credit or you are receiving Universal Credit you may qualify. Help to Save is a government savings scheme so your money is secure while it is in the account.
You will qualify for the Help to Save account if you live in the UK and:
You are receiving Working Tax Credit
You are entitled to Working Tax Credit and receive Child Tax Credit
You are claiming Universal Credit and earned more than a set threshold (currently £658.64 or more from paid work – correct at March 2023)
Each adult can apply for their own Help to Save account. If you have opened an account but you stop claiming Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit you are still allowed to keep paying into your Help to Save account.
Any money you save or bonuses you earn in the Help to Save account should not affect your benefits as long as you have personal savings of less than £6,000. But watch out if your partner has savings of £6,000 or more, as this will affect your eligibility if you live together.
You are allowed to withdraw your money, but it is better to avoid this if you can because is it more difficult to earn the maximum bonus and your savings could be reduced. If you take out your money too early, or you don’t use the account as a savings scheme, you may get a lower bonus.
One unique aspect of the Help to Save account is that it does allow you to withdraw money. It assesses your bonus based on the highest sum of money you had in the account over the whole two-year and four-year period. So if you did have to make a withdrawal, but had held a higher balance during that time, the bonus will be based on your highest balance, not the amount left at the end of two or four years.
Unlike a regular savings account, you do not have to pay in money every month, and you do not have to pay the same amount. However, the more you pay in, the greater the bonus you will earn.
Each time you add money to your account, you will increase the balance (total sum of money) in your account. The more you pay in, the bigger your balance (up to the maximum of £50 per month).
At the end of two years, the government works out your highest balance, and gives you half of that as a bonus. The bonus is paid into your ordinary bank account.
At the end of four years, the government works out your balance in years three and four and gives you another bonus of half of the highest balance you had during that time. If you have not used your Help to Save account as a savings account, or you have not added to your balance in years three and four by paying in new money, then you will not earn a final bonus.
The Help to Save account is designed to help you build up your savings if you are on a low income. If you want to access the money, it can be transferred into your nominated bank account.
If you are opening a Help to Save account it is important to use money that you can set aside for at least two – or preferably four – years without the need to take it out, in order to benefit from the bonus.
After four years the account will be closed and your money will be transferred to your bank account. You can open another savings account but you will not be able to start another Help to Save account.
Each month you are allowed to pay in £50. Over the four years, if you save the maximum every month, you will have saved a total of £2,400 (48 months x £50). If you only save £10 a month, but you do so every month, you will have saved up £480 by the end of the four-year term.
When the bonus is paid, it depends on how much you have saved. So the maximum bonus you can earn is £1,200 (based on saving £50 every month for four years). If you regularly add £10 per month, you would earn £240.
The bonus at the end of two years is not paid into your Help to Save account, so you will need to think about where you will save that money. You can compare traditional savings accounts with our search tool: Compare our best savings accounts and investment ISAs.
The Help to Save account is available from the gov.uk.
When you set up a Help to Save account you will be asked to set up your Government Gateway ID, which allows you to sign in to the account later.